Cashier adopted the identity of a man before enlisting in the civil war and maintained it until her death. There are over 400 documented cases of women disguising themselves as men and fighting as soldiers on both sides during the Civil War.
Cashier became famous as one of several women soldiers who served as men during the Civil War. However, the consistent and long-term (at least 53 years) commitment to a male identity has prompted contemporary scholars to suggest that Cashier was a transexual man (the error of presentism).
Cashier was very elderly and disoriented when interviewed about immigrating to the United States and enlisting in the army, and had always been evasive about early life; therefore, the available narratives are often contradictory. According to a later investigation by the administrator of Cashier's estate, Albert Cashier was born Jennie Hodgers in Clogherhead (or Clogher Head) County Louth, Ireland, on December 25, 1843, to Sallie and Patrick Hodgers. Typically, the youth's uncle or stepfather was said to have dressed his charge in male clothing to find work in an all-male shoe factory in Illinois. Even before the war's advent, Hodgers adopted Albert Cashier's identity to live independently. Sallie Hodgers, Cashier's mother, was known to have died before 1862, by which time her child had traveled as a stowaway to Belvidere, Illinois, and was working as a farmhand to a man named Avery.
Cashier first enlisted in July 1862 after President Lincoln's call for soldiers. As time passed, the need for soldiers only increased. On August 6, 1862, the eighteen-year-old enlisted in the 95th Illinois Infantry for a three-year term using the name "Albert D.J. Cashier" and was assigned to Company G. Cashier was listed in the company catalog as nineteen years old upon enlistment and small in stature.
Sources differ about how tall Cashier was. Some report 5'3", and others say 5 feet.
Many soldiers from Belvidere participated in the Battle of Shiloh as members of the Fifteenth Illinois Volunteers, where the Union had suffered heavy losses. Cashier took the train with others from Belvidere to Rockford to enlist to answer the call for more soldiers. Along with others from Boone and McHenry counties, Cashier learned 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.
The regiment was part of the Army of the Tennessee under Ulysses S. Grant and fought in approximately forty battles, including the Siege of Vicksburg. During this campaign, Cashier was captured while performing reconnaissance but managed to escape and return to the regiment. In June 1863, still, during the siege, Cashier contracted chronic diarrhea and entered a military hospital, somehow evading detection.
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.
Following a period to recuperate and regroup following the debacle at Brice, the 95th, now a seasoned and battle-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.
During the war, the regiment traveled a total of about 9,000 miles. 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 honorably discharged on August 17, 1865, when all the soldiers were mustered out after losing a total of 289 soldiers to death and disease.
Historians claim the 95th had traveled 9,960 miles in three years of campaigns.
Cashier was one of at least 250 soldiers who were female at birth and enlisted as men to fight in the Civil War.
After the war, Cashier returned to Belvidere, Illinois, for a time, working for Samuel Pepper and continuing to live as a man. Settling in Saunemin, Illinois, in 1869, Cashier worked as a farmhand and performed odd jobs around the town, which can be found in the town payroll records. Cashier lived with employer Joshua Chesbro and his family in exchange for work and slept for a time in the Cording Hardware store in exchange for labor. In 1885, the Chesbro family had a small house built for Cashier. For over forty years, Cashier lived in Saunemin and was a church janitor, cemetery worker, and street lamplighter. Living as a man allowed Cashier to vote in elections and to later claim a veteran's pension under the same name. Pension payments started in 1907.
In later years, Cashier ate with the neighboring Lannon family. The Lannons discovered their friend's sex when Cashier fell ill but decided not to make their discovery public.
In November 1910, Cashier, who was working for State Senator Ira Lish, was hit by the Senator's car and broke his leg, at which time his sex true was discovered. The local hospital agreed not to divulge his sex assignment, and he was sent to the Soldiers and Sailors Home in Quincy, Illinois, on May 5, 1911, to recover. Many friends and fellow soldiers from the Ninety-fifth Regiment visited.
Cashier remained a resident of the home until March of 1913 when due to the onset of dementia, he was sent to a state hospital for the insane. Attendants there discovered his sex assignment and forced him to wear a dress. The press got a hold of the story, and soon everyone knew that Private Albert Cashier had been born as Jennie Hodgers.
Cashier lived there until an apparent deterioration of mind began to take place and was moved to the Watertown State Hospital for the Insane in East Moline, Illinois, in March 1914. Attendants at the Watertown State Hospital discovered Cashier's sex. At that point, Cashier was made to wear women's clothes again after presumably more than fifty years of dressing as a male. 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.
Although initially surprised at this revelation, many of Albert Cashier's former comrades supported Cashier and protested his treatment at the state hospital.
When Cashier died on October 10, 1915, he was buried in his full uniform and given a tombstone inscribed with his male identity and military service. The tombstone was inscribed "Albert D. J. Cashier, Co. G, 95 Ill. Inf."
Cashier was given an official Grand Army of the Republic funeral service and was buried with full military honors. It took W. J. Singleton (executor of Cashier's estate) nine years to track Cashier's identity back to the birth name of Jennie Hodgers. None of the would-be heirs proved convincing, and the estate of about $282 ($8,400 today), after payment of funeral expenses, was deposited in the Adams County, Illinois, treasury.
In the 1970s, a second tombstone, inscribed with both names, was placed near the first one at Sunny Slope Cemetery in Saunemin, Illinois.
Cashier is listed on the internal wall of the Illinois memorial at Vicksburg National Military Park.
Compiled by Dr. Neil Gale, Ph.D.