Women in the 1812 Army
- First, let me apologize if this posts twice -- I can figure out how to stop it.
Prior to joining my husband's 1812 unit I had already been doing my own research on the roles women had in the 1812 conlfict. Previously, I had been in an AWI unit so I was familiar with what they do -- but 1812 I found was different. I didn't find droves of camp followers. In fact, there were extremely very few women following the American armies in battle situations. II make this distinction because they did go along with the army to some extent ut not necessarily into battle situation a you find in REV War where they are out on the field assisting the wounded or pillaging the dead.
According to my husband David's research, in the 1st US Infantry, the regulation called for only 4 washer women to be attached to the company and of these, they had to be married to one of the soldiers. That is not to say there were not more women tagging along. Since the 1st US was part of the Peace Establishment which had been garrisoned on the frontier _ Fort Madison, Fort Osage, etc. - when they were sent east to the Canada LINE, these women would have most likely gone too. It appears they rendered service at places like Black Rock and Williamsville (?) as hospital matrons as well as washer women.
Our unit often brigades with the 7th US, 25th, 6th Infantry, and Rifle Regiments, and to allow the units to form up and run more smoothly, the delightful Mrs. Abolt and I often do the kitchen mess to free up the soldiers to work on drill. But we all know in reality, if this were an actual army on the march, we would not be there.
I would like to give big KUDOS to the Fort Atkinson group and park site (NEBRASKA) for recognizing the importance of women's contributions to military life by inviting me to give presentations this coming weekend on women's roles and clothing. Men are also being asked to sit in on some of the talks to become better informed as well. I think it was a great idea, and I am glad I can help contribute to fostering a broader view of military life.
It is very hard to document the presence of women attached to the military unless they got into some kind of trouble or they were an officer's wife who left a written account like Lydia Bacon, wife of Captain Josiah Bacon of the 4th US INF. Since the US Army did not directly pay them, they do appear from time to time in ration records. Fort Wayne order books and Fort Osage material have been helpful as are all the accounts of the Fort Dearborn massacre I have hunted down over the past 20 years for my Master's thesis.
I have been amassing what I can on women for a small book on military women during the War of 1812-- so if anyone can offer additional sources for me to look at, I would appreciate it if you could email me of list.
1st US INF/Boone's CO of Missouri Rangers