Albert Cashier was born on Christmas Day of 1843 in County Louth, Ireland, and christened Jennie Irene Hodgers. He is said to have begun dressing as a boy in his early youth in order to find work. Accounts of how Cashier came to America are unclear, but it is thought that he stowed away on a ship bound for Illinois; he was living in Belvidere when the American Civil War broke out.
In 1862 Cashier enlisted in the 95th Illinois Infantry, aged 19, with the name of Albert Cashier. The regiment was under the command of Ulysses S. Grant and it fought in over forty battles, including the Siege of Vicksburg, the Red River Campaign and at Guntown, Mississippi. Cashier was only 5’3 tall and weighed about 110 pounds (at the start of the war) but completed rigorous training and worked hard without complaint. His comrades considered “Little Albert” to be a scrappy soldier. At camp he usually sat away from the group, contentedly smoking a pipe, but was always willing to share duties and lend others a hand. At one point Cashier was captured in battle but was able to grab the Confederate’s gun and knock him down, then returned to his own lines. Cashier fought with his regiment throughout the war until they were mustered out in 1865. His name is on the bronze plaques in the Illinois Memorial Temple in Vicksburg, Mississippi.
Albert Cashier returned to Belvidere for several years and worked for one Samuel Pepper. He later became a farmhand in Saunemin for a man named Joshua Chesebro, who had a single-room house built for him. Cashier lived in Saunemin for over forty years, working variously as a church janitor, cemetery worker and street-lamp lighter. Neighbours noted that he lived quietly and was always clean and well-groomed. Cashier always marched in veterans’ parades and enjoyed talking about his experiences in the war. He voted in elections and later claimed a veteran’s pension under his chosen name. In his later years Cashier became friends with a neighbouring family, the Lannons, and often ate with them. In 1910 Cashier suffered a broken leg when he was hit by a car. In hospital a physician discovered that he was female-bodied, but kept it secret. In 1911 Cashier moved into a Soldier and Sailors Home where he lived until his mental faculties began to deteriorate and in 1913 he was moved to Watertown State Hospital for the Insane. It was discovered there that he was female-bodied, at which point he was sadly forced to wear dresses. It’s said that he “almost started a small war” when the first one was put on.
Albert Cashier died on the 11th of October, 1915. He was buried in his Union Army uniform, which he had carefully preserved since the end of the war, and his tombstone read, “Albert D. J. Cashier, Co. G, 95 Ill. Inf.” A second tombstone was later added bearing this name along with his baptismal name, after his identity was linked to the birth name of Jennie Hodgers. Cashier’s Saunemin home has since been restored.