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Anna Maria Lane, Commendation and Pension Award from William H. Cabell, 1807

CONTENT WARNING

Materials in the Library of Virginia’s collections contain historical terms, phrases, and images that are offensive to modern readers. These include demeaning and dehumanizing references to race, ethnicity, and nationality; enslaved or free status; physical and mental ability; and gender and sexual orientation. 

Context

Women played many roles during the American Revolution, but only a few are known to be soldiers who saw battle. Women were known to disguise themselves as men and join the Army, but the penalties for being discovered were severe. Women who fought in the Army tried hard to keep their identities a secret to avoid punishment and we may never know how many women fought in the American Revolution. There are examples of women who fought in the Army and successfully received a military pension for their services. Such is the case of Anna Maria Lane who was the first known woman to receive a military pension for service as a veteran.

Anna Maria Lane was a native of Connecticut who followed her husband, John, who had enlisted with the Continental Army in 1776. The women camp followers supported the soldiers by doing laundry, cooking meals, and repairing uniforms and other fabric items.  Although it is not known why Anna chose to disguise herself as a soldier or if her husband was aware of her actions, Anna and John fought in military campaigns in Georgia, New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania. It was during the Battle of Germantown near Philadelphia, PA on October 3, 1777 when Anna sustained a severe injury which would affect her ability to walk for the remainder of her life. It is believed that she refused treatment for her injury out of fear of being discovered. Anna continued to follow the troops and fight with the men, even as her husband re-enlisted with the Virginia Light Dragoons, a calvary unit which saw action in many decisive battles during the Revolution. Anna was with her husband when he was wounded In the Siege of Savannah in 1779. 

After the Revolutionary War ended in 1781, Anna and John first lived in Fluvanna County where John had found work at a state arsenal and, later, in Richmond where he joined the public guard. Anna volunteered at a military hospital tending the injured and sick. It was in her capacity at the hospital that she met Dr. John H. Foushee, who asked Governor James Monroe to pay Anna for her work. In 1807, Anna was too frail to work because of injuries sustained in the war. In early 1808, Governor William H. Cabell requested that the General Assembly provide pensions for soldiers who had sustained lasting injuries in the war. Ann proved that she had fought in the war and was destitute as she could no longer work. Governor Cabell wrote a letter to the House of Delegates giving Anna special mention for her acts of service during the war. 

Instead of receiving punishment for dressing as a soldier to fight in the war, Anna was commended for her bravery and extraordinary services to the military. The General Assembly gave John Lane $40 a year for life, but Anna received $100 a year for life for her remarkable courage as a solider. Anna Maria Lane died on June 13, 1810. In 1997, a memorial sign honoring Anna’s remarkable story was placed in Richmond near the bell tower in Capitol Square.

Standards

VS.1, VS.9, USII.1, USII.4, VUS.1, VUS.8

Suggested Questions

Preview Activity

Look at it: Look at the pension record for Anna Maria Lane. What do you notice about it? What dies it tell you about Anna?

Post Activities

Analyze: General George Washington established the rule that women could be punished for dressing as and fighting as soldiers just prior to the Battle of Germantown in 1777. Why do you think he established this rule? What impact might the rule have had on the women who were camp followers?

Food for Thought: Why would a woman, such as Anna Maria Lane, decide to become a soldier? list 3 or 4 reasons with explanations.

Artistic Expression: Create an image of Anna Maria Lane which depicts a moment from her story. Be sure to write a caption for your image which describes the basis for your depiction.