A Black Woman Serving in The Civil War


On November 15, 1886, Cathay Williams became the first African American female to enlist and serve in the United States Army. Cathay Williams had to pretend to be a man to enlist into the United States Army.


Despite the prohibition against women serving in the military, Williams enlisted in the U.S. Regular Army under the false name of "William Cathay" on November 15, 1866. She enlisted for a three-year engagement, passing herself off as a man. Williams was assigned to the 38th U.S. Infantry Regiment after she passed the cursory medical examination.

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