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In a tiny shotgun cabin
Martha's baby girl was born.
A baby born to slavery
That no one could forewarn.
Cathay Williams was determined
And never was deterred
As she began her life as a house girl
Being seen but never heard.
Then the Civil War broke out
And the Union soldiers came
And taking Cathay with them
Her life would never be the same.
Cathay learned the ways of military life
And became an accomplished cook.
She was sent to General Sheridan
A job she proudly undertook.
Then the Civil War was ended
And Cathay was finally free
And in seeking out her freedom,
She found her place in history.
Her own way she needed to make
And a burden to no one be
So as a Buffalo Soldier she joined up
In the 38th U. S. Infantry.
Cathay Williams became William Cathay
And no one was to know
The secret of her identity
As a soldier she did grow.
The troops moved west to Ft. Cummings
To keep the Apache at bay.
There were one hundred and one enlisted men
And among them was William Cathay.
After two years as a soldier
In the 38th Company A
William went to see the doctor
And her secret came out that day
Discharged as a Buffalo Soldier
Cathay did her very best
As she continued to make her way
In this land they called the West.
Because of her illegal enlistment
Her pension passed her by
But she picked herself up and moved on
And never questioned why.
Life ended for Cathay Williams
At the age of eighty-two
She lived a long independent life
A life that was tried but true.
A salute to Cathay Williams
The hero of this rhyme
A special woman of the west
A legend in her time.
© July 1999, Linda Kirkpatrick
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