Women played many roles during the American Revolution, but only a few are known to have disguised themselved as men and participated in battle. The penalties for being discovered could be severe. Women who fought in the army tried hard to keep their identities a secret to avoid punishment and it may never be known how many fought in the American Revolution or received a military pension for their services. One example is Anna Maria Lane who was one of the few women to receive a military pension for service as a veteran.
Anna Maria Lane was a native of Connecticut who followed her husband, John Lane, who had enlisted with the Continental Army in 1776. Female camp followers supported the soldiers by doing laundry, cooking meals, and repairing uniforms and other fabric items. It is not known why Anna Lane chose to disguise herself as a soldier or if her husband was aware of her actions. Anna and John Lane fought in military campaigns in Georgia, New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania. During the Battle of Germantown near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on October 3, 1777, Anna Lane sustained a severe injury that affected 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. She 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 Lane was with her husband when he was wounded in the wiege of Savannah, Georgia, in 1779.
After the Revolutionary War ended in 1781, Anna and John Lane lived in Fluvanna County where he found work at a state arsenal. They later moved to Richmond, where he joined the public guard. Anna Lane volunteered at a military hospital tending the injured and sick. There she met Dr. John H. Foushee, who asked the governor to pay her for her work. In 1807, Anna Lane was too frail to continue working as a result of her war-time injuries. Early in 1808, Governor William H. Cabell requested that the General Assembly provide pensions for soldiers who had sustained lasting injuries in the war. Anna Lane 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.
Anna Lane was commended for her bravery and extraordinary services to the military. The General Assembly gave John Lane $40 a year for life, but Anna Lane received $100 a year for life for her remarkable courage as a solider. Anna Maria Lane died on June 13, 1810. In 1997, a state historical marker honoring Anna’s remarkable story was placed in Richmond near the bell tower in Capitol Square.
Citation: Letter, William H. Cabell to Speaker of the House of Delegates, Jan. 28, 1808, Governor’s Office, Executive Letter Books, William H. Cabell, 1807–1808, Record Group 3, Acc. 35358, Library of Virginia.
Related Entry: Molly Pitcher at the 1778 Battle of Monmouth
VS.1, VS.9, USII.1, USII.4, VUS.1, VUS.8
Look at it: Look at the letter's comments about Anna Maria Lane. What do you notice about them? What does it tell you about Anna?
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 that depicts a moment from her story. Be sure to write a caption for your image that describes the basis for your depiction.