Military Biography Revolutionary War Soldier Deborah Sampson Part 2

About the Revolutionary War Deborah Sampson, history and biography of the American female soldier.


DEBORAH SAMPSON (U.S., Revolutionary War)

Private Deborah was wounded twice during her enlistment. Once, while engaged in a raiding party, she was shot with a musket ball, but she managed to keep her comrades and a doctor from examining her and discovering her deception. Four months later, in an encounter at Tarrytown, she was wounded in the shoulder. But it was during an episode in Philadelphia in 1783--when she came down with a fever, was unconscious, and was thought to be dying--that she was finally examined by one Dr. Barnabas Binney. "Thrusting his hand into my bosom to ascertain if there were motion at the heart, he was surprised at finding an inner vest tightly compressing my breasts, the instant removal of which not only ascertained the fact of life, but disclosed the fact that I was woman!"

When she confessed her secret to the doctor, he promised never to reveal it, but soon afterwards he sent a letter to General Patterson, her commander, informing him of the discovery. Deborah was honorably discharged on Oct. 23, 1783.

She returned to New England and continued to wear her army uniform. She adopted the name of Ephram Sampson, found a job on a farm, and flirted with the country girls. But she eventually tired of this game, gave up her military clothes, and became Deborah Sampson, female, once again.

A year after her discharge she met and married a farmer, Benjamin Gannett, of Sharon, Mass. By 1796 they had three children and a somewhat stormy marriage. Since Gannett had not served in the army but had remained on the farm, she considered him a slacker.

Deborah was among the earliest women lecturers in the U.S. In 1802 she appeared before audiences and talked about liberty and patriotism and the rigors of war. Then she would stand in full military uniform and perform the manual of arms. It was said that she performed it to perfection. She lectured in Boston, Worcester, and other Massachusetts towns and toured upstate New York.

In 1804, when Deborah was 44 years old, she met Paul Revere. They became friends, and in an effort to help her, Revere suggested to a Massachusetts congressman that he obtain a government pension for her. Revere assured the congressman that Deborah was "a woman of handsome talents, good morals, a dutiful wife and an affectionate parent." In 1805 Congress granted her a pension of $4 a month, which was doubled in 1818. She received it until her death. During the last years of her life, she began to feel the effects of her war wounds. Because she had rejected medical help in the army, a musket ball that had lodged in her leg and never been removed. Because of it, her health grew progressively worse, and she died on Apr. 29, 1827.

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