“they … saluted us with a cannon ball”

Thousands of women traveled with the armies during the Revolution: American, British, and Hessian. Called “camp followers,” they served as cooks, laundresses, seamstresses, and nurses. Some were wives—of officers or common soldiers. Others offered themselves as sexual partners, but most were women who hoped to obtain something to eat and earn a few pennies. In fact, in recognition of the useful services they provided many were “officially attached” and entitled to rations. With General John Burgoyne’s army moving south from Canada in 1777, there were between 1,000 and 2,000 women and children. Elizabeth Munro Fisher, wife of a Loyalist, described camp life near Saratoga.

We were deprived of all comforts of life, and did not dare to kindle fire for fear we should be observed from the other side of the river [where the Americans were], and they might fire on us, which they did several times. Being about the middle of October, we suffered cold and hunger; many a day I had nothing but a piece of raw salt pork, a biscuit, and a drink of water. … One day, wearied of living in this manner, I told some of the soldier’s wives if they would join me, I would find out a way to get some provisions cooked—seven of them joined me. I spoke to some of the soldiers that were invalid, and told them if they would make up a fire back in the wood, and get a large kettle hung on, we would fill it with provision, and cook it. … They consented to do it for a guinea; they went to work and built up a fire, hung on a kettle, and put water in it, then we women put in what we pleased; we soon filled it with a variety; it began to boil; we all kept our distance from the fire for fear of the cannon that were placed on the other side of the river on a high hill; they soon discovered our fire, and saluted us with a cannon ball; it struck and broke our kettle to pieces, and sent the provision in the air. We met with no hurt only losing our intended feast. …

posted November 15th, 2012 by Janet, CATEGORIES: Camp followers, Saratoga

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