November Tea Party Winners: Carrie Fancett Pagels' copy of The Great Lakes Lighthouse Brides Collection - Debbie Curto, Christmas tea - Andrea Stephens, Golden Tea body wash Joy Ellis, lighthouse earrings -- Pegg's SIL from Lake Ann and Perrianne Askew, Pegg Thomas's Leather journal - Shelia Hall, and Writing Prompts book goes to - Connie Porter Saunders

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

The Camp Followers' Lot

“I was obliged to give Provisions to the extra Women in these regiments, or lose by Desertion, perhaps to the enemy, some of the oldest and best Soldiers in the Service.” —George Washington to Robert Morris.

“The number of Women and Children in the New York Regiments of Infantry . . . obliged me . . . to allow them Provision or, by driving them from the Army, risk the loss of a number of Men, who very probably would have followed their wives.” —George Washington to Major General Henry Knox

“A woman whose husband belonged to the artillery and who was then attached to a piece in the engagement attended her husband at the piece the whole time. While in the act of reaching a cartridge and having one of her feet as far before the other as she could step, a cannon shot from the enemy passed directly between her legs without doing any other damage than carrying away all the lower part of her petticoat. Looking at it with apparent unconcern, she observed that it was lucky it did not pass a little higher, for in that case it might have carried away something else.” —At Monmouth, from Diary of Joseph Plumb Martin

Battle of Monmouth
Molly Pitcher at Battle of Monmouth
J. C. Armytage, c. 1859
During the American Revolution the majority of officers were not overjoyed to have women following the army. Their main objections were that they made the army look unprofessional, created disorder, interfered with military operations, and distracted the soldiers, even tempting them to desert. But blocking women from military camps resulted in the loss of many good soldiers whose families were in need or who simply missed their wives. Some asked for furloughs, and then deserted if denied. Others cut to the chase and simply deserted. It was a Catch-22. Although Washington, like many other officers, hated to admit it, the army needed women as much as the women we call “camp followers” needed the army.

Camp Follower Saluting General Washington
Today we lump all these women into one category, but technically, the term “camp follower”—never used in the 18th century—refers to women who performed paid services such as laundry and nursing, for which they usually received a half or quarter of a soldier’s pay and rations. They were required to obey applicable army regulations that, among other things, forbade riding on the baggage carts, gambling, and engaging in prostitution. Of course, human nature being what it is, not all of them refrained from doing so. Other women who traveled with or visited the army—officer’s wives, refugees, sutlers, and so on—didn’t fit into that category.

Women followed an army for a variety reasons: They wanted to stay with their husbands. They needed an income. They were forced to flee from their homes and had no other options. The army provided a measure of safety, shelter, food, and work. In return the women also endured plenty of discomfort, hardships, and danger. They worked as hard and endured the same suffering as the soldiers. Some even broke out of traditional roles by serving in the ranks alongside their husbands. But a women had to be married to a soldier in order to get one of the limited number of the army’s paying jobs. If he died, she would have to marry another soldier within a short period of time to hold onto her job.

Doing laundry in a British camp
Washington couldn’t afford to lose men because of their families, but he also couldn’t afford to feed every one of the hungry mouths applying for subsistence when the army could barely support its own troops. Women who worked for the army received anywhere from one-quarter to one full ration, depending on what duties they performed, so officers tried to keep a lid on the army’s dependents. “The multitude of women in particular, especially those who are pregnant, or have children, are a clog upon every movement,” Washington wrote in August 1777. “The Commander in Chief earnestly recommends it to the officers to use every reasonable method in their power to get rid of all such as are not absolutely necessary.” To that end commanders called for regular reports the women in their units and sent away those who weren’t married, didn’t perform necessary tasks, behaved badly, or were sick.

Many women earned their rations by washing and mending clothing. Not only could women draw provisions, but they could also charge by the piece. The army regulated prices, however, and overcharging was a serious offense. Women also worked as cooks, but mostly for officers and support personnel such as blacksmiths, wheelwrights, and farriers. Regular soldiers formed “messes” composed of six men who shared chores such as hauling water, chopping wood, and cooking.

Following the Army, Pamela Patrick White
Women also earned money and rations by nursing. Women traditionally served as nurses, and in the army they freed the men to fight. Throughout the war nurses were in short supply, therefore in constant demand. Nurses received regular pay for keeping the hospital and its patients clean and assisting the surgeons, the least desirable jobs in medical care that also exposed them to deadly diseases such as smallpox and all kinds of camp fevers. Officers went as far as promising full rations and an allowance to women who agreed to serve as nurses and threatening to withhold rations from those who refused.

Imagine being a camp follower in the 18th century. You’re lacking the comforts and conveniences of home, so daily chores are much harder and privacy virtually nonexistent. And you’re thrown into the company of women from a variety of social classes whose way of life and behavior are very different from yours. Plus you may often be on the road and in the midst of battle. What do you think would be your hardest challenges, especially if you also had children to care for?
J. M. Hochstetler is the daughter of Mennonite farmers, a lifelong student of history, and an author, editor, and publisher. Her American Patriot Series is the only comprehensive historical fiction series on the American Revolution. Book 6, Refiner’s Fire, releases in June 2019. Northkill, Book 1 of the Northkill Amish Series coauthored with Bob Hostetler, won Foreword Magazine’s 2014 Indie Book of the Year Bronze Award for historical fiction. Book 2, The Return, received the 2017 Interviews and Reviews Silver Award for Historical Fiction and was named one of Shelf Unbound’s 2018 Notable Indie Books. One Holy Night, a contemporary retelling of the Christmas story, was the Christian Small Publishers 2009 Book of the Year and a finalist in the Carol Award.

Monday, January 14, 2019

The Problem of Slavery

"Overboard," courtesy of the Bristol Radical History Group

Slavery. Just the word makes us cringe. Moderns very nearly lose their minds in the simplest of discussions over the subject, because of recent resurgence of racial tensions in our country. But for any student of colonial history—really, of any history at all—it’s absolutely unavoidable.

The first thing that comes to mind in relation to slavery is, of course, the American Civil War. I’m currently neck-deep in writing a story set right in the middle of the Civil War—which is still somewhat of a shock to me, since colonial America is still my favorite—but this means I’m having to grapple with the issue of slavery as never before. In considering how it relates to the colonial era, and all the problems we moderns tend to have even in merely discussing it, I’ve made some interesting observations about this terrible fixture of history.

To begin with, like many other aspects of history, slavery isn’t always taught in schools with the best of accuracy. Some are even under the impression that slavery actually originated with the European “invasion” of America. Well, not so. Slavery—the practice of forcibly taking and keeping human beings for profit, subjugation, or sacrifice—has been around nearly as long as humans themselves. The exact nature of slavery, or the purposes behind it, might have varied, but the practice most definitely did not start here in our country, or even with Europeans. Almost every major civilization practiced slavery of some kind of another, from the Romans to the Greeks and all the way back to the Egyptians and beyond, and then forward to our time, perpetrated as human trafficking or an act of war by extremist groups such as ISIS or Boko Haram.

Another problem of discussing such awful realities is a moral one, because we never want to appear that we’re condoning or justifying slavery in any form, but as historians we are obligated to acknowledge it as a very real cultural and societal force.

It was a strongly defining force in American history, for sure, as it was for many other nations. The case could be made that chattel slavery, the term simply used to refer to treating people as property, was first introduced to the Americas by Europeans, but slavery in various forms was certainly not a new thing to the native populations.

Christian slaves in Algiers, 1706
Slavery did, however, mean different things to different peoples. We tend to think of it in terms of permanence, with no way of escape or recourse in case of wrong, as was mostly the case of the American colonies (and later, specifically the South). But as I mentioned in previous posts, native customs of taking captives fell mostly into one of two categories: one, for vengeance, where many of these were killed as sacrifices, or two, in bereavement, where captives were adopted in place of deceased family members. It’s well documented, however, that both blacks and natives did practice chattel slavery, and at least one article discusses how many wealthy Cherokee took their black slaves along on the Trail of Tears. I uncovered so much on the various aspects of slavery during the colonial era that I’d like to take the next couple months to explore both its impact on native tribes, and abolitionist attitudes specific to the Revolutionary War. So—please stay tuned!

Friday, January 11, 2019


Washington DC has been our nation’s capital since 1800. Did you know before that we had several other capitals? Our legislators were on the move.

For clarities sake and to relax any grammarian’s feathers:
Capital: the city or town that is the official seat of government in a country, state, etc.
Capitol: the building in Washington, D.C., used by the Congress of the U.S. for its sessions. A building occupied by a state legislature.

The First Continental Congress
1.      met from September 5, 1774 to October 24, 1774 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania at Carpenter’s Hall
The Second Continental Congress
2.     met from May 10, 1775 to December 12, 1776 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania at the State House
3.     From December 20, 1776 to February 27, 1777 they met in Baltimore, Maryland at Henry Fite’s House
4.     From March 4, 1777 to September 18, 1777 they met in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania at the State House
5.     On September 27, 1777 they met in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, Court House
6.     From September 30, 1777 to June 27, 1778 they met at York, Pennsylvania at the Court House
7.     From July 2, 1778 to March 1, 1781they met in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania at the College Hall and then the State House
Congress under the Articles of Confederation
8.    From March 1, 1781 to June 21, 1783 they met in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania at the State House
9.     From June 30, 1783 to November 4, 1783 they met in Princeton, New Jersey, at Prospect then at Nassau Hall
10.            From November 26, 1783 to August 19, 1784 they met in Annapolis, Maryland at the State House
11.  From November 1, 1784 to December 24, 1784 they met in Trenton, New Jersey at the French Arms Tavern
12.  From January 11, 1785 to Autumn 1788 they met in New York, New York at City Hall then at Fraunce's Tavern
Congress under the Constitution
13.  From March 4, 1789 to August 12, 1790 they met in New York, New York at Federal Hall
14.  From December 6, 1790 to May 14, 1800 they met in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania at the Philadelphia County Building–Congress Hall

As our new Congress gets underway let’s remember that we are commanded in Scripture to pray for our leaders.

"First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth." 1 Timothy 2:1-4

Friday, January 4, 2019

Happy New Year and a Good Apple Howling To You! (Plus an update on the "Shrub" Beverage Project)

Hullabaloo is what has marked the bringing in of the New Year for centuries, even as far back as ancient times. For fur traders and pioneers in the American wilderness, it was a way to drive out the drear of the long winter, with excessive drink, gambling, wresting, and firing guns into the night. Even in genteel colonial societies the occasion was marked with noise.

For many, a common way to welcome the New Year has been with the ringing of bells. Here's an excerpt from "In Memoriam", Alfred Lord Tennyson's poem that celebrates the eagerness of dispensing with the past and moving on to a brighter, newer future:

Ring out the old, ring in the new,
Ring, happy bells, across the snow;
The year is going, let him go;
Ring out the false, ring in the new.

Church bells chimed the New Year from many a steeple to welcome change or hearken some good news, but in some places, the ringing of the bells meant more. It meant a lot of superstition. For to some, bells might have been used almost as a charm. Sometimes rung to ward off evil, bell-ringing was frequently done at the foot of a dying person's bed, "to drive away evil spirits…ready to seize their prey or at least molest or terrify the soul in its passage". Yikes!

Then there was the New Year's wassail. I love me a good wassail—the beverage anyway—mulled cider, hot and spicy. But the wassail was also part of a bell ringing ceremony. Colonists as well as folk around the world in Colonial times and before thought they could only guarantee a good apple crop for making said wassail if they traipsed out on New Year's Eve to the orchard and partook in a ceremony of hullabaloo to "encourage" the trees to bear a heavy crop the following fall.

The ceremony, often referred to as Wassailing, or better yet, an Apple Howling (see where we're going here?) began with a procession of bell ringers and noise makers making their way to the orchard, carrying a big bowl of wassail. Once there, they would encircle a select apple tree and thrash it with sticks. (You've got to wonder how that "encouraged" the tree to bear. Maybe they meant to coax the tree into producing a bumper crop in much the same way a strict Dickensian schoolhouse master might "encourage" a small boy to learn his letters…)

So, anyhow, they beat the poor tree. While so doing, they would pour the wassail onto the roots to further stimulate it, and recite this lovely little verse several times while so doing:

Stand fast root, bear well top,
Pray God send us a good howling crop;
Every twig, apples big;
Every bough, apples enou;
Hats full, caps full,
Full quarter sacks full.

This might then be accompanied by more bells as well as some gunshots and whatever noise-makers the good orchard folk brought along—be it pots and pans or dustbin lids. If you'd get a kick out of seeing an Apple Howling nowadays, there are Youtube videos and places you can travel to and join in the festive event. (Not sure that one's going on my bucket list…)

I have apple trees too, but I think I'll come up with another plan to encourage production that bypasses a cold New Year's Apple Howling. Nevertheless, please…do pass me the wassail anyway.
Speaking of BEVERAGES, here's an update to my post last month on making SHRUB, the colonial fruit and vinegar refreshment.

After letting the shrub marinate (for lack of a better term) in my fridge for over three weeks, I strained out the berries (doing it a couple of times until the juice ran clear). I then added a couple cups of sugar and cooked it until it was thoroughly dissolved. This I chilled, and then it was ready to try out.

Double Straining

My family sampled it with a topper of sparkling water and a splash of hesitation. Most agreed, it was interesting and rather good. Some liked it thin (only a couple of teaspoons to a glass of sparkling water), and some liked it a little stronger (a couple of tablespoons). I say it was good and refreshing! I will tell you though, you can definitely taste the vinegar. I'd like to do this again with strawberries and be true to the measurements. I used a little too much vinegar to fruit in my ratio. (It should be even.)

So here's to you, fair readers! Happy New Year!

A Toast with One of My Lads

Friday, December 28, 2018

Christmas Banned in Massachetts

We hear a lot of talk these days about the war on Christmas. About businesses and government offices that won't allow any decorations, the playing of Christmas carols, or even wishing "Merry Christmas" to people who enter. It's a bit disconcerting for those of us who grew up in the traditions of a festive Christmas season. But it's not new.
A Puritan governor disrupting Christmas celebrations.
In 1659 the Puritans passed a law against anyone celebrating Christmas in Massachusetts. A law banning Christmas! They put muscle behind their law with a five-shilling fine to anyone caught celebrating.

To understand their desire to ban Christmas, we need to understand a bit about the Puritans. They were, as their name suggests, purists about their Christianity. There is nothing in the Bible about celebrating the nativity. They were correct about that. The Bible also never tells us the season, much less the date, on which Jesus was born. They were correct about that as well. The date chosen by the Catholic Church to celebrate Christmas was - in fact - the same date that the pagan Romans used to celebrate Saturnalia. They were correct about that, too.

But it was more the way Christmas was celebrated that infuriated the Puritans of Massachusetts. “Men dishonor Christ more in the 12 days of Christmas than in all the 12 months besides,” wrote 16th-century clergyman Hugh Latimer.

To say there was nothing holy about their methods is an understatement. Drunken feasting, vandalism, and even violence were not unknown at the time. The celebration was more of a frat house party than a solemn occasion. Feasting, drinking, gambling, and other unsavory pastimes were the norm.

The prohibition on Christmas lasted until 1681 when King Charles II threatened to revoke the Puritan's charter if they didn't relax their intolerant laws, which included the ban on Christmas. Yet for years after this - well into the 1800s - schools and businesses stayed open on Christmas in Massachusetts. It wasn't until 1856 that the state recognized Christmas as a public holiday.