Frances Clayton

Female Soldier in the Civil War

Civil War woman soldier Frances ClaytonFrances Clalin Clayton was a woman who disguised herself as a man named Jack Williams in order to fight in the Union Army. She served in Missouri artillery and cavalry units for several months. Before the Civil War, Frances was a housewife.

Image: Frances Clayton as Jack Williams

Frances Louisa Clalin was born in Illinois in the 1830s. She later married Ohio native Elmer Clayton, with whom she would have three children. They had a farm in Minnesota.

At the beginning of the Civil War, Frances Clayton disguised herself as a man and, using the pseudonym Jack Williams, enlisted in the Union Army with her husband during the fall of 1861. Though they lived in Minnesota they enlisted in a Missouri regiment.

It was not difficult for Frances to convincingly play the part of a man. She was tall and masculine, and had tan skin. She had practiced masculine activities such as smoking, drinking, chewing tobacco, swearing and gambling. She was quite fond of cigars as well.

Clayton was expertly trained as a soldier and knew her duties well. She stood guard, went on picket duty and fought in the field with the rest of her comrades. She was reported to be a good horseman and swordsman, and the way she carried herself in stride was soldierly, erect, and masculine. She was a respected person who commanded attention by her actions.

Clayton is known to have fought in the Battle of Fort Donelson in Tennessee, February 13, 1862, where the Union won after three days of fighting. During this battle Clalin was wounded, but her gender was not discovered. It has been said that she was engaged in seventeen battles in addition to Fort Donelson.

Frances and Elmer Clayton served side by side until the Battle of Stones River on December 31, 1862. Elmer was only a few feet in front of Frances when he was killed, but she did not stop fighting. Frances was later wounded in the hip in that same battle. Her identify was discovered when she entered the hospital, and she was discharged from the Union Army on January 2, 1863.

After being discharged from the army, Frances went back to Minnesota to collect the bounty owed her deceased husband and herself, as well as to get some of Elmer's belongings. She then went to Grand Rapids, Michigan, and on to Quincy, Illinois.

The information about Frances Clayton has become so jumbled that it is difficult to state with certainty what actually happened to her. But she obviously served in the Union Army at some point, and deserves to be acknowledged for her contributions to the war.

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