Move over Mulan. Meet a real woman disguised as a male soldier. Deborah Sampson fought in the Revolutionary War for two years before her gender was discovered.
- Deborah Sampson was born in 1760 in Plimpton, Massachusetts. Her parents were direct descendants of important Pilgrims, William Bradford, first governor of Massachusetts, Myles Standish, and Priscilla Alden.
- In spite of her family’s social standing, Deborah’s parents struggled financially. Her father went off to sea never to return, leaving Deborah’s mother to support seven children.
- Deborah’s mother had to separate the children, sending each to live with a different relative. When Deborah was 10, she was sent to work as a servant in a farmer’s home. There she helped care for the house and the children.
- She left when she was 18. She’d never attended school but had educated herself by reading whatever books she could find. She became a teacher, as well as a weaver.
- Deborah was very patriotic and wanted to help the cause. In 1782, she dressed as a man and enlisted in the Revolutionary War. For the next two years, she often led small parties of men to scout out areas, which was a bit like spying. George Washington wanted her to find out where the British troops were and what they were doing.
- Fighting often broke out if they encountered British soldiers. She had a few close calls. In one fight, her head was slashed open by a sword. Another time, she was shot in the thigh. She dug out the pistol ball by herself.
- Finally her gender became known when she was taken to a hospital unconscious during an illness. She begged the doctor not to give away her secret and he agreed.
- Deborah Sampson was the only woman to receive a military pension for fighting in the Revolutionary War. She was also honored with a statue.
- Descendant: The children, grandchildren, etc. descended from someone
- Social standing: One’s place in society; Deborah enjoyed high social standing because of her important ancestors
- Pistol Ball: a lead ball used as an early bullet
Questions and Answers
Question: What happened to Deborah after the war?
Answer: She married Benjamin Gannet, a farmer, and they had three children. Her time in the army must have given her enough excitement, because the rest of her life was quiet.
She helped her husband with their farm and raised her children. She did go on a lecture tour, talking about her adventures, and a book was published about her life in 1797.
Watch a video about Deborah Sampson.