Story of our own Jennie Hodgers is new musical hit in Chicago
CLOGHERHEAD WOMAN SERVED AS MAN IN UNION ARMY DURING CIVIL WAR. HUBERT MURPHY REPORTS
THE following story appeared in the Drogheda Independent in May 1913. ‘ The strange career of a woman who for over fifty years masqueraded as a man was disclosed on Monday at a soldiers’ home at Quincy, Illonis. The ‘man-woman’ has been an inmate of the home for more than two years, being enrolled on the books as Albert Cashier. She was a veteran soldier of the Civil War, and might have preserved her secret until death but for ill health and the resultant neglect of her physical well-being, caused the authorities to order two attendants to give her a compulsory bath.
‘Unable to escape the ordeal, the veteran appealed to a female nurse, to whom she confessed her identity. According to her story, she was a native of Ireland, and came to this country as a stowaway in the guise of a boy.
‘When the war broke out she enlisted in Company G, 95th Illonois Infantry, and endured three years in the field.
‘At the close of the war there were only thirty survivors of the company, several of these were inmates of the home she had spent the last two years in. They never suspected Cashier of being a woman, and said that she was a fearless and efficient soldier.
‘After peace was established she was employed for years as a farm hand, and later, chauffeur, in which she was a familiar figure in garages in parts of Illinois. The authorities are much puzzled what to do with the war-scarred woman.’
The woman at the centre of the amazing story was Jennie Irene Hodgers from Clogherhead.
Within two years of the story breaking, Jennie was dead, passing away on October 11, 1915.
She was buried in her Infantry uniform with full military honours in Sunny Slope Cemetery in Saunemin.
40 years ago, the people of Saunemin replaced the standard military marker on Jennie’s grave with a much bigger one bearing the following inscription: Albert D. J. Cashier, Co. G, 95th Inf. Civil War. Born: Jennie Hodgers in Clogherhead. 1843-1915.
Fittingly, over 100 years after her death, Jennie’s story has hit the big screen with various documentaries done on her and the latest celebration - a Chicago musical.
Permoveo Productions, in association with Pride Films & Plays, recently staged the world premiere production of The CiviliTy of Albert Cashier, starring former Glee Project star and America’s Got Talent contestant Dani Shay.
The production is co-composed and directed by Keaton Wooden, co-composed by Joe Stevens, written by Jay Paul Deratany and is music directed by Jon Schneidman.
It sparked great debate as it focussed on the role of transgender people in the US military, particularly appropriate after comments by US President Donald Trump recently.
Trump announced in a series of tweets that the government “will not accept or allow transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the US military”, the move was roundly criticized by ex-military personnel and civil rights groups. Barack Obama ended a longtime ban on trans people serving in the military just one year earlier.
He clearly didn’t know the story of Albert Cashier.
The musical is set between 1862 and 1915, and tells the astonishing, “timely, essential, insightful” and true story of “an amazing figure from [our] history”,. stated The Windy City Times.
In The CiviliTy of Albert Cashier, Albert Cashier is a Civil War soldier with a secret that
resonates with today’s modern world. Detailing the soldier’s life fighting in more than 40 engagements during the Civil War, the musical follows Cashier through retirement and the onset of dementia, when a life-long secret was discovered: That Albert was born Jennifer Hodgers. Causing an uproar in the small southern Illinois community where Cashier lived, Cashier was prosecuted for impersonating a soldier, requiring fellow soldiers to return once again after 60 years to detail Albert’s heroism and life.
‘It is always a thrill to see an audience react to one’s work, however, I have been blown away by the response to Albert Cashier. In addition to the critical praise, veterans of all ages, members of Albert’s home town, students and so many others have been very vocal about what this story means to them. It is truly amazing and on behalf of the whole creative team, the incredible actors and all involved, we are so grateful and honored to share Albert’s timely story,’ Playwright/ Producer Jay Paul Deratany commented.
The CiviliTy of Albert Cashier has been workshopped at The Chicago Musical Theatre Festival at Victory Gardens, and The Los Angeles LGBT Arts Center.
“The temperature Trump sets for our country, the mood he sets and the anger that he’s creating and the polarization that he’s building between people – it’s just terrible,” Jay added. “But I hope this play bridges some gap.”
With the 95th regiment, Albert Cashier fought in Mississippi, Missouri and Tennessee and Louisiana, marching almost 10,000 miles over three years.
In an article from the True Republican newspaper, published in 1913, Sgt Ives, who served alongside Cashier in the 95th, remembers Cashier taunting Confederate soldiers.
“Come out of there, you damned rebels, and show your face,” Cashier is alleged to have said when faced with a concealed enemy.
In his last two years, Albert was forced to wear a dress and live as a woman in as asylum.
It is said that struggling with both his mental health and physical health, and clad in a long dress, he tripped and fell down a flight of stairs. Cashier broke his hip, became bedridden, and died on 10 October 1915. He was 71 years old.
His ex-comrades made numerous attempts to have Cashier transferred back to the soldiers’ and sailors’ home, but were unsuccessful.
After his death, his comrades took possession of his body and organised a full military funeral and was buried in his Union army uniform.
SHE WAS A VETERAN SOLDIER OF THE CIVIL WAR, AND MIGHT HAVE PRESERVED HER SECRET UNTIL DEATH BUT FOR ILL HEALTH AND THE RESULTANT NEGLECT OF HER PHYSICAL WELLBEING, CAUSED THE AUTHORITIES TO ORDER TWO ATTENDANTS TO GIVE HER A BATH
Clogherhead, the home of Jennie Hodgers
Dani Shay in the Chicago musical on Albert Cashier (Jennie Hodgers) pictured inset.