Female camp followers with regular army forces during the American Revolution
Bright, Sherry Jean
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Female camp followers throughout history have followed troops into the field fulfilling supply and labor needs which the military structure could not. This pattern began to change during the American Revolution as governments and military commanders tightened their control on the military. Emerging army patterns and new attitudes concerning women acted to discourage the informal reliance on women and to encourage a more formal and controllable reliance on military units. By examining women with regular army groups, a stronger understanding of these women's lives and choices becomes possible. This study examines the number of women involved, the reasons they chose to follow military troops, the life they found with the military, and military commanders' attempts to control women and their behavior. Between five thousand and twenty thousand women traveled with military forces during the Revolution for reasons of economic need, a sense of duty, and love. They cleaned, cooked, nursed, and helped in gun crews for occasional pay, rations, and the chance to stay with their husbands, sons, and male friends. Disease, childbirth complications, and violence within and outside camp claimed their lives. Meanwhile, military leaders issued orders against straggling, riding the wagons, looting, and the illegal sale of alcohol in an effort to control the women's behavior. Such efforts only achieved intermittent success.
- Masters Theses