Not much is known about Albert Cashier’s early life. We do know that ‘Jennie Hodgers’ was born in Ireland. She immigrated to the United States from Clogherhead. She was five feet tall and illiterate. There weren't many jobs she qualified for, unless she wanted to be a laundress or something of the sort. This is probably one of the reasons that Jennie Hodgers decided to dress herself as a man and join the Union Army.
During the Civil War, physical examinations for soldiers were perfunctory, at best. In fact, Albert Cashier was nowhere near the only soldier who was a woman masquerading as a man. However, he was one of the very few, that we know of, who wasn’t discovered while in service. A great sense of patriotism must have driven these women, as well as the promise of regular wages. The battlefields of the Civil War were notoriously savage. It had to have taken a very brave soldier to enter the battlefields voluntarily, regardless of whether that soldier was male or female.
During the war, Albert Cashier was present at the Siege of Vicksburg, the surrender of Mobile, the Red River campaign and Guntown, Mississippi. His comrades later told stories of his bravery on the battlefield. However, they also told stories about his private nature. It would seem, and this makes perfect sense, that Albert didn’t like to be alone with the other men very often. He didn’t share bunks with his comrades the way the others sometimes would. It was the only indication any of them ever had that he was a woman, though they never suspected.
Albert Cashier was discharged from the Union Army in 1865. After the war, Jennie Hodgers did not want to give up her newfound freedom as a man, so she continued to masquerade as Albert Cashier. With this identity, she could earn better wages and keep in touch with her war buddies. She even voted. Albert Cashier eventually moved to Sauremin, Illinois, where he picked up odd jobs and lived in a modest home.
Albert Cashier kept his secret for the next nearly fifty years. He would have kept it longer, but he was involved in an accident that occurred while he was working on his boss’ car. The injuries he sustained were crippling and when a doctor looked at him, the ruse was up. Despite his deceit, he was allowed to live at the Illinois Soldiers and Sailors Home for three years. However, his mental and physical health continued to decline and so he was sent to a state hospital in 1914.
While in the state hospital, workers forced Albert Cashier to wear skirts. This was very uncomfortable for him, obviously. However, he didn’t have to suffer for long. Albert Cashier died at the state hospital in October of 1915. Jennie Hodgers’ true identity is carved on her gravestone, which reads ‘Albert D.J. Cashier, Co. G, 95 Ill. Inf.’
Davis, Rodney O., Private Albert Cashier, retrieved 1/7/10, dig.lib.niu.edu/ISHS/shs-198summer10.pdf
Paul, Linda, In Civil War, Woman Fought Like a Man For Freedom, retrieved 1/7/10, npr.org.templates/story/story.php?storyId=104452266