During the Civil War, several hundred women dressed up as men to fight as soldiers. Among the most notorious was Frances Louisa Clayton, who took the name Jack Williams to fight for the Union.
While little else is known about Clayton’s life, we do know that she enlisted in a Missouri regiment along with her husband and, according to most accounts, served in both the cavalry and artillery units.
Most reports also claimed that she was wounded at the Battle of Stones River in Tennessee in 1863, at which time her disguise was discovered and she was discharged from the army.
However, subsequent reports both complicated that story and made it far more dramatic. Clayton herself eventually clarified the story, telling reporters that she was not discovered while still serving in the army and that she was actually wounded at Fort Donelson, not Stones River. Furthermore, according to the book They Fought Like Demons, Clayton even witnessed her husband’s death just a few feet in front of her at Stones River, but then stepped over his body and charged into enemy lines.
However her service ended, Clayton then tried to get home but her train was raided by Confederates and her money was stolen. When newspapers caught wind of the story, a collection was held to help her continue her travels, and the last that was heard of her was that she was headed for Washington, D.C.