Mythologizing Cathy Williams
Phillip Thomas Tucker. Cathy Williams: From Slave to Female Buffalo Soldier. Mechanicsburg: Stackpole Books, 2002. vii + 258 pp. Appendix, notes, bibliography, index. $26.95 (cloth), ISBN 0-8117-0340-1.
The story of Cathy Williams begins with the assertion that she was a remarkable woman who defied all odds to become a Buffalo Soldier and an independent woman. Tucker attempts to describe the culture from which her African ancestors likely came. He then discusses the nature of slavery and slave experience in order to provide a context for understanding Williams' experience. Essentially, Williams' story is that she was a slave in Missouri until the Union army liberated her during the Civil War. Forced to go with the regiment that set her free, she worked as a laundress and cook for the duration of the war. After the war ended in 1865 she decided to disguise herself as a man and join the army as a means to provide a living for herself and to avoid being a burden to her family. Her disguise worked and she served for two years in Company A of the 38th U.S. Infantry until she got tired of the grueling task of soldering. She then feigned an illness, her sex was discovered, and she was discharged a year early....