First African American female to enlist in the Army

On Nov. 15, 1866, Cathay Williams enlisted in the Army
using the name William Cathay. She informed her recruiting
officer that she was a 22-year-old cook. He described her as
5' 9", with black eyes, black hair and black complexion. An
Army surgeon examined Cathay and determined the recruit
was fit for duty, thus sealing her fate in history as the first
documented black woman to enlist in the Army even though
U.S. Army regulations forbade the enlistment of women. She
was assigned to the 38th U.S. Infantry and traveled
throughout the West with her unit. During her service, she
was hospitalized at least five times, but no one discovered
she was a female. After less than two years of service,
Cathay was given a disability discharge but little is known of
the exact medical reasons.