On a Small Soldier

When President Abraham Lincoln put out the call for soldiers from the northern states to volunteer for the Union Army, an 18 year old enlisted in the 95th Illinois Regiment under the name of Albert Cashier. As a private in that regiment, Albert joined the Army of the Tennessee (Union armies were named after rivers) under the leadership of General Ulysses S. Grant. Albert saw service throughout the south during the war. Though small in stature, Albert’s fellow soldiers testified to the bravery and spirit they saw in the private. It wasn’t uncommon for teenagers to enlist; courageous boys as young as ten saw duty as drummers for some regiments.

Albert kept to himself, mostly, as many soldiers did. When people asked, Albert told them about immigrating from Ireland at an early age and becoming a farmhand in Illinois. With the others in the regiment, Albert performed the usual duties of standing guard and even going on scouting missions. During a reconnaissance patrol, Albert was captured by the Confederates and held as a prisoner of war. Somehow, though, Albert escaped and managed to rejoin the regiment. But then, a crippling case of dysentery put Albert in the hospital during the siege of Vicksburg, Mississippi in 1863. There, Albert received the first real rest in more than 16 months in the army.

More battles followed. Albert participated in more than 40 of them and never wavered, never ran, never panicked. Albert’s coolness under fire was how most of the others in the regiment recalled the youngster. It is estimated that Albert and the 95th Regiment marched over 9,000 miles during the course of the war, following the retreating Confederates from Nashville through Chattanooga and down into Georgia.

When the war ended, Albert, along with the rest of the regiment, was discharged and sent home with the gratitude of a nation for having defended the Union and the ideals upon which it was founded. Returning home, Albert lived a quiet life as a town handyman, caretaker of the local church grounds, and sometime store employee. In 1907, Albert applied for an received a well-deserved pension for the time in the service.

Then, in 1911, a car hit Albert and the resulting injuries required hospitalization. Some of Albert’s fellow old soldiers from the regiment visited their fellow small soldier in the hospital. Sadly, Albert would never fully recover from the accident. Death followed not too shortly afterward. However, it was in the hospital that the attendants and physicians who cared for Albert made a remarkable discovery. This person who had fought bravely for the Union, worked for years in the town, was known by many people for honesty and prudence, was not who he said he was.

In fact, it was discovered that the person who had lived for over 50 years as Albert Cashier was actually a she.


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