In Independence, Missouri, in 1844, Cathay Williams was born to a free father and an enslaved mother. She spent her teenage years as a house slave on the Johnson farm, which is located outside of Jefferson City, Missouri. Early in the Civil War, in 1861, Union troops took control of Jefferson City. At this time, slaves who had been taken prisoner were formally classified as contraband and were required to work as cooks, laundresses, or nurses for the troops.
Williams worked as an Army washerwoman and cook before she voluntarily enlisted at the age of 17. In this capacity, she traveled the entire nation with the soldiers. Williams worked with General Philip Sheridan and participated in both the Red River Campaign and the Battle of Pea Ridge.
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Williams enlisted in the U.S. Regular Army on November 15, 1866, under the fictitious name “William Cathay,” despite the ban on women enlisting in the military. She signed up for a three-year commitment while posing as a guy. After passing the quick medical check, Williams was assigned to the 38th U.S. Infantry Regiment. At the time, the Army did not require full medical screenings, even though this should have shown that she was a woman.
She was hospitalized for smallpox shortly after joining the military. Williams went back to her squad in New Mexico. Her body started to ache there, whether as a result of the smallpox, the heat, or the years of marching. She was frequently hospitalized, and the post-surgeon eventually learned she was a woman. He told the post commander. On October 14, 1868, Captain Charles E. Clarke, her commanding officer, granted her an honorable discharge. Her time in the Army came to an end with her disability release, but her adventures persisted. She joined a new all-black battalion, which later became part of the famous Buffalo Soldiers.
Williams was discharged, then she worked as a cook at Fort Union, New Mexico (which is now Fort Union National Monument), before relocating to Pueblo, Colorado. Even though she was married, things didn’t work out because her husband took her money and a herd of horses. Williams had him detained before relocating to Trinidad, Colorado, where she was employed as a seamstress. Her story originally made headlines around this time. An African American woman who had been in the army was the subject of an interview by a St. Louis-based reporter who had heard about her. A description of her life and military duty appeared on January 2, 1876, in the St. Louis Daily Times.
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Williams checked into a nearby hospital in the late 1880s or early 1890s and asked for a disability pension based on her military experience. Although Molly Williams’ appeal was turned down, there was precedent for awarding pensions to female soldiers (Deborah Sampson, Anna Maria Lane, and Molly Williams all posed as men during the Revolutionary War). A physician examined Williams in September 1893.
She had all her toes amputated, was diabetic, had neuralgia, and walked with a crutch. The doctor said she did not meet the criteria for disability benefits. Although the precise day of her passing is unknown, it is thought that she did so soon after receiving a rejection.
Cathay Williams’ Qualities as an American Hero :
Williams was the first African American woman to enroll and the only woman who is known to have served in the US Army during the Indian Wars while wearing a man’s disguise, despite the fact that over 400 women served in the Civil War doing the same. The only known female Buffalo Soldier is Williams. Williams’ tenacity in serving her country is a shining example of the remarkable achievements women have made in the course of merely attempting to live their lives.
Source : Wikipedia