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Soldiers Cooking, 1798 National Army Museum (UK), 1983-11-63-1

Here’s some visual evidence for why we travel with three sticks, two kettles, and no matches. (We bring the sticks as we suspect the sites where we camp & cook don’t want amateur logging on their grounds.)  I stumbled upon this at the National Army Museum in the UK. Here’s what they say about the image:

Soldiers from an unknown unit attend to their cooking pot on a break from their duties during the Wars of the French Revolution (1793-1802). They are accompanied by their womenfolk. Although only a few men from each unit were officially allowed to marry and have their wives and families accompany them, women would have been found in almost every British military camp. Some worked as cooks, laundry women and sutlers (camp followers who sold provisions), while others were prostitutes.

One of the things one learns when reading about women who followed the armies of the Revolutionary War is that prostitution–at least for those following the American army– was not high on the list of occupations for women.

Why not? Lack of ready cash, folks.

Working for the Army would get you rations, and that literal meal ticket was desirable in a time of shortages and want. If you’d been burned out of your home or farm (I’m looking at you, 54th Reg’t of Foot, Aquidneck Island torchers) what would you eat? What would you do? It depended, of course, but one thing to do would be to follow your husband if he had enlisted.

I know less about the women who followed the British Army, but for a Continental Army start, I recommend the following books:

Belonging to the Army. Mayer, Holly A. USC Press, 1996.

Liberty’s Daughters. Norton, Mary Beth. Cornell, 1980. (My edition, 1996)

Revolutionary Mothers. Berkin, Carol. Vintage Books, 2005.

In Pursuit of Liberty. Werner, Emmy. Potomac Books, 2009.

The last title is about children in the time of the Revolution, not women, but considering who was left home with the children, and in trying to understand what the time might have been like for the Young Mr, I’ve given it a read as well.

As for the camp gear? We keep it at a minimum based on period images. We don’t all sleep in one tent, but we pack as light as we can. It’s nice when authenticity and ease are the same.