- Deborah Sampson Gannett (December 17, 1760 – April 29, 1827), better known as Deborah Sampson or Deborah Samson, was a woman who disguised herself as a man in order to serve in the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War. She is part of a small number of women with a documented record of military combat experience in that war. She served 17 months in the army, as "Robert Shurtleff" of Uxbridge, Massachusetts, was wounded in 1782 and honorably discharged at West Point, New York in 1783.
Although having prominent ancestry (Deborah's mother was great-granddaughter of Gov. William Bradford), the Sampsons were not well off by the time Deborah was born in Plympton, Massachusetts on December 17, 1760. Her siblings were Jonathan (born 1753), Elisha (born 1755), Hannah (born 1756), Ephraim (born 1759), Nehemiah (born 1764), and Sylvia (born 1766).
Although Deborah was always told that her father had most likely disappeared at sea, evidence suggests that her father actually abandoned the family, migrated to Lincoln County, Maine, and started a new life. It is known that he took a common-law wife named Martha and had two or more children with her. He also returned to Plympton in 1794 to attend to a property transaction. There was also a multiple murder indictment in Maine against someone named Jonathan Sampson in 1774, but it is unknown whether this individual was Deborah’s father, because a trial was never held.
When Deborah’s father abandoned the family, her mother, unable to provide for her children, placed them in the households of various friends and relatives, a common practice in 18th century New England to provide for dependent children. Deborah was first placed in the home of a relative of her mother, who died shortly thereafter. She was then sent to live with the widow of Reverend Peter Thatcher, an elderly woman in her eighties. She too died after a few years. Deborah was then sent to live with Jeremiah Thomas in Middleborough, where she worked as a servant for about 8 years from 1770 to 1778. Although treated well by the family, she was not sent to school like the Thomas children and greatly longed to learn. It is believed that she learned to read while living with the widow of Reverend Thatcher, who might have wanted Deborah to read bible verses to her. When her time as an indentured servant was over at age 18, Deborah made a living by teaching school during the summer sessions in 1779 and 1780 and by weaving in the winter. She was a highly skilled weaver and worked for the Sproat Tavern as well as the Bourne family, the Morton family, and the Leonard family. During her time as a teacher and a weaver she boarded with the families for which she worked.
The 4th Massachusetts Regiment also known as 3rd Continental Regiment or Learned's Regiment, was raised on April 23, 1775 by Colonel Ebenezer Learned outside Boston, Massachusetts.
The regiment saw action at the Battle of Bunker Hill, New York Campaign, Battle of Trenton, Battle of Princeton, Battle of Saratoga, Battle of Monmouth and the Battle of Rhode Island. The regiment was disbanded on November 3, 1783 at West Point, New York. [3, 4]