Queer Places:
Maple Ave & Center St, Saunemin, IL 61769
Sunny Slope Cemetery, Saunemin, IL 61769

Albert D. J. Cashier (December 25, 1843 – October 10, 1915), birth name Jennie Irene Hodgers, was an Irish-born immigrant who served in the Union Army during the American Civil War. Cashier adopted the identity of a man before enlisting, and maintained it for the remainder of her life. Albert became famous as one of a number of women soldiers who served as men during the Civil War, although the consistent and long-term (at least 53 years) commitment to the male identity has prompted some contemporary scholars to suggest that Cashier was a trans man.[3][4][5][6]

Hodgers was born in Clogherhead, County Louth, Ireland on December 25, around the year 1843.[7]:52[2] According to later investigation by the administrator of her estate, she was the child of Sallie and Patrick Hodgers. Hodgers's later accounts of how she moved to the United States and why she enlisted were taken when she was elderly and disoriented, and she was also typically evasive about her earlier life; therefore, these narratives are contradictory.[2] Typically, she was said to have been dressed in boy's clothing by her stepfather in order to find work at a shoe factory in Illinois. Even before the advent of the war, Hodgers adopted the identity of Albert Cashier to work.[7]:52 Her mother died sometime in her youth, and by 1862, Hodgers had traveled as a stowaway to Illinois and was living in Belvidere, where she was working as a farmhand to a man named Avery.[8] [9]

Hodgers first enlisted in July 1862 after President Lincoln's call for soldiers.[7]:52 As time passed, the need for soldiers only increased. On August 6, 1862, she enlisted in the 95th Illinois Infantry for a three-year term using the name "Albert D.J. Cashier" and was assigned to Company G.[10][11][7]:52 Cashier was nineteen years old upon enlistment, and small in stature.[note 1]

Many Belvidere boys had been at the Battle of Shiloh as members of the Fifteenth Illinois Volunteers, where the Union had suffered heavy losses. Cashier took the train along with other boys from Belvidere to Rockford in order to enlist, in answer to the call for more soldiers.[12]:380 Along with others from Boone and McHenry counties, Cashier learned how to be a volunteer infantryman of the 95th Regiment at Camp Fuller. After being shipped out by steamer and rail to Confederate strongholds in Columbus, Kentucky and Jackson, Tennessee, the 95th was ordered to Grand Junction where it became part of the Army of the Tennessee under General Ulysses S. Grant.[12]:380–381

The 95th was a combat regiment. Under General Grant, the regiment fought in approximately forty battles[11] in the western field of operations, including the siege at Vicksburg, where the 95th was one of the first regiments to enter.[12]:381 This campaign proved to be a challenge for Cashier, as she was captured while performing reconnaissance.[7]:55 Cashier managed to escape, however, and make her way back to the regiment. After the Battle of Vicksburg, in June 1863, Cashier contracted chronic diarrhea and entered a military hospital. Somehow, she evaded detection of her sex.[7]:55–56 In the Spring of 1864, the regiment was also present at the Red River Campaign under General Nathaniel Banks, and in June 1864 at the Battle of Brice's Crossroads in Guntown, Mississippi, where they suffered heavy casualties.[7]:56–57[12]:382–383

Following a period to recoup and regroup following the debacle at Brice, the 95th, now a seasoned and batte-hardened regiment, saw additional action in the Winter of 1864 in the Franklin-Nashville Campaign, at the battles of Spring Hill and Franklin, the defense of Nashville, and the pursuit of General Hood.[12]:383

Throughout the war, the regiment traveled a total of about 9,000 miles during its term.[7]:52[note 2] Other soldiers thought that Cashier was small and preferred to be alone, which were not uncommon characteristics for soldiers. Cashier fought with the regiment through the war until August 17, 1865, when all the soldiers were mustered out. Cashier was honorably discharged on August 17, 1865.[7]:57

Cashier was only one of at least 250 women who wore disguises and enlisted as men to fight in the Civil War.[13][14]

After the war, Cashier returned to Belvidere, Illinois for a time, where she worked for Samuel Pepper and maintained her wartime identity.[7]:57[15] She settled in Saunemin, Illinois, in 1869, where she worked as a farmhand as well as performing odd jobs around the town.[7]:57 Albert Cashier can be found on records of the town payroll.[7]:57 Albert lived with her employer, Joshua Chesbro, and his family, in exchange for work, and also had slept in the Cording Hardware store in exchange for labor. In 1885, the Chesbro family had a small house built for her. [16] For over forty years, she lived in Saunemin and was a church janitor, cemetery worker, and street lamplighter. Because she lived as a man, she was able to vote in elections and later claimed a veteran's pension under the name Albert Cashier.[7]:58 Pension payments started in 1907.[17]

In later years, she ate with the neighboring Lannon family. Later on, when Hodgers fell ill, the Lannons discovered that she was female when they asked a nurse to examine her, but they did not make their discovery public.[7]:59

In 1911, Cashier was hit by a car that broke her leg.[7]:59 A physician discovered her secret in the hospital, but did not disclose the information. On May 5, 1911, because she was no longer able to work, Cashier was moved to the Soldiers and Sailors home in Quincy, Illinois. During this stay, Hodgers was visited by many of her fellow soldiers from Ninety-fifth Regiment.[7]:59 She lived there until her mental state deteriorated and she was moved to the Watertown State Hospital for the Insane in March 1914.[7]:60 Attendants at the Watertown State Hospital discovered that she was female when giving her a bath, at which point she was made to wear women's clothes again after fifty years.[7]:60 Within six months she was dead.[18] In 1914, Cashier was investigated for fraud by the veterans' pension board; former comrades confirmed that Cashier was in fact the person who had fought in the Civil War and the board decided in February 1915 that payments should continue for life.[19][20][21]

Albert Cashier died on October 10, 1915. She was buried in the uniform she had kept intact all those years and her tombstone was inscribed "Albert D. J. Cashier, Co. G, 95 Ill. Inf."[10] Cashier was given an official Grand Army of the Republic funerary service, and was buried with full military honors.[7]:60 It took W.J. Singleton (executor of Cashier's estate) nine years to track Cashier's identity back to her birth name of Jennie Hodgers. None of the would-be heirs proved convincing, and the estate of about $282 (after payment of funeral expenses)[22] [20][21] was deposited in the Adams County, Illinois, treasury. The name on the original tombstone is Albert D. J. Cashier. In the 1970s, a second tombstone, inscribed with both of her names, was placed near the first one at Sunny Slope cemetery in Saunemin, Illinois.[10][23]

Cashier is listed on the internal wall of the Illinois memorial at Vicksburg National Military Park.[24]

A musical entitled The Civility of Albert Cashier has been produced based on Cashier's life; the work was described by the Chicago Tribune as "A timely musical about a trans soldier". [25]

Also Known As Albert D. J. Cashier: The Jennie Hodgers Story is a biography written by veteran Lon P. Dawson, who lived at the Illinois Veterans Home where Cashier once lived. The novel My Last Skirt, by Lynda Durrant, is based on her life. Cashier was mentioned in a collection of essays called Nine Irish Lives, in which Cashier's biography was written by Jill McDonough. [26] Cashier's house has been restored in Saunemin.[27]

Authors including Michael Bronski, James Cromwell, Kirstin Cronn-Mills, and Nicholas Teich have suggested or argued that Cashier was a trans man due to her living as a man for at least 53 years.[3][4][5][6]

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  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Albert_Cashier