What was the Regular Army regulations for women?

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Harms88

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I’m working on a new story and am planning on having a POV character who is a Lieutenant in the Regular Army. I want to give him a wife but I want to make sure that I portray her properly within the world of the 1860’s Regular Army.

Now my question is, what was the regulations for women accompanying the army? Obviously you see officers who have their wives with them, especially in the CS army, such as John B. Gordon or A.P. Hill whose wife was very active in his command when he was down with sickness to the point that the soldiers gave her a nickname that was basically “The Petticoat General” or something like that I forget the name.

Could the wives of Regular officers accompany them on campaign? Was there a limit on how many women could accompany a regiment?

I know with the British Royal Army, at least during the time of the Revolution, the limit was 3 per 100 men and the Hessians also had a similar structure. Is there a similar regulation for women in the US Regulars.
 

thomas aagaard

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did a search on the word "wife" in the 1861 US regulations...
Only thing that showed up was 930 saying that a man with a wife or child can't enlist in time of peace.

When doing a search on "woman" the word show up a number of times, but it is all about the fact that Each company could have 4 woman as laundress. (And this get mentioned in more than one way each focusing one different issues with them)

But that is pretty much it.
I get the impression that any wifes (unless they where on the roster as laundress) was not something the army cared about and that it by the end of the day was up to the local CO to deal with.

On some prewar garrisons the officers did have their families with them and at others they did not.
 

Harms88

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did a search on the word "wife" in the 1861 US regulations...
Only thing that showed up was 930 saying that a man with a wife or child can't enlist in time of peace.

When doing a search on "woman" the word show up a number of times, but it is all about the fact that Each company could have 4 woman as laundress. (And this get mentioned in more than one way each focusing one different issues with them)

But that is pretty much it.
I get the impression that any wifes (unless they where on the roster as laundress) was not something the army cared about and that it by the end of the day was up to the local CO to deal with.

On some prewar garrisons the officers did have their families with them and at others they did not.
So a regiment with say 8 companies could potentially have 24 women as laundresses. The impression I get is that officers wives may have counted towards that number (even if they didn't act as such).

With the sheet volume of women (which seems to be by mid-war 1 woman for every 10 men), I bet that in most cases, unless the CO was a real hard-nose, his stance on officers wives probably would have been like "As long as she doesn't interfere with your duties, she can stay."
 
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thomas aagaard

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Prewar full 10 company regiments basically never served at only one post. They where spread out one company here and one company there across the west and the border to Mexico.
 

Harms88

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The occupation of Utah was perhaps the sole exception to that rule of thumb, where there was 3,500 garrisoned at Camp Floyd.

But even in the War the policy was to spread out the regiments. As I recall mainly it was by battalions. And that Regular Army batteries were divided by sections to provide a neculus that the volunteers could form around and take example from.

In any case, my next Civil War books purchase is going to be That Body of Brave Men which deals exclusively with the Regular Army in the Western Theater (my fictional character is going to be with the 18th US Infantry). I'm hoping it will provide additional info on the topic of women in the Regular Army.
 

thomas aagaard

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But even in the War the policy was to spread out the regiments. As I recall mainly it was by battalions. And that Regular Army batteries were divided by sections to provide a neculus that the volunteers could form around and take example from.
The Regular infantry was organized together in one division in the Army of Potomac.
In Army of the Cumberland it was gathered in one brigade.

So infantry was not spread out.
Arguably it would have been better to dissolve the regular army and use the men as a cadre for the volunteer regiments.
Experienced privates would have been useful as sergeants in volunteer companies to help spread prewar military experience and skills to the rest of the army. Regular army none commissioned officers would have made great 1st sergeants and company officers.

(Note that the old regiments only had one battalion but in a few cases companies of the same battalion ended up serving apart for the whole war since they when the war broke out they simply ended apart. The new regiments added in may 1861 usually had two battalions and they might not serve together.)

The artillery was spread out... but it was done by battery as fare as I know. Not by sections.
 
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We discussed something similar to this last year.

https://civilwartalk.com/threads/did-wives-and-family-follow-soldiers-to-war.159486/


I don't know the actual regulations. However, in the other thread it was noted that the soldier needed to have enough money to feed his spouse.

Now, in the winter of 1864 - 1865, Julia Grant stayed with her husband at his winter quarters at City Point. From what I read, several of the officers at City Point had their wives with them.

It is my understanding that Grant sent Julia away prior to troop movements and prior to battles.

Edit: Here is another prior discussion on a similar topic:

https://civilwartalk.com/threads/home-sweet-war-where-the-boots-came-off.139785/
 
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James Brenner

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A bit more research is in order, I think - particularly in the Regulations, the various regimental order books, diaries, and letters. You'll find the primary sources more useful than the secondary ones.

Anyway, women were authorized in the regular army, but ... Prior to the CW, there were four women "on the ration" in a company who, in exchange for doing laundry, the army gave them one half ration per day. They sometimes had access to the surgeon, but there was no guarantee. These women were always soldiers' wives. They were also able to charge the soldiers for cooking, sewing, etc. They were not prostitutes and, in fact, the army had quite a few regulations regarding prostitutes. That does not mean, though, that laundresses were the only women in camp. They were not. Those not officially "employed" were termed camp followers. BTW, a camp follower could be a male; a sutler, for example. Officers wives were treated differently. Typically, if the regiment/brigade/division was in one place for any period of time, it wasn't uncommon for officers to send for their wives. The army did not feed/house them; that was up to the husband who paid for the entire visit. Did officers' wives go on campaign? Maybe, but I suspect that it was pretty uncommon.
 

thomas aagaard

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Note sutlers was not "unregulated" camp followers.
It was an official post you could hold and there where a number of regulations in regard to how they did business. In exchange for army support.
 
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JPK Huson 1863

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I've been fascinated by the topic, too and what were the regulations- I must have dozens of ' wife in camp ' images. Also newspaper clippings- a few are about officers being arrested because they ( and their wives ) defied an order clearing women from a camp. In two cases the wives were dressed as soldiers, not to be female soldiers it was to not be discovered.

From what I've found, Army regulations seemed to be per camp/officer in charge? It sounds as if, when things could get hot or the camp went on the march women were forbidden? Found one order where a general just seemed annoyed wives were distracting their husbands.


I'd re-make that thread if I could. It's pretty incomplete. Since posting it, researched ( which I'm not very good at ) some of the reasons women were where they are, discovered more of their stories, etc.


Kids in camp generally meant wives in camp. I ' think ' I found the official order banning wives from camp after one of the images was taken?

Happy to PM what I have by way of newspapers, etc., if it's helpful.
 

Ataxerxes

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The Regular infantry was organized together in one division in the Army of Potomac.
In Army of the Cumberland it was gathered in one brigade.

So infantry was not spread out.
Arguably it would have been better to dissolve the regular army and use the men as a cadre for the volunteer regiments.
Experienced privates would have been useful as sergeants in volunteer companies to help spread prewar military experience and skills to the rest of the army. Regular army none commissioned officers would have made great 1st sergeants and company officers.

(Note that the old regiments only had one battalion but in a few cases companies of the same battalion ended up serving apart for the whole war since they when the war broke out they simply ended apart. The new regiments added in may 1861 usually had two battalions and they might not serve together.)

The artillery was spread out... but it was done by battery as fare as I know. Not by sections.
Actually in the West, this was only the case that the regular infantry was consolidated into one brigade after Perryville. Up until then the 15th, 16th, 18th and 19th US were spread out in different brigades.
Additionally, as covered in That Body of Brave Men, the regular units were comprised of 12 companies divided into 3 battalions of 4 companies. Throughout the war, the western regular units were chronically short men due to the government holding back as much as a battalion or more of each of those regiments in garrison to deal with recruiting and other behind the scenes duties.
With regard to the original question, I don’t recall any references in the book to women following along with the regiments, and there was a lot about the strict regulations the regulars had to follow. Not saying it didn’t happen, but something to think about.
 

thomas aagaard

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Additionally, as covered in That Body of Brave Men, the regular units were comprised of 12 companies divided into 3 battalions of 4 companies. Throughout the war, the western regular units were chronically short men due to the government holding back as much as a battalion or more of each of those regiments in garrison to deal with recruiting and other behind the scenes duties.
That is simply not correct.
The "old" regiments had 10 companies in one battalion. And the volunteer regiments used the same structure.

The "new" regiments added in May 1861 had, on paper 24 companies split into 3 battalions.

"That there shall be added to the regular army, as now authorized by law, nine regiments of infantry, one regiment of cavalry, and one regiment of artillery; each regiment of infantry to consist of not less than two nor more than three battalions, (...)
each battalion to consist of eight companies; each company to consist of one captain, one first and one second lieutenant, one first sergeant, four sergeants, eight corporals, two musicians and as many privates, not exceeding eighty-two, as the President of the United States may, according to the requirements of military service "

(https://www.loc.gov/law/help/statutes-at-large/37th-congress/c37.pdf - Book page 279)


But none of them ever got to full strength and therefor they generally only had two battalions.

The issue was not the government holding back men, but the volunteers preferring to join volunteer regiments for a max of 3 years, instead of joining the regular army for 5 years.
 
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Just based on some of the plots for British Regency historical fiction, I can see why not everyone would be excited about having women join their husbands on campaign.

For example, there is a well-known author of British regency fiction who has a series of books which includes a character who is a widow of a British officer. In the final book, it is revealed that the widow had accompanied her late husband on campaign. They were captured. The enemy (so I guess it was the French or French allies) tortured the husband in an attempt to get intelligence information out of him. When this didn't work, they threatened to gang rape his wife in front of him. The wife managed to grab somebody's side arm and shoot her husband to put them out of his misery from his torture session before the enemy could get any secrets out of him.
 

James Brenner

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Although earlier than the time in question, here's a report from St. Clair’s army in 1791 which describes an incident in which a woman was drummed out. “Monday Augst. 8th​. March’d at 4 AM. Weather hot & Men fatigued. Encamped at Elizabeth Town 18 miles from Lancaster. – dismiss’d Mrs​. Graham on the road for impudently bringing, at three different times this Morning, Canteens of rum to the Men, Notwithstanding her promises, & my positive Orders to ye​. Contrary, & in defiance of my repeated threats to Drum her out of my Camp if she presum’d it. Hope this example will deter ye​ rest of ye​ fair sex who accompany my detachment, from comitting errors which may deprive them of the honour of following it. “A Picture of the First United States Army: The Journal of Captain Samuel Newman”, ed. Milo M. Quaife, Wisconsin Magazine of History, II (September, 1918). It's not clear what happened to Mrs. Graham afterwards; hopefully, she wasn't with the army at St. Clair's defeat.
 

Ataxerxes

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That is simply not correct.
The "old" regiments had 10 companies in one battalion. And the volunteer regiments used the same structure.

The "new" regiments added in May 1861 had, on paper 24 companies split into 3 battalions.

"That there shall be added to the regular army, as now authorized by law, nine regiments of infantry, one regiment of cavalry, and one regiment of artillery; each regiment of infantry to consist of not less than two nor more than three battalions, (...)
each battalion to consist of eight companies; each company to consist of one captain, one first and one second lieutenant, one first sergeant, four sergeants, eight corporals, two musicians and as many privates, not exceeding eighty-two, as the President of the United States may, according to the requirements of military service "

(https://www.loc.gov/law/help/statutes-at-large/37th-congress/c37.pdf - Book page 279)


But none of them ever got to full strength and therefor they generally only had two battalions.

The issue was not the government holding back men, but the volunteers preferring to join volunteer regiments for a max of 3 years, instead of joining the regular army for 5 years.
Sorry yes, 3 battalions of 8 companies, not 4 - my mistake - don’t know why I wrote 4. But yes, that’s the point I was trying to make with recruitment - even after they consolidated into a Regular Brigade in late 1862, they were never at “full strength” due to several companies being held back in garrison to handle recruiting.

If I remember correctly though, Johnson in his book also says that it was the US Army’s intention all along for two battalions to be on campaign while the third was held back for recruiting, training, etc.
 
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Harms88

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Sorry yes, 3 battalions of 8 companies, not 4 - my mistake - don’t know why I wrote 4. But yes, that’s the point I was trying to make with recruitment - even after they consolidated into a Regular Brigade in late 1862, they were never at “full strength” due to several companies being held back in garrison to handle recruiting.

If I remember correctly though, Johnson in his book also says that it was the US Army’s intention all along for two battalions to be on campaign while the third was held back for recruiting, training, etc.
It appears in most cases that there was never enough recruits in the New Units to fill up the third battalions.
 

Ataxerxes

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It appears in most cases that there was never enough recruits in the New Units to fill up the third battalions.
It seems as if the regulars had a lot going against them. 3 year enlistments (or duration of war) for the rank and file, and potential of quick advancement for officers? I would have chosen to be a volunteer 10/10.
 

thomas aagaard

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It seems as if the regulars had a lot going against them. 3 year enlistments (or duration of war) for the rank and file, and potential of quick advancement for officers? I would have chosen to be a volunteer 10/10.
Also back then being a private soldier in the regular army was a low status profession. Something you did when you could not manage to get and hold a real job.

Volunteering to defend you country on the other hand was Honorable and very different.
So that was yet another reason to join the volunteers.
 
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JPK Huson 1863

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A few wives in camp, last image I'm not sure where- maybe somewhere in Tennessee/

kids camp ladies 125 ohio.jpg

125th OVI

kids camp stoneman2.JPG

Camp Stoneman, at a band review ( I think )

dad sold wife kids in camp.jpg

This family pops up at what appears to be the christening of a bridge, too. I've never been able to track them down which is frustrating. It shouldn't be too tough.
 
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