"Albert's life matters personally to me. I see myself in his story. But it is more than my story. It's a story about veterans. About war. About young people. About autonomy and privacy. And an unlikely person, the way he found his way in the world, and the people who became his family."
- Coyote Joe Stevens. Co-composer
In August of 1862, Private Albert Cashier enlisted in the Union Army until honorably discharged on August 17, 1865, at which point he received a military pension in recognition of his service and retired to Saunemin Illinois.
But there was more to Albert than most people knew.
Albert was born in County Louth Ireland, December 25th, 1843, with a different name, and assumed female at birth.
Raised amidst the desperation of the Irish potato famine, he worked alongside his stepfather to get jobs and earn money for their struggling family. In the summer of 1862, after the death of his mother Sallie, he stowed away to America. Arriving in New York, and migrating to Illinois, he lived and worked earning money as a factory laborer, farmhand, and shepherd. Never shy to run from a fight, he often took on extra work to prove his mettle and survive.
President Lincoln’s urgent call for soldiers to fight in the Civil War appealed to his sense of adventure. And upon enlisting in Belvedere, Illinois, unable to read or write, he signed an "x" to serve as signature, becoming a member of Company G as Albert DJ Cashier.
Traveling over 10,000 miles, from Illinois to Kentucky, he fought in over forty battles.
Albert was skilled sharpshooter, diminutive in size, and known as a quiet, shy soldier, Cashier resembled many Irishmen of the day. In May of 1863, he was captured while performing a reconnaissance mission in the Siege of Vicksburg, and escaped by wrestling a gun away from a Confederate soldier. Chased on foot, Albert narrowly reached the safety of the Union lines.
Long after the war, Cashier’s comrades continued to remember their slight, quick-triggered brother in arms as a brave fighter, admired for heroic actions and undertaking dangerous assignments.
Albert retired with a full soldier's pension to Saunemin, Illinois, where he lived the life he wanted for 40 years.
Living in a small one-room cabin provided by a local family, Albert worked as a handyman and lamplighter. He was well-liked in the community by friends and local figures such as Senator Ira Lish, socialite Abigail Lannon, and fellow soldier and Black activist H Ford Douglas.
As Albert aged he suffered from dementia. After surviving a car accident, he was taken to the Soldier's & Sailors Home of Illinois, where his secret was discovered.
Causing an uproar in his small town, Albert was put on trial.
The United States Veteran’s Pension Board tried to strip Albert of his pension and his military honors, and force him to live as a woman at the Waterton State hospital - for Albert, a fate worse than death.
But in a heroic show of brotherhood and human decency, Albert's brothers in arms from the 95th arrived at the trial and came to his defense.
“I don’t see anyone before me but Albert Cashier.
That man saved my life.”
Sadly, the end of Albert's life was not what he wanted.
Regardless of the outcome of Albert's trial, due to his severe mental and physical decline, he was sent to Waterton regardless, and forced to wear a dress. The story goes that Albert died when he tripped over the hem and fell. He was trying to make them into pants.
Albert Cashier was buried in Saunemin, Illinois dressed in the Union Army uniform he took such pride in wearing. At his funeral, he was given an official Grand Army of the Republic service, his casket covered in teh American flag. Laid to rest with full military honors.
That's how Albert wanted to be remembered.
Albert always wore his uniform and led the Memorial parade, proudly carrying the big flag. Slight as he was. He was in his glory when he did that."
– Saunemin Townsperson
"He was a soldier. My friend. A good man."
– Fellow Soldier
"Once, when our Union colors fell, Albert took the flag and climbed it up the nearest tree and continued on in the fighting..."
– The Civility of Albert Cashier
Albert never stopped fighting.