Episode 82: Smollop: Deborah Sampson

Dave: She is so much tougher than you.

Gareth: Why does it have to be about me?

Dave: I’m just imagining you trying to do it, the way you’re all balled up right now…”

She is the female Hugh Glass, ladies and gentlemen, yes, she is. Because she defied convention, hell, defied everything, put on pants, and fought in war? Partly. Because, when it was over, she walked home from Providence, Rhode Island, with a healing sword wound to the head? That definitely factors in. The biggest part of the Glass Equation?

The doctors treated her head wound, but she left the hospital before they could attend to the musket balls. Fearful that her true identity would be discovered, she removed one of the balls herself with a penknife and sewing needle, but her leg never fully healed because the other musket ball was too deep for her to reach. (Wikipedia)

I’ll give y’all a moment of silence to regroup.

Oh, no, I won’t. Remember that time you couldn’t get a splinter out, and no one was home, and you kept digging, and you were going deeper, and it was getting worse, and even grosser, but the damn thing was still stuck in you, and. . .

There, there, head between your knees. You’ll be just fine.

Well, she did that with a sewing needle–an 18th century sewing needle, which might have been hand-hewn–and her pen knife.

I love my job.

She was the first woman officially recognized by the United States government as serving in the Army. She is the official heroine of the state of Massachusetts. She was friends with Paul Revere, who advocated for her (and who, I am assuming, did not crotch-face her), there are many facts to love about Deborah, but I have two favorites:

Her chosen name to serve in the military was Robert Shurtliff. She named herself for her deceased brother, Robert Shurtliff Sampson.

Now, I keep myself mostly out of this. I don’t tag my name. I am just your kooky librarian, curator, and webmaster. The Dollop ain’t my Dollop. But sometimes. . .

I feel you, Deborah. I lost my brother, too. It would have comforted me, going through a war, to have mustered every morning under his name, too.

Second: She was passed around from home to home before being sold into indentured servitude, and she knew exactly how that felt, to be owned instead of having a home. Almost as a footnote, I found that she and her husband, Benjamin Gannett, had four children: Earl, Mary, and Patience Gannett. . .and they adopted Susanna Baker Shepard, an orphan.

I think I love you, Deborah.

Deborah Sampson at findagrave

The female review. Life of Deborah Sampson, the female soldier in the war of the revolution * Herman Mann and John Adams Vinton (1916) — available for ebook download or online reading from University of California Libraries

Glory, Passion, and Principle: The Story of Eight Remarkable Women at the Core of the American Revolution * Melissa Lukeman Borher

. . .and here’s Paul Revere’s actual letter to Congressman William Eustis, side by side with its transcription, asking for assistance in Deborah’s receiving her rightful pension from the government, thanks to the Massachusetts Historical Society. Very cool.

Band names from this episode:

  • Fat Henry Knox
  • FatKnox
  • Patience Gannett (think Flogging Molly, but with a more early Americana flavor)

Cultural references from this episode:

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