Alfred J. Luther

Alfred J. Luther enlisted on May 30, 1861 in Co. A of the 1st Kansas Infantry. Unbeknownst to those in the regiment, Alfred Luther was actually a woman whose real name is now lost to history. She rose to the rank of corporal before the Battle of Wilson's Creek where she was slightly wounded, then promoted to first sergeant in 1862.

 

Although the 1st Kansas was attached to the 1st Brigade, 6th Division, of Maj.Gen. James B. McPherson's XVII Army Corps, Sgt. Luther did not fight at Vicksburg, dying of small pox at Lake Providence, Louisiana, on March 22, 1863. Her original burial site was near the residence of a Dr. Blackman near Lake Providence.

 
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Record of the first burial site for Sgt. Alfred J. Luther

National Archives Photo

 

Her remains were later removed and re-interred at Vicksburg National Cemetery. The headstone for Sgt. Alfred J. Luther is located in Section K, grave 5971.

 
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Alfred J. Luther burial record for Vicksburg National Cemetery and headstone.

National Archives/NPS Photo

 
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Reprinted news article

Poughkeepsie Telegraph

The Nashville Dispatch on June 7, 1863 (here reprinted from the Poughkeepsie Telegraph), relates the discovery of Alfred J. Luther's 'secret' after her death. A letter written by Lt. Frederick Haywood (who may also have been the correspondent of the above-mentioned article) of the 1st MN Artillery to his sister on April 6, 1863, also referred to Alfred Luther's identity:

"You can imagine their astonishment. The Regt is camped near us, and I went to the hospital and saw her. She was of pretty good size for a woman, with rather masculine features. She must have been very shrewd to have kept her secret so long when she was surrounded by several hundred men. The 1st Kansas was one of the first regiments that entered the service two years ago. This girl enlisted after they went to Missouri, so they knew nothing of her early history. She doubtless served under an assumed name. Poor girl! Who knows what trouble, grief, or persecution drove her to embrace all the hardships of a soldier's life. She had always sustained an excellent reputation in the Regiment. She was brave as a lion in battle and never flinched from the severest fatigues or the hardship duties. She had been in more than a dozen battles and skirmishes. She was a sergeant when she died. The men in the company all speak of her in terms of respect and affection. She would have been promoted to a Lieutenancy in few days if she had lived."

 

(Thank you to Shelby Harriel for providing the research and information for this page.)

 

Last updated: December 4, 2017

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