Posted by Dr. Uncle Mark on August 03, 2000 at 05:21:26:
In Reply to: What was the purpose of camp followers? posted by Schoolmafter Chris on August 02, 2000 at 22:09:02:
Popular belief is that camp followers were prostitutes....tell the ladies of my regiment that and you'll wind up roasting over a slow fire!! There were prostitutes who followed the army....I just read something where Washington had a devil of a time keeping prostitutes out of camp, but he did all he could to keep his army an "army", not a brothel.
In the British army, women were allowed to accompany the troops and their job was "nursing"...they were not used as cooks, that was each man's job. However, they did little medical nursing....usually they did laundry (many times for a fee), mended clothing, and did tend the sick, but not as doctors...that was a man's job. The British army allowed a certain number of women (can't pull that out of my brain at the moment...something like 1 for every 50, maybe!) and they were put on half rations...if their children were along, they were on 1/3 rations...these women had to be married to one of the men..usually an officer. The Scots troops were strict Presbyterians and were happy when they could stay together as a family unit. If their husband was killed they had 4 weeks (something like that) to find another husband or they were shipped back to Britain.
I would expect that the American army was set up much in the same way. Many wives did not stay home on the farm while their men went off to war, because it could be dangerous with Indians prowling around, British troops that could attack (Oh, remember in the Patriot how CRUEL those troops were!!)....so the women would follow their men, helping them, tending them, and when they were paid, getting their pay so their husbands wouldn't drink or gamble it away.
On Arnold's march to Quebec in 1775 there were two women accompanying the troops, most of us men would never make that trek today and be able to face the hardships those women did! Maria Ludwig Hayes (Molly Pitcher) was a camp follower and was with her husband at Battle of Monmouth, June 1778, when she took over the cannon and became famous.....So, there you have it.
Yes, there were prostitutes, but the real women of the army, the real camp followers were very important for the morale and health of their men. Three cheers for the women of the army.... Hip, hip Huzzah! Hip, hip Huzzah! Hip, hip HUZZAH! (Oh, by the way, the women and girls in our unit, about 15 strong...we have about 30 men....do the cooking, mending, etc.(we men do dishes, wood, water and battle) and portray camp followers of Highland troops...God-fearing women with good morals who take care of their men....and in our regiment they cannot join unless they have a husband, father, or son in ranks....we are a family unit!
Dr. Uncle Mark
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