The astonishing life of a woman soldier
When John Churchill, Duke of Marlborough, rode among his 'men' in the campaigns that immortalised him as one of Britain's most accomplished military commanders, particularly in the War of Spanish Succession, little could he have imagined that one of the dragoons riding close to his stirrup was, in fact, not a man but a woman. The wild Irish girl born as Christian Cavanagh operated under several aliases including Welch, Welsh, Jones and Davies until she became known by her most familiar name 'Mother Ross.' No 'shrinking violet, ' she would launch herself into a bar brawl, duel or pitched battle on the field of conflict with equal ferocity. Daniel Defoe, the author of Gulliver's Travels became her chronicler and that has, perhaps, helped make her the most famous British woman soldier. After the disappearance of her husband this remarkable woman pursued him into the army. She first volunteered as an infantryman under the name of Christopher Welsh and in 1693 fought at the Battle of Laden during the Nine Years War, where she was wounded, captured and exchanged without anyone discovering her gender. Discharged from the army she re-joined as a trooper of the 4th Dragoons-later called the Scots Greys, the 2nd North British Dragoons-serving with them from 1701 to 1706 when she was discovered. Repeatedly in action-and wounded-she fought at Schellenberg, Blenheim, Ramilles and other battles. She eventually found her husband after 12 years serving in the 1st Regiment of Foot and that encounter is a story in itself! Army life suited Mother Ross and she became a sutler, but her adventures by no means ended there! Hers was an incredible life full of action and incident enthrallingly recounted by a master storyteller. Her words have left us vital insights into life in the ranks of Marlborough's army on campaign. Essential.
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