Female soldiers are always something of a curiosity and these two brief accounts, one British the other Italian, might not have seen individual re-publication in modern times so this special Leonaur edition brings them together. The accounts—both originally published anonymously—tell of two women who joined the ranks of the army in disguised as men and fought undiscovered. The most famous of the two is Hannah Snell. Born in 1723 she married a James Summ who subsequently deserted her, so she adopted male clothes to search for him only to discover that he had been executed for murder. Her claims regarding her participation, as a soldier of Guises regiment, in the Jacobite Rising of 1745, led by Charles Stewart, have been questioned, but she certainly joined the Royal Marines and sailed to India where she took part in the capture of Pondicherry from the French and in the Battle of Devicotta. She was wounded no less than twelve times and despite eventually revealing her gender was awarded a pension for her services. Frances Scanagatti was born in Milan, Italy in 1781 and her interest in military life was evident from an early age. The account of her progress under arms is not as specific in its detail as present day readers might like, but it seems clear that she served in the Austrian Army at the time of the wars with Revolutionary France. The life of another female soldier, of the British Army of the Marlborough period, the renowned Mother Ross, is also available as a Leonaur edition.
Leonaur editions are newly typeset and are not facsimiles; each title is available in softcover and hardback with dustjacket.
I shall now proceed to their march to Pondicherry, which is but a few leagues from the forementioned place; they encamped within about three miles from the town, Boscawen being then both admiral and general, and Major Mount Pleasant informed them with their intention, which was to storm the place, which attack was began by the ships firing at the fort, some of which time they lay middle-deep in water in their trenches.<br>
This attack continued eleven weeks, part of which time they had no bread, most of their food being rice; and the many bombs and shells thrown among them, killed and wounded many of their men. During this space of time, she behaved with the greatest bravery and intrepidity, such as was consistent with the character of an English soldier, and though so deep in water, fired 37 rounds of shot, and received a shot in the groin, six shots in one leg, and five in the other.<br>
The siege being now broke up, by reason of the heavy rains, and violent claps of thunder, it being the time of the year when the monzoons (for so they are called in that country) happens, she was sent to an hospital at Cuddylorom, under the care of two able physicians, viz. Mr. Belchier and Mr. Hancock; but she, not willing to be discovered, extracted the ball out of her groin herself, and always drest that wound; and in about three months was perfectly cured; but most of the fleet being sailed before her recovery, she was left behind, and sent on board the Tartar Pink, which then lay in the harbour, where she remained, doing the duty of a sailor, till the return of the fleet from Madrass when she was turned over to the Eltham, Captain Lloyd commander, and sailed for Bombay, where they arrived in about ten days, being scarce of hands, having only eight in a watch, of which she was one; and what made their fatigue still more, was their being obliged to keep continually at the pump, the ship having sprung a leak in her larboard bow.<br>
At Bombay they were obliged to heave the ship down in order to clean her bottom, which kept them there about five weeks, and then they sailed to Monserrat, to take the Royal Duke Indiaman under convoy, to bring her to Fort St. David’s where she was gone for provisions.<br>
At Bombay her master being on shore, she was obliged to watch in her turn, as is usual on such occasions; but being one night on duty, Mr. Allen, who then had the command of the ship, being on shore, desired her to sing for him, which she begged that he would excuse, as she was not very well; but he being proud in this his new employ, as commander, absolutely commanded her to sing; which she refused to do, as she did not think it any incumbent duty for a soldier to sing when commanded so to do, and that by one who was not an officer in their core, or had she any obligations to him; however this refusal proved of fatal consequence to her; he ordered her immediately into irons, which accordingly was done, and continued for the space of five days, and then ordered her to have a dozen lashes, which she had at the gang-way of the ship, and after that sent to the foretop-mast-head, for four hours; such is the cruelty of those that are invested with power, and do not know how to use it. However, this man’s cruelty did not go unpunished; for after there arival in England, as they were unriging the ship, one of the sailors let a block fall on his head, which hurt him greatly.