The Historical Birthday-Tea Party March 23rd

hannah snellAnd finally I’ve caught up! A week’s holiday does get in the way of a regular blog.

Right, we’re going for one of those early cross dressers today, though it is an actual genuine birth date.

Hannah Snell  23/3/1723-1792

In 1740, Hannah’s parents died and she moved to Wapping, where she married a Dutch sailor, James Summs. James went back to sea shortly after they married. Nothing was heard from him again. Hannah decided to look for her husband. She borrowed some of her brother-in-law’s clothing and set off dressed as a man.

Believing James to have been forced into the army, Hannah enlisted as ‘James Grey’ at Coventry and set off to fight against the Jacobite Rising in Scotland.

The regiment set off to Carlisle, Hannah’s disguise undiscovered.

A Sergeant Davis set his sights on a girl in Carlisle and tried to enlist Hannah’s aid in her seduction. Instead she warned the girl and Davis alleged ‘neglect of duty’ against Hannah. She was sentenced to 600 lashes of the whip.

Hannah was tied to the barrack gate, which hid her breasts so maintaining her disguise. She bore 500 lashes – the Commanding Officer cancelled the final 100 lashes. Recognising a recruit as a former neighbour from Wapping, she deserted and made for Portsmouth. Here  she enlisted into a Regiment of Marines leaving for the East Indies. She saw action at Pondicherry, killing several Frenchmen before being wounded herself.

She escaped discovery  by operating on herself and removing a musket ball from her groin. Declared unfit for marine’s duty she now served as a deck hand. Still searching for her husband, she finally met a man who told her that James Sums had been executed for murder in Genoa.

When her ship returned to London, her story became known.  To earn a living she went on the stage and then leased a tavern, naming it ‘The Widow in Masquerade, or the Female Warrior’.

Hannah was given a pension of £30 a year for life and died in 1792.

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