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Women of the Army

War is masculine. It is violent, gritty, not for the tender or weak. Memoirs of battles and stories of the American Revolution and army life are most often written by and of men. In them, men are the action heroes. When a woman's story is told, it is often the perspective from the home front, remaining loyally behind to keep the home fires burning while her man fights. There were women, usually wives, who followed the army from camp to camp and battle to battle. They worked as seamstresses, nurses, washerwomen, and, when necessary, fellow soldiers. Life was dangerous and they were not always protected from the heat of battle. If they became a distraction or committed an offense, they were held accountable to the same discipline as their soldier husbands. They were, in essence, soldiers without the title. These were not the clean, well-dressed, cultured and obedient women expected for the times. They were often dirty, bedraggled, illiterate and strong-minded. When told to leave camp, they did not obey; they followed their menfolk, husbands mostly, but sons, nephews, fathers and others. For some it was a matter of safety. Others had nowhere else to go. So they followed and, along the way, they cooked, sewed, washed laundry, slept in tents on hard ground, went hungry, gave birth and raised families.