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12 March 2008

Mrs Noonan (? - 1878) army wife.

Image from New York`s National Police Gazette, 15 Feb 1879.
Mrs Noonan was the company laundress with the American Seventh Cavalry (the one that became famous because of General Custer and Little Big Horn). She had joined the company in Kentucky and followed it north to Fort Lincoln (map). She was always heavily veiled, and from 1868 to 1873 was married first to a man named Clifford, and then to James Nash. She always stayed on when her husbands were discharged. She did not get on too well with the other women who regarded her as 'something' between a man and a woman.

In 1873 she had married Corporal John Noonan, a Mexican, and was living with him at Fort Meade, Dakota Territory. While the corporal was away on a campaign, Mrs Noonan died, and on being laid out by the other garrison women it was discovered that she was a 'man'. Noonan's comrades ridiculed him. He deserted, and two days later he committed suicide with his revolver. These events became national headlines.
  • Brigadier General Edward S. Godfrey. General Sully's Expedition Against the Southern Plains Indians, 1868.
  • Don Rickey, Jr. Forty Miles a Day on Beans and Hay; the enlisted soldier fighting the Indian wars. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press 1963: 170-1.
  • Jonathan Katz. " 'Mrs. Nash' of Custer's Seventh Cavalry". Gay American History: Lesbians And Gay Men In The U.S.A. New York: Crowell 1976. New York: A Discus Book.1978: 766,993.
  • "Mrs. Corporal Noonan". State Historical Society of North Dakota. December 30, 2004.

There is a coda that appeared in the Bismarck Tribune Dec 10, 1878 (Bismark, North Dakota was the closest town of any size). A trance medium came to town, and a reporter from the newspaper asked for a private sitting. He had no particular person that he wished to contact, but the spirit of Mrs Noonan appeared, two months after her death. She explained that she was Joseph Drummond who had become a woman to hide a terrible crime committed in Washington, DC, 15 years before.

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