Jennie Irene Hodgers (1843 - 1915)
Jennie Irene Hodgers was born to Sallie and Patrick Hodgers in Clogherhead, Co. Louth, Ireland on December 25, 1843. Little is known of her early childhood other that she was born into poverty, nonetheless, somehow managed to survive the contrived famine of the 1840’s.
It is no secret that while the Irish, in their millions, starved to death or fled on coffin ships to America to avoid starvation, vast quantities of grain, meat and livestock was being shipped from Irish ports to England on a daily basis. No one needed to have died or for that matter suffer starvation if the British authorities acted humanely and made the food available to -- in Fanny Parnell's words "the tillers of the soil"
It is not known how or when Hodgers arrived in America. Some accounts have her arriving in New York circa 1859 with her family while others have her arriving in Boston as a stowaway. Irrespective of where she first set foot in America it is generally believed that she did so disguised as a man.
The first recorded account of Jennie Hodges in America was in 1862 when she enlisted in the Union Army as an infantryman in the 95th Illinois Volunteer Infantry Regiment using the name Albert D. J. Cashier. Unable to read or write she marked an "X" on the enlistment papers. She passed the physical without incident as the physical examination involved only the eyes and ears. How she came up with the name 'Albert D. J.Cashier' no one knows or why she continued to live as a man long after her military service ended.
After a month of basic training, Jennie’s company was dispatched to Kentucky where they joined the army under Major General Ulysses S. Grant. During the three years of Jennie’s enlistment, she traveled some 9,000 miles with the 95th. She was short in stature, five feet three inches or so, one of the smallest soldiers in the regiment. Jenny held her own in some forty battles in which the regiment was engaged. During her three years of service her true identify remained a secret. Her fellow soldiers assumed "Albert" was shy and wanted to be by himself.
Hodgers and her fellow soldiers in the 95th would see some of the fiercest fighting of the war, including the siege of Vicksburg, the Red River Campaign and the Battle of Guntown in Mississippi. In all, Hodgers fought in more than 40 battles and earned a reputation for bravery and tenacity under fire. She was always available and selected for some of the most dangerous tasks which she performed with skill and daring.
During the siege of Vicksburg, she was captured by the Confederates but, managed to escape by grabbing a guard's rifle and knocking him senseless. Through the remainder of 1864, the 95th pursued Confederate General Sterling Price during his Missouri raid. In December of 1864 the 95th fought at the Battle of Nashville, the last major battle in the Western Theater. Sent to the Gulf of Mexico the regiment ended it's military service by taking part in the siege and capture of Spanish Fort and Fort Blakely in March - April of 1865.
Hodgers escaped the war without serious injury, allowing her to keep her true identity a secret. Decades later, after her identity was revealed, fellow soldiers were shocked. "I never suspected at any time all through the service," attested one, "that Cashier was a women." Said another, she "seemed to be able to do as much work as anyone in the company."
At the end of the war, Cashier was mustered out with the remainder of the regiment on August 17, 1865, after serving for three years and 11 days in the ranks. She and her fellow soldiers returned to Illinois where they were honored with a huge public rally before returning to civilian life.
Hodgers retained her guise as Albert Cashier and went in search of work. She cast about for a while as a farm hand before taking a job as a dry goods clerk in the town of Sanemin, Ill. Hodgers stayed there for the next 40 years, working in many capacities (including janitor and lamplighter), and living in a small house she bought. Every year on Decoration Day she donned her Union Army uniform and marched in the local parade. And every year on election day, she did what no woman would be permitted to do in her lifetime -- she voted.
Hodgers managed to keep her real identity a secret until 1911. While working as a groundskeeper on a nearby estate, she was struck by a car in the driveway and suffered a broken hip. During the subsequent examination, the doctor discovered the "Albert" was actually a woman. Hodgers pleaded with him not to reveal her identity and he agreed.
She never recovered fully from the accident and within months was forced to reside at the Soldiers' and Sailor's Home in Quincy, Illinois . In 1914, due to a deteriorating mental condition, possibly Alzheimer's, she was transferred to an asylum in Watertown, Illinois.
Jennie Hodgers passed away on October 10, 1915. The Grand Army of the Republic provided an impressive military funeral. Her casket was covered with the American flag and she was laid to rest with full military honors. Upon the headstone over her grave in Sunny Slope Cemetery was inscribed the same masculine name she carried into battle and bore throughout her life.
In the 1980's, measures were taken to correctly identify the gravesite. Visitors will now find two headstones in place -- the original veteran marker and a larger memorial stone inscribed:
Albert D. J. Cashier,
Co. G, 95 Ill Inf Civil War
Born Jennie Hodgers
in Clogher Head, Ireland
1843 - 1915
The residents of Saunemin place flowers at the grave each Memorial Day.
Contributed by; Tomás Ó Coısdealha