"The multitude of women Ö"

An Examination of the Numbers of Female Camp Followers
With the Continental Army

John U. Rees
© 1992, 1993, 1996, 2002

Published in The Brigade Dispatch (Journal of the Brigade of the American Revolution) Three parts:
vol. XXIII, no. 4 (Autumn 1992), 5-17;
vol. XXIV, no. 1 (Winter 1993), 6-16; 
vol. XXIV, no. 2 (Spring 1993), 2-6;   
reprinted in Minerva: Quarterly Report on Women and the Military,
vol. XIV, no. 2 (Summer 1996)

At various times during the War of the Revolution General George Washington ordered that returns be made of the women who followed his troops. These women were, whether the high command would admit it or not, a part of the army throughout the war. The varying numbers of women who accompanied the army consumed precious provisions and, especially when on the march, often proved to be an "incumbrance." In August 1777 Washington wrote that

the multitude of women in particular, especially those who are pregnant, or have children, are a clog upon every movement. The Commander in Chief therefore earnestly recommends it to the officers commanding brigades and corps, to use every reasonable method in their power to get rid of all such as are not absolutely necessary ...1

He was, however, to find it impossible to rid the army of these persistent females who performed any number of "necessary" tasks. These tasks ranged from the mundane, such as laundering clothes and caring for the sick, to the brave, as when the women of the 6th Pennsylvania Regiment took

the empty canteens of their husbands and friends and returned with them filled with water ... during the hottest part of the engagement [at the Battle of Brandywine], although frequently cautioned as to the danger of coming into the line of fire.2

In the numerous accounts of women with the army one question has never been answered with satisfaction: When speaking of "the multitude of women", exactly how many were there at any one period or place? Other, related, questions also beg to be answered: How did the numbers of women as well as their ratio in comparison to the men vary from regiment to regiment? What were the factors that influenced their presence with the army? Was there any attempt in the early years of the war to fix a numerical ratio of women to soldiers as was instituted in the British Army for the purposes of determining rations and shelter? And, given that a preference was shown at the end of the war to limit their numbers to one woman for every fifteen men, how close was this to the actual state of affairs? General research has brought to light some interesting, though not entirely conclusive, documents giving some idea of the answers to these and other questions concerning the numbers of women with the army.

1777 and 1780; A Common Thread?

The earliest available general return seems to show the number of women for the main army under Washington. In December 1777 an "Account of Rations drawn by the Infantry of ye Standing Army" gives a breakdown of the strength of the troops during the first month at Valley Forge. The number of non-commissioned officers was 2,340 while that of the "Privates fit for Duty" added to those who were unfit was 15,417. The number of women with the army or, more specifically, the rations allowed for them, is given as 400. Thus, after arguably the most rigorous campaign of the war, and despite Washington's repeated orders to discourage women from following the army, the number of women with the army amounted to slightly less than 2.5 percent of the N.C.O.s and privates, or one woman for every forty-four men. Unfortunately this figure of 400 women may not be the actual number of women with the army but only an estimate or, as previously stated, merely the number of rations to be allowed for women. There is no way to determine this satisfactorily, although the fact that all of the numbers given for the troops are for those actually carried on the strength returns seems to indicate the number of women was probably based on earlier returns. In addition to this the heading of the document indicates that the data was for actual rations issued to those serving with the army. All available information indicates that the women with the army were, like the enlisted men, allotted one ration of food per day.3

The return for 1777 can be compared to a second document pertaining to the number of women allowed to accompany the army. "An Estimate of the daily Issues to an Army Consisting of 40,000 Rank & File exclusive of Serjeants", dated 2 June 1780, enumerates the rations and support services required for an army of that size. This purely conjectural return allows 800 "Women & Cooks" for a force of 40,000, giving a ratio of one for every fifty men or 2 percent of the army. This compares favorably with the actual ratio of women in December 1777, even if we take into account that at least some of the "Cooks" were males (i.e., servants, slaves or waiters) rather than females and especially considering that non-commissioned officers were not included in the estimate. Over the progression of the war actual numbers of women with the army would make the 1780 "Estimate" seem rather optimistic from the commanding officersí point of view. It would prove to be impossible to limit the number of females to one for every fifty enlisted men or standardize the number of rations allotted to the women following the troops.4

1776 to 1782
"Necessary to keep the Soldier's clean"

In 1779 Washington's main army was in New Jersey and eastern New York covering the British who occupied New York City. During that summer detachments under Major General John Sullivan and Brigadier General James Clinton were sent into Pennsylvania and Western New York to suppress the Indians. The two columns met at Tioga, Pennsylvania, in August and built a small work called Fort Sullivan.5 There it was decided that as

the Troops should Move as light as possible, the Officers are requested to leave at the Garrison all the Baggage they can possibly spare. All the Women & Children to be left at this place ...6

Colonel Israel Shreve, 2nd New Jersey Regiment, was left with 250 men to garrison the fort while Sullivan's united force moved on into western New York. On 24 August Shreve was instructed:

It will ... be absolutely necessary to send most of the Women and Children [by boat] to Wyoming, returning only such as may be applied to the use of the Hospital, or may be deem'd necessary to keep the Soldier's clean at their Return. You will give orders to the Commissary at Wyoming to issue Rations to those Women & Children.7

View of Tioga by Charles Nukerck, Frederick Cook, ed.,
Journals of the Military Expedition of Major General John Sullivan
Against the Six Nations of Indians in 1779

(Auburn, N.Y.: Knapp, Peck & Thomson Printers, 1887), 580.

The next document, entitled "A Return of the Women & Children Left in Charge of Baggage, Necessary to wash for Genl Clintons Brigade," lists some of the followers who were left behind at Fort Sullivan. 8

2nd New York 3rd New York
Miss Smith & 2 children Mrs. Parker
Mrs. Lambertson Miss Sherlock
  Miss Haburn
  Miss Jackson
4th New York 5th New York
Mrs. Cothal Miss Weymyre
Miss Smith & child Miss Clinton
Mrs. Canby & child Miss Austin
Mrs. Penojer  

Some inferences can be drawn from this return, one of which is that it seems, at least in this instance, to have been acceptable for unmarried women to be attached to a military organization. In addition, two of the women in the roster may have had children out of wedlock, though these, of course, could simply have been someone else's children put under their charge. These women would have been the mothers, sisters, wives, daughters or consorts of non-commissioned officers or privates. A study of the muster rolls brings forth various enlisted men the aforesaid followers probably had some relation to.9

2nd New York 3rd New York
Sgt. John Smith, 4th Co. Pvt. Edward Parker, Colonelís Co.
Sgt. Simon Lambertson, 7th Co. Pvt. John Sherlock, Aorson's Co.
  Sgt. William Haburn, Tiebout's Co.
4th New York 5th New York
Pvt. Richard Cottril, Fowlerís Co. Pvt. Frederick Wemire, Godwinís Co.
Pvt. James Cambee, Walkerís Co. Pvt. John Clinton, Hamtramckís Co.
Fifer Jesse Penoyer, Titusí Co. Pvt. Holms Austin, Johnsonís Co.
Sgt. Josiah Smith, Titus' Co.  

There are at least six other Smiths in the 4th New York, all privates. "Miss Smith & child" could have been attached to any one of them.

Using the returns of the soldiers and washerwomen with the New York regiments in 1779 it is possible to determine the proportions of women "deem'd necessary to keep the Soldier's clean at their Return."10

Officers &
Enlisted Men
Ratio of Washerwomen
2nd N.Y. 248 2 women 1 for every 124 men
3rd N.Y. 435 4 women 1 for every 109 men
4th N.Y. 327 4 women 1 for every  82 men
5th N.Y. 374 3 women 1 for every 125 men

As can be seen, the workload for these women must have been heavy when Clinton's Brigade finally returned to the post at Tioga at the end of September 1779; of course some soldiers reported their clothes were tattered and torn beyond use; washing them may have been a moot point. The proportion of washerwomen to soldiers in this case can be compared to several other instances. In June 1776 a return of Captain Joseph Bloomfield's company of the 3rd New Jersey Regiment listed seventy-one enlisted men and three "Washer-Women", giving a ratio of one woman to twenty-four soldiers. In sharp contrast to these numbers was the proportion used in Colonel John Lamb's Artillery Regiment in September of 1780; "one Woman to Wash for ten." A final comparison is the number of "Wash Women" in the 9th Massachusetts Regiment over a period of three and a half months during the summer of 1782. The approximate average for those months was one laundress for every thirty-five enlisted men.11

One of the many duties (probably in conjunction with washing soldiersí clothing)
that would have been expected of the women who followed the
Revolutionary armies. This woman wears a linen cap, spotted bodice
over her linen blouse, coarse linen apron, and well-worn homespun skirt.
Peter F. Copeland, Working Dress in Colonial and Revolutionary America
(Westport, Ct. and London: Greenwood Press, 1977), 49.

Another document relating to the 3rd New Jersey Regiment may have some correlation with the 1776 return from the same unit. It is possible that the similarity in their proportion of women is an indication of some attempt at standardization in the numbers of washerwomen, at least within this particular regiment. This supposition does not, however, take into account the impossibility of such standardization due to the under strength status of many regiments and companies and their lack of uniformity during the early war years. The document, dated 1777, is also significant in that it reveals the inclusion of females along with enlisted men in the mess squads of an individual company.12

"A Mess Roll of Captn. Ross's Compy," 3rd New Jersey Regiment
(A listing of mess squads for June 1777)
1st 2nd
George Grant, sgt. Samuel Johnson, cpl.
William Andrews, cpl. Margaret Johnson
George Leadbetter [captured 9/11/77] Jonathan Emmons
Jacob [Likens?] Edward Howell
Daniel Danaly  
3rd 4th
Jonathan McCully Abraham Peterson
Vincent Bishop Aaron Deacon
Francis Carbury Daniel Ellis
Jonathan Williamson Thomas Holland
Simon Boney Thomas Morris
  Benjamin Norcross, drummer
5th 6th
Emmanuel Evans Thomas Dixon [deserted August 1777]
Elizabeth Evans Jonathan Howard
Edward Brady Martin Wholahan [deserted 7/1/77]
Joseph Johnson Abel Addams
Patrick Ryan James Milsop
  Paul Brewer
7th 8th
Henry Burgher William Gibson, sgt.
James Deharmond James Shea, cpl.
William Smith [captured 9/11/77] Thomas Gibson
Levi Johnson Henry Quigg [killed 10/4/77]
Henry Flitcraft [deserted 9/1/77] James Morris
William [?]  
9th 10
John Roy [died 8/31/77] Capt. Ross
John Walter Ensign Kersey
Jonathan Freeman John Guy
Frederick Campbell Joseph Hunter
John Higgins William Lyons
Peter [Bruchaw?] John Higgins
49 enlisted men and 2 women (1 woman for 24 men)

Most of the squads listed contained five or six people. These numbers coincide with common usage during the war, which was a standard complement of six men per mess, though this number was sometimes increased to as many as twelve. The use and size of mess squads was related to the number of men (and also, it seems, women) assigned to each tent. In the Continental Army throughout the war the optimum number of occupants for each common soldier's tent was six, with occasional exceptions due to a shortage of tents or a desire to minimize the baggage carried by the army. In June 1776 Captain Joseph Bloomfield's company, 3rd New Jersey Regiment, had one tent allotted to shelter six enlisted men while General John Sullivan's division orders of 17 August 1777 not only stipulated the same number of enlisted men per tent but allotted one tent for every six "Waggoners [or] weomen" as well. It is probable that, due to the exigencies of army life, the women included with the two mess squads in Ross's company in June 1777 shared a tent with the men of their squad.13

The mere fact that women were included in these groupings along with the soldiers is of some note. This, along with the allotment of tents to women, is an indication that even at this early period of the war females with the army were considered an integral part of the army.

"Their Wives all of whom ... Remained"
Women on Campaign With the Army

When the troops to which they were attached entered upon an active campaign against the enemy the lives of their female followers were disrupted to a great degree. If they remained behind in a garrison or camp they were sometimes unprovided for, and uncertainties concerning the fate of their men would only have aggravated their situation. If, on the other hand, they moved with the troops their subsistence was sometimes more certain, though the rough conditions and makeshift living quarters created their own problems. A detachment commanded by the Marquis de Lafayette embarked upon a campaign in the first half of 1781 that helps to illuminate duties that women performed and the conditions under which they lived. In addition to this information a series of returns for one of the battalions has been included which give some indication of the numbers of women accompanying light troops during a highly mobile campaign.

In February 1781 British forces in Virginia were wreaking havoc with no effective Continental troops present in that state to oppose them. In consequence of this dilemma General Washington resolved to send to the south a detachment of light troops under Lafayette "to act against the corps of the enemy [under British General Benedict Arnold] now in Virginia." The detachment was composed of various standing and provisional light infantry companies from the New Jersey, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Massachusetts Lines, as well as Hazen's Canadian Regiment.14 On February 19th Lafayette wrote that

... the troops will begin marching on the twentieth for Morristown ... the detachment will leave tomorrow. It is composed of three battalions of 400 men under Colonels Vose, Gimat, and Barber ... Our destination is a deep secret, and everyone believes we are going to Staten Island or Bergen Neck ...15

Continental Army general orders, 13 September 1777, reiterated the directive that "No woman under any pretence whatsoever to go with the army, but to follow the baggage." Female followers and their dependants were not allowed to ride in wagons, having to march alongside or behind them. Numbers of women disregarded this order throughout the war and by June 1781 the commander in chief admitted that some women would have to be permitted "to ride in waggons [or] walk in the ranks" with the troops while on the march.
"Following the Army" by Pamela Patrick. Used with permission.
©2000 Pamela Patrick, this is NOT free artwork. Visit Pam's website.

The officers and men in the detachment thought that, as Colonel Elias Dayton was informed, "The service will be but a temporary one." It was due to this desire to keep "Our destination ... a deep secret" that the troops traveled in light order relying on the procurement of supplies in the various localities through which they would march. Ensign Benjamin Gilbert of Massachusetts wrote that he "was ordered to march ... as on a Tempory Expedition, we weir ordered to take only our light Baggage. According[ly] we only took a Shift of Shirts and hose not in the least suspecting that we should be absent from our Regiment more than six Days ...", while Lafayette stated: "It is amusing to see us traveling. We haven't a sou, a horse, a cart, or a wisp of hay ..."16

Stated practice in the Continental Army through most of the war was that any women attached to the various regiments were to travel with the troops (or, at least according to general orders, with the baggage of the army) when on active campaign. However, when a detachment was formed for a short-term expedition or mission these women were often left behind at their current post or at some other designated location. Earlier in the war, on 1 August 1780, when Washington's Army was preparing to move against the British in New York City, it was ordered that the division and brigade commanders were17

to exert themselves to get in readiness as fast as possible ... Convalescents and such men as are otherwise absolutely unfit to march yet capable of doing duty in a fixed post are to be left at Verplanks and Stoney points ... All the Women and Children of the Army are also to be left at these Posts for a few days where the commanding officers will see that they are furnished with rations as usual.18

A year later when a portion of the army was readying itself for the southward march to Yorktown it was desired that

as the Detachment under ... Major General Lincoln are to consider themselves as Light-troops who are always supposed to be fit for action and free from every incumbrance [the Commander in Chief] cannot help advising them to take the present opportunity of depositing at West Point such of their Women as are not able to undergo the fatigue of frequent marches and also every article of Baggage which they can in any wise dispence with ...19

It was with the false belief that their absence from the main army would be but a short one that the troops under Lafayette marched in late winter of 1781. When it was realized later that the detachment was to remain in the south for a long period, some of the women who were left behind apparently decided to join their men. This is evidenced by fresh references as to the presence of women with the troops in the spring and early summer of 1781.

After the New Jersey companies joined the New England troops on 26 February the entire detachment made its way south to Maryland. There it was learned that the French fleet (with which they were to cooperate in the blockade and capture of the British troops under Arnold) had been defeated and the original purpose of their expedition was no longer possible. Rather than turning back as his original orders stated, Lafayette was ordered to "turn your detachment to the southward" to reinforce Nathanael Greene's forces in North Carolina.20 The circumstances and misapprehensions of the troops, as well as the morale problems in the detachment, were described by Lafayette on April 17th:

When this Detachement Was ordered out Every Individual in it thought they were Going on a tour of duty of two or three days and Provided Accordingly ... Thus Circumstanced our officers Had No Monney, No Baggage of Any Sort, No Summer Cloathes and Hardly a Shirt to Shift. To these Common Miseries the Soldiers Added their Shocking Naked[ness] a want of Shoes &c.&c ... [After learning of the defeat of the French fleet] Every thing However Went on Very Well, and the troops Being Ready to March [north] from Elk, Reconforted themselves with the Pleasant Prospects of Returning towards Home, Seeing their Wives all of whom Had Remained, [author's emphasis] and Getting Large Sums of Monney which You know the New England States Have Sent to their troops. When My Countermanding the Order was ... Imagined to Relate to a Retrograde March to the Southward. The officers did not like it More than the Men, and the Men Whose discipline does not Give them the Idea of Complaining Began to Desert in Great Numbers ... The New England troops Have taken An idea that Southern Climates Are Very Unwholesome and that of Carolina Mortal to them.21

Following an address to the troops (in which Lafayette probably promised them a supply of clothing and perhaps also the possibility of some women joining the detachment), the execution of one deserter and the dismissal of another "Soldier who Behaved A miss," the detachment left Baltimore on the 19th of April 1781. Travelling in light order once more, the troops reached Richmond on the 29th and remained in the area until late in May. There, after learning that the British forces of Cornwallis and General William Philips had been united at Petersburg, Virginia, Lafayette received orders from Greene "to halt and take command of all the troops in Virginia, and defend the State." His forces for the purpose consisted of his own light infantry, any Virginia militia that was available, and General Anthony Wayne's detachment of Pennsylvania Continentals which would not join him until 10 June 1781.22

The light battalion commanded by Colonel Joseph Vose on this expedition was comprised entirely of companies from Massachusetts Line Regiments. From 22 February until 9 May 1781 entries for rations in Vose's Battalion specified only the numbers of officers and enlisted men in the regiment. On 10 May, after Lafayette's troops reached Richmond, a new column was added to the returns that denoted the number of women. At first only one woman was listed, she being attached to Captain White's Company [probably Haffield White, 5th Massachusetts Regiment]. The initial return for May, was as follows:23

Date of Return: 10 May to 12 May 1781
Companies With Women Attached: Whiteís
Number of Enlisted Men: 46
Number of Women: 1
Total Regimental Enlisted Men: 355

The number of women with Vose's regiment for a time remained stable as Captain White's company continued to carry on its rolls the sole female in the unit for approximately one month. In June the number of women increased as follows:

Date of
Companies With
Women Attached
Number of
Enlisted Men
Number of
Total Regimental
Strength (Enlisted)
13 June Bradford's 51 1 341
to Webb's 48 1 1 woman for 113 men
15 June Staff Mess 2 1  
    (plus 2 officers in staff mess)    
29 June Bradford's 46 1 314
to Webb's 45 1 1 woman for 104 men
30 June Staff Mess 2 1  
    (plus 1 officer in staff mess)    

The two enlisted men included with the staff mess probably served as waiters or cooks for the officers, while the single woman would have performed the duties of cook or laundress. The first woman to join the detachment was moved from Captain White's Company to the staff mess as of June 7th, a few days prior to the arrival of the other two women. This may have been an instance of the utilization of the privilege of rank, though more likely the woman was tempted by the promise of some monetary payment for her services, rather than merely rations.

When the Marquis learned on 27 May that the enemy had crossed the James River below Richmond he evacuated that place and headed north towards Fredericksburg. During the next eight days his troops covered at least seventy miles. This retreat away from the British, in the direction of reinforcements from the north, was merely the beginning of a period of almost incessant marching which was to last a month.24

  Map showing the operations of Cornwallis and Lafayette in Virginia, 1781.
Henry P. Johnston, The Yorktown Campaign and the Surrender of Cornwallis 1781
(New York: Harper & Brothers,1881), 57.
Click for an enlarged map
Map opens in a separate window.

Following the junction with Wayne's Pennsylvanians on 10 June Lafayette's force moved immediately towards the British under Lord Cornwallis and encamped the next day near the South Anna River. Here Lafayette chose to avoid exposing his flank to the enemy on their march southward by using "an old road, little known and long unused." This road was repaired during the night of the 11th and on the following morning the troops resumed their march.25

Hardly more than a foot-path they found it, rough and narrow, overgrown with thickets, through which the artillery was dragged with difficulty; but they were concealed from the enemy's patrols, and ... at evening they encamped in 'an impregnable position' behind Mechunck Creek, thirteen miles east of Charlottesville ... [placing] themselves directly between Cornwallis and the magazines which he had hoped to destroy. [Just prior to or during this arduous march the two additional females had joined Vose's regiment, bringing the total to three.]26

On the 15th of June Cornwallis turned his little army towards the east and Lafayette followed keeping his men almost constantly on the move until the end of the month. On the whole conditions during the subsequent marches were quite difficult. On the day the British headed south Lieutenant William Feltman wrote: "A great scarcity of water, and a very fatiguing march ...", while the heat, sometimes described by the soldiers as being "excessive", was repeatedly referred to. During this period it might be thought that the camp followers who had joined the troops during the past month may have regretted their decision. This does not, however, take into account the sturdy constitutions and single-mindedness of women who probably had just traveled 300 miles or more of their own volition.27

After several false alarms and a skirmish near Spencer's Ordinary, the British took post in and around Williamsburg where they remained until July 4th. Even with the enemy in a stationary position Lieutenant Feltman recorded for 3 July that "[our] Manoeuvres retrogade and many; the troops almost worn out; very hot weather."28 Ensign Gilbert was able to find some time for a letter on the same day.

Having a few moments of leasure at this time, which I have not had before for upwards of a month, I chearfully imbrace it in writing you a few lines ... I injoye my health, but am so Fatigued by an insessant marching that should it continue I fear I shall be relaxed and reduced to that degre I shall not be able to do duty in the Field ... Cornwallis ... has now made a stop at Williamsburg wheir he sais he will rest his troops ... In consequence of which we halted this Day at 9 oclock and expect to tarry two or three days if the enemy do not move towards us, which is more than we have done for more than a month past.29

During the first few days of July the number of women increased once again. The reasons for this gradual increase in the numbers of women with Vose's Battalion cannot be known, though it may have been due to their having to find their own transportation southward. They probably left the main army on different dates and some may have been lucky enough to attach themselves to shipments of supplies destined for the southern forces.

Date of
Companies With
Women Attached
Number of
Enlisted Men
Number of
Total Regimental
Strength (Enlisted)
1 July Bradford's 32 1 343
to Claye's 49 1 1 woman for 86 men
15 June Webb's 48 1  
  Staff Mess 2 1  
    (plus 2 officers in staff mess)    

Cornwallis left his post at Williamsburg on 4 July and moved to Jamestown. Following a brief but severe action near that place on the 6th, known as the Battle of Green Spring, the British moved on to Portsmouth, Virginia, where they remained until the beginning of August. On 2 August 1781 they were disembarked from on board ship to take up their new post at Yorktown. Sometime during that month Benjamin Gilbert, an ensign with Lafayette's light troops, wrote that "... the Enemy ... ly at York[town] and in its Vicinity. Our army are lying in different parts of Kings County upwards of thirty miles from them, and are daily marching. Our Provision is very Indifferent but the duty is not hard. We are Ragged and destitute of Cash..." It was not long before they were joined by French and American troops moving from the north, ensuring that the fate of Cornwallis' forces was sealed.30

During the aforementioned movements of Lafayette's forces the baggage of the troops did not always accompany the main body of the detachment. The tents and baggage remained with Vose's light troops 84 days out of a total of 128, the rest of the time being sent back into the country for safety or occasionally remaining with the main body while Vose's Battalion was on detached service. Between 6 May and 7 July when the enemy was a constant threat the baggage was present only 49 percent of the time; its presence increased to 83 percent when the British moved south to Portsmouth after July 7th. This is an indication that for an extended period the women of the battalion were probably not with the troops since repeated general orders stated that women were to travel with the baggage of the army. It is most likely that the women with Lafayette's detachment remained with the baggage wagons, though, given the independent nature of camp followers, this was not necessarily the case in each and every campaign.31

An example of this disregard for standing orders was given by those women who were present at the Battle of Brandywine four years earlier. One account describes a woman from an unknown regiment trying to cook while under fire during the battle while another describes the women of the 6th Pennsylvania Regiment carrying water for the troops. The day before the action a directive was given that "No baggage is to be kept [with the army] ... that can be dispensed with ..." The inclusion of women with this unnecessary baggage is inferred by the General Order for 10 July 1777 that all "Women [were] ... to march with the baggage." Additionally General Orders for September 13th, 1777 attempted to rein in any recalcitrant camp followers by ordering that "No woman under any pretence whatsoever to go with the army, but to follow the baggage." This last order indicates that the disobedience of the female followers was an ongoing problem. Other women known to have marched among the troops or been present on the field of battle, were Mrs. Grier and Mrs. Warner who marched with Arnold's troops to Quebec in 1775, Margaret Corbin at Fort Washington in 1776, Anna Maria Lane who was wounded at the Battle of Germantown and Mary Hays at the battle of Monmouth in 1778.32

Any shelter used by the women with Lafayette, whether accompanying the baggage train or marching with the troops, must have resembled that which was used by the men. On 5 May a Massachusetts officer wrote that "... After a very fatigueing march we have arived at this place and are Quartered in a piece of pine woods, nothing better then the topmost bows [i.e. boughs], to cover us from the inclemency of season", the tents having been left in Baltimore. A month later one of Wayne's officers wrote that "This day built a fine brush Hutt ..." Such temporary shelters, known by a number of names, were used intermittently during this campaign and throughout the rest of the war. On 9 June, after Wayne's Pennsylvanians had joined with Lafayette all the tents of the light troops were left behind; Wayne's detachment likewise divested themselves of their tents and baggage five days later. It was not until the end of June that the tents and baggage returned, though tents remained in short supply and there continued to be references to both tents, brush huts, booths, and "bowries" being used at the same time. Of course the foregoing information takes for granted that women were allowed tents for their own use. It is possible that they usually, if not always, had to make use of the previously mentioned makeshift shelters.33

The women following Vose's Battalion, as well as those with Wayne's troops and the others who had undoubtedly joined the light corps were, as previously stated, supposed to march with the baggage wagons. In 1777 it was stipulated that "women are expressly forbid any longer, under any licence at all, to ride in the waggons" but the most recent orders had been amended, directing the officer commanding the baggage escort "to allow no women to ride in the waggons unless their peculiar circumstances require it." Sarah Osborn, the wife of a commissary sergeant who in the company of three other females traveled with the baggage of Washington's Army as it marched to Yorktown in the late summer of 1781, was one of the lucky ones. She was allowed the use of a horse for at least part of the trip southward, though at other times she walked or rode in a wagon. It is extremely doubtful that many female camp followers were afforded the use of a horse. If the women with the troops elected (and were permitted) to stay with the soldiers, they would have had to rely primarily on their own two feet.34

As Sarah Osborn related, the duties of the women were "washing, mending, and cooking for the soldiers" as well as being employed carrying "in beef, and bread, and coffee ... to the soldiers in the entrenchment[s]" at Yorktown. These tasks may also have been required of those women who followed the soldiers serving with Lafayette, though throughout the war the men usually cooked and washed for themselves. However, the mobile nature of the campaign, in conjunction with their remaining with the oft-absent baggage, would have rendered their jobs more difficult than the static conditions of a siege. When present with the troops their method of working may at times have been similar to that used by the Jersey troops during a period of extremely active campaigning in 1778. While harassing the British Army in their march across New Jersey, Major Richard Howell related that "Provisions is extreamly difficult to procure as the Enemy have swept all before them, but my Method is [to] Leave men behind to Cook & bring on [to] the rendezvous where we meet in the Evening." In this way the women, like the male cooks, could have worked in a place of comparative safety while the troops would have had a secure and reliable base of operations from which to procure their cooked rations. One point of note concerning the probablity of these women also washing clothes for the common soldiers to earn their keep is that, beginning in June, the ratio of women to men is comparable to that of the women of the New York brigade left at Tioga in 1779 to perform the same task.35

The attachment of these women to the Massachusetts troops may have been due to several reasons and accomplished by any one of a number of methods. One possible (perhaps even probable) reason why they had joined may have been due to the instigation of Lafayette himself. In his previously quoted letter of 17 April he noted the general discontent of the troops. The Marquis may have attempted to mollify the men's tempers by promising that some of those women who had been left behind with the main army could join the southern detachment if they wished. It is also possible that all or some of these women might have been found locally and joined the battalion to wash and cook for the enlisted men or, perhaps more likely, the officers. Women who had no personal attachments among the men could not have joined with any thoughts other than that of being provided with a daily subsistence since the prospect of monetary rewards must have been slim indeed.

If the females who joined Vose's Battalion while on campaign did indeed come from the main army they may have traveled southward with one or several trains of baggage for the troops. On 11 April General Washington had written to the Marquis, "... If the officers will write back to their Friends here for any additional Baggage of which they may stand in need, it shall be forwarded under careful conductors", thus providing one way for someone who wished to do so to make her way south. On 6 May a detachment escorting "tents & baggage left at Elk ridge" (located south of Baltimore) joined the troops near Richmond. The woman who was listed in the return as of May 10th may have arrived with this baggage and not attached to a specific company and allowed rations until the 10th. Two women who later joined Vose's Battalion on 13 June could have marched with the baggage of Wayne's detachment, which arrived on 10 June or shortly thereafter, while the woman who arrived on July 1st may have traveled with the baggage that joined the troops on 30 June. Two occurrences just prior to the return of additional women on 10 May and 13 June may have been connected to their arrival. Five days before the first return and three days before the second, shipments of clothing from Baltimore joined Lafayette's detachment, a coincidence which may or may not be of significance. No matter who these women were and how they made their way to Lafayette's forces, the returns for Vose's Battalion seem to reinforce the contention that women were an inherent part of the Continental Army and, when absent, were sent for or actively sought after in order to ease the daily lives of the officers and their men. These laborers did their part even though, as has been seen, the living conditions for women on campaign were quite rigorous and not for the fainthearted or those with a less than vigorous constitution.36

Another insight into the status of women with the army can be found in several accounts which recorded the march of Wayne's Pennsylvanians south to join Lafayette. The incident in question occurred during their crossing of the Potomac on 31 May 1781. Several officers, in their description of an accident on the river seem to indicate their regard, or lack thereof, for the camp followers with the troops. Ensign Ebenezer Denny wrote:

... here we were detained for want of craft - boats few and in bad condition. The artillery passed over first ... The second flat-boat had left the shore about forty yards, when the whole sunk. Several women were on board; but as hundreds of men were on the bank, relief soon reached them; none were lost - got all over.37

Four other journals describe what can only be the same incident with the difference that the women are mentioned only in Denny's account. Captain John Davis's account is more or less typical of the other narratives: "... reach'd Powtomack ... which in crossing in Squows [scows], one unfortunately sunk loaded with (artilry, & Q[uarter]. M[aster]. Stores &) men, in which one Sergeant and three men were drowned ..." Although evidently not thought to be worth particular mention by Captains Davis, McDowell, McClellan and Feltman (perhaps they equated the women with the "Stores"), it is at least heartening to know that although four soldiers were lost the spectators made a successful effort and rescued all of the women.38

Woman in working dress, wearing a manís felt hat, surtout coat,
and linen apron over her skirt. A good representation of a camp follower.
On a march old knapsacks, linen wallets, or sacks would more likely
be used to carry necessaries; baskets would be tedious to
carry and hold few belongings. Peter F. Copeland,
Working Dress in Colonial and Revolutionary America
(Westport, Ct. and London: Greenwood Press, 1977), 48.

"The women with the army who draw provisions"

During the early summer of 1781 while Lafayette's detachment was shadowing the British in Virginia Washington's main army remained encamped in and around the state of New York. In compliance with the commander in chief's orders of June 1781 a "Return of Women that draw provisions in several Brigades and Corps of the Army. New Windsor" was compiled. The following numbers are given:39

Number of
1st Massachusetts Brigade (4 regiments) 31
2nd Massachusetts Brigade (3 regiments) 20
3rd Massachusetts Brigade (3 regiments) 28
Stark's New Hampshire Brigade (3 regiments) 13
Artillery (13 companies) 38
Commander in Chief's Guard   5
Corps of Sappers and Miners   2
Total 137  
(No return was received from the Connecticut Line)

In the above list the 3rd Massachusetts Brigade is noted as consisting of three regiments, while the May 1781 return for the army lists four, the 1st, 5th and 7th Massachusetts Regiments, and the 1st New York. At the time of the June provision return the 1st New York Regiment was not present with the 3rd Brigade, having left West Point sometime during the first five days of June. Additionally all those men listed on the general return as sick, on furlough and on command (detached duty) have been included in the unit strengths.40

Non Commissioned Officers
and Privates
1st Massachusetts Brigade 1104 in four regiments (1 woman for every 36 men)
2nd Massachusetts Brigade 813 in three regiments (1 woman for every 41 men)
3rd Massachusetts Brigade 811 in three regiments (1 woman for every 29 men)
Stark's New Hampshire Brigade 1134 in three regiments (1 woman for every 87 men)
Artillery 429   (1 woman for every 11 men)
Commander in Chief's Guard 69   (1 woman for every 14 men)
Corps of Sappers and Miners 50   (1 woman for every 25 men)

The ratio of women to men for the entire force of 4,410 was one to thirty-two, or slightly more than 3 percent. This percentage, though higher, is not too far removed from the 1777 ration issue and the 1780 estimate.

"Rations ... Without Whiskey"
Colonel Henry Jackson's Regimental Provision Returns

During 1782 the main tasks of Washington's army were to retain its readiness for military action and observe the activities of the British forces in the city of New York. It was a period of watching the enemy and waiting for the outcome of the peace negotiations in Paris which were not to bear fruit until the next year. As a result of this the various regiments of the main army spent most of their time either in the static garrison at West Point and its dependencies, at short term garrisons in the posts along the Hudson or in taking their turn on the front lines facing Manhatten Island. One of those regiments which was kept more or less active during the year was Colonel Henry Jackson's 9th Massachusetts Regiment. Jackson's regiment, or detachments thereof, spent much of the summer garrisoning small advanced posts or doing duty as light infantry.41

Click for a Map Showing Areas Mentioned in the Text
Map opens in a separate window.

From 21 May to 8 September 1782 a series of thirty provision returns were made for Jackson's Regiment denoting the number of men, women and children for which rations were allowed. One of the salient features of these returns is that they give a view of the numbers of women attached to a single regiment in a relatively stable environment over a period of approximately three and a half months. These documents also give us some other interesting information concerning women with the army, viz.: the inclusion of women to serve with the light infantry company when on detached duty and some idea of the restrictions thereof; the fact that on most of the returns female camp followers were specifically listed as "Wash Women", an indication that this was their primary duty; and, finally, more evidence that women with the Continental Army (at least during this period of the war) were given one ration per day and their children a half ration. (Of particular note on the returns was the stipulation that the provisions alloted to the women and children were to be "Rations... Without Whiskey.")42

First Provision Return for Jacksonís 9th Massachusetts Regiment
Period Covered 21 to 24 May 1782
N.C.O.ís Rank & File Present 321
Number of Women   12
Number of Children     5
N.C.O.ís Rank & File Absent     7
Total Rank & File 388
Ratio 1 woman to 32 men
(The main body of the regiment was located at the "Huts New Boston" until 5 July 1782)

Using the ration returns for the summer of 1782 it is possible to follow the fluctuation in the number of women with Jackson's Regiment. From 21 May 21 to 8 June, during the time when the regiment was quartered in the "Huts [at] New Boston", there were twelve women and five children receiving rations. These numbers were to remain more or less stable through the entire series of returns. On the 9th of June the number of women dropped to eleven. Such a reduction has several alternate explanations. It is possible that, at various times, the women missing from the returns may have been serving temporarily as nurses in hospital or could have been there as patients themselves. Any women, as well as any soldiers, in hospital, would have been given their rations by the institution at which they were working or convalescing. Additionally, some women may have been absent at various times with the men of the regiment who were "on command" (i.e., detached service). This last explanation seems to be borne out by the provision returns themselves during those instances when the light infantry and other detachments were sent on duties away from the main body of the regiment.43

The following series of returns show the first period during which the light infantry company was absent from the regiment and the variation in the numbers of camp followers:

Returns for Jackson's Regiment While the Light Infantry was Detached "At the lines"
June to July 1782
Rank & File
Rank & File
Rank & File
25-28 June 380 11 5 29 409 1 woman to 37 men
The returns from 29 June to 12 July show 47 rank and file of the light company "At the lines."
29-30 June 325 10 5 25    
(1 woman absent, probably with the light company)
1 July to 4 July 333 10 5 82 415 1 woman to 38 men
(Light company strength included in absentees)
5 July to 8 July 332 11 6 86 418 1 woman to 38 men
(Light company strength included in absentees)
9 July to 12 July 347 (17 total) 78 418 1 woman to 39 men
(Probably includes 11 women) (Light company strength included in absentees)
(The main body of the regiment was encamped at Nelson's Point from 12 July to 19 July 1782)
13 July to 19 July 399 (18 total) 24 423 1 woman to 32 men
(Probably includes 12 or 13 women) (Light company has returned to the regiment)
21 July to 249 July 403 12 6 24 427 1 woman to 35 men

Throughout the summer there was always a varying number of men absent on detached duty. For approximately one third of the period covered by the returns, 33 days out of a total of 103, the light infantry company was doing duty away from the regiment. The light company's first absence covered fourteen days in late June and early July and was spent manning the front lines. The orders for the army of 4 June 1782 stated that "The detachment on the Lines is to be releived by entire Companies of Light Infantry in rotation ..."44 (Previous to this order the detachments for the lines were composed of men drafted from all the companies of the regiment.) During this first period of detachment for the light troops there was one woman also absent who probably accompanied the forty-seven soldiers of the company. Her absence from the provision return, along with that of the light company, may be explained by the June 4th orders which made the following allowances for the rationing of absent troops:

all Guards and Detachments are to draw Provisions with their Regiments sufficient to serve them during their Tour if possible; when Provisions will not keep the length of time they are detached for, or when there is a probability of their being victualed at any other Post ... they are to carry back to their regiments Certificates shewing for what time they have been victualed during their absence.45

Thus any women and children present with these detachments would have been included in this alternate source of provisions.

Almost immediately after the light troops of the 9th Massachusetts Regiment returned the entire unit was sent for a short term to garrison several important posts along the Hudson River. Colonel Jackson wrote that

by General Orders of the 23d July my Regiment was Ordered to march on the 24th to relieve the Posts of Verplanks, Stoney points & Dobbs Ferry - three Companies under the command of Major Trescott was stationed at Verplanks and Stoney point / with the six remaining Companies I took Post at Dobb's Ferry ...46

The first two places guarded the river crossing at King's Ferry while the latter post, in the words of the commander in chief, "is now the only avenue of intercourse with the Enemy, by Flags ..." Four women had accompanied the six companies stationed at Dobb's Ferry while the returns seem to indicate that four women had marched with the other three companies to the posts covering King's Ferry. The other four women must have remained behind in the camp at Nelson's Point. The 9th Massachusetts was posted in these garrisons until "[August] 10th in the morning was Relieved by the first Connecticut Regiment."47

Duty at Dobb's Ferry, Stony and Verplank's Points
24 July to 10 August 1782
Rank & File
Rank & File
Rank & File
25 July to 26 July 410 12 6 not
  1 woman to 34 men
(The following return is for "a part of the 9th Massa. Regiment ... ,
at Dobbs Ferry for five Days." The remainder of the regiment
was at Verplank's and Stony Points.)
24 July to 31 July 303 (5 total, probably includes 4 women) 1 woman to 76 men
1 August to 4 August
(at Dobb's Ferry)
293 4 2 not
  1 woman to 73 men
5 August to 8 August
(at Dobb's Ferry)
293 4 2     1 woman to 73 men
9 August to 10 August
(at Dobb's Ferry)
293 4 2     1 woman to 73 men
11 August 415 8 2     1 woman to 51 men
(at King's Ferry where the regiment was reunited)
12 August to 16 August 407 12 5     1 woman to 34 men
17 August to 20 August 415 12 5     1 woman to 34 men
(The regiment was encamped at Nelson's Point from 18 August to 31 August 1782)

On the 21st of August the light companies of the various regiments were organized into combined battalions and formed a "Corps of Light infantry." This corps was ordered "to encamp forthwith on the high ground in front of Peekskill ... The duty on the Lines is to be done by them as usual." When the light troops of the 9th Massachusetts were detached on that date two women most probably went with them to their advanced post, since the departure of the light troops coincided with a reduction in the number of females from twelve to ten. This is in contrast with the light company's detached service in early July when only one woman probably had accompanied a similar number of men. At the end of the month the Light corps was ordered "to advance in front of the army, and take the best ground at or near the fork of the roads leading to this place and peekskill, they will keep out proper picquets and small scouts to patrol as far as Croton independent of the battalion on the lines." Once again women seem to have been a constant presence with the troops no matter how rigorous the service.48

Women With the Light Infantry Company
21 August to 8 September1782
Rank & File
Rank & File
Rank & File
21 August
to 24 August
366 12 5 not
  1 woman to 30 men
(The light infantry company was on detached service and its strength not included.)
25 August
to 28 August
353 10* 5 87** 440 1 woman to 37 men
(Light company strength included in absentees.)
29 August
to 31 August
357 10* 5 87** 444 1 woman to 37 men
(Light company strength included in absentees.)
1 September
to 4 September
357 10* 5 89** 446 1 woman to 37 men
(Light company strength included in absentees.)
5 September
to 8 September
348 7 4 92** 440 1 woman to 50 men
(Light company strength included in absentees.)
(The regiment was with the main army at Verplank's Point from 31 August to 27 September 1782)
  * Not including the women with the detached light company, for which, see the following table.
** Light company strength included with absentees.

Women With the Detached Light Company

Period Covered
Number of
25 August to 28 August 2 49** 1 woman to 24 men
29 August to 31 August 2 47     1 woman to 23 men
1 September to 4 September 2 46     1 woman to 23 men
** The light company strengths were taken from the regimental returns for
23 and 31 August, and 6 September 1782. These numbers do not include
sergeants or musicians, only the rank and file.

Shortly after the formation of the Light Infantry Corps the "moving Army" travelled to a new encampment on the east side of the Hudson River at Verplanck's Point. At seven o'clock on the morning of 31 August 1782 "the two Connecticut, and three Massachusetts Brigades" embarked on board boats and moved down river to their new post. The detailed orders concerning this movement specifically stated that "No women [are] to be allowed into the boats with the troops on any pretence whatsoever." Due to the ease with which these orders could have been enforced it would have been extremely difficult for women to circumvent them. Whether this was an attempt to discourage the women from following the army, or merely to reserve limited space aboard the boats for soldiers is not known. Whatever the purpose of the order it did not deter at least some females from making their way from West Point down to Verplank's Point, a march of approximately eleven miles (not including the crossing of the Hudson at King's Ferry). Immediately following the movement of the troops down the Hudson there seems to be some discrepancy in the ration returns which begs the following question: How long did it take for the abandoned followers to rejoin the army? If they travelled by foot they would have taken at least two days, especially if the women were encumbered by children. They may also have found some way to manage transport by water or by wagon (army orders do seem to have left open the possibility that women could float downriver on the baggage bateaux), though these modes would have been more haphazard unless arranged by their commanding officer. In either event it is unlikely that the ten women and five children listed on the first full provision return at the new encampment were present with the 9th Regiment as early as the 1st of September. It is possible that these followers were not actually with the regiment but may have been carried on the rolls in anticipation of their rejoining in a few days. This conclusion could be supported by the final return which gives seven women and four children with the troops as of 5 September; either the only followers to have made the march or the first contingent to have arrived. This last return leaves three women and one child unaccounted for, as two women were most likely with the light company.49

From the foregoing returns it can be seen that the lives of the female camp followers and their children were of necessity highly mobile, even when the army operated within a confined geographical area. They also indicate that the number of women and children present with the main body of a regiment could fluctuate to a lesser or greater degree during a short period of time. These followers may have been detached from the regiment according to the needs at the time, possibly to tend the sick or accompany a detachment of soldiers on extra duty. Whether or not this was done at the express order of an officer or was due to the desire of the women to accompany their associated company or mess squad is open to some conjecture. Understandably a common practice of simply shunting these followers from place to place, and task to task, without regard to their families and friends would have invited discipline problems among the troops.

Another example of the rough, utilitarian clothing likely worn
by army camp followers; round felt hat, kerchief,
shawl, coarse linen apron, woolen stockings, and moccasins.
Peter F. Copeland, Working Dress in Colonial and Revolutionary America
(Westport, Ct. and London: Greenwood Press, 1977), 99.


"The proportion of Women which ought to be allowed ..."

To conclude this study of women with the army a return of followers from the final year of the war will now be examined. The "Return of the number of Women and Children in the several regiments and Corps stationed at, and in the vicinity of West Point and New Windsor, that drew Rations under the late Regulation, shewing also the Number of Rations allowed for Women and Children by the present system" is dated 24 January 1783.50

Number of
N.C.O.'s and
Maryland Detachment 20   3 251 1 woman to every 13 men
1st Jersey Regiment 19 14 426 1 woman to 22 men
2nd Jersey Regiment 20 13 404 1 woman to 31 men
1st York Regiment 52 58 524 1 woman to 10 men
2nd York Regiment 36 39 537 1 woman to 15 men
1st Hampshire Regiment   7   3 431 1 woman to 61 men
2nd Hampshire Regiment   4   3 416 1 woman to 104 men
1st Massachusetts Regt. 17   3 561 1 woman to 33 men
4th Massachusetts Regt. 15   8 553 1 woman to 37 men
7th Massachusetts Regt. 14 10 555 1 woman to 40 men
2nd Massachusetts Regt. 16 17 557 1 woman to 35 men
8th Massachusetts Regt. 11 10 561 1 woman to 56 men
5th Massachusetts Regt. 13   9 561 1 woman to 62 men
3rd Massachusetts Regt. 18   8 560 1 woman to 31 men
6th Massachusetts Regt. 16 11 559 1 woman to 35 men
1st Connecticut Regt. 10   8    
3rd Connecticut Regt. 11   6    
Connecticut Brigade Strength   1196   1 woman to 57 men
2nd Connecticut Regt. 12   8 603 1 woman to 50 men
2nd Artillery Regiment 22   8    
3rd Artillery Regiment 40 28    
Artillery Brigade Strength   787 1 woman to 13 men
Corps of Sappers & Miners   5   1   70 1 woman to 14 men
Totals 405   302   10443     1 woman to 26 men

For the entire contingent of 10,443 troops the ratio was one woman for every twenty-six men, about 4 percent of the total. This increase in the numbers of women and children may be explained by the fact that at this period of the war these regiments were in a relatively stationary situation. When the duties of a regiment were confined to a limited area or, more importantly, a single location, the circumstances were more conducive to the presence of the soldier's families than were the rigors of an active campaign with its constant movements and uncertainties. This seems to be borne out by the large proportion of women in the Artillery Brigade and the Invalid Corps, two organizations that by the nature of their duty performed most of their service in the garrison of various fortifications. The artillery units especially seem to have had a much larger proportion of camp followers than the other branches of the army. This is evident when compared with the 1781 return of women for the invalids and artillery. Additionally, a comparison with the 1781 return of women, just a year and a half earlier, indicates an increase in the number of women with the army as the war entered its final year. This addition is in conjunction with an increase of 1,830 men in 1783 for those units present on the returns for both years. Despite the expanded number of followers the ratio dropped from one woman for thirty-three men in 1781 to one for thirty-one in 1783.51

of Women
in 1781
in 1781
of Women
in 1783
in 1783
New Hampshire Brigade 13 1134 11 847 
1st Massachusetts Brigade 31 1104 46 1669*
2nd Massachusetts Brigade 20   813 40 1679*
3rd Massachusetts Brigade 28   811 34 1119*
Artillery Brigade 38   429 62 787 
Corps of Sappers & Miners   2     50   5  70
Totals 132   4341 198   6171  
* Less the 9th and 10th Massachusetts Regiments which were disbanded
as of January 1, 1783 and incorporated into the remaining regiments for
that state. Fred Anderson Berg, Encyclopedia of Continental Army Units -
Battalions, Regiments and Independent Corps
(Harrisburg, Pa., 1974), 74.

Another consideration concerning the difference in the numbers of women from unit to unit was the locale from which the individual regiments were recruited. When the army was ordered in 1782 to limit the number of rations to one woman for every fifteen men, Washington himself wrote that the plan was unworkable

as some of those Corps were, and still are, under particular circumstances, for instance the Regiments of York, which, in part, are composed of Long Islanders and others who fled with their families when the enemy obtained possession of those places and have no other means of Subsistence. [He therefore] directed that the whole of the Women and Children then with the Troops, should be allowed to draw as usual. So far as the Artillery Regimt. was under the same circumstances they are entitled to the same indulgence ...52

It seems, however, that in general only a few regiments in the army exceeded the proposed limit, thus prohibiting a strict quota of women from being set for the whole.


Information on the numbers of women and children with the Continental Army during the war remains sketchy at best. Some suppositions can be made, however, with the data at hand. Contrary to the estimate of Linda Grant De Pauw that at "some times, in some places, the women's branch of the Continental Army may have been 20% the size of the regular male Continental force in service", the number of adult female camp followers was in fact a great deal less, closer to 3 percent, or approximately one woman for every thirty men. Even allowing for the possibility of women not returned on the rolls for the reason that they were not allowed rations, De Pauw's hypothetical percentage is insupportable.53

It is evident that from the beginning of the war the numbers of women fluctuated greatly from regiment to regiment and, apparently, from company to company within each regiment. In December 1777 the return for the main army at Valley Forge showed one woman for forty-four enlisted men (though it is probable that there were more women with the army during the spring and summer of that year). In January 1783 the return for the main army at New Windsor gave an average of one woman for every twenty-six enlisted men. During the intervening years the average ratios may have been within the range of one to thirty and one to thirty-five. From the available information it seems that early in the war it would not have been at all remarkable for an individual company to contain no women. This situation had changed by 1783 when the average was two women for each company with the main army.54

The information which we do have concerning female camp followers with the American army is particularly interesting when compared to the numbers attached to the regiments of the Crown forces, especially those of the British troops. In February 1783 Robert Morris referred to "the british Prisoners of War who have Herds of Women with them." This comment is borne out by the returns of British camp followers throughout the war. In May 1777 the ratio of women with the British forces in New York was about one for every eight men, while the Germans had approximately one woman for every thirty men. Later in the war, during August 1781, the troops in New York and its outposts were shown to have a ratio of one woman to every four and a half British troops, and one to fifteen for the Germans.55

Regardless of their numbers, the women who followed the Continental Army during the war were important in a number of ways. Unlike some of their British counterparts most could not pay their own way if they were not on the list of those who drew rations. In their own words they "could earn their Rations, but the Soldier, nay the Officer, for whom they Wash has naught to pay them." They did, however, perform duties such as washing and cooking for those men they were related to or had some association with. Additionally, it seems that as the war progressed these dual duties (most particularly laundering) were increasingly required of them in return for their continued acceptance with the army. Most importantly, besides these practical tasks, they provided some semblance of home life for the men in the army. This seemingly minor service was extremely important considering that the war of the Revolution continued for eight years and the soldiers fought tedium more often than they did the enemy. This was in some part attested to by Washington himself when he wrote "I was obliged to give Provisions to the extra Women in these Regiments, or loose by Desertion, perhaps to the Enemy, some of the oldest and best Soldiers in the Service."56

Any clarification of the number of women with the army must influence how we view the social structure of the army and demands that we take their presence into consideration as a constant, though at times unwanted, part of the armed forces. The presence of women and children influenced the logistics of the army, its inner workings and daily concerns. From the point of view of those involved with "living history" this attempt to number the women in the regiments may be used to incorporate a more proper portrayal of them in their modern recreations. Finally, any study of the number of women brings forth other questions that beg to be answered: How were these women treated within their units by regimental and company officers? Were they always allotted tents for shelter when on campaign and huts when in winter quarters? and was it common practice for these dependents to be cared for in the hospitals of the army when the need arose? These and other important questions may never be addressed satisfactorily, but undoubtedly some answers still lie untapped in the journals, letters, order books and other documents of the Revolutionary period.


There are a number of people without whom the writing of this work would have been a more difficult task than if I had attempted it on my own. Foremost among these is Dr. Holly Mayer whose encouragement and advice enhanced my meager writing skills and helped to make the text more cohesive and understandable. My gratitude also extends to Dr. David Fowler and the David Library of the American Revolution whose assistance has been invaluable and whose collection, thanks to an accident of geography, has been almost at my beck and call.

The following people have also contributed valuable information and advice in the construction of this piece: Henry M. Cooke IV, George Stillman, Gilbert Riddle and Don N. Hagist.

Finally I am very grateful to Peter F. Copeland for his interest and permission for the use of his illustrations for this article.


1. General Orders, 4 June 1777, John C. Fitzpatrick, ed., The Writings of George Washington from the Original Manuscript Sources 1745-1799, vol. 8 (Washington, DC, 1933), p. 181 (hereafter cited as WGW).

2. "Revolutionary Services of Captain John Markland", Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, vol. 9 (1885), p. 105 (hereafter cited as Captain John Markland, PMHB).

3. "Account of Rations drawn by the Infantry of ye Standing Army" December 1777, The Papers of the Continental Congress 1774-1789, National Archives Microfilm Publications M247, (Washington, D.C., 1958), Reel 38, p. 459 (hereafter cited as PCC). Though undated the numbers of the "Privates fit for Duty" in this account agree with "A General Return of the Army under the command of his Excellency General Washington ... December 3, 1777", Charles H. Lesser, Ed., The Sinews of Independence: Monthly Strength Reports of the Continental Army (Chicago, Il., 1976), p. 53 (hereafter cited as Lesser, Sinews).

Women's Rations in the Continental Army

It has generally been assumed that British General William Howe's orders of 1776 allowing a half ration per women and a quarter ration per child was the system followed by the Continental Army during the war. Contrary to this belief there is no concrete evidence that the Continental Army ever made use of this system of rationing for soldier's dependents. There is quite a bit of evidence, however, that Washington's forces took as their precedent the ration issues for women in the British and Provincial forces during the French and Indian War. In 1781 the returns for Colonel Joseph Vose's Light Battalion show two rations for each officer and one ration for each common soldier and woman. A "Return of the number of Women and Children ... that drew drew Rations under the late Regulations ..." lists the specific number of rations that were allowed prior to January of 1783. Under the "late Regulations" each women was given one full ration and each child a half ration. This is similar to the women's allowance during the period of the French and Indian war which consisted of either a full ration or two thirds of a ration of food.

The food ration issued to the troops and their followers was based on a standard originally set in 1776 as follows: "One pound of beef, or 3/4 of a pound of pork or one pound of fish, per day. One pound of bread or flour per day. Three pints of peas or beans per week, or vegetables equivalent, at one dollar per bushel for peas or beans. One pint of milk per man per day. One half-pint of rice, or one pint of Indian meal per man per week. One quart of spruce beer, or cider, per man per day, or nine gallons of mollasses per company of one hundred men per week. Three pounds of candles to one hundred men per week, for guards. Twenty pounds of soft, or eight pounds of hard, soap for one hundred men per week."

Necessity and nutrition required that some method be found by which this basic ration could be supplemented. This was especially important since items such as milk, cider, vegetables and soap proved to be difficult, and often impossible, to obtain. In July of 1777 it was stipulated that "As nothing can be more comfortable and wholesome to the army than vegetables, every encouragement is to be given to the Country people, to bring them in [to market] ... The General recommends temporary ovens to each brigade, which, by men who understand it, can be erected in a few hours. Bread baked in these, will be much wholesomer than the sodden cakes [firecakes] which are but too commonly used."

To add to the problem of feeding the army the system of supplying the troops sometimes failed due to bad weather, crop failure, economic conditions or ineptitiude in the quartermaster department. At Valley Forge in the winter of 1778 it was necessary to temporarily adjust the daily rations for the army. In the General Orders of February 8th it was noted "that instead of the ration heretofore Issued there should be Issued a pound and a half of flouer, one lb of Beef or 3/4 Salt pork and a certain Quantity of Spirits ..." In addition to this it had been previously ordered on January 29th that "The Commissaries in future to Issue [a] quart of Salt to every 100 lb fresh Beef." This was to prove more or less the common ration for the army during their winter cantonments.

Finally it must be noted that the 1776 British system of a half ration for female followers was stipulated to be issued to those women left behind at Halifax after the army sailed on to New York. It is entirely possible, and even probable, that women with the British army when on campaign were given a larger amount of food

"Return of the number of Women and Children in the several regiments and Corps stationed at, and in the vicinity of West Point and New Windsor, that drew Rations under the late Regulation, shewing also the Number of Rations allowed for Women and Children by the present system", 24 January 1783, Revolutionary War Rolls, 1775-1783, National Archives Microfilm Publication M246, Record Group 93, reel 136, pp. 259-260 (hereafter cited as Revolutionary War Rolls). "Nathaniel Nason's Book" (Continental Army 1781-1782 / Massachusetts Line, First Regiment / Returns of Clothing Camp Equipage and Provisions ... kept by Nathaniel Nason ...", (for full citation see endnote no. 23). Walter Hart Blumenthal, Women Camp Followers of the American Revolution (New York, 1974), pp. 41, 51 (hereafter cited as Blumenthal, Women Camp Followers). Paul E. Kopperman, "The British High Command and Soldiers' Wives in America, 1755-1783", Journal of the Society for Army Historical Research, no. 60 (1982), pp. 22-23 (hereafter cited as Kopperman, British High Command and Soldiers' Wives). "In Convention for the State of Pennsylvania Friday August 9, 1776 The Ration for each man, as copied from the Minutes of the Honourable the Continental Congress ...", Peter Force, American Archives, series 5, vol. I (Washington, D.C., 1837-1853), p. 865. General Orders, 5 July 1777, WGW, vol. 8 (1933), pp. 350-351. General Orders, 8 February 1778, 29 January 1778, George Weedon, Valley Forge Orderly Book of General George Weedon of the Continental Army under Command of Genl. George Washington, in the Campaign of 1777-8 (New York, N.Y., 1971), pp. 224-225, 216-217. For a detailed examination of provisions in the Continental Army (including cooks and mess squads) see: John U. Rees, "'It was my turn to cook for the mess': Provisions of the Common Soldier in the Continental Army 1775-1783", Addendum to "'I Expect to be stationed in Jersey sometime ...': An Account of the Services of the Second New Jersey Regiment, December 1777 to June 1779", TMs, The David Library of the American Revolution, Washington Crossing, Pa.

4. "An Estimate of the daily Issues to an Army Consisting of 40,000 Rank & File exclusive of Serjeants", 2 June 1780, The Papers of the Continental Congress 1774-1789, National Archives Microfilm Publications M247, (Washington, DC, 1958), reel 46, p. 311 (hereafter cited as PCC).

5. Fort Sullivan, garrisoned by Colonel Israel Shreve and a detachment of miscellaneous troops from August to October 1779, was located on the site of present day Athens, Pennsylvania, for which see: Douglas Marshall and Howard Peckham, Campaigns of the American Revolution -- An Atlas of Manuscript Maps (Ann Arbor, Mi., 1976), p. 96. Map of the Indian villages in Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York, 1760-1794, Lester J. Cappon, ed., Atlas of Early American History -- The Revolutionary Era 1760-1790 (Princeton, N.J., 1976), p. 21.

6.General orders, 23 August 1779, Orderly book of Col. Oliver Spencer's Regt., 27 July 1779 - 28 September 1779, Early American Orderly Books, 1748-1817, Collections of the New York Historical Society, microfilm edition, (Woodbridge, N.J., 1977), Reel 9, item 93, pp. 86-87 (hereafter cited as Early American Orderly Books).

7. John Sullivan to Israel Shreve, 24 August 1779, Otis G. Hammond, ed., Letters and Papers of Major-General John Sullivan Continental Army, vol. III (Concord, N.H., 1939), pp. 101-103.

8. "A Return of the Women & Children Left in Charge of Baggage, Necessary to wash for Genl Clintons Brigade", probably August 1779, Israel Shreve Papers, Rutgers University, Alexander Library, manuscript no. 287. (hereafter cited as ISP Rutgers).

9. New York muster rolls, Continental regiments, 1779, Revolutionary War Rolls, reels 68-72.

10. Strength returns of the Continental Army, July and October 1779, Lesser, Sinews, pp. 124-125, 136-137. For an approximation of the total number of troops on the expedition see Mark M. Boatner III, Encyclopedia of the American Revolution (New York, 1966), p. 1072 (hereafter cited as Boatner, Encyclopedia). Journal of Rev. William Rogers, 28 August 1779, Journal of Lt. Rudolphus Van Hovenburgh, 23 August 1779, Frederick Cook, ed., Journals of the Military Expedition of Major General John Sullivan Against the Six Nations of Indians in 1779 (Auburn, N.Y., 1887), pp. 265, 278 (hereafter cited as Cook, Journals of Sullivan's Expedition). Rogers gives an account of the number of people residing at the camp at Fort Sullivan after the army left and prior to the departure of the extraneous personnel downriver. It is important to note that the primary garrison itself consisted of "two hundred and fifty men properly officered" while the other persons left behind by the army consisted of "the Invelade[s] & the weomen." Roger's account of August 28, 1779 stated that "there are in the garrison about twelve hundred souls, men, women and children included ..."

There is no known account of the exact number of sick left behind at the fort. A vague determination may be made, however, by examining the number of sick in the involved regiments in July and October of 1779, just prior to and immediately following theexpedition. The total of the sick, both present and absent, for the October return has been used, with some minor additions from the July return where information is lacking. Only the number of sick in the following regiments were available for the total: 1st, 2nd and 3rd New Jersey; Spencer's Additional; 1st, 2nd and 3rd New Hampshire; 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th New York; 4th and 11th Pennsylvania; the 6th Massachusetts and the July return for the German Battalion.

The total number of sick for October 1779 was 661. This total was increased by another 100 for an adjusted total of 761. This adjustment roughly allows for the numbers of sick in the artillery and other miscellaneous detachments for which returns are not available. Hopefully this will also allow for the increased occurrence of sickness and accidental injury due to the arduous nature of the campaign

A rough estimate of the numbers of women and children would be as follows:

1200 men, women and children (Roger's estimate)
- 300 soldiers of the fort's garrison (including officers)
- 761 sick
139 total women and children with the troops

This final number is not much more than an educated guess but it gives some idea of the numbers of distaff and their offspring which accompanied the troops on Sullivan's expedition. It is interesting to note that the figure of 139 women and children amounts to 3.5 percent of the 4,000 soldiers under Sullivan's command at Tioga. This percentage agrees with the percentages calculated for the 1781 and 1783 main army returns which can be found in the body of this article under the sections entitled 1781 "... the women with the army who draw provisions" and 1783 "The proportion of Women which ought to be allowed ..."

11. Strength return of the Continental Army, July 1779, Lesser, Sinews, pp. 124-125. Cook, Journals, p. 134. Mark E. Lender and James Kirby Martin, eds., Citizen-Soldier; The Revolutionary War Journal of Joseph Bloomfield (Newark, N.J. 1982) p. 87 (hereafter cited as Kirby and Martin, Citizen Soldier). H.A. Mayer, Belonging to the Army: Camp followers and the Military Community during the American Revolution, PH.D. dissertation, College of William and Mary, 1990, pp. 193-194 (hereafter cited as Mayer, Belonging to the Army). Provision and regimental strength returns of Jackson's 9th Massachusetts Regiment, Henry Jackson Papers, 1772-1782, Library of Congress, microfilm edition, no. 17,359, vol. 4, pp. 379-443 (hereafter cited as Henry Jackson Papers).

12. "A Mess Roll of Captn. Ross's Compy", 1777, Revolutionary War Rolls, reel 62, section 44-2. Muster rolls for Captain John Ross's company, 3rd New Jersey Regiment, May and October 1777, ibid., section 44-1. A comparison of these two rolls indicates that the date of the mess squad listing is June of 1777. During this month the 3rd New Jersey was attached to the main army and posted near the Short Hills in northern New Jersey. Muster rolls of the 3rd New Jersey Regiment, ibid., reels 62, 63 and 63. One instance of the varying numbers of men per company within an individual regiment comes from the 3rd New Jersey for June of 1777. The numbers are as follows: Ross's Company, 49 enlisted men; Dickerson's Co., 65; Flanigan's Co., 42; Gifford's Co., 32; Hagan's Co., 20; and Patterson's Co., 33. The full strength of a company of foot in 1777 was eighty-six enlisted men. Robert K. Wright, Jr., The Continental Army (Washington, D.C., 1984), p. 47 (hereafter cited as Wright, Continental Army).

13. Charles Knowles Bolton, The Private Soldier Under Washington (Williamstown, Ma., 1976), discussion of rations and mess squads, pp. 77-78. Harold L. Peterson, The Book of the Continental Soldier (Harrisburg, Pa., 1968), number of men in mess squads, p. 147. Joseph Plumb Martin, Private Yankee Doodle: A Narrative of Some of the Adventures, Dangers and Sufferings of a Revolutionary Soldier (New York, N.Y., 1962), p. 51. After the Battle of White Plains in the autumn of 1776 Martin gave the number of men in his mess squad as only three. Lender and Martin, Citizen-Soldier, p. 87. At the time of the return Bloomfield's company was stationed at German Flats in the Mohawk Valley of New York state. Division Orders, 17 August 1777, Joseph Brown Turner, ed., The Journal and Order Book of Captain Robert Kirkwood of the Delaware Regiment of the Continental Line (New York, 1970), p. 147. The number of men assigned to a tent was usually set at six though at times there were exceptions to this rule. "The Brigadier Genls. are requested to get a Return of the actual Strength of each Regt. in their Respective Brigades & also the Number of Tents drawn for the use of the Regts. ... The Quarter Master Genl. is to proportion the Tents to the Strength of Regts. One Tent to each five Privates ...", General Orders, 24 May 1777, Order Book of Col. Daniel Morgan's 11th Virginia Regiment, New Jersey, May 15 - June 9, 1777, Early American Orderly Books, reel 4, no. 45. In order to lessen the baggage of the army in the autumn of 1777 one tent was alloted to every eight non-commissioned officers, musicians or privates, General Orders, 13 September 1777, WGW, vol. 9 (1933), p. 213. The proportion of tents was standardized for the army in 1779 allowing one tent for every six non-commissioned officers, musicians or privates, General Orders, 27 May 1779, ibid., vol. 15 (1936), pp. 162-163.

14. George Washington to the Marquis De Lafayette, 20 February 1781, ibid., vol. 21 (1937), pp. 253-256. Washington to William Heath, 17 February 1781, ibid., p. 234. This letter describes the makeup of the provisional light battalions which were to make up Lafayette's detachment: "... Eight Companies from the oldest Regiments of the Massachusetts line to form one Battalion. The 2 remaing. Companies from [Massachusetts], and those of Connecticut and Rhode Island to form another. Those of New Hampshire and Hazen (with such others, as shall hereafter join them) will form another Battalion ... Colo. Jackson or Vose, and Majr. Galvan, are to be appointed to the Battn. composed altogether of Massachusetts Troops ..." See also Charles E. Hatch, Jr., "The 'Affair Near James Island' (or, 'The Battle of Green Spring') July 6, 1781", Virginia Historical Magazine, vol. 53 (July 1945), p. 179 (hereafter cited as Hatch, Affair Near James Island). According to this article the light troops consisted of eight companies from Massachusetts, five companies from Connecticut, 1 from Rhode Island, five from New Jersey, two from New Hampshire and one company from Hazen's Regiment. General Orders, 16 February 1781, WGW, vol 21 (1937), p. 232. The companies assigned to Lafayette were "to be augmented to fifty rank and file each with an additional serjeant and are to rendezvous the 19th. at Peekskill prepared for a march."

15. Lafayette to the Chevalier de La Luzerne, 19 February 1781, Stanley J. Idzerda, ed., Lafayette in the Age of the American Revolution - Selected Letters and Papers, 1776-1790, vol. III (Ithaca, N.Y., 1980), pp. 330-333 (hereafter cited as Idzerda, Lafayette).

16. Washington to Elias Dayton, 16 February 1781, WGW, vol 21 (1937), p. 233. Lafayette to the Chevalier de La Luzerne, 19 February 1781, Idzerda, Lafayette, vol. III, pp. 330-333. Benjamin Gilbert to his father, 15 March 1781, from Annapolis, Maryland, John Shy, ed., Winding Down - The Revolutionary War Letters of Lieutenant Benjamin Gilbert of Massachusetts, 1780-1783 (Ann Arbor, Mi., 1989), pp. 39-40 (hereafter cited as Shy, Winding Down). Lafayette to Nathanael Greene, 17 April 1781, Idzerda, Lafayette, vol. IV (1981), leaving behind the wives of the soldiers, pp. 37-40.

17. Washington to William Livingston, 1 August 1780, WGW, vol. 19 (1937), p. 292.

18. General Orders, 1 August 1780, ibid., p. 300.

19. General Orders, 22 August 1781, ibid., vol. 23 (1937), p. 37-38.

20. "Journal of Ebenezer Wild", Proceedings of the Massachusetts Historical Society, 2nd series, vol. VI (Boston, Ma., 1891), p. 131 (hereafter cited as Ebenezer Wild, PMHS). Wild was a lieutenant in Captain Bradford's company of Vose's Regiment during the Virginia campaign. Henry P. Johnston, The Yorktown Campaign and the Surrender of Cornwallis 1781 (New York, 1881), pp. 32-33 (hereafter cited as Johnston, Yorktown Campaign). Washington to Lafayette, 21 April 1781, WGW, vol. 21 (1937), p. 421.

21. Lafayette to Nathanael Greene, from Baltimore, 17 April 1781, Idzerda, Lafayette, vol. IV, pp. 37-38.

22. Johnston, Yorktown Campaign, pp. 33-35.

23. "Nathaniel Nason's Book" (Continental Army 1781-1782 / Massachusetts Line, First Regiment / Returns of Clothing Camp Equipage and Provisions ... kept by Nathaniel Nason, Lieutenant and Quartermaster / Col. Joseph Vose's Regiment) (Manuscript), donated in 1930 to the Sons of the American Revolution, Washington, D.C., present location of document unknown, photocopy courtesy of Henry M. Cooke IV of Randolph, Massachusetts. Forty-three provision returns for "Col. Voses Regiment L[igh]t Infantry" cover the period from February 22, 1781 to July 3, 1781 (women are listed on eighteen of the returns). During this period Vose's Light Infantry Regiment consisted of eight companies and went from a high of 433 enlisted men to a low, at one point, of 314. Some of the names mentioned in the return, as well as the several journals are as follows:

Joseph Vose, colonel, 1st Massachusetts Regiment
Nathaniel Nason, 1st lieutenant, 1st Massachusetts Regiment
Benjamin Gilbert, ensign, 5th Massachusetts Regiment
George Webb, captain, 4th Massachusetts Regiment
Peter Clayes, captain, 6th Massachusetts Regiment
Robert Bradford, captain 2nd Massachusetts Regiment

24. Lafayette to Nathanael Greene, 17 April 1781, Idzerda, Lafayette, vol. IV, p. 39. Johnston, Yorktown Campaign, pp. 34-37. Boatner, Encyclopedia, p. 1153.

25. Johnston, Yorktown Campaign, pp. 46-47.

26. Ibid., pp. 47.

27. Ibid., pp. 46-48, 51-53.

28. Ibid., pp. 53-59.

29. Gilbert to his father, from Newcastle, Virginia, on the Pamunkey River, near the head of the York River, 3 July 1781, Shy, Winding Down, p. 45.

30. Johnston, Yorktown Campaign, pp. 60-70. "Following the action [at Spencer's Ordinary] Cornwallis withdrew into Williamsburg ... Lafayette took up a position with headquarters at Tyree's Plantation about 20 miles from the British camp. In the interval from June 26 to July 4 Cornwallis remained camped and resting in Williamsburg...", Hatch, The Affair Near James Island, p. 177. , Gilbert to Park Holland, August 1781, Shy, Winding Down, p. 47. Burke Davis, The Campaign That Won America - The Story of Yorktown (New York, 1970), pp. 124-127.

31. "Journal of Captain John Davis of the Pennsylvania†††††† Line", Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, vol. 5 (1881), p. 292 (hereafter cited as Captain John Davis, PMHB). "... The Baggage Being arrived ... I intend to allow plentifully what is Commonly Called light Baggage. Tents Shall also Remain ...", Lafayette to Anthony Wayne, 30 June 1781, Idzerda, Lafayette, vol. IV, pp. 222-223.

  Number of Days the Baggage was Present
  With Vose's Battalion
  (Compiled from the Ebenezer Wild, PMHS, pp. 137-140, 142,
143, 146, 149, 150, and Captain John Davis, PMHB, p. 292.)
A. May 6 to September 10, 1781 (entire four month period)
(The time of the arrival of the baggage from Baltimore
until Lafayette's detachment joined the French troops
at Williamsburg)
Days            Days Not Present            Total
Present      (Sent to the Rear, etc.)        Days
    84                          44                       128
(Baggage present with the troops 66% of the time)
B. May 6 to July 7, 1781 (first two months)
(The time of the arrival of the baggage from Baltimore
until Cornwallis' forces crossed over the James
River towards Portsmouth)
Days            Days Not Present            Total
Present      (Sent to the Rear, etc.)        Days
    30                          33                       63
(Baggage present with the troops 49% of the time)
C. July 8 to September 10, 1781 (final two months)
Days            Days Not Present            Total
Present      (Sent to the Rear, etc.)        Days
    54                          11                       65
(Baggage present with the troops 83% of the time)

32. Captain John Markland, PMHB, p. 105. Jacob Nagle served with Proctor's Artillery at the Battle of Brandywine. He described his situation prior to the action: "The provision waggons being sent a way, we ware three day without provisions excepting what the farmers brought in to sell in their waggons and what the soldiers could plunder from the farmers. I went to my father [the lieutenant colonel of the 9th Pennsylvania Regiment], his rigment being on our right, and received a neats tounge from him, and Mr. Hosner bought some potatoes and butter the evening before the Brittish arrived, and we concluded to have a glorious mess for breakfast. Mr. Hosner gave it to one of the soldiers wives that remained with the army to cook for us in the morning. Early in the morning, she had the camp kittle on a small fier about 100 yards in the rear of the Grand Artilery, with all our delicious meal, which we expected to enjoy (on the 11 of September 1777). The Brittish at this time hoisted the red flag on the top of the farm house on the rige of the hill a breast of us, and their artilery advancing towards us down the ploughed field, we then begin a cannonading ... Unfortunately one of the enemies shot dismounted the poor camp kettle with the fier and all its contents away with it. The woman informed Mr. Folkner. He replied, 'Never mind, we have no time to eat now.' Therefore we made another fast day." John C. Dann, ed., The Nagle Journal - A Diary of the Life of Jacob Nagle, Sailor, from the Year 1775 to 1841 (New York, 1988) pp. 6-7. General Orders, 10 September 1777, WGW, vol. 9 (1933), p. 200. Washington to the President of Congress, ibid., 11 September 1777, p. 208. General Orders, 13 September 1777, ibid., p. 213; General Orders, 10 July 1777, ibid., vol 8 (1933), p. 375. Kenneth Roberts, March to Quebec - Journals of the Members of Arnold's Expedition (Portland, Me., 1980), pp. 337, 338, 483, 495, 556, 683. Mayer, Belonging to the Army, p. 199.

33. Gilbert to John Soule, 5 May 1781, from Bottom Bridge, Virginia (a crossing on the Chickahominy River, east of Richmond), May 5, 1781, Shy, Winding Down, pp. 41-42. Captain John Davis, PMHB, p. 292. "Itinerary of the Pennsylvania Line From Pennsylvania to South Carolina, 1781-1782.", Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, vol. 36 (1912), p. 275. Ebenezer Wild, PMHS, p. 146. Repeated references to brush "bowries", huts and booths were made by Wild during the summer of 1781, see pp. 143-149. Other references to temporary shelters may be found for other dates, most notably the journal of Captain John Davis, PMHB and the Feltman journal cited below.

The Use of Brush Huts in the Continental Army: When caught without tents the soldiers of the Continental Army sometimes constructed temporary shelters for themselves. Jeremiah Greenman, a sergeant in the 2nd Rhode Island regiment, wrote on November 26, 1777 that the troops were "Continuing in ye woods near haddonfield ... we built buth [booth] to lay in very cold." Four days later Greenman "... at night came to wite ma[r]sh ware we built up housan of branchis & leavs to keep ye rain off but not much good." These booths or "housan" have been described as "a temporary dwelling covered with boughs, canvas, or other slight material" and were built in a number of forms. Variously referred to as booths, bowers, bowries, brush huts, bush houses, "sheds [of] ... Pailing & Bords" and, a term used predominantly by British troops, wigwams, some of these appellations denoted a shelter of a particular type of construction.

As before noted, temporary shelters were used intermittently throughout the war. They first saw widespread use by both armies in 1777 and during the 1778 Monmouth Campaign both British and German troops used wigwams and huts for shelter on their march from Philadelphia to Sandy Hook. In addition to the latter part of 1777, in 1780 a large portion of the Continental Army made use of temporary shelters for an extended period. General Washington wrote on August 24, 1780 that "Our Army before now has been almost a whole Campaign without Tents. And this spring were from the 6th. of June till sometime in July, without a single one for either Officers or men (making use of bush Bowers) as a substitute." One illustration of makeshift shelters can be seen in Xavier Della Gatta's painting of the "Battle of Paoli." This painting shows clearly a representation of brush huts or booths in the American camp. Robert C. Bray and Paul E. Bushnell, eds., Diary of a Common Soldier in the American Revolution: An Annotated Edition of the Military Journal of Jeremiah Greenman (DeKalb, Il., 1978), p. 87, entries for 26 and 30 November 1777, and page 98, note 131. Washington to Thomas Blanch, 24 August 1780, WGW, vol. 19 (1937), pp. 433-434. Richard M. Ketchum, ed., The American Heritage Book of the American Revolution (New York, 1958), p. 225. "Battle of Paoli" by Xavier Della Gatta (1782) painting owned by the Valley Forge Historical Society. For a detailed study of temporary shelters see: John U. Rees and Charles A. LeCount, "'We ...got ourselves cleverly settled for the night ...': An Interpretation of Makeshift Shelters Used by Soldiers During the American War of Independence", TMs., authorís collection.

34. General Orders, 27 August 1777, WGW, vol. 9 (1933), p. 139. General Orders, 19 September 1780, ibid., vol. 20 (1937), page 73. John C. Dann, The Revolution Remembered - Eyewitness Accounts of the War for Independence (Chicago, Il., 1980), pp. 243-246.

35. Ibid., pp. 243-246. Richard Howell to William Maxwell, 24 June 1778, George Washington Papers, Presidential Papers Microfilm, (Washington, DC, 1961), series 4, reel 50, (hereafter cited as GW Papers).

36. Lafayette to Nathanael Greene, 17 April 1781, Idzerda, Lafayette, vol. IV, p. 39. Washington to Lafayette, 11 April 1781, ibid., p. 25. Ebenezer Wild, PMHS, pp. 137, 141. "... The Baggage Being arrived ...", Lafayette to Anthony Wayne, 30 June 1781, Idzerda, Lafayette, p. 222.

37. "Military Journal of Major Ebenezer Denny", Memoirs of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, vol. VII (1860), p. 238.

38. Captain John Davis, PMHB, p. 291. "Journal of Lieut. William McDowell of the First Penn'a. Regiment, in the Southern Campaign. 1781-1782", John Blair Linn and William H. Egle, Pennsylvania in the War of the Revolution, Battalions and Line 1775-1783, vol. II (Harrisburg, Pa., 1880), pp. 297. "Diary of the Pennsylvania Line. May 26, 1781 - April 25, 1782", Pennsylvania in the War of the Revolution, page 677. The foregoing "Diary" includes the journals of both Captain Joseph McClellan and Lieutenant William Feltman.

39. General Orders, 14 June 1781, WGW, vol. 22 (1937), p. 215. "Return of Women that draw provisions in several Brigades and Corps of the Army. New Windsor", 1781, Revolutionary War Rolls, reel 136, p. 251.

40. Lesser, Sinews, p. 202, The strength report used for comparison with the preceding document is the May 1781 return of Washington's army. This return agrees with the June 1781 provision return except for the instance of the 1st New York as noted in the narrative. The June 1781 strength return is not used due to the fact that it had not been compiled yet and, when it was compiled, the composition of the brigades had been altered. T.W. Egly, Jr., History of the First New York Regiment 1775-1783 (Hampton, N.Y., 1981), pp. 186-188. Muster roll of the Commander in Chief's Guard, July to December 1781, Revolutionary War Rolls, reel 129.

41. Robert Middlekauff, The Glorious Cause - The American Revolution, 1763-1789 (New York, 1982), pp. 571-575.

42. Provision and regimental strength returns of the 9th Massachusetts Regiment, Henry Jackson Papers, vol. 4, pp. 379-443. Henry Jackson's 9th Massachusetts Regiment belonged to the 3rd Massachusetts Brigade, this brigade consisted of: 3rd Massachusetts, Col. John Greaton; 6th Massachusetts, Lt. Col. Calvin Smith; and the 9th Massachusetts, Lesser, Sinews, p. 224.

43. For a discussion of camp women serving in the hospitals see, Mayer, Belonging to the Army, pp. 39, 195-96. One return has been found which shows a concern over the health of the women and children with the 9th Massachusetts Regiment. In December of 1781 the following list was made:

Return of the Men Women and Children in Colo. H. Jackson's
Regiment who have not had the Small Pox

Men 154
Women     9
Total 169

The discrepancy in the totals may indicate that there were six children included in the total. It is probable that the camp followers were inoculated against smallpox along with the soldiers of the regiment, Henry Jackson Papers, vol. 4, p. 329.

During the period of the returns for the 9th Massachusetts Regiment there were varying numbers of men who were sick and absent who may have been nursed by some of the women of the unit. The following numbers were abstracted from the regimental returns found in the Henry Jackson Papers:

1782 Sick Absent, etc.
May 24 5 at New Windsor
June 7 5 at     "
June 21 7 at     "
June 29 4 at     "
July 5 5 at     "
8 "At the Hutts New Boston"
July 12 5 at New Windsor
(9 "At the Hutts on Guard")
July 17 5 at New Windsor
July 19 5 at New Windsor
9 "At the Hutts"
July 28 24 at Dobb's Ferry
5 at New Windsor
7 at "Hutts NB"
3 at Verplank's Point
August 16 5 at New Windsor
4 at the "New Hospital"
August 19 4 at New Windsor
4 "New Boston"
August 23 3 at New Windsor
5 "New Boston"
August 31 4 at New Windsor
4 "New Boston"
September 6 2 at New Windsor
6 "New Boston"

There are only a few mentions found concerning "New Boston" which leave the actual location somewhat in doubt. It is possible that these huts may have been on the east side of the Hudson River due to the movement of the 3rd Massachusetts Brigade (which was quartered at the New Boston huts) to Nelson's Point (on the east side) and their duties, along with the Connecticut Regiments, at Dobb's Ferry and the other posts further down river. Washington's letter of November 13, 1782 also vaguely indicates a position to the east of the Hudson. For references and evidence see the following sources, which include orders for the provisioning of the army which also seem to support the location of the New Boston huts (as well as the 3rd Massachusetts Brigade and the Connecticut Line) to the east of the river. General Orders, 29 April 1782, WGW, vol. 24 (1938), p. 183. Washington to William Heath, 13 May 1782, ibid., pp. 251-252. General Orders, 23 October 1782, ibid., vol. 25 (1938), p. 291. Washington to Henry Knox, 13 November 1782, ibid., pp. 338-339.

44. General Orders, 4 June 1782, ibid., vol. 24, (1938), p. 309.

45. General Orders, 4 June 1782, ibid., p. 309.

46. Henry Jackson to Washington, from "Camp Nelsons point", 12 August 1782, GW Papers, series 4, reel 86.

47. For the reasons and methods by which the various posts were garrisoned see the following: "With your Regt. you are to relieve the Garrison's of the Posts at Dobb's and King's Ferries; those at the latter, viz. Stony and Verplanks points, are to be relieved by whole Companies, consisting, as nearly as may be, of the same number of Men which are now stationed there; with these you will leave a Field Officer; and proceed yourself with the remainder of the Regt. to the Post of Dobb's ferry, where you will relieve the Garrison of the Block House in such manner as you shall judge proper, and encamp the rest of your Regt immediately under the cover of the Block House ... the post of Dobbs ferry is now the only avenue of intercourse with the Enemy, by Flags ... Upon your being relieved, you will deliver over these Instructions to the relieving Officer, as a standing Regulation for the direction of the Commandant of the beforementioned posts ...", Washington to John Greaton, colonel 3rd Massachusetts Regt., commanding officer of the 3rd Massachusetts Brigade, 14 June 1782, WGW, vol. 24 (1938), pp. 339-341. "Agreeable to your Excellency's orders of the 14th Ulto. I marched with the eight Battallion Companies of the Regiment under my Command from this place to Kings Ferry - I releived the Posts of Verplanks and Stoney Point with three Companies under the Command of Lieut. Colo. Hull and proceeded with the other Five to Dobbs Ferry releived that Post also

On the 28th was releived by the 2d. Connecticut regiment ...", John Greaton to Washington, from "Hutts New Boston", 1 July 1782, GW Papers, series 4, reel 86. "The 1st. Connecticut regiment will march the same day [Thursday the 8th] to releive the 9th Massachusetts regiment at Dobb's ferry, Stoney and Verplanks point.", General Orders, 5 August 1782, WGW, vol. 24 (1938), p. 466.

48. "The Light Infantry of this army is to be organized and commanded in the following manner: The four flank companies of Massachusetts from the 1st. to the 4th. regiment inclusive to compose a battalion under the orders of Major Oliver, four others from the 5th. to the 8th. to compose another battalion under the orders of Major Ashley; these two battalions to form a regiment and to be commanded by Colonel Henry Jackson.

The two remaining flank companies of Massachusetts [the 9th. and 10th.], the flank company of the 5th. Connecticut and that of Rhode Island is to form a Battalion under the command of Major Dexter ... [this and another battalion] to form a battalion under the command of Colonel Webb ...", General Orders, 21 August 1782, ibid., vol. 25 (1938), pp. 46-47. Vol. 25, General Orders, 31 August 1782, ibid., pp. 97-98.

49. "... the whole Army, the Garrison of West Point excepted, will move down and take a position upon Verplank's Point in the course of the present Week.", Washington to the Contractors for the Moving Army, 25 August 1782, ibid., p. 65. General Orders, 30 August 1782, ibid., pp. 93-95.

50. Washington to a Board of Officers, 12 June 1781, ibid., vol. 22 (1937), p. 203. "Return of the number of Women and Children in the several regiments and Corps stationed at, and in the vicinity of West Point and New Windsor, that drew Rations under the late Regulation, shewing also the Number of Rations allowed for Women and Children by the present system", 24 January 1783, Revolutionary War Rolls, reel 136, pp. 259-260.

51. Strength returns of the Continental Army, May 1781 and January 1782, Lesser, Sinews, pp. 202, 242. In May of 1781 the composition of the listed brigades was as follows

1781 Brigade Composition

New Hampshire 1st New Hampshire Regt.
2nd New Hampshire Regt.
Rhode Island Regt.
1st Massachusetts 3rd Mass. Regt.
6th Mass. Regt.
8th Mass. Regt.
10th Mass. Regt.
2nd Massachusetts 2nd Mass. Regt.
4th Mass. Regt.
9th Mass. Regt.
3rd Massachusetts 1st Mass. Regt.
5th Mass. Regt.
7th Mass. Regt.

By January 1783 the brigades were altered:

New Hampshire 1st New Hampshire Regt.
2nd New Hampshire Regt.
1st Massachusetts 1st Mass. Regt.
4th Mass. Regt.
7th Mass. Regt.
2nd Massachusetts 2nd Mass. Regt.
5th Mass. Regt.
8th Mass. Regt.
3rd Massachusetts 3rd Mass. Regt.
6th Mass. Regt.

52. General Orders, 28 December 1782, WGW, vol. 25 (1938), pp. 479-480. Washington to the Superintendent of Finance, 29 January 1783, ibid., vol. 26 (1938), pp. 78-79. Washington to Henry Knox, 8 March 1783, ibid., pp. 199-200.

53. Linda Grant De Pauw, "Women in Combat - The Revolutionary War Experience", Armed Forces and Society, vol. 7, no. 2 (Winter 1981), pp. 209-226.

54. These company ratios are based on a comparison of the 1781 and 1783 main army returns of women. In 1781 there was 92 women in 117 companies of foot (infantry); for 1783 there were 382 women in 162 companies of foot. It is assumed that each regiment carried the full nine companies which were called for in the army organization. Wright, Continental Army, pp. 127, 158.

55. Robert Morris to Washington, 5 February 1783, G.W. Papers, series 4, reel 90. Blumenthal, Women Camp Followers, pp. 15-21, 19, 24-26, 28-29, 32, 33-34, 38-39. Kopperman, British High Command and Soldiers' Wives, pp. 19-20, 26-28. Washington to the Superintendent of Finance, 29 January 1783, WGW, vol. 26 (1938), pp. 78-79.

56. Journal of Dr. Jabez Campfield, 4 August 1779, Cook, Journals of Sullivan's Expedition, page 53. The good doctor wrote concerning the life of a soldier: "How hard is the soldier's lott who's least danger is in the field of action. Fighting happens seldom, but fatigue, hunger, cold & heat are constantly varying his distress." Considering these living conditions the presence of women would have been a great help, even if only psychological, in easing the day to day existence of the troops. Washington to the Superintendent of Finance, 29 January 1783, WGW, vol. 26 (1938), pp. 78-79

General Bibliography

Walter Hart Blumenthal, Women Camp Followers of the American Revolution (New York, 1974), "British Camp Women on the Ration", pp. 15-54. "American Camp Women Under Washington", pp. 57-90.

Mark M. Boatner III Encyclopedia of the American Revolution, (New York, 1966).

Peter F. Copeland, Working Dress in Colonial and Revolutionary America (Westport, Ct., 1977).

Linda Grant De Pauw, "Women in Combat - The Revolutionary War Experience", Armed Forces and Society, vol. 7, no. 2 (Winter 1981), pp. 209-226. An interesting though flawed article which contends, without sufficient evidence that "tens of thousands of women were involved in active combat." For a rebuttal see McKenney's "Comment."

Paul E. Kopperman, "The British High Command and Soldiers' Wives in America, 1755-1783", Journal of the Society for Army Historical Research, no. 60 (1982), pp. 14-34.

Francis B. Heitman, Historical Register of Officers of the Continental Army During the War of the Revolution - April 1775 to December 1783 (Baltimore, Md., 1982).

H.A. Mayer, Belonging to the Army: Camp followers and the Military Community during the American Revolution, PH.D. dissertation, College of William and Mary, 1990. An excellent work which covers both male and female camp followers serving in many capacities.

Janice E. McKenney, "'Women in Combat': Comment", Armed†††† Forces in Society, vol. 8, no. 4 (Summer 1982), pp. 686-692. A well reasoned rebuttal to De Pauw's article which refutes most of the claims made concerning women in combat.