Re: [WarOf1812] Soldier's Wife
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
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
- 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.
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.
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,
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