The Real Camp Followers, Officer's Wives

JPK Huson 1863

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Joined
Feb 14, 2012
Location
Central Pennsylvania
officers wife3.jpg


In discussing women of the Civil War it's awfully easy to become lost, or at least side tracked. We have so many, many names emblazoned over those years; famous spies and nurses, female soldiers and vivandiers, teachers, abolitionists, Sanitary and Christian Commission workers- race notwithstanding the active contributions made will never cease making History and the Civil War synonymous with the rustle of skirts and calls to duty.

Photographs tell us much of the era but also leave an awful lot unanswered. LoC and National Archives figure large in photographs of camp life, 1861-1865 with the occasional portrait thrown in. We've been speaking of women whose loyalties to their husbands were legendary. Famous women. There were not-so-famous women whose loyalties took them far from home. I think it is tough sometimes to feel a lot of sympathy for them. Officer's wives after all were indeed fortunate. Thousands, hundreds of thousands of enlisted men in camps, not a sweetheart or wife in sight. Officers in comparatively luxurious quarters shared by well dressed spouses evokes images of inequality. It was. It doesn't matter. A husband at war was a husband at war.

ladies 125 ohio.jpg

Officers and their wives and families, 125 Ohio Regiment

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off wife4.JPG


These women left their homes, traveled unknown distances and many faced certain dangers to be with the officer husbands. I've frequently marveled at these photographs! Brandy Station, for instance. Tiny, little cabins, had to be terribly dark, where the outhouse was, goodness knows, a wood fire inside, rustic? I'll say. Cold, damp, buggy, cramped, surrounded by men- and how on earth did any of them manage to look like the did? Starched and ironed, hair dressed beautifully, apparently all her layers maintained.

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The further thought is, did men leave that camp never to return? It must have happened, those horrible times, a husband due back after some time away whose tent of cabin was never returned to, wife left to pack their little home. We sometimes see children in these photographs, too. Not as frequent, but they're here. Love to read what their memories were. These little families occupy my thoughts frequently, looking through these photos and it's not their lovely dresses or obvious position- it's what might be occupying their thoughts. War and death. It's what they all lived with.

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General and Mrs Rawlins with their daughter, City Point

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Brandy Station

ladies blenkers division officers.jpg

Blenker's Division

ladies Camp Stoneman role call.jpg

Camp Stoneman, see the couple to the right, in front of the tent? I think she is holding a baby.

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These are wives and a child at Arlington, I do have more of an ID somewhere.

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This became parted from ID also, Union officers quarters I think Maryland

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How difficult to remain so well put together! I ' think ' this is also City Point

ladies kilpatrick 3rd cav corp.jpg

3rd Cav Corps, yes, that is whatshisname, with officer's wives.

all of these photographs are LoC and National Archives, some are to be found in both

cont'd
 
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JPK Huson 1863

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Joined
Feb 14, 2012
Location
Central Pennsylvania
I'm disliking posting some of these without their names, please excuse! I generally identify photos by snipping the ID box next to it? For some reason a lot of these have been lost in my files- will come back and add them I hope! Easily done, just Google search, takes me to the LoC or Archives url.

ladies on porcha.jpg


ladies2a.jpg

Love the little boy peering from window, to the right?

lo ladies.jpg

This is in National Archives, one of our Union generals and his wife- will find them! It was hugely popular to have one's photograph taken on Lookout Point. There's a thread here on the photographers who opened a studio there.

off ladies shermans staff part.jpg

Officer's wives attached to Sherman's staff

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officers ladies again.jpg

The women to the left looks terrified, doesn't she?

officers ladies2.jpg

I love this! No idea why. The women just look so perched, determined to be starched and pressed and maybe not terrified.

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Col. Cox and wife, Brandy Station

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A home made from a casemate

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I think this is Alexandria, a different kind of ' follow your husband to camp ', they came anyway.
 

Pat Young

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Featured Book Reviewer
Joined
Jan 7, 2013
Location
Long Island, NY
Great pictures. One of the most famous immigrant women to accompany her officer husband in the field was Nadine Turchin. A political radical and women's rights advocates, she had stong opinions on America.

“the spirit of democracy is already considerably altered by the fatal influence of slavery and by the aristocratic tendencies of the rich-ignorant and perverted. …While the people are being crippled and exhausted, this other class-all businessmen, money-makers, financiers, adventurers-the least generous and the most selfish, grows and adds many aristocrats to the democracy, with no thought for the future.”

“in this great conflict I do not see any great man. Only the women are great, the majority because of their suffering, some for showing their great and high moral virtues…”

Women, she wrote, “[e]ternal slaves of fatal destiny! Shall we ever see the day when mankind is civilized enough to consider seriously our position in the society where they allow us to be everything but intelligent beings authorized to enjoy the rights guaranteed to All! by the American constitution."

http://www.longislandwins.com/colum...sian_revolutionary_aristocrats_at_chickamauga
 

photoman475

Sergeant
Joined
Nov 13, 2015
Location
Fargo, ND
It's amazing to see these photos-thanks for posting them. The question I have is-how many of these photos represent the wives of staff officers, and how many represent field officers? I'm guessing there would be more staff officers's wives present, because of their typically higher rank and pay. I can't see that too many captains and lieutenants with their wives around-they didn't make that much money!
 

Miles Krisman

Sergeant
Joined
Feb 15, 2012
On the Confederate side, they too had wives in camp. General John B. Gordon spent almost the entire war with his wife present in camp. After his multiple wounding in the Sunken Road at the Battle of Sharpsburg/Antietam, it is likely he would have died if not for the loving care provided by his wife during his recovery.

The following is another example from earlier in the war:
"On August 27, 1861, the 5th Alabama Infantry Regiment moved camp along with the rest of the Brigade. The relocation of the regiment now placed it on the right wing of the Brigade. Their Brigade mates, the 6th Alabama, 12th Alabama, and 12th Mississippi, were to their left, all within a half mile. There were actually three or four different camps within the regiment. The regular camp, one for a squad with body lice, one for a squad with the mumps, and another for the wives of Captain Pegues of Company G, and 1st Lieutenant Potts of Company B. Although camp life could be quite difficult compared to the conveniences to be found at home, wives or other family member of officers would periodically spend time with the army. In the case of the Pegues family, this was likely for compassionate reason having lost their youngest child two months earlier."
 

Michael W.

First Sergeant
Joined
Jun 19, 2015
Location
The Hoosier State
My question is, was it very commonplace for officer's wives to follow them, or was it more of an occasional event?
When the army was static in camp, I realize that was the ideal opportunity for wives to visit or stay with their husbands, but what about when the army was on an active campaign? Did they remain behind, or did some take the field along with their spouses?
 

PeterT

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Mar 29, 2015
Location
Melbourne Australia
Great pictures. One of the most famous immigrant women to accompany her officer husband in the field was Nadine Turchin. A political radical and women's rights advocates, she had stong opinions on America.

“the spirit of democracy is already considerably altered by the fatal influence of slavery and by the aristocratic tendencies of the rich-ignorant and perverted. …While the people are being crippled and exhausted, this other class-all businessmen, money-makers, financiers, adventurers-the least generous and the most selfish, grows and adds many aristocrats to the democracy, with no thought for the future.”

“in this great conflict I do not see any great man. Only the women are great, the majority because of their suffering, some for showing their great and high moral virtues…”

Women, she wrote, “[e]ternal slaves of fatal destiny! Shall we ever see the day when mankind is civilized enough to consider seriously our position in the society where they allow us to be everything but intelligent beings authorized to enjoy the rights guaranteed to All! by the American constitution."

http://www.longislandwins.com/colum...sian_revolutionary_aristocrats_at_chickamauga
Excellent thread! Wow Pat she was ahead of her time! Or was she? Seems like she might have been at the forefront of women's rights.
 

JPK Huson 1863

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Joined
Feb 14, 2012
Location
Central Pennsylvania
Great pictures. One of the most famous immigrant women to accompany her officer husband in the field was Nadine Turchin. A political radical and women's rights advocates, she had stong opinions on America.

“the spirit of democracy is already considerably altered by the fatal influence of slavery and by the aristocratic tendencies of the rich-ignorant and perverted. …While the people are being crippled and exhausted, this other class-all businessmen, money-makers, financiers, adventurers-the least generous and the most selfish, grows and adds many aristocrats to the democracy, with no thought for the future.”

“in this great conflict I do not see any great man. Only the women are great, the majority because of their suffering, some for showing their great and high moral virtues…”

Women, she wrote, “[e]ternal slaves of fatal destiny! Shall we ever see the day when mankind is civilized enough to consider seriously our position in the society where they allow us to be everything but intelligent beings authorized to enjoy the rights guaranteed to All! by the American constitution."

http://www.longislandwins.com/colum...sian_revolutionary_aristocrats_at_chickamauga

Thanks for her quote and link, Pat! It's a little tough finding good information on her, isn't it? By good I mean unbiased. Any time one of these women expressed themselves this way, history hasn't been incredibly kind to her. Wish I could find it again, one article I read years ago linked her to mental illness. *sigh* Of course it did. That was an awfully common diagnosis - for women. Even ' good ' sources frequently concentrate on what she did without relating why. Boy, did she get to the heart of the matter or what? " rich-ignorant and perverted ". Could use some of Nadine's hutzpah today.

Looking forward to reading that. Just the title ' Russian Revolutionary Aristocrats at Chickamauga ', not words likely to be glued together, or so you'd think, right?
 

JPK Huson 1863

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Joined
Feb 14, 2012
Location
Central Pennsylvania
There's no way you'd get me that close to the edge of Lookout Mountain. That's just crazy

Ha! Right? It's been a fascination to me, no idea why, a few threads because of it. I'll try to remember to look up the links- some poses make your toes curl. One of our members posted that it wasn't quite the hair raising drop it looks because a ledge is beneath there? Still, read where one of the early photographers fell to his death. Must have been steep enough!
 

JPK Huson 1863

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Joined
Feb 14, 2012
Location
Central Pennsylvania
My question is, was it very commonplace for officer's wives to follow them, or was it more of an occasional event?
When the army was static in camp, I realize that was the ideal opportunity for wives to visit or stay with their husbands, but what about when the army was on an active campaign? Did they remain behind, or did some take the field along with their spouses?

It sounds to me like it was commonplace, or at least common. Think about how rare it would have been for a photographer to be in any one of these camps. That these photos happened to be taken when the wives were present tells it's own story. Women just refused to be left at home for months on end, parted from their husbands. Kind of nice, thinking they'd pack up, come live in discomfort, dirt, bugs and mostly male company just to be a couple.

As far as going on campaign I don't think there's one answer to that? It's just me saying that- not an expert other than having looked into a lot of this for years. It's funny, one book will come out ' Women did this during the war ', inclusive of these wives, another will say something else. One segment of officer's wives who regularly went to the front despite what we tend to hear on who composed front-line nurses were some officer's wives. SO many individual stories out there it's impossible to say who and what rank. Read a few who went to accompany their husbands, saw the need and rolled up their sleeves. Generals wives.

It does seem a little crazy, wives deciding to move their domestic lives all the way into war. They have all my admiration, gosh! It must have been preferable to staying home without the possibility of seeing him. So maybe not so crazy.
 

JPK Huson 1863

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Joined
Feb 14, 2012
Location
Central Pennsylvania
Found one in our National Archived just last night I'd never seen before. Love that! This is cropped from the original.
officers wife brand new big.JPG


officers wife block house.gif

This image could not be made larger or clearer. Block house, with officers and women. There were camps around a lot of these blockhouses and bridges. Without making the statement as fact, this could have been who lived in that camp at the time.

officers wife hat.JPG

This photo and the next one are wonderful- feminine touches in a male world. Both feature carefully placed bonnets. The bed in the next photo has sabers hanging over the bed but a pretty, linen cloth on the little wooden stand in the room and a crocheted shawl..
officers wife hat2.JPG
 

JPK Huson 1863

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Joined
Feb 14, 2012
Location
Central Pennsylvania
It's amazing to see these photos-thanks for posting them. The question I have is-how many of these photos represent the wives of staff officers, and how many represent field officers? I'm guessing there would be more staff officers's wives present, because of their typically higher rank and pay. I can't see that too many captains and lieutenants with their wives around-they didn't make that much money!

I'm not sure? There's a large difference in dress, looking at some of these women and range of age. It's not proof but could indicate lower ranks also enjoyed the privilege. There's the famous photo of a wife and children in camp with her husband, I think a private, in a PA regiment. The surroundings certainly look as if it would have been tougher for her and she's had to go through History with the photographer showing up on the day her sweater had a large hole in it. ( Things like that would have been mended given time ) I'm just not sure less rank precluded husband and wife being together?
 
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JPK Huson 1863

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Joined
Feb 14, 2012
Location
Central Pennsylvania
On the Confederate side, they too had wives in camp. General John B. Gordon spent almost the entire war with his wife present in camp. After his multiple wounding in the Sunken Road at the Battle of Sharpsburg/Antietam, it is likely he would have died if not for the loving care provided by his wife during his recovery.

The following is another example from earlier in the war:
"On August 27, 1861, the 5th Alabama Infantry Regiment moved camp along with the rest of the Brigade. The relocation of the regiment now placed it on the right wing of the Brigade. Their Brigade mates, the 6th Alabama, 12th Alabama, and 12th Mississippi, were to their left, all within a half mile. There were actually three or four different camps within the regiment. The regular camp, one for a squad with body lice, one for a squad with the mumps, and another for the wives of Captain Pegues of Company G, and 1st Lieutenant Potts of Company B. Although camp life could be quite difficult compared to the conveniences to be found at home, wives or other family member of officers would periodically spend time with the army. In the case of the Pegues family, this was likely for compassionate reason having lost their youngest child two months earlier."


Yes, thank you! Would love to address this because it's so frustrating not having many photos from Confederate camps. I'm guessing later in the war it would have been less common for wives to be around, wish we knew more. Officers wives must have traveled to meet them and live with them. I'm guessing conditions were even tougher, especially later in the war. Supplies were so stretched and travel in a lot of areas was very hard, may have put a stop to it here and there. We have such great stories from generals' wives, like Mary Lee and Anna Jackson, wish we had more. I take that back- wish we could find them because bet they're out there in letters and journals.

That paragraph is wonderful! Wonder what the wives thought, coming in 3rd behind the lice and mumps squads.
 

Pat Young

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Featured Book Reviewer
Joined
Jan 7, 2013
Location
Long Island, NY
Thanks for her quote and link, Pat! It's a little tough finding good information on her, isn't it? By good I mean unbiased. Any time one of these women expressed themselves this way, history hasn't been incredibly kind to her. Wish I could find it again, one article I read years ago linked her to mental illness. *sigh* Of course it did. That was an awfully common diagnosis - for women. Even ' good ' sources frequently concentrate on what she did without relating why. Boy, did she get to the heart of the matter or what? " rich-ignorant and perverted ". Could use some of Nadine's hutzpah today.

Looking forward to reading that. Just the title ' Russian Revolutionary Aristocrats at Chickamauga ', not words likely to be glued together, or so you'd think, right?
I think that as more women historians write on the Civil War there will be a reexamination of these women. As I have written elsewhere, we often talk about the mid-19th Century conventions for women without any consciousness that these conventions were not signed on to by many immigrant woman who had different ideas and lived by different rules.
 

JPK Huson 1863

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Joined
Feb 14, 2012
Location
Central Pennsylvania
older couple8.jpg

So sorry, from LoC, managed to lose their ID

ow brandy snip.jpg

A wife ( or nurse ) inside this rustic pavilion. Problem being here at Brandy Station there are photos of officers wives but this is Brandy Station hospital.

ow officers wives 1.jpg
ow officers wives 2.jpg


ow officers wives 3.jpg
ow officers wives 4.jpg


ow officers wuves.jpg

Somewhere are ID's to this Pinterest photo

ow1.jpg



ow2 officers ladies capt cox2.jpg

Captain and ( I think ) Ellen Cox

ow3 walkins and wife2.jpg

Walkins and Hancock look a lot alike1 He and Mrs. Walkins, whose name I have forgotten to find.

It's just important to continue the exploration of our officer's wives- Confederate too, when we can find the. Came across the shortest blurb ever of Fanny Ricketts ( thread coming ), a general's wife and pip in her own right. Resolved me to continue this exploration of our Ladies.

Yes, a distinct social class, yes, privileged where many women suffered. At the risk of a small sermon here, would like to draw us back to our Ladies Tea sticky, the quilt thread. Ladies Tea is meant to be inclusive- our experiences throughout the war, all of us- hence drawing us together in Time.
 
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