Campbell Leads Effort to Honor Revolutionary War Soldier Deborah Samson with State House Memorial

Statue of Deborah Sampson outside the Sharon Public Library. (Creative Commons.)

From The Female Review: Life of Deborah Sampson, the Female Soldier in the War of Revolution.

An effort in underway to add a State House memorial, honoring Deborah Samson, a hero of the American Revolution who disguised herself as a man in order to serve in the Continental Army.

Reps. Linda Dean Campbell of Methuen and David Vieira of Falmouth filed legislation to establish a 15-member commission to design the memorial. They said Samson “meets the very high bar set for those who are worthy of being memorialized in the State House.”

“Deborah Samson has been recognized nationally as being an inspiration to us all,” said Campbell. “It is important that Massachusetts students and all visitors to the State House have the opportunity to learn about this woman veteran who served in an important unit with a dangerous mission during the Revolutionary War. It is also important to convey that she was held in high esteem by many important Massachusetts patriots, including Paul Revere, John Hancock and former President John Quincy Adams,” she added.

In 1782, Samson used the name “Robert Shurtleff” to join the elite Fourth Massachusetts Infantry Regiment led by Capt. George Webb at West Point, New York. Over the following year and a half, she participated in dangerous scouting missions, led a raid that brought about the capture of 15 Tory men and stormed a British fort during the Siege of Yorktown.

During the course of her service, Samson received injuries including a forehead gash from a sword and a gunshot wound to the thigh. For the latter, she removed the bullet herself to avoid detection as a woman. Her identity was later discovered when she fell seriously ill, became unconscious and had to be taken to a hospital. On Oct. 23, 1783, she was honorably discharged and was the only woman to receive a full military pension for her participation in the Continental Army.

Samson is the official state heroine of Massachusetts, and May 23 is annually recognized as Deborah Samson Day. The Massachusetts Women Veterans’ Network named an award in her honor that is given each year to a woman veteran who demonstrates exceptional service to her community and in her military career. The federal government commissioned a ship in Samson’s honor during World War II, dubbed the Liberty Ship S.S. Deborah Gannett, her married name.

If approved, the commission will include legislators, secretary of the Department of Veterans’ Service, the adjutant general of the Commonwealth and representatives of several Veterans organizations. They will discuss the design and location of Samson’s memorial as well as how to pay for it.

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