Born in 1844 Cathay Williams was the daughter of a free man from Missouri and a slave which meant for all intents and purposes, legally she was a slave. Yeah. I know. During the American Civil War captured slaves were considered contraband so they were forced to serve in the military as cooks and nurses.
Cathay joined the Union army at the age of 17 by pretending to be a man named William Cathay. This means that Cathay was not only the first Black female to enlist as an American Soldier, but that she is the only one documented to have posed as a man and get in. She served in the 8th Indiana Volunteer Infantry Regiment. Too many words.
After being present in multiple battles when the war ended she still wanted to continue. She joined the Regular Army and passed herself off as a man for three more years. It is said that only two other people knew her secret: a cousin and a friend who were also soldiers alongside her. After getting smallpox, I say it as if its a present, she was finally discovered by a doctor who snitched. She was discharged in 1868. Afterward she worked as a cook in New Mexico and then while living in Pueblo, Colorado her husband stole all her money and horses. She had his ass arrested and moved again working as a seamstress. By 1876 the story of her service got around but did her little to no good as by 1890 she got sick and could not get any disability help. A couple of other women had done what she did but they were White and got help from famous friends. No one is sure exactly when she died but they guesstimate around 1892 and no one knows where she is buried because Black. This woman was a champion of champions and schools should be ashamed that she was never talked about.
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