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Sampson's Battles

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Deborah Sampson, another courageous Revolutionary War woman, also fought on the front lines.  She disguised herself as a man and used her brother’s name, Robert Shirtliffe, so that she could enlist in the army (Zitek).  Deborah Sampson was a soldier for three years and was wounded twice; however, she took care of her own wounds so that no one would know her secret.  When she came down with a fever and was taken to a field hospital, her doctor discovered that “Robert” was actually a woman.  The doctor kept her secret for a while, but he eventually had to tell Sampson’s commander the truth (Hakim, 106-107).  She had to fight to get her lifetime pension from Congress.  After she died, her husband was the only man to receive a widower’s pension from the American Revolution (Silcox-Garrett, 65).  Deborah Sampson’s bravery in the war is an excellent example of how women were an important asset to the Revolutionary War.

She did work just like all the other men in the difficult, hard-working militia, but it was especially hard for Deborah Sampson.  She was a woman doing the work of a man.  Deborah Sampson also went on long marches and raids against the Tories.  At first Deborah Sampson saw war as a long exciting adventure, but when she saw men dying at her feet, she saw it as a repulsive horrible thing.  

Deborah and other men marched with George Washington. One day when George Washington's army and another army were fighting, Deborah was shot in the leg and in the neck. She went to a hospital and Dr. Binny removed the bullet in her neck and Deborah removed the bullet in her leg.

Because she was discharged from the army after her true identity was discovered, she went on living her life knowing she was a brave, hard-working soldier.  Many people in the Revolutionary War went through hard times, but trying to keep your identity a secret is even harder.

Sampson was sent with her regiment to West Point, New York, where she apparently was wounded in the leg in a battle near Tarrytown. She tended her own wounds so that her gender would not be discovered. As a result, her leg never healed properly. Having served at West Point for eighteen months and participating in several battles, Deborah was wounded twice on raids along the Hudson. In a skirmish near Tarrytown, she suffered a sword cut to the head, and at Eastchester she took a bullet in her thigh that troubled her the rest of her life. Army records apparently confirm these details of Deborah's military service. Her sexual identity went undetected until she came down with a "malignant fever", then prevalent among the soldiers, and was sent to a hospital in Philadelphia where the attending physician, Dr. Binney, of Philadelphia, discovered her charade, but said nothing. Instead he took her to his own home where she would receive better care. When her health was restored, the doctor met with the commanding officer and subsequently an order was issued for Robert Shirtliffe to carry a letter to General Washington.

When the order came for her to deliver a letter into the hands of the Commander-in-Chief, she knew that her deception was over. She presented herself at the headquarters of Washington, trembling with dread and uncertainty. General Washington, to spare her embarrassment, said nothing. Instead, he sent her with an aide to have some refreshments, then summoned her back. In silence Washington handed Deborah Sampson a discharge from the service, a note with some words of advice, and a sum of money sufficient to bear her expenses home.

More to be added later, by the original student assigned this page.

Work done so far by:

D. Mason