"I told him I had suspicion of his being lame, and Desired Capt Flavin to Afficiate as Doctor in searching he did, and soon made the Discovery by Pulling out the Teats of A Plump Young Girl, which caused Great divertion..."
For our first Women's History Month post, we return to the Letters from the Front sub-collection for this dispatch from William Barton, which provides an extremely rare example of a woman attempting to enlist in the Continental Army. According to Heitman's Officers of the Continental Army, four William Barton's served in the American forces during the war. The most likely candidate for the author of this letter was acting as a First Lieutenant in the 1st New Jersey Regiment at the time of this letter. In his account written at Elizabethtown, NJ, on 17 November 1778, Barton relates how an individual appearing to be a young man presented himself for service in the Barton's regiment. A few behavioral mistakes gave Barton sufficient pause to call in his fellow officers to examine the recruit for lameness. The resulting events provide a graphic account of the fate that lay in store for any woman who challenged contemporary gender roles by attempting to pass as a man in the army. For the entire letter, please read below. Our thanks go to Library Research Assistant David Swain for this transcript.
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