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Deborah Samson

Private, Army

First Military Heroine

On May 20, 1782, Deborah Samson joined the Army as Robert Shurtliff. Although the last Revolutionary battle had been fought in October there were many guerrilla battles with the British still occupying New York City and other strongholds.

She was wounded with a musket ball to the thigh, and removed it herself to avoid discovery.   A later illness lead a doctor to discover her secret and she was awarded an honorable discharge on October 23, 1783.  She later married and had children, but struggled financially much of her life.

Paul Revere spearheaded an effort to grant her a pension and on January 19, 1792, the legislature granted Deborah thirty-four pounds with interest from October 23, 1783.  They said Deborah exhibited an “extraordinary instance of female heroism, by discharging the duties of a faithful, gallant soldier, and at the same time preserving the virtue and chastity of her sex unsuspected and unblemished, and was discharged from the service with a fair and honorable character....'"

She died on April 29, 1827 and was buried in Rock Ridge Cemetery, Massachusetts. On May 23, 1983 Governor Michael J. Dukakis signed a proclamation which declared that Deborah Samson was the Official Heroine of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.


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