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Re: [WarOf1812] Soldier's Wife

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  • petemonahan@aol.com
    Erika Re your soldier s wives question: As someone has already pointed out, the Br. Army kept impecable records, so that presumably anyone recorded as
    Message 1 of 12 , Aug 2, 2001
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      Erika

      Re your "soldier's wives" question:

      As someone has already pointed out, the Br. Army kept impecable records, so
      that presumably anyone recorded as married "on the strength" would be carried
      as such even if he and his wife were separated. On the other hand, only six
      men per hundred were to be married (officially) per regulations and that was
      the number authorized to take dependants overseas. Therefore, it follows
      that in most regiments many of the 'married' men would have either married
      without permission or simply be living as 'married" with women regarded by
      all except the (War Department ) as their wives. It's also almost certainly
      the case that a large percentage of the couples from the social classes in
      which the Br. Army recruited never went before a parson. Men and women
      simply "took up together" and were regarded be one and all as married as long
      as they chooses to live as a couple.

      Having said all that, through in the fact that on campaign women who were
      widowed might have as liittle as 72 hours to "re-marry" before a colonel
      could legally declare them "lose women" and have them drummed out of camp.
      Obviously such "marriages" were a matter of common knowledge and company or
      battalion level paper-work, not civil or divine ceremony.

      Combine all these facts with the certainty that almost no private soldier
      shipped out without his "wife" would ever see her again and the extreme
      unlikelihood that he would be able to send her financial suport and it
      becomes a virtual certainty that women "left on the docks" were considered
      for all practical purposes to have been divorced/widowed! There are in fact
      any number of accounts of old soldiers eventually making their way home to
      find wives re-married - which would be regraded as unfortunate/tragic but in
      no way a slur on the woman. Her alternatives, after all, were starving or
      "going on the game" and selling her body. (In fact in rural England as late
      as the 1820's, literally selling an unsatisfactory wife was not unheard of
      either.) Those old folk songs about dressing up as a man and going along
      with her man to the wars probably had more to do with desperation than an
      excess of romantic love and passion: marriage was an economic necessity for
      women in the 19th century, as the world of women (at least lower class ones)
      was divided into girls, wives, very poor widows and whores!

      A long-winded answer to your question, but I wanted to give you the reasoning
      behind it: any abondoned wife would be regarded as simply doing what she had
      to to survive if she took a new husband if her husband went to the wars; no
      surprise, no shame, simply "the way things worked". Hope all this helps!

      Your most humble and obedient servant,
      Peter Monahan, Corporal, Royal Newfoundland Regiment
    • petemonahan@aol.com
      Erika Just read some of the other answer s to your query. Both the seven year rule and parish charity are correct so far as they go, which would be: if
      Message 2 of 12 , Aug 2, 2001
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        Erika

        Just read some of the other answer's to your query. Both the "seven year
        rule" and "parish charity" are correct so far as they go, which would be: if
        she had papers showing she was officially married "on the strength" and if
        the parish would accept them. Keep in mind that clearing out the parish
        workhouse was often done by having the men recruited into the Army: "Good
        luck and don't ever come back!" Alzo, seven years would be a h--l of a time
        to wait on widowhood, living on grass soup the while, so, as with today, what
        the law said and what people did might be markedly different. If you're
        working up an historic impression, claiming that your hubby went for a
        soldier several years aggo and you've got a new one would undoubtedly be
        historically accurate in many many cases!

        Yr M H & O
        P. Monahan
      • yawors1@uwindsor.ca
        Five Rivers wrote: [snip] my recollection is there was a common law in England stating if after seven years a husband (or wife) had not returned they were
        Message 3 of 12 , Aug 2, 2001
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          Five Rivers wrote:

          [snip] my recollection is there was a common law in England stating if
          after seven years a husband (or wife) had not returned they were considered
          dead and the remaining spouse was free to remarry, barring any caveats the
          Church (Rome or England) might have placed upon the couple.

          Lorina

          Ray Hobbs added:
          Mmmm! Linda, I wonder whether this was so. The 41st Regiment of Foot, of
          honoured memory, were stationed in the Canadas for sixteen years
          (1799-1815). Would the married rank and file be considered dead because of
          this? The matter - like all we raise - was more complex.
          YH&OS
          Ray Hobbs
          1/41st Regiment of Foot (CD)

          Jim adds: I think the Common Law says 7 years absence = "legally" dead.
          But "absence" means: whereabouts totally unknown.
          Which of course would not apply if everyone knows one was serving on
          blockade duty on one of HM ships, or garrisoning a hill station in India,
          etc...
          Now, if the soldier or sailor deserted , and then "disappeared" for seven
          years, or went missing in action etc., the wife could apply for an order
          that he was legally dead... which makes her a widow, who could then legally
          remarry.
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