Founding the Recreated 17th: A Research Story, Part 2

In our previous installment of this series, I discussed how stumbling across Chelsea Pension documents for soldiers of the 17th who had served in America began the research that led to the initial recreated unit. Having identified named individuals, the next logical step was to visit the muster roll data contained in the WO 12 series, also housed at The National Archives (UK).

In conducting research on practically any topic, the most profitable means of proceeding is usually to follow the money trail. One of History’s great constants is that fiscal specie talks and everyone, particularly government agencies, are keen to keep track of it. This golden rule was especially true for the eighteenth-century British Army. Always a controversial arm of the state, the army and the government ministers who labored to keep it standing throughout the century had to defend against two popular avenues of political assault: that the army cost too much and that it constituted a threat to English liberty. To justify the price tag associated with maintaining thousands of soldiers on duty during peace time, the civilian government developed a variety of paperwork-heavy procedures, for which historians should be quite thankful today.

Mustering was chief among these financial protocols. With origins stretching back to the Middle Ages, mustering had developed into a highly-developed ceremony of bureaucracy by the 1770s. Twice per year, muster-masters or deputy muster-masters would visit each regiment, which would form up on the muster field. At that time, the muster master or his deputy would roam through the ranks, paperwork in hand, insuring that each company had exactly the number of men in it that the officers claimed and would record the names of each man. If a man supposedly in the company was absent from the muster field, regulations required that the officers provide convincing proof that the soldier was either ill or “on command”—that is, on a detached duty. Contemporary critics claimed that the whole spectacle was rife with corruption: for a good account, check out John Railton’s The Army Regulator, which you can also find on ECCO (Eighteenth Century Collections Online) and potentially on googlebooks.

Despite being a procedure that was a pain to carry out even in peace time (especially in America), regiments prepared musters twice a year, every year, through the American Revolution. Sometimes, due to the exigencies of active campaigning, these muster rolls were prepped many months past their formal date (sometimes years later), but with that said, these are the foremost documents for understanding who was in a particular British regiment and how internal personnel management changed over time. A complete set for the 17th exists at the National Archives in Kew, England, reaching all the way back into the 1760s. When I pulled up the first set of musters covering 1776, I was slightly surprised.

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Muster roll for Captain Robert Clayton’s Company, HM 17th Regiment of Infantry, December 25, 1775-June 24, 1776; WO 12/3406/2; Crown Copyright, Image reproduced by courtesy of The National Archives, London, England.

Bear in mind that in 2002, your average digital camera was the size of a small current-production desktop printer. And I did not have one on me. We won’t even discuss the image quality that available units offered at that time (low single-digit megapixels…). So while I was overjoyed to see sheet after sheet like the above. I was also dumbfounded. How was I supposed to record this information and use it in a meaningful way? What was a meaningful way to use this information for living history? So, as in many other pickle-y research situations that year, I emailed Don Hagist for advice. Having been in my shoes before (decades before), Don advised that I move through as many muster rolls as possible, recording officers’ names and noting the inevitable changes in command that happened when men died or found promotion in other regiments. He also recommended that I note which officers remained in the regiment for the entirety of the war, which would provide a strong foundational name for the recreated unit.

There was only one. His name was Robert Clayton and he had risen to command the junior company of the 17th on May 1, 1775, at the age of 27 with 7.5 years of service. He was commissioned as an ensign on December 9, 1767, then promoted to lieutenant on July 19, 1771. He remained a captain for the entire war, eventually achieving the rank of major on July 27, 1785. I focused on recording relevant information for his company, then ended up transcribing information from all of the 17th muster rolls covering 1776, having in mind that the initial focus of the impression would be the 17th as it appeared on January 3, 1777, at Princeton, New Jersey. Over subsequent years, I returned with a succession of digital cameras to photograph all of the 17th’s muster rolls. Some interesting stories came out of these documents…but that is a tale for another time.


biopic

Will Tatum
received his BA in History from the College of William & Mary in Virginia in 2003, and his MA and PhD from Brown University in Rhode Island in 2004 and 2016. His exploits in Revolutionary War Living History began with a chance encounter at Colonial Williamsburg’s Under the Redcoat event in 2000.

Over the subsequent years, he has traveled throughout the United States and Great Britain researching the eighteenth-century British Army and used the results of those labor to improve living history interpretations. The beginning of this journey in 2001 marked the start of the current recreated 17th Infantry.

The Physicality of History

On this weeks blog, we have a story written by another good friend of mine whom I’ve known for many years now, Kyle Timmons. He recently became the Corporal of the 17th Infantry with his years of reenacting experience behind his belt combined with the real life knowledge of a Combat Medic with National  Guard of Pennsylvania. Like many, the love of history propelled Mr. Timmons to join the National Park Service in 2016, continuing to educate those in history, for the benefit of future generations. If you’ve ever wondered what it was like to live in the history world all year round, continue reading…

– Mary Sherlock,
an attached follower of the 17th Regiment of Infantry.

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17361240_10155189183822049_737459551_nThe bitter cold of a Valley Forge winter. The parched heat of a Monmouth Summer. The fatigue of an all-night forced march. The smell of gunpowder and the weight of a Short Land Pattern Musket. These are all things you hear about when people bring up The American War of Independence. You can envision the half-starved soldier standing picket at Valley Forge, or of that same soul struggling through the night to put one foot in front of another on a forced march. TV and the internet make it easy to visualize the Revolution. It’s another entirely to experience it.

I’ve been a reenactor for about 12 years now, and I’ve been with the 17th since it’s reformation at the end of 2014. When I started, I knew virtually nothing about the Revolution except what middle school and “The Patriot” showed me. Since then I’ve learned A LOT through reading texts on the subject like McGuire’s “The Philadelphia Campaign” Volumes I and II, Spring’s “With Zeal and With Bayonets Only,” or Don Hagist’s “Wenches, Wives, and Serving Girls.” All of which in their different way help to paint the picture of America in the time of the War of Independence. Each is invaluable to my understanding of the period. But something is missing. Try as you might with creative use of adjectives and alliteration, you can’t feel the written word. General Cornwallis’ Flanking Column’s long march of September 11th 1777 at Brandywine has no context if you have no idea what it feels like to BE A SOLDIER OF THE 18TH CENTURY.

So what’s that like? I’m glad you asked!

In the 10 months or so from our first sewing party to our first official event in September 2015 we equipped 15 infantrymen. Each man was equipped with what the typical infantrymen wore on campaign. That is, a white linen shirt with ruffles sewing into the neck slit, a wool waistcoat, linen “gaitered trouser” that covers the shoes and hold them to the feet with a straps, a wool broadcloth regimental pattern coat with the regiment’s facing color, lace and buttons designating its wearer as a soldier of the 17th, a velvet and linen neckstock approximately the height of the soldier’s neck, and finally a felt cocked hat of the military fashion. All of these items are made to fit the man within and are quite comfortable, but the feel is definitely different from modern clothing. Now that you’ve got all this on let’s kit you out with the tools of the trade.

Over all of this comes your bayonet belt with your 14 inch bayonet slung over your right shoulder, on your other shoulder belt is your cartridge pouch loaded down with 21 cartridges, your tin canteen full of water, a haversack with three days of food stuffed in it, all of your earthly possessions rolled up in your blanket slung over your back, and of course your 11 pound musket. Once you get it all on you start to realize some things that a book doesn’t really tell you. You find that the cut of the coat and waistcoat kind of force you to stand somewhat straighter than usual and a brand new neckstock doesn’t like when you try to turn your head in any direction until you’ve sweated in it a few days and softened up the buckram layer that stiffens it. After your first hour in full kit the cross belts start to dig into your shoulders a bit and might further discomfort your neck. Ironically, you find that that heavy wool coat your wearing breaths rather well and isn’t nearly the death trap everyone said it was!

Now that you’ve got the clothes and the gear on, it’s time to actually do something! One of our events in 2015 was an “Immersion Event” in Virginia. What that means is we leave EVERYTHING from the modern world in the cars, there’s no public to view us, and for all intents and purposes we are going into the 18th century for 48 hours. This was in October or November and it was cold. The scenario was that we were to cover a fording point on a creek so forage parties could move back and forth.

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We marched at dawn to the creek in question and as we forded it we took fire from rebels who were some 100-150 yards away atop a hill. Well, we dashed across the creek, consolidated our forces, and sprinted across the open ground to cover at the base of the hill. The handful atop the hill, not willing to meet British steel that morning, wisely yielded the ground. We climbed to the top of the hill and secured it. THEN began the work. We posted about half our number on piquet while the rest set to work felling trees for crude defensive barriers, wood for fires to cook our food and to dry our stockings and feet, and of course we built wigwams to shelter in that night.

That initial skirmish was the only real fight the entire day. The rest of the day we spent on work parties, standing picquet, or on patrols looking for rebel militia we knew to be in the area. When night fell so did the temperature and it began to rain. Greaaaaaat! Due to our limited numbers and the number of guard posts we had it was necessary for all of our men to take 2 separate 2 hour shifts on picquet. It absolutely sucked. It was hard to see anything more than 30-40 yards out and you knew that if the militia were out there you couldn’t see them. The wind was blowing too, which cut right through our coats. Some of our men shirked their duty to shelter around a small fire and nearly got caught by one of our sergeants. Thankfully, the rebels left us alone that night.

The next morning we ate our rations, drank black coffee done over the fire and broke camp. Everyone was in a foul mood by and large. We were tired, still kind of wet, and uncomfortable. The second time across the creek was done without a complaint because we knew we were marching to the cars. And then it was over.

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But for the 18th Century Soldier, be them Loyalist or Rebel, that was just another day in the war! And it was a VERY long war. The 17th landed in November of 1775. They didn’t leave America until 1783. Those that lived that is. And they didn’t see England and home again until 1787! So for 8 years the soldiers we represent endured wartime hardship. They endured day after day after monotonous day of picquets, patrols, work parties, long marches, and occasionally the absolute terror of battle. They endured starvation, discontentment, barbaric punishment, poor pay, a hostile or at least untrustworthy local population, and the number one killer of them all: disease. And may I add there was no retirement plan in the 18th century and very few men who applied for military pensions got them.

All this brings two questions to mind. The first is: how? How did they do it? Were they tougher people back in the 18th century? I don’t know. The modern soldier faces struggles not all that different today. Why didn’t they quit? Again I don’t know. Many many soldiers deserted throughout the war on both sides. Those that stayed might have feared the punishment that waits for the captured deserter. Some I’m sure were true believers in their respective causes. Many, I’m sure, didn’t quit because they didn’t want to leave their buddies. A military unit is a family, particularly in the 18th century where men can spend their entire military lives among the same men in the same unit.

My second question is what I asked myself when I reached the far bank of the creek. Could I do it? Could I have endured the service back then? Could you?

Kyle Timmons, Corporal, 17th Regiment of Infantry


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Kyle Timmons

is a long time reenactor, a Combat Medic in the PA National Guard, and currently an employee of the National Park Service. His wife and cat think he’s pretty alright.

Founding the Recreated 17th: A Research Story, Part 1

This week we have on the blog we have a guest writer who knows the ins and outs of the 17th Regiment of Infantry after establishing the Regiment back in 2002. When the 17th was recreated and established again in 2015 Dr. Will Tatum was the person that the newly formed 17th organization reached out to. Over the next couple weeks there will be a series of articles about the research and the hard work put into creating an organization. Hopefully, our readers will find the writing of Dr. Will Tatum insightful.

Mary Sherlock
– An attached Follower of the Recreated 17th Regiment


Founding the Recreated 17th: A Research Story, Part 1

By Will Tatum

Every living history group has a history apart from the subject or topic it represents, an origin story all its own. Most of these stories begin in someone’s basement or garage, in a bar, or result from dissatisfaction with an existing unit. The recreated 17th’s story began with my research at the British National Archives (TNA) over the academic year of 2001-2002. In the summer of 2001 I completed my first year in the hobby and was just beginning to struggle with the process of turning research into a living history interpretation. Other members of the unit to which I belonged at that time suggested that, to avoid hobby politics, it would be best to select a corps around which I could develop my own impression as a sideline project. I reviewed a list of British regiments that had served in America during most or all of the war and had a short list of candidates in mind as I shipped out to Britain that September. Little did I suspect the ah-ha moment that awaited me in the greater London area.

After spending the autumn conducting research in Exeter, where I was studying abroad, I traveled to the TNA for the first time at the end of February 2002. One of my assignments from my then-unit was to track down records relating to soldiers who had served in America, in an attempt to flesh out data from muster rolls. British Army Historian Extraordinaire Don Hagist had suggested examining records from the Royal Hospital Chelsea, which King Charles II established in 1682 to care for deserving army veterans. Only a small set of soldiers were ever selected to receive pensions and even fewer were permitted to reside at the facility, which still exists today. Nevertheless, the surviving records of these “deserving” men provide important insights into the trials and tribulations of the eighteenth-century British soldier. Each of these men had earned referral to the Royal Hospital admission board through exemplary service, which left them physically battered and worn out, no longer capable of fending for themselves.

The specific records in question were contained in WO (War Office) 121, one of several series pertaining to the Royal Hospital’s operations. The documents contained therein mostly date from the mid-1780s onward, with the earlier ones covering men who had served during the American Revolution. While looking through these records, I repeatedly came across discharge documents for soldiers of the 17th Infantry, which I took to be a sign of the regiment that I ought to pursue. If for no other reason, there certainly seemed to be a great deal of surviving documentation on these men. Most of the would-be pensioners I encountered (these documents related to their applications for pensions and did not contain any signification of their success) were simply “worn out in service.” For example, William Dick, a common laborer from Auchtermuckly in Fife, Scotland, played the fife for 17 years before Lieutenant-Colonel Henry Johnson (who took over command of the 17th in 1778) recommended him for a pension in 1787. Joshua Waddington, another 17-year veteran discharged the same year, came from the parish of Litchcliff in Halifax, Yorkshire. At forty-two years of age, with no trade background other than unskilled labor, Waddington was disabled through “having sore legs & being Worn out in the Service.” Private Archibald McDonald of Fort William, Inverness, Scotland, had served 16 years during which he was “twice wounded” and listed as “under Size” at the time of his discharge in 1787.

These men, and many others, had served in the regiment during its service in America, though their discharges made no direct comment on that war. Others, however, contained much more pointed statements that testified to the 17th’s extreme service during the Revolution. On December 4, 1790, then-Major T. Pitcairn of the 17th (not a Rev War veteran) signed Private William Clarke’s discharge. On it, Pitcairn noted that 44 year-old Clarke, a 23-year veteran and native of Castle Carey in Somerset, by trade a cordwainer (shoemaker) was “entire worn out in the Service thro’ hardships & Fatigues sustained when in the Lyht [sic] Infantry during the late War.”

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Discharge of Private William Clarke, WO121/9/352; Crown Copyright, Image reproduced by courtesy of The National Archives, London, England

Private John Clarke, a 47 year-old laborer from the town of Hereford in England, a 22 year veteran of the regiment, was discharged the next day, due to “his being Worn out in the Service thro’ hardships sustained during the late War.” Private William Boyd, a 13-year veteran of the regiment and by trade a breeches maker, received his discharge on December 11, 1790, at the age of 42. His paperwork noted that he was “Dropsical through hardships sustained when a Prisoner with the Enemy during the last War in America.” What does “dropsy” mean? Essentially, Private Boyd suffered from uncontrolled water retention between his skin and various body cavities, resulting in painful swellings.

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Discharge of Private William Boyd, WO121/9/350; Crown Copyright, Image reproduced by courtesy of The National Archives, London, England

If you think that is bad, I refer you to Serjeant Robert Saunders, a 25-year veteran of the 17th Regiment and a native of Amersham, Buckingham, by trade a baker, discharged on May 10, 1787, at age 42. Saunders had sustained wounds from “long & Severe Service & [was] Severely afflicted with a Fistula, rendred [sic] Incapable of Further Service.” I’ll let you look up what a fistula is on your own. For more tales like these (only with expanded details), check out Don Hagist’s blog British Soldiers, American Revolution.

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Discharge of Serjeant Robert Saunder, WO121/2/35; Crown Copyright, Image reproduced by courtesy of The National Archives, London, England

Seeing these documents and considering what they represented on a human scale decided me on exploring the 17th. In subsequent posts, I will explain how the other document series I examined accumulated to form the critical mass for creating a new style of living history group. In this respect, the recreated 17th stood apart from most other units existing at the time and since, in being a response to a research agenda rather than a hobby need. In essence, the horse came before the cart (the history came before the hobby politics) from the beginning.


biopicWill Tatum
received his BA in History from the College of William & Mary in Virginia in 2003, and his MA and PhD from Brown University in Rhode Island in 2004 and 2016. His exploits in Revolutionary War Living History began with a chance encounter at Colonial Williamsburg’s Under the Redcoat event in 2000.

Over the subsequent years, he has traveled throughout the United States and Great Britain researching the eighteenth-century British Army and used the results of those labor to improve living history interpretations. The beginning of this journey in 2001 marked the start of the current recreated 17th Infantry.

Opening a Window to the Past

Over the next couple weeks, I am happy to announce that there will be a series of guest bloggers who have kindly accepted my offer to write a little blurb about their experiences in reenacting and research. The 17th Regiment of Infantry hopes that the readers will find that they share a common thread with the guests and welcome them with kind thoughts and responses as they have so kindly taken their time to write. This week we have a wonderful friend, Jenna Schnitzer,  who has taught us so much about women’s history as we remember to commemorate all the women who came before us. Well with that brief introduction please read on! Let us know your feed back on social media or in the comments box below.

Enjoy,
Mary Sherlock
– An attached follower of the 17th Regiment of Infantry

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When I began reenacting several decades ago someone told me that the further away in time we get from events the less likely we are to understand them. This person also explained to me that everything that we can’t document we should just fill in using our imagination. I stood there listening but walked away thinking that this would never be my philosophy. I knew in that moment that research was the most important aspect in creating a sound impression. It’s now been almost 25 years and thankfully the hobby is changing. It’s changing for the better. The authenticity level has become appreciably better, interpretive focus has shifted toward sharing not only battles but daily activities in camp and garrisons. The improvements have been truly breath taking but the one area of the hobby I have seen the greatest improvement has been in those women portraying Soldier’s Wives.

The number of quality impressions has increased exponentially in the past decade.  This quality has greatly affected our understanding of these remarkable women. When we are interpreting documented roles we are opening a window to the past. We are further away, this very moment, from the events of the American War for Independence yet our historical understanding of those who lived during this tumultuous time has never been greater. Perhaps my historical avuncular was wrong all those years ago? I have to say unfortunately, she was. Everything I learned over the years about good interpretive standards that combine both primary source documents and material culture is that there is virtually no place for imagination. The landscape is too rich and too full of detail to need any imagination. That’s what knowledge does. It replaces the need to imagine with real details. Details we have the privilege to pass on to the public and other historic interpreters.

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Sometimes we are cornered by people who ask what we actually know about these women. As if we have no documentation or can’t put a complete picture together. This is usually because they are waist deep in an invalid impression that their unit endorses. What we do know certainly outweighs what we don’t.  Soldiers Wives were an essential part of Army life in the 18th Century. It was prescribed that a certain percentage of a company had their wives, with children in tow, follow their husbands into war. They pulled a half ration while their children pulled a quarter ration. The reason was they were valued. They did a variety of tasks that provided the “necessities of life” for the fighting men. They laundered clothing, nursed the sick and wounded, sewed clothing by the piece when changes were made in the uniforms, worked as sutlers (selling goods and liquor under license of the Army) and cooked for money.

These wives were vital to the comfort and quality of life while on campaign. Sadly, this has not been seen in the reenacting community until recently. Female reenactors were confined to camp cooking for the men, working in a role that would have been just as foreign to a follower during the AWI as it is to us. In the past 40 years if female interpreters did anything outside of subservient roles it was almost always doing an activity that would never be seen in an army camp. We saw women taking tea, spinning, weaving, writing letters, embroidering, playing instruments and just about any domestic skill you can think of. None of this had a place in an army camp. The vast majority of Soldier’s Wives were from the lowest level of society, illiterate, indigent and unlikely had time for such “genteel” pursuits. The even more disturbing development in recent years is women dressed as women fielding during battles and shooting in petticoats and gowns, which should never happen at events. When I look at this I wonder how it benefits the public to leave with this vision of these hard working industrious women. I also wonder what benefit we as women lend to the camp experience if we are not benefiting the camp through work that the Army thought was so necessary.

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  Photo by Wilson Freeman at Drifting Focus Photography

This is why it’s so important for me to portray a Petty Sutler. It allows me to provide supplies and goods that our reenactors really need.  I do this on a barter system or sometimes if I’m lucky for reproduction specie. Having a wheel barrow groaning with seasonal produce, soap, needles, unfired brick dust, butter, thimbles and other small items brings a sense of realism to camp and provides some small “luxuries” to everyone. I feel very welcome rolling through with my cart of goodies much like a sutler from the AWI.Paul Sandby Mid 18thc British

The reality is research is the foundation that allows historic interpreters to produce a valid portrayal.  Creating an impression can be perplexing to people just entering the hobby. Improvement for those who have been in the hobby a long time can be even more trying. Letting go of a philosophy and perspective can be very difficult and needs to be met with patience. Luckily, as the hobby improves we are seeing women take on truly useful camp oriented activities. There is a plethora of impressions and activities to take part in that makes the female interpreter vital to the operation of camp. Followers were a valued person while on campaign hence our portrayals should carry equal weight.  Some people balk at the gender specificity of these roles but I continue to embrace them. I continue to give a voice to those who have remained voiceless. I hope you do too.



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Jenna Schnitzer
is an aficionado of all things old because she can’t cope with the modern world. She has surrounded herself with 18th and 19th century items that she has been told repeatedly are “really out of style.” She is a member of the 62d Regt of Foot and is a researcher and lecturer on Followers of the British Army during the AWI period.

Feminism and Following

Let me start out this post by making something clear.  What you are about to read is purely my opinion.  One female follower of HM 17th Regt. of Foot.  Not necessarily endorsed by the whole.

I proudly call myself a feminist.  I was raised in a family of strong women and firmly believe there’s nothing any male member of the Regt. can do that I can’t (within reason).  But, on the weekends, I lace myself into a corset, put on uncomfortable shoes and clothes, and portray a woman following the army.  I submit to orders, dip candles, sew by hand, cry on cue, and get pretty desperate when I get caught looting.  It’s “funcomfortable”.  Why would I do this?  Aren’t feminism and submission incompatible?  Wouldn’t it be more fun and feminist to prove I can reenact a battle just as well as men?

First of all, let me just say that I understand the urge to “play with the boys” if you will.  I have it too sometimes.  Shooting a gun can be WAY more fun than, say, laundry.  Plus, let’s face it.  People buy tickets for battle reenactments.  Women’s roles interpretation are generally a nice side benefit, unless it’s Princeton.  So if you want to join the guys in your regt. in battle, that’s your choice.

So why don’t I?  First of all, accuracy.  As you can see throughout our website, accuracy and research are bedrocks for the 17th.  Now, did some women dress like men and join the army?  Yes.  Deborah Sampson is proof of that.  Did some women go to extraordinary lengths to help the army?  Considering Mary Ludwig Hays and Margaret Corbin, each a candidate for inspiring “Molly Pitcher”, it’s clear some did.  So a good Deborah Sampson or Mary Hays or Margaret Corbin impression can be just as accurate as mine.  But remember.  We only know of cases like these in the Continental army.  So you can argue that while a well-researched Deborah Sampson impression works for the rebels, she may not be right for HM 17th Regt of Foot.  Secondly, these cases are outliers.  Did they exist?  Yes.  Could there be more?  Sure.  But they’re still very rare.  Meanwhile, we can prove that hundreds of women followed both the British and American armies, serving in women’s roles.  Check out our follower’s page for proof.  These women did laundry.  They nursed.  They sold goods.  They cooked (not for the men but for each other).  They received rations.  They raised kids and followed husbands, sons, and fathers.  So a “camp follower” impression IS an equally accurate impression of an army on campaign.

The second reason is my personal soapbox.  Think about something.  When I mention “women during the Revolutionary War”, who do you think of?  My bet is Betsy Ross, Abigail Adams, Martha Washington, maybe the Schuyler sisters thanks to Hamilton, or possibly Deborah Sampson or “Molly Pitcher”.  Now don’t get me wrong.  Every single one of these women are extraordinary, important, and deserve recognition for their contributions.  But the majority of them are high-class ladies, unlikely to endure the hardships of a campaign.  They might visit camp and stay there, but only when the army is in winter quarters.  The ones who did follow the army, as said before, are outliers.  Now, did you know about Baroness von Riedesel?  She was the gentry wife of a Hessian general who followed him to America and kept a journal of her time with General Burgoyne’s army.  That journal includes a detailed account of her experience at the Battle of Saratoga.  She was also taken prisoner by the Continental army.  How about Mrs. Reed of Trenton?  She was the wife of a Continental officer who was forced to house Hessians in her home before the 1st Battle of Trenton.  According to her daughter Martha, when a Hessian woman wanted her shoe buckle and Mrs. Reed hesitated, the Hessian took the shoes off Mrs. Reed’s feet and hit her in the face with the heel.  In front of her kids!  (Read William Dwyer’s “The Day is Ours” for more information).  Check out our friend  Kirsten’s research on Bridget Connor as well, who was drummed out of camp for stealing shirts.  Then there’s the hundreds of nameless followers we know nothing about.  These women’s stories are real, they’re important, and they deserve to be told.  If we don’t tell them, who will?

They’re why I do this hobby.  They’re why I choose to be “funcomfortable” as I do.  To me, personally, I am being a feminist by telling these forgotten stories and portraying what the women actually did.  I choose to honor these women by putting their stories out there when they’ve been ignored for centuries.  Considering that neither army could function without its follower community, one could argue these women are just as important as the men they followed.  Now how’s that for feminism?

God save the King!

Katherine Becnel

 

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