Charlotte Browne & other Women in the F&I War

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Posted by George A. Bray III on April 19, 1998 at 18:23:18:

Dear Readers,

I thought I would supplement Victoria's post on Charlotte Browne with some more information relative to her and women during the F&I War and their role in it. Regarding Charlotte Browne, you can also get a shorter version of her journal from "The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography", volume XXXII, number 4, October, 1924, pp. 305-320. It is indeed one of the best sources for what life was like from a female perspective during the conflict.

I am currently working on a project that will hopefully result in publication of a small work on the subject of women with the military during the F&I War. Although a book primarily about the Revolutionary War, "Women Camp Followers of the American Revolution" by Walter Hart Blumenthal does discuss the F&I in part.

It is clear that from contemporary sources that women were expected to function as nurses to the sick and injured. Those that were unwilling to perform that role were candidates for expulsion from the military family. For instance, on May 15, 1759, in Albany, the orderly book of the 42nd Royal Highland Regiment (Black Watch) records "The Commanding Officers of Companies to give in the womans names they intend should receive the allowance for provision this campaign and are to recommend - The first that came with the Regt from Europ if they are willing to be nurses to the Gen. Hosptl. when required they are not to exceed 4 per company according to the General Orders." Also, the Orderly Book of Major John Hawks records on June 1, 1760, again at Albany, documents that "The Regt. of 1000 will be allowed the provisions or the four pence in the lieu of it for 4 women pr Company. This allowance shall be paid to the women by Lt. Coventry at Albany. The Commanding officer is to send a list of the women of each Company who are recommended for the provisions which he will sign and transmit to ye Major of Brigade who will give this to Lieut. Coventry and give in their names to ye Matron of ye Hospital, yet if they should be requested for the attendance of the sick, they may attend or otherwise they will be struck off the allowance."

Women were also expected to work in other roles than nursing. Braddock's orders issued on April 7, 1755, at Alexandria reveals that "A Greater number of Women having been brought over than those allowed by the Government sufficient for washing with a view that the Hospital might be served; and complaint being made that a concert is entered into not to serve with out exorbitant Wages a Return will be calld for a those who shall refuse to serve for six pence per day and their Provisions that they may be turned out of camp and others got in their places."

Of course, in some cases, officers had their wives with them as well. In one case this had a detrimental effect. And, as a result, Washington had to get personally involved. In a letter from George Washington to Captain John Ashby for 2nd Company of Rangers, Winchester, dated December 28, 1755, he writes
"I am very much surprized to hear of the great irregularities which were allowed of in your camp. The Rum, although sold by Joseph Coombs, I am credibly informed, is your property. There are continual complaints to me of the misbehaviour of your Wife; who I am told sows sedition among the men, and is chief of every mutiny. If she is not immediately sent from the camp, or I hear any more complaints of such irregular Behaviour upon my arrival there; I shall take care to drive her out myself, and suspend you."

This is just a sampling of some information I have found and hope to put together in some form for future publication. I hope that it provides an insight for the board readers on some of the roles women played during the F&I War.

Your Most Humble and Obedient Servant,

George A. Bray III
Major, Rogers' Rangers
LOTM Historian

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