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Illustration from Thrilling Adventures Among the Early Settlers by W. Wildwood, 1866.

Sally St. Clair (birth date unknown-1782; also spelled St. Clare) was an American woman from South Carolina who disguised herself as a man and joined the Continental Army. Her true gender was not discovered until after she was killed in battle during the Siege of Savannah in 1782.[1] Little is known about St. Clair. She is variously described as a Creole woman, a woman of color, and a woman of African and French descent. By some accounts she joined the army to be with her lover, a sergeant. She may have served as a gunner. Several sources claim she was killed during the Battle of Savannah in 1778.[2]

"Romantic Victorians" such as George Pope Morris claimed that even her lover did not recognize her until after she was killed and her body was prepared for burial.[3] Morris's poem about St. Clair begins:

In the ranks of Marion's band,
Through morass and wooded land,
Over beach of yellow sand,
     Mountain, plain and valley;
A southern maid, in all her pride,
March'd gayly at her lover's side,
          In such disguise
          That e'en his eyes
     Did not discover Sally.[4]

Morris, no doubt making good use of his poetic license, describes St. Clair as a "beautiful, dark-eyed Creole girl" with "long, jetty ringlets," and claims that she died of a lance thrust aimed at her lover, Sergeant Jasper. He goes on to say that "there was not a dry eye in the corps when Sally St. Clair was laid in her grave, near the River Santee, in a green shady nook that looked as if it had been stolen out of Paradise."[4]

Warren Wildwood tells her story in similarly picturesque terms in Thrilling Adventures Among the Early Settlers (1866).[5]

See also

References

  1. Berkin, Carol (2007). Revolutionary Mothers: Women in the Struggle for America's Independence. Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. p. 61. ISBN 9780307427496. https://books.google.com/books?id=uY4TWMfXsQwC. 
  2. Crow, Tracy (2017). It's My Country Too: Women's Military Stories from the American Revolution to Afghanistan. University of Nebraska Press. p. 20. ISBN 9781612348315. https://books.google.com/books?id=2OYlDwAAQBAJ&pg=PT20. 
  3. Booth, Sally Smith (1973). The Women of '76. Hastings House. ISBN 9780803880665. 
  4. 4.0 4.1 Morris, George Pope (1843). The Deserted Bride: And Other Poems. New York: D. Appleton. pp. 87–88, 172. https://books.google.com/books?id=V70CAAAAYAAJ&pg=PA172. 
  5. Wildwood, Warren (1866). "The Romance of War.—Sergeant Jasper and Sally St. Clair". Thrilling Adventures Among the Early Settlers. Philadelphia: J. Edwin Potter. pp. 78–81. https://books.google.com/books?id=215aAAAAYAAJ&pg=PA78. 

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