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First Name: Sarah

Last Name: Bowman


Gender: Female

Branch: Army (1784 - present)

Middle Name: A.

Maiden Name: Blake

Date of Birth:

Date of Death: 23 December 1866

Rank: Colonel

Years Served:
Sarah A. Bowman
'Great Western'

•  Indian Wars (1775 - 1924) intermittent


Sarah A. Bowman
Brevetted Colonel, U.S. Army

Born Sarah A. Blake, her date and place of birth are unknown.

Although nobody is sure when or where she was born, this woman who stood over six feet tall became the first lady to be a ranking U.S. Army officer. She acquired the nickname "Great Western," probably because of her size.

In 1845 she enlisted as a cook and laundress, with one of her many husbands, and became the chief cook at Fort Brown, TX. In May of 1846 she gained notoriety for her courageous actions during the Mexican bombardment of the Fort.

Refusing to take cover with the other women, she continued to cook during the week-long attack and, when she wasn't cooking, took up a musket to fight the enemy. Because of her bravery, General Zachary Taylor brevetted "The Heroine of Fort Brown" to Colonel, making her the first woman to be a ranking U.S. Army officer. Later, during the Battle of Buena Vista, she once again demonstrated her bravery by loading cartridges and carrying wounded soldiers to safety. After the war, she traveled back and forth across the Mexican and U.S. border. She married several more times, and had many business interests operating diners, hotels and bordellos.

Death and Burial

Sarah A. Bowman died from a spider bite and was buried on 23 December 1866 at the Fort Yuma Post Cemetery with full military honors. In August 1890, the U.S. Army exhumed the 159 bodies buried at Fort Yuma and moved them to the Presidio at the San Francisco National Cemetery in San Francisco, CA.

Born Sarah Blake, she was known by many different surnames including Bourget, Davis, Borginis, and Phillips but she is buried with the surname of what may have been her last husband, Alfred Bowman.

Honoree ID: 2272   Created by: MHOH




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