The American Revolution was not fought solely by men on the battlefields. It was fought on the home front as well. While their husbands and sons were away, many women stepped out of the traditional role of 18th-century wife and mother to become heads of households and manage their farms and plantations. Others supported the cause by fundraising, making homespun cloth rather than buying English imports, and boycotting tea to protest unfair taxation. Still, others chose to support their men directly and followed them into war.
This story is about one such woman. Her name was Anna Maria Lane.
There is precious little known about Anna Maria’s early life. She may have been born in the 1750s and hailed from New England, possibly New Hampshire. Like many girls of her generation, Anna Maria may have been taught to read but possibly not how to write. At the time it was generally felt a woman needed little education beyond the ability to read the Bible to her children.
When she came of age, she was courted by John Lane, and they married in 1776.
The American Revolution Begins
Camp followers have existed for as long as there have been military forces. They were mostly the wives of the soldiers, and they lived with their menfolk at the encampment. Some followed out economic necessity, some because it seemed safer than falling prey to encroaching enemies or their sympathisers. Camp followers provided support services such as cooking, sewing, laundering, nursing and at times espionage. Anna Maria Lane went one step further.
At the start of the American Revolution in 1776, Anna Maria and John Lane joined the Continental Army and served under General Israel Putnam. She donned the uniform of a Continental soldier and fought alongside her husband in campaigns in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Georgia. She was the only documented women in Virginia to dress and fight as a man.
How Anna Maria Lane Passed As a Soldier
You may wonder how Anna Maria managed to go unnoticed by the other soldiers. As it turns out; it was not that difficult.
In the 18th century, military physicals were not as thorough as they are today. So long as you had front teeth and a functioning forefinger and thumb, so you could grasp a cartridge, rip the paper open, load and fire your musket, no one checked too carefully.
Also, gender roles were more strictly defined then than they are now. If you wore a frock, you were a woman. If you wore trousers, you were a man. If you wore a uniform, you were a male soldier. Even if you appeared feminine, you were a still considered a male soldier. It was as simple as that.
‘But what about when they bathed or went to bed,’ I hear you say. ‘She would have had to remove her uniform then surely.’
Any available water would have been used for cooking and drinking. Hygiene was low on the list of priorities and, as such, the soldiers did not bathe much.
At night when the temperature drops and the cold seeps in, soldiers would sleep in their uniforms adding more layers on top of that when possible to stay warm.
It is easy to see, taking all this into account, how Anna Maria could keep her identity hidden.
The Battle of Germantown
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania had been the colonial capitol until her capture by the British Army under General Howe in September 1777. General George Washington was determined to recapture her and restore morale to the Continental Army.
In the early hours of 3 October 1777, John, Anna Maria and the rest of the Continental Army marched 15 miles through the thick fog towards Germantown, located approximately five miles from Philadelphia. Part of the British Army was camped there, and Washington believed an unexpected dawn raid from many directions would rout them. He had not counted on the fog, however. Communication between generals became confused. Some got lost, and there were incidents of friendly fire.
Unfortunately, British sentries spotted their approach and alerted the rest of the army camped there. By 5:00 am, chaos ensued.
After the initial attack, the British sentries fell back to a stone house called the Chew House, or Cliveden, where they, and the rest of the soldiers stationed inside, beat back every attack by the Continental Army. Because the house lay between them and the main horde of the British Army, the Continental Army could not go around and leave their rear flank vulnerable. They had to take this house.
Eventually, the Continental Army broke through and Anna Maria Lane "in the garb and with the courage of a soldier” charged into the fray, engaging with the enemy in hand-to-hand combat. She fought as bravely as any man, receiving a severe wound during the fighting which left her lame for the rest of her life.
Prior to the battle, Washington issued a decree forbidding all women camp followers from accompanying the men to the battlefield. It is possible Anna Maria, fearing discovery, may have declined medical treatment for her injured leg.
Life After the American Revolution
At the end of the war in 1783, the Lanes moved to in Virginia where John had obtained employment at the state arsenal at Point of Fork in Fluvanna County. Later in 1801, the Lanes moved again and settled in Richmond where John joined the Public Guard. They set up home with their three children in the barracks living off daily rations.
Anna Maria volunteered her services at the military hospital where she met Dr. John H. Foushee. It was he who appealed to Governor James Monroe (who would later become the fifth President of the United States) and the Council of State to authorise a small gratuity for her services as a nurse.
Dr. Foushee’s reasons for doing this remain unclear. Perhaps he felt sorry for her because of her disability. Maybe he was familiar with the cause of her lameness and wanted to show his gratitude for her sacrifice. Possibly he felt she was an exceptional nurse and deserved a reward. I don’t suppose we will ever really know.
As the years passed, Anna Maria grew weaker and eventually became too ill to continue her duties at the hospital. By 1804, Anna Maria’s name no longer appeared on the list of county nurses in the council journal.
In 1808, John, along with several other men, was discharged from the Public Guard due to disability. They, along with Anna Maria, sought help from the Virginia government in the form of pensions.
On 28 January 1808 in a letter to Hugh Nelson, Speaker of the House of Delegates, Governor William H. Cabell put forth his argument for awarding pensions to these men and women of the American Revolution.
In the letter, Governor Cabell asked for these veterans to be given consideration in light of their services during the American Revolution. He noted Anna Maria was in particular need as she was "very infirm, having been disabled by a severe wound which she received while fighting as a common soldier, in one of our Revolutionary battles, from which she never has recovered, and perhaps never will recover."
Anna Maria is Awarded Her Pension
We will never know precisely what heroic feats Anna Maria performed on that fateful day at the Battle of Germantown. Inexplicably, no one at the General Assembly had written down any notes when Anna Maria's exploits were put forth. Historian Joyce Henry has a theory as to what might have occurred:
"At some point during the confusion of battle, many of the American soldiers became confused, and said, “We’re out of ammunition.” They felt the British heard them screaming that we were out of ammunition. They said, “The British are upon us.” And many threw their muskets down and ran and started to retreat to the rear. We know General Washington and Henry Knox and Anthony Wayne were galloping their horses about, frantically waving their swords trying to rally the men to re-take the positions to continue the assault. We know that many American soldiers continued to retreat.
We also know that a handful picked up their arms, possibly their standards, and made that final assault. We know there was one final assault on the Chew house. Meant some American soldiers made their way actually into the house, where some vicious hand-to-hand fighting ensued in the yard and in the hallways. Certainly, it was a very brave act. But they did not succeed in overrunning the house.
“Was Anna Maria Lane one of these who entered the house, who picked up a fallen standard, who made a valiant final charge when others were retreating? That’s my thought. Because again, her pension record states, “In the garb, and with the courage of a soldier, performed extraordinary military service and received a severe wound at the Battle of Germantown.” To me, that highlights the most, I won’t call it the decisive action, but probably one of the bloodiest and heroic actions of the Battle of Germantown."
Soldier of the American Revolution
Whatever her deeds were, they must have been impressive. While the other veterans received on average $40 a year pension, The General Assembly saw fit to award Anna Maria $100 per year in consideration of her services during the American Revolution and the injury she received on the battlefield.
Two years later, on 13 June 1810, Anna Maria Lane, a soldier of the American Revolution, died. Despite her fantastic story, she remained in relative obscurity until the 1920s, when the editor of the Richmond Magazine found her pension records and wrote an article about her.
In 1997, the Virginia Sons of the American Revolution honoured her memory by sponsoring a descriptive marker which commemorates her heroic deed in the fight for American independence from English oppression. It was erected in Richmond by the Department of Historic Resources and is located near the Bell Tower in Capitol Square.
Video: Women of the American Revolution: Anna Maria Lane
Find Out More About the Women of the American Revolution
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2012 Zulma Burgos-Dudgeon
Zulma Burgos-Dudgeon (author) from United Kingdom on August 21, 2019:
Thank you, Denise, for taking the time to read this.
I admit I didn't know who Artemisia Gentileschi was so I read about her on Wikipedia. She must have been an extraordinarily strong woman. Not only to paint during a male-dominated time period but to have the courage to bring her rapist to trial. Truly remarkable.
Denise McGill from Fresno CA on August 20, 2019:
Fascinating. I too love finding out about women in unusual circumstances making a huge difference. Women have plenty to offer besides raising children. My favorite artist is Artemisia Gentileschi who was an awesome painter of women in myths and in Bible contexts because of the rape she suffered at an early age.
Nell Rose from England on February 10, 2017:
I love finding out about women in history, too much is about the guys, we women have been kicking ass for centuries! lol!
Zulma Burgos-Dudgeon (author) from United Kingdom on February 07, 2017:
Thank you, Nell. I was actually going to write about something else (can't remember what now) when I ran across her name. I got curious, did some research and thought 'I need to write her story.' I'm glad you enjoyed it.
Nell Rose from England on January 26, 2017:
Its only these days that the story of brave women in wars are coming out, so this was fascinating!
Zulma Burgos-Dudgeon (author) from United Kingdom on December 02, 2016:
Thank you, norlawrence. I'm pleased you enjoyed this. I know I've been remiss about submitting hubs, but I've been caught up with other projects and Life just getting in the way sometimes. lol
I'll do my best.
Zulma Burgos-Dudgeon (author) from United Kingdom on December 02, 2016:
Thank you, Robert and many apologies for the late response. I didn't receive a notification and only saw your comment when stopped by to respond to another comment I received today. I'm glad you liked my hub and I do appreciate you taking the time to comment.
Norma Lawrence from California on December 01, 2016:
Great article. Loved the pictures. Please submit more as I really enjoy your work.
Robert Sacchi on October 05, 2016:
Yes, that is one thing I like about HubPages. I get to learn about people, places, and things I wouldn't have ever known about.
Zulma Burgos-Dudgeon (author) from United Kingdom on October 05, 2016:
I appreciate your stopping by. Not many people have heard of her. After reading up on Anna Maria, I thought her story needed to be shared.
Robert Sacchi on October 04, 2016:
Thank you. I hadn't heard about Anna Maria Lane before this.
Zulma Burgos-Dudgeon (author) from United Kingdom on September 04, 2016:
Hi, norlawrence. Thank you for stopping by. I'm pleased you liked this look at a courageous woman.
Norma Lawrence from California on September 03, 2016:
Great article. I learned a lot from it. Thanks
Zulma Burgos-Dudgeon (author) from United Kingdom on April 09, 2016:
Thank you, Paintdrips. True we will never really know what happened, but it must have been truly heroic to have received double the pension than the men did. It's a shame we know so little about her.
Denise McGill from Fresno CA on April 09, 2016:
This was incredibly informative. I especially love the speculation of her heroic feats since we will probably never know. Thanks.
Zulma Burgos-Dudgeon (author) from United Kingdom on November 04, 2014:
Thank you, handymanbill. I find it interesting that she did so for as long as she did. No one found out till she got injured.
Bill from Greensburg Pennsylvania on November 04, 2014:
Great story. I found it interesting that she had fought side by side with here husband in the revolution.
Zulma Burgos-Dudgeon (author) from United Kingdom on November 04, 2014:
Thank you, Phyllis, for reading my offering. I found Anna Marie Lane's story interesting too so I just had to share.
Phyllis Doyle Burns from High desert of Nevada. on November 04, 2014:
I really enjoyed reading about Anna Maria. I did learn about Molly Pitcher in grade school - my teacher was a member of Daughters of the American Revolution and taught us a lot (off the required lessons). I have never heard of Anna Maria, though, so found this very interesting. Thanks for sharing her story, phoenix.
Zulma Burgos-Dudgeon (author) from United Kingdom on July 01, 2013:
Hi Suzie. Glad you stopped by.
I'm pleased you liked my hub. Researching Anna Maria Lane was no easy task as there hasn't been much written about her. I certainly never heard about her in school. I guess that's why I felt I should write about her. She did all that and hardly anyone knows about it. It didn't seem right.
Funny enough, I got so wrapped up in Anna Maria that I never did get back to what I had originally been researching. I don't even remember now what it was I was doing. lol
Again, thanks for visiting.
Suzanne Ridgeway from Dublin, Ireland on July 01, 2013:
What an interesting piece of history it seems many of us were not familiar with! Quite an astonishing feat to have gone to battle alongside your husband in those days. Anna Maria certainly is a great example of women you made a valuable contribution on and off the field. Well done on taking that spark of interest when researching something else, and going with it! You never know where things will lead! Wow, well done done, loved it - Up and shared!
Zulma Burgos-Dudgeon (author) from United Kingdom on May 13, 2013:
Thank you for sharing you military history with us. I also come from a military family and have answered the call.
I thinks it's wonderful that your Post has chosen to honour the women of the military in this fashion. Please let us know how it turns out.
Thank you again for sharing your story.
RPMal20 on May 12, 2013:
I just wanted to thank you for this story. Both my grandfathers and my mother and dad served this country in uniform in WWII. It was only natural that I joined the Navy in 1965. I am now the past Commander of my American Legion Post. My mother was also a member of the Post before she past. This past week my Post voted to honor all of the women who have served our country, and so we are building a float for our 4th of July parade to honor all of the women who through the years served to protect our country in uniform. I thank you for the information given here. I will be using it to help us with our float to honor these ladies. One final point. Our new Commander who was just elected to the Commander position in our post, is a woman who served in the middle east. On this Mother's Day, god bless them all.
Zulma Burgos-Dudgeon (author) from United Kingdom on January 09, 2013:
Thanks, Bill. I too am waiting anxiously for my next Hub.lol
Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on January 09, 2013:
Thought I would stop by to see if you had written anything new....nope! Well, I'll be anxiously awaiting your next Hub! :)
Zulma Burgos-Dudgeon (author) from United Kingdom on December 24, 2012:
Thank you for the compliment, Bill. I'm glad you like it. I also like to learn about the real people behind the history. Not just the well-known names. Merry Christmas.
Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on December 24, 2012:
A fascinating story, Phoenix! I love the little known stories and the human aspect of them. As a former history teacher, it should come as no surprise that I found this fascinatin.
Merry Christmas to you and yours, and thank you for your friendship.
Zulma Burgos-Dudgeon (author) from United Kingdom on December 21, 2012:
Thanks for stopping by, Alastar. I think Anna Maria Lane was one of the lucky ones. Usually when women were discovered in fighting with the men, they were punished; either by imprisonment or banishment from the camp.
I agree though she was something else to serve as valiantly as she did.
Alastar Packer from North Carolina on December 20, 2012:
Always like reading about women from the Revolution and Anna Marie's story shows why. She must have been something to charge into the fight the way she did. Bet she was looked on a little differently after that don't you think, phoenix lol? 100 dollars a year was very much back then for a war pension, too. Up and quite interesting Fulma!
Zulma Burgos-Dudgeon (author) from United Kingdom on December 13, 2012:
Oh, thank you, Terrye, for the return visit. I'm glad you think it's still good. Also, thanks for the share. That's so kind of you.
Terrye Toombs from Somewhere between Heaven and Hell without a road map. on December 12, 2012:
Came back for a second read and still as interesting. Shared in a few more places. :)
Zulma Burgos-Dudgeon (author) from United Kingdom on November 26, 2012:
Thank you, billips for stopping in and for your kind words. While Anna Maria's actions were a bit unusual, it does highlight some of the sacrifices and achievements these women were capable of when the occasion called for it.
billips from Central Texas on November 26, 2012:
This is a great article Phoenix - you've set it up so well and the pictures just compliment your words - a great tribute to Anna Maria, and all the women, who are part of war, even if it is not of their choosing - B.
Zulma Burgos-Dudgeon (author) from United Kingdom on November 06, 2012:
Thank you, kashmir56, for dropping by. I appreciate your kind comments and the vote up.
Thomas Silvia from Massachusetts on November 05, 2012:
Great hub and story, not heard this before but it was a very interesting read, well done !
Vote up and more !!!
Zulma Burgos-Dudgeon (author) from United Kingdom on October 01, 2012:
Thank you, Christy, for your kind comments. I glad you liked my efforts.
Christy Birmingham from British Columbia, Canada on September 30, 2012:
What a different kind of perspective on the time period. I like the way you highlight people who likely have received little attention.
Zulma Burgos-Dudgeon (author) from United Kingdom on September 23, 2012:
Not many could imagine that which is why so many women were able to get away with it. Some went completely undetected; somewhere discovered only when they were injured and had to be undressed to receive medical treatment.
I don't think even these women themselves could have imagined themselves in the thick of the fighting. But war changes things and sometimes forces us to do things we normally wouldn't.
Thank you for stopping by.
SuffolkJason from Ipswich, Suffolk, England, United Kingdom on September 23, 2012:
Fascinating article! I would never have imagined that women would actually fight in battles at that time.
Zulma Burgos-Dudgeon (author) from United Kingdom on August 04, 2012:
@TToombs - Thank you for you very kind words and the share. I'm glad you enjoyed it.
@rcrumple - I'm flattered by your comments. I'm pleased that you found my hub interesting and that I was able to pass on Anna Marie's story.
@Glimmer Twin Fan - Thank you for stopping by and commenting. I enjoyed researching this unsung hero and writing her story.
Claudia Mitchell on August 04, 2012:
This was really interesting! I always enjoy hearing about women's contributions in history.
Rich from Kentucky on August 04, 2012:
You've enlightened me! Never had a word been heard about Anna Maria Lane. Shame on our school systems. A hero such as she should be up and above the ranks of tales of Paul Revere and others. Great read and extremely interesting!
Terrye Toombs from Somewhere between Heaven and Hell without a road map. on August 04, 2012:
phoenix, this is some great history that seems so few of us have heard of! Great job! I will be sharing this. Thank you!
Zulma Burgos-Dudgeon (author) from United Kingdom on June 17, 2012:
Thank you, tirelesstraveler. I completely agree that most women underestimate how much power they really do wield.
Judy Specht from California on June 16, 2012:
Women have always been valuable assets in all areas of life. I just wish women would understand, everything they do, is vitally important. The direction women want the world to go it goes. Very nice work.
Zulma Burgos-Dudgeon (author) from United Kingdom on June 07, 2012:
Thank you Mhatter, for stopping by. Your comment is most appreciated.
Martin Kloess from San Francisco on June 07, 2012:
Good job. Thank you for this valuable piece of history
Zulma Burgos-Dudgeon (author) from United Kingdom on May 15, 2012:
Hello Alastar. Yes, it is amazing what you can accomplish when you have too. I think these women didn't just surprise others but themselves as well.
Hi Nell Rose. Anna Maria Lane was exceptional and more than earned her right to be mentioned in history. There were others who supported the cause in less obvious but equally effective ways.
Thank you both for taking the time to read this hub. Your comments are most appreciated.
Nell Rose from England on May 14, 2012:
Hi, I love reading about these brave women who took on and in most cases helped to beat the enemy. To be able to do that in a time of women being left at home and just used to being, well, women, Anna was an exception, and I am so glad that she got the pension she deserved and of course the recognition.
Alastar Packer from North Carolina on May 14, 2012:
Wow phoenix- Anna Maria doesn't look the type, going by her portrait, to jump into the fray of something like the battle of Germantown. Just goes to show one can't judge a woman by her looks alone and they should never be underestimated in their duty to what they perceive as a righteous cause. Thanks so much for writing and bringing her story to light here on the HP.
Zulma Burgos-Dudgeon (author) from United Kingdom on May 14, 2012:
Thank you, kittythedreamer, for your very kind words. I appreciate your stopping by and I'm glad you feel it was worth it.
Kitty Fields from Summerland on May 14, 2012:
AWESOME AWESOME AWESOME. I'd never heard of Anna Maria...and why not? We always get taught about the men in war but never get to see the women behind the war, taking care of the men and being just as brave. I loved this...very well written! Voted up, beautiful, and awesome.
Zulma Burgos-Dudgeon (author) from United Kingdom on May 08, 2012:
Thank you, bryanbaldwin. I appreciate your stopping by.
bryanbaldwin from Los Angeles on May 08, 2012:
This was a very unique hub to read, thank you for sharing.
Joanna McKenna from Central Oklahoma on May 07, 2012:
$1,818 a year still doesn't sound like much until one remembers things were a LOT cheaper 200 years ago, plus people made or grew most of the necessities themselves - food, clothing, and household items like soap, etc. ;D
Zulma Burgos-Dudgeon (author) from United Kingdom on May 07, 2012:
You would be right. The support that these women provided was immeasurable.
I did the calculations; $100 in 1808 would be $1,818 in today's money.
Joanna McKenna from Central Oklahoma on May 06, 2012:
That particular branch of my family tree DOES read like a Rev War mini-series. Accounts of the Civil War almost a century later make a big deal of "brother fighting brother", but there were just as many instances of that before and during America's War for Independence. If my outspoken female ancestors who lived during that time were the norm, I suspect women played a bigger role in the Revolution than we'll ever know. Even if they didn't don a uniform or go into battle alongside the men like Anna.
btw, $100 a year doesn't sound like much today, but at the time Anna was awarded it, $100 was more than enough to live quite comfortably!
Zulma Burgos-Dudgeon (author) from United Kingdom on May 05, 2012:
Thanks JamaGenee for that bit of family history. I don't imagine it made for light-hearted banter at social gatherings. Too bad about the brother-in-law though.
Thanks for sharing that. It's good to hear about history from players other than the one in history books.
Joanna McKenna from Central Oklahoma on May 05, 2012:
Yes, I assumed Betsy Ross didn't sew the flag all by herself, and in fact I read years later who the women were who helped her. But such is how grade school textbooks water down history. I also knew all camp followers weren't the spouses and children of the soldiers, that many were simply prostitutes making a living. A common part of every war.
There are many stories about female spies for one side of the other, but Anna is the first I'd heard of who ever fought alongside the men.
In my own family history a however-many times great-uncle was on the side of the Colonists, but one sister was married to a British soldier. I've often wondered how that played out at family dinners and other gatherings. If memory serves, though, the brother-in-law eventually came around to the side of the Colonists and was hanged for treason.
Zulma Burgos-Dudgeon (author) from United Kingdom on May 05, 2012:
Thanks for your comments, JamaGenee.
As far as Betsy Ross goes, she may not have been the only one to have sewn the flag and there was more to her accomplishments than that.
While researching Anna Maria Lane, I discovered that camp followers have been around since there have been soldiers. Also Anna Maria wasn't the only woman to have fought with the men during the Revolutionary War.
It seems history has given these and other heroic women's achievements the brush off.
Joanna McKenna from Central Oklahoma on May 04, 2012:
I'd not heard of Anna Maria until now. As far as the question in your poll, the ONLY woman we were told about in school who participated in the Rev War was Betsy Ross, who made the first flag. Women following their husbands from camp to camp were never mentioned, nor was the only woman known to have fought in the war disguised as a soldier. Thank you so much for Anna Maria's story!
Voted up and awesome! ;D
Zulma Burgos-Dudgeon (author) from United Kingdom on April 01, 2012:
Thank you hecate-horus. Your visit is much appreciated.
hecate-horus from Rowland Woods on March 31, 2012:
Wow, never heard of her before. I will share too! Interesting and voted up!
Zulma Burgos-Dudgeon (author) from United Kingdom on March 28, 2012:
I hadn't either. I came across her name while I was researching something else. I got curious and began researching her instead. Unfortunately there isn't much out there about her. That's why I decided to do the hub about Anna Maria.
Thanks for reading and appreciate your sharing.
Brett C from Asia on March 28, 2012:
I'd not heard this story before, but it is one that deserves to be remembered. Will share it with my followers :-).