newspapers have reporting the existance of a Woman Soldier named Annie Lillybridge
serving with the 21st Michigan. This is one of these articles. While the
object of the woman's affections has never surfacted, there is some research
to suggest the the unidentified Lieutenant
W... is Lieutenant Wells.
Now on to the article...
Article from the Friday, May 29th, 1863 edition
of The Weekly Pioneer & Democrat, St Paul, Minnesota, page 1, columns
3 & 4.
Female Soldier of the Twenty First Michigan.
LOVE WILL DRIVE A WOMAN TO.
Chicago Post, Friday.
On Sunday evening, as
a gentleman residing on the North side, Fourth avenue, was returning from
church in company with his wife, his attention was attracted to the door
of a house by faint groans, and on turning to the spot from which the sound
proceeded, he discovered a neatly dressed and prepossessing looking female,
apparently about nineteen years of age sitting upon the steps. Beside
her lay a large carpet bag, The humane citizen addressed her kindly, and
inquired what ailed her. She informed him that she was very ill . He took
her to his residence, and the lady of the house did all in her power to relieve
the poor girl. Towards midnight she had nearly recovered, slept soundly,
and in the morning was thoroughly convalescent. Her benefactor inquired into
her history, when she related the following strange ye t apparently truthful
story. There is much of the romantic about it, yet we are assured the tale
appears to be correct.
She gave her name as Annie
Lillybridge, of Detroit and stated that her parents reside in Hamilton, Canada.
Last spring she was employed in a dry good store in Detroit, where she became
acquainted with a Lieutenant W-----------, of one of the Michigan regiments,
and an intimacy immediately sprang up between them. They corresponded for
some time, and became much attached to each other. Some time during the last
summer Lieut. W--------- was appointed to a position in the 21 st Michigan
infantry, then rendezvousing in Ionia county. The thought of parting from
the gay lieutenant nearly drove her mad, and she resolved to share his dangers
and be near him. No sooner had she resolved upon this course than she proceeded
to the act. Purchasing male attire, she visited Ionia, and enlisted in Captain
Cavanagh’s company, 21 st regiment. While in camp she managed to keep
her secret from all – not even the object of her attachment, who met
her every day, was aware of her presence so near him. Annie left with her
regiment for Kentucky, passed through all the dangers and temptations of
a camp life, endured long marches and slept on the cold ground without a
murmur. At last, the night before the battle of Pea Ridge (or
Prairie Grove), in which
her regiment took part, her sex was discovered by a member of her company;
but, she enjoined secrecy upon him, a fter relating her previous history.
On the following day she was under fire, and from a letter she has in her
possession it a ppears, she b ehaved with marked gallantry, and by her, own
hand, shot a rebel captain, who was in the act of firing upon Lieut. W-----.
But the fear of revealing her sex continually haunted h er. After, the battle
she was sent out with others to collect the wounded, and one of the
first corpses found by her was the soldier who had discovered her sex. Days
and weeks passed on, and she became a universal favorite with the regiment,
so much so that her Colonel (Stephens) frequently detailed her as regimental
clerk -- a position that brought her in close contact with her lover,
who at this time was major or adjutant of the regiment. A few weeks subsequently
she was out on picket duty when she received a shot in the arm that disabled
her, and notwithstanding the efforts of the surgeon her wound continually
grew worse. She was sent to the hospital at Louisville where she has been
ever since until a few weeks ago, when she was discovered by the post surgeon,
as her arm was stiffened and rendered useless for life. She implored to be
permitted to return to her regiment, but the surgeon was unyielding and discharged
her. Annie immediately hurried towards home, and by the aid of benevolent
strangers reached this city. At Cincinnati she told her secret to a benevolent
lady, and was supplied with female attire. The gentleman, after hearing
her story, asked to see her discharge papers, which she produced, and upon
which was the name of Joseph Henderson. However, she stated that that
was not the name she went by in the regiment, as she exchanged her papers
with another discharged soldier, for the purpose of re-enlisting under
the name of, Henderson in her old regiment. Her benefactor kindly furnished
her with money to go to Detroit, and Annie left on the morning train east.
She declares that she will enlist in her old regiment again if there is a
recruiting office for the 21st in Michigan. She still clings to the lieutenant,
and says she must be near him if he falls, or i s taken down sick; that where
he goes she will go; and when he dies she will end her life by her own hand.
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