Sampson, Deborah

Sampson, Deborah

(1760–1827) Revolutionary soldier, lecturer; born in Plympton, Mass. After a youth as a domestic servant and a few months as a teacher, she left town in 1782 to enlist in the American Revolution by disguising herself as a man and adopting the name "Robert Shurtleff” (or Shirtliff). She concealed her identity while participating in several battles, including one near Tarrytown, N.Y., where she was wounded; only when hospitalized with fever did a doctor discover her sex, and she was discharged from the army. After marrying Benjamin Gannett and having three children, she inspired a romanticized biography in 1797, and this led to her making a lecture tour in 1802. Thanks in part to the intercession of Paul Revere, she was awarded a federal pension in 1805, and 11 years after her death Congress voted her husband and heirs special payments in recognition of her military service.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.