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US Army Women's Museum - Fort Lee, Virginia 

Deborah Sampson Gannett

American Revolutionary War (1775 - 1783)

Statue of Deborah Sampson Gannett, Revolutionary War Soldier

Statue of Deborah Sampson Gannet (Sculptor            Lu Stubbs) Sharon Public Library, Massachusetts

Deborah Sampson Gannett, early one morning in 1778, left the family with whom she was living, telling them she was going to find work; however, when she reached the edge of town, she exchanged her skirts for male clothing and enlisted in the nearest Army camp.  Giving her name as Robert Shirtliffe (alternately "Shurtleff," "Shurtliffe," and "Shurlieffe"), she joined the company of Captain Nathan Thayer, which later became a part of the 4th Massachusetts Regiment under the command of Colonel Richardson.  She enlisted in the Army for three years but utimately served for 18 months.  During her career with the Army, she showed courage and endurance.

After she was wounded and sent to the hospital, it was discovered by the doctor that she was female.  When she recovered, she was sent to Washington's headquarters with a personal letter to the Commander-in-Chief.  General Washington read the letter, and without speaking to her, handed her a discharge from the Army.

In later years, the American Congress recognized Gannet's claims as a Revolutionary soldier by granting her husband a widow's pension after her death.


Archives of the US Army Women's Museum:  Photo (personal donation).

Archives of the US Army Women's Museum:  Women's Army Corps Journal, Volume VI (January/March, 1975):  p. 12.

Freeman, Lucy and Bond, Alma H.  America's First Woman Warrior:  The Courage of Deborah Sampson.  NY:  Paragon, 1992.

Kellner, H.T.  "'Private Robert Shurtleff'":  America's First Woman Soldier."  Liberty (March/April, 1976):  p. 13.

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