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 Sarah A. <I>Blake</I> Bowman

Sarah A. Blake Bowman

Tennessee, USA
Death 22 Dec 1866 (aged 53-54)
Fort Yuma, Imperial County, California, USA
Burial San Francisco, San Francisco County, California, USA
Plot Section PPE Site 55
Memorial ID 3521415 · View Source
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Mexican War Military Heroine. She was the first lady to become a United States Army officer. She acquired the nickname "Great Western" probably from the comparison to her with the largest steamship ever launched in 1837, the “Great Western”. Her size was at least six foot tall. She was a blond with an hourglass shape, weighting nearly 200 pounds, and was very strong, athletic but graceful. By 1840 she had married Jack Borginis and traveled to Texas as an army was being assembled by General Zachary Taylor for the Mexican War. Serving earlier with Taylor in the Second Seminole War in Florida from 1837 to 1840, she was outspoken and a firm supporter of General Taylor’s abilities. With her husband, she enlisted as “Sarah Borginis” in 1845 as a cook and laundress and later became the chief cook at Fort Brown in Texas. In May of 1846 she gained notoriety for her courageous actions during the Mexican bombardment of the fort. Her actions were reported nationally in newspapers. Refusing to take cover with the other women, she continued to cook during the week-long attack. When not cooking, she nursed the wounded and at times took-up a musket to fight the enemy. After the fort’s commanding officer, Colonel Brown, was killed, she helped stabilize the fort by encouraging the soldiers. Upon General Taylor’s return to the fort, he honored her bravery by brevetting "The Heroine of Fort Brown" to the rank of colonel making her the first woman to be a United States 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 by donkey and cart back and forth across the Mexican and United States border. Although she could not read or write, she had many business interests operating diners, hotels and bordellos all near military forts. As she traveled west, she was given credit for being the first “white woman” settling in El Paso, Texas and later Fort Yuma, Arizona. She died from a spider bite. She was originally buried on December 23, 1866 in the cemetery at the Fort Yuma, Arizona with full Military Honors. In August of 1890 the United States Army exhumed the 159 bodies buried at Fort Yuma and moved them to the Presidio at the San Francisco National Cemetery. According to “An Encyclopedia of American Women at War”, she was born in 1812 as Sara Blake in Clay County, Missouri Territory. Her first husband was killed in battle, but she had several other husbands and known by her married surnames of Borginis, Bourget, Davis after a two-month marriage, Phillips, and lastly Bowen. Her last husband was Alfred Bowman and they were married about 16 years. “Fearless: A Novel of Sarah Bowman” is a historical novel about her life.

Bio by: Linda Davis





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  • Maintained by: Find A Grave
  • Added: 4 Mar 2000
  • Find A Grave Memorial 3521415
  • Find A Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Sarah A. Blake Bowman (1812–22 Dec 1866), Find A Grave Memorial no. 3521415, citing San Francisco National Cemetery, San Francisco, San Francisco County, California, USA ; Maintained by Find A Grave .