A Soldier's Story: Private Deborah Samson Gannett


Private Deborah Samson Gannett was born on December 17, 1760, in Plympton, Massachusetts. Orphaned very young, she was an indentured servant during her teenage years and then worked as a summer school teacher and winter weaver. Private Deborah Samson Gannett also supported herself with a small carpentry business. 

She was very drawn to the cause of the US Revolution and first enlisted in early 1782 under the name Timothy Thayer, but she could not fulfill her contract after being recognized as a woman. Private Deborah Samson Gannett re-enlisted in May 1782 under the name Robert Shirtliff and was assigned to the light infantry of the 4th Massachusetts Regiment.

Private Deborah Samson Gannett fought in the battle of Tarrytown, New York, where she was wounded with two musket shots to the thigh and a sword cut to the forehead. She desperately tried to avoid treatment but was forced to have her head wound looked at by the unit physician. Private Deborah Samson Gannett treated the musket wounds herself, only removing one of the balls and leaving herself with a limp. 

In April 1783, she was assigned to serve as a waiter to General John Paterson and, in June 1783, deployed to Philadephia to suppress a rebellion. Private Deborah Sampson Gannett's true identity was detected in Philadelphia after falling ill with a fever. She was honorably discharged in October 1783.

After her discharge, she married and spent a few years quietly as a farmer's wife before she began lecturing on her time in the service. Herman Mann wrote her biography "The Female Review: Life of Deborah Samson, the Female Soldier in the War of the Revolution" in 1797

Private Deborah Sampson Gannett's musket wounds became more problematic as she grew older, and she began petitioning the US Government to honor her service with a pension. The request was finally granted in 1805 after Paul Revere started a letter-writing campaign to US Representative William Eustis. 

Private Deborah Samson Gannet died on April 29, 1827, from yellow fever and rests at the Rock Ridge Cemetery in Sharon, Massachusetts.


a.d. elliott is a wanderer, writer, and photographer currently living in Salem, Virginia. 

In addition to the travel writings at www.takethebackroads.com, you can also read her book reviews at www.riteoffancy.com and US military biographies at www.everydaypatriot.com

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