Vivandiere impression?

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Yankee Brooke

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1568287208385.png

photo from this thread: https://civilwartalk.com/threads/a-peach-is-a-peach-is-a-vivandiere.115454/

So in deciding on an impression to reenact, I decided to look up specific things women did during the war. I came across the illustrious vivandieres, and I may very well be hooked on that impression now.

My main question is, would any units even be interested in accepting that impression into their ranks? I imagine ones with a civilian "auxiliary" would be more willing to accept that. I realize they weren't officially part of the unit or military.

If any of you are an officer/NCO/member of a unit, do you think your unit would be accepting of that? Or is this something I may just have to go alone?

I'm not terribly worried about which side, although I suppose Eastern PA/NJ would be ideal as far as unit location. I'm willing to link up with units outside of that area if need be.
 
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JPK Huson 1863

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Since I know almost nothing about reenacting I can't answer the main question but love this idea. Vivandier really caught the public interest. There was a fairly long running ballet making the rounds long after most Vivandier had ditched the term and became front line or hospital nurses.

It shouldn't be too tough coming up with a uniform- they were so varied! As WJC said, tons of threads on them here. Between photos and era sketches there's plenty of sources. Have you looked up Marie Tepe?
 
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captaindrew

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If you're willing to be an "Ice Angel" most units will welcome you with open arms especially in warm weather. Follow behind with some extra water and ice and keep an eye out for anyone that may be having trouble. I know in the units I'm involved in we greatly appreciate you ladies that are willing to do it.
 

Frederick14Va

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I would also keep in mind that not every event may be receptive to the impression. Its one of those impressions that has been greatly over represented at many events, as compared to the numbers of such that actually existed. Viv's aka "Daughters of the Regiment", which majority were a mascot of sorts and most commonly were young daughters of some ranking officer of the Regiment, and typically were not present with them while on active campaign. Yes there were a few that did, but that was moreso a rarity than common place. At some events it was not uncommon to find many dozens of them running about up on the battle line, which gave the public the impression this was common place at nearly any and every battle. Hence many events begain to restrict if not prohibit them dressed as such on the field... Habitually will fall in the same event guideline category of restricting the dozens of Gen Lee, Grant, Lincoln, Mary Walker portrayals from making an appearance in mass out of historical context of the given event. As with most specialized impressions it frequently will find itself to be restricted to reflect time/place, and might not properly fit well at every event. Same issue with Zouaves, Berdans, Tigers, Balloon Corp, etc... A generic Living History that is not portraying a specific impression to time/place is one thing... Portraying same at Battle of X event likely may be different. I have multiple impressions and chose carefully which fits best at the time and location portrayed. I also have been Event Coordinator and/or on Event staff for many over the years. Just being honest and something to be aware of in advance.
 

Yankee Brooke

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If you're willing to be an "Ice Angel" most units will welcome you with open arms especially in warm weather. Follow behind with some extra water and ice and keep an eye out for anyone that may be having trouble. I know in the units I'm involved in we greatly appreciate you ladies that are willing to do it.
If I were to portray a Vivandiere, then I would actually do the duties of one. I'm not just gonna stand around and look pretty. What you describe seems to have been inline with the duties of, and therefore I would consider a given. Helping "wounded" soldiers is another thing I plan to do. Late war events I'll mostly don a more generic look and stay back at the field hospital as a nurse.

I would also keep in mind that not every event may be receptive to the impression. Its one of those impressions that has been greatly over represented at many events, as compared to the numbers of such that actually existed. Viv's aka "Daughters of the Regiment", which majority were a mascot of sorts and most commonly were young daughters of some ranking officer of the Regiment, and typically were not present with them while on active campaign. Yes there were a few that did, but that was moreso a rarity than common place. At some events it was not uncommon to find many dozens of them running about up on the battle line, which gave the public the impression this was common place at nearly any and every battle. Hence many events begain to restrict if not prohibit them dressed as such on the field... Habitually will fall in the same event guideline category of restricting the dozens of Gen Lee, Grant, Lincoln, Mary Walker portrayals from making an appearance in mass out of historical context of the given event. As with most specialized impressions it frequently will find itself to be restricted to reflect time/place, and might not properly fit well at every event. Same issue with Zouaves, Berdans, Tigers, Balloon Corp, etc... A generic Living History that is not portraying a specific impression to time/place is one thing... Portraying same at Battle of X event likely may be different. I have multiple impressions and chose carefully which fits best at the time and location portrayed. I also have been Event Coordinator and/or on Event staff for many over the years. Just being honest and something to be aware of in advance.
As I said above, I plan to portray a nurse or even generic civilian, if my services are not needed/allowed/proper. Like @JPK Huson 1863 said, the look is basically all over the place, to the point of being wide open to individual preferences. My own research basically confirms that. My vision is either a sky blue or gray dress, depending on side portrayed, and a more fitted shell jacket and cap from my respective army uniform, maybe add some fancy trim. That leaves it open to simply leaving the hat and jacket behind to make it a more generic civilian impression. Also I certainly have the young part down, I still pass for late teens/early 20's. :wink:
 
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JPK Huson 1863

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There was a thread not long ago about how did women get written out of ACW history- one way has been this ' thing ' we do where one or two famous names get to be it. You know. Belle Boyd, spy, Dix or Barton, nurse, Julia Grant, general's wife, Marie Tepe, Vivandier etc. The thing is these women weren't alone, they just get to represent all the nameless women who really were there.

Vivandier really did go to war, honest. Just because we think the outfits are maybe cute in 2019 doesn't mean that's why women wish to portray one. These women were part of ACW history. Heck, ( and again riding my hobby horse ) we know how many horses and mules died in the war, no one has the faintest idea how many nurses. Point being we don't know a lot about any of women's roles. We at least know they were there.
 

Claude Bauer

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So in deciding on an impression to reenact, I decided to look up specific things women did during the war. I came across the illustrious vivandieres, and I may very well be hooked on that impression now.

My main question is, would any units even be interested in accepting that impression into their ranks? I imagine ones with a civilian "auxiliary" would be more willing to accept that. I realize they weren't officially part of the unit or military.

If any of you are an officer/NCO/member of a unit, do you think your unit would be accepting of that? Or is this something I may just have to go alone?

I'm not terribly worried about which side, although I suppose Eastern PA/NJ would be ideal as far as unit location. I'm willing to link up with units outside of that area if need be.
I think you'd have better luck with a Vivandier impression if you found a unit that does a lot of living history events as opposed to large scale reenactments. As others have noted, the Vivandier impression was once over-represented at big events. However, the primary purpose of a living history event is to talk to the spectators, so in a setting like that, you'd be able to explain who and what you're portraying, which is typically not the case at a big reenactment.

I do a lot of living history events, and have done presentations for places like the Lion's Club and the local library, where it would have been great to have a Vivandier along to talk about how women participated in the conflict--I think the women in the audience would have found that fascinating--something beyond the typical guy-oriented, "guns and gear" talk.

I also occasionally fall-in with a unit where a woman portrays a Vivandier. At a living history event a female spectator pointed at her and asked me somewhat disparagingly, "Who's she supposed to be?" I responded with what I knew about the Vivandiers and she was surprised to hear that they had existed--I encouraged her to talk the Vivandier and learn more. So, it's a valid impression, just one that needs the appropriate setting to be appreciated.
 

byron ed

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Valid impression, but rare in execution at the time. Vivandier was not typically an official Army designation or rank but more in the mode of mascot or contracted attendant to the Army, and not typically while on campaign.

More likely and more interesting (imho) for a woman's role would be Army nurse or volunteer civilian nurse, or Sanitary Commission worker, Contraband teacher, or a Civilian leader who promoted and raised funds and badgered the Army for care of its soldiers. Not to mention those women who participated in the Underground Railroad (which was yet active through the middle of the war). In other words there are opportunities in the roles of the strong, capable and opinionated women that made a real difference in the war.

Not to say that some Vivandiers were not heroes as well, but by comparison, generally, Vivandier is perhaps a somewhat trivial role to take on for reenacting. It is admittedly more showy because of the quasi-uniforms they wore, and it will get more attention than some of those more gritty roles a woman can take on.

Of course there is a rare place for women who snuck into the Army as soldiers, but like Vivandiers that role has been extremely overplayed at living histories, if not reenactments.
 
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Yankee Brooke

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Nurse would be something I'd also be interested in... Sanitary Commission worker sounds interesting, and probably not well represented. I think I might be a little to "young" looking for that though. (seriously, my coworkers thought I was 19 when I started, I still low ball my age because it's easier and more believable for me to be 23 than 32. I've had people try and argue saying I was bluffing.) I also might have been considered "too pretty" to be an actual Army nurse, I read that Dorothea Dix was known to only hire older or more "homely" looking ladies.

Civilian volunteer nurse or vivandier seems were my appearance would fit best.
 
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Lampasas Bill

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Has anyone researched how many vivandiers actually took the field and how long any of them lasted in that role? With so many regimental histories written after the war, there must be mention of them. I can remember seeing only two photographs of a vivandier with troops in camp, and only one actually taken on a battlefield. I'm not denying some saw action, but I'm curious what research has been done into their history.
 
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Story

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They have a Facebook page, with updates from late 2018
 

Claude Bauer

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I'd be interested in seeing that when(if) it releases, thank you.
Keeping an eye on this. It's an interesting story seldom told. Soldiers and uniforms aren't quite up to "authentic" standards of the reenacting community, although the general public probably won't notice.
 
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Kurt G

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So in deciding on an impression to reenact, I decided to look up specific things women did during the war. I came across the illustrious vivandieres, and I may very well be hooked on that impression now.

My main question is, would any units even be interested in accepting that impression into their ranks? I imagine ones with a civilian "auxiliary" would be more willing to accept that. I realize they weren't officially part of the unit or military.

If any of you are an officer/NCO/member of a unit, do you think your unit would be accepting of that? Or is this something I may just have to go alone?

I'm not terribly worried about which side, although I suppose Eastern PA/NJ would be ideal as far as unit location. I'm willing to link up with units outside of that area if need be.
Have you looked into Annie Etheridge ? She was a remarkable woman .
 
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