Today is the 178th birthday of Albert Cashier. I greatly admire the bravery and strength it took to be authentic and live authentic. I am also heart-warmed by those he surrounded himself with that protected his authenticity, especially considering it was over 100 years ago. The world is a better place because he was in it and still feels the loss that he has left.
NAME: Albert D. J. Cashier
BIRTH NAME: Jennie Irene Hodgers
DATE OF BIRTH: December 25, 1843
PLACE OF BIRTH: Clogherhead, County Louth, Ireland
DATE OF DEATH: October 10, 1915
PLACE OF DEATH: Saunemin, Illinois, U.S.
REMAINS: Saunemin, Illinois, U.S.
BATTLES/WARS: Vicksburg, Red River, Guntown
BEST KNOWN FOR: 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 until death.
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 later investigation by the administrator of Cashier’s estate, Albert Cashier was born Jennie Hodgers in Clogherhead, 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 in order to find work in an all-male shoe factory in Illinois. Even before the advent of the war, Jenny adopted the identity of Albert Cashier in order to live independently. Sallie Hodgers, Cashier’s mother, was known to have died prior to 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.
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. 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.
The regiment was part of the Army of the Tennessee under Ulysses S. Grant and fought in approximately forty battles, including the siege at Vicksburg. During this campaign, Cashier was captured while performing reconnaissance, but managed to escape and return to the regiment. After the Battle of Vicksburg, in June 1863, Cashier contracted chronic diarrhea and entered a military hospital, somehow managing to evade 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.
Cashier was only one of at least 250 soldiers who were assigned 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 as well as performing odd jobs around the town and can be found in the town payroll records. Cashier lived with employer Joshua Chesbro and his family in exchange for work, and had also 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 make their discovery public.
In 1911, Cashier, who was working for State Senator Ira Lish, was hit by the Senator’s car, resulting in a broken leg. A physician found out the patient’s secret in the hospital, but did not disclose the information. No longer able to work, Cashier was moved to the Soldiers and Sailors home in Quincy, Illinois on May 5, 1911. Many friends and fellow soldiers from the Ninety-fifth Regiment visited. Cashier lived there until an obvious deterioration of mind began to take place and was moved to the Watertown State Hospital for the Insane in March 1914. Attendants at the Watertown State Hospital discovered Cashier’s sex, at which point, the patient was made to wear women’s clothes again after what we can assume would be more than fifty years. 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.
Albert Cashier died on October 10, 1915 and was buried in uniform. The tombstone was inscribed “Albert D. J. Cashier, Co. G, 95 Ill. Inf.” Cashier was given an official Grand Army of the Republic funerary 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 (after payment of funeral expenses) 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 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.
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”.
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 Cashier’s life. Cashier was mentioned in a collection of essays called Nine Irish Lives, in which Cashier’s biography was written by Jill McDonough. Cashier’s house has been restored in Saunemin.