Thursday, July 2, 2009

Civil War Women

This picture was taken in a Civil War Camp near Washington DC in 1862. Interesting thing is that it shows a soldier with his wife and children. It is hard to say if the woman had just come to visit her husband, or if she was living there in the camp. Either way, it makes an interesting picture.


  1. I don't know if it was the case during the American Civil War, ut during the Revolution, many women traveled with their husbands, and acted as cooks and laundresses for the troops, as these services were not provided by the military. (Think Molly Pitcher, et al.) The term "camp follower" was totally benign then, but it certainly isn't now!

  2. Another great Civil War photo.

    It's likely that the woman was traveling with her husband. I especially like the puppy huddled up against the little boy. Some things never change.

    Also, you can see that the baby moved during the time that the exposure was taken.

  3. Cool picture! This is something one aspect not covered so well in my history classes back in the day. Your site is so educational!

  4. There were always camp followers who practiced the oldest profession. But there were also the other camp followers - wives and family who provided essential housekeeping services. An industrious woman could make money washing, mending, cooking, nursing.

  5. The term "hookers" came from the Civil War. Gen. 'Fighting Joe' Hooker allowed numerous "camp followers" to accompany his forces.

  6. This week's poll is a bit skewed. It's really for men. As a woman I have much more freedom now than I would have had under George Washington. Voting for example.

  7. Panavia,
    You have to read the poll more carefully. The comparieson is between:

    1) What rights GEORGE WASHINGTON had under BRITISH rule.


    2) Your rights today.

    The question is whether our rights today have eroded to the point that it is worse than George Washington had it before the revolution.

  8. Followers of military campaigns is an age old practice dating back to early European wars. Followers were not only families of soldiers of both sides in any war but often included many residents in the area where the battle was taking place. Family members followed because their men were involved in the battle and could provide medical (?) care, cooking and laundering services etc. as already mentioned. In many cases locals watched the battle as a source of entertainment, much as one would attend a sports event today. No CNN in those way back days!

    There is one recorded incident during a battle in the English Civil War (Royalists v Parliamentarians in 1642-1649) where followers caused the defeat of one side in a battle in that when they had to retreat in order to regroup the followers got in the way with the resulting melee of carts carrying provisions, scattering of women, children and locals caused such confusion the retreating regiment just had to give up.

    Oh, I just had the bright idea of googling ' Camp followers in English civil war ' with some interesting sites resulting - try it if you're interested. (Hey, I'm 70, old. slow and not unlike Homer Simpson's father who also tends to fall asleep mid-sentence...!). If you do Google it check out the 'Sealed Knot Society' site. One may also find it interesting to check out zzzzzzzzzzz

  9. Thanks for clarifying the poll. I guess it's because I was stealing my employer's time reading the blog, therefore rushing. ;-) They are very strict.

  10. As a gal interested in Civil War reenactment this photo was especially interesting to me. Many (most?) of the women who do reenacting take on the role of a soldier's wife who is accompanying him to war and therefore living in the camps. I have heard that that was actually a very unlikely situation, so it's very interesting to me to see a photo of a family where this actually was the case.

    And as I freely admit that my interest in reenacting springs primarily from my interest in historical fashion, I am very interested int he outer garment the woman in this photo is wearing. It appears to be a wrap sweater of some kind, but I am not sure... I may just send some other gals who are more in the know about such things than I over here to take a look!

  11. I can tell she is wearing a knitted day hood of some type and I'm not sure about the bodice. I love that the apron she is wearing is just a regular swath of fabric, since some organizations would have women believe that the pinner apron was the only one that existed at the time. Persuaded, I am also a reenactor in it for the fashion. Depending on where you are located, there will be civilian annexes to the military groups. Here in California we have three fully developed civilian organizations focusing on the women and children "left behind" while the men went to war, or functioning as refugees. Look at for an example.

    Of note in the photo, the man is holding a saw and a long pole. Could this possibly be a construction brigade or support unit, rather than one at the front?


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