The Civilian impression includes all camp personnel such as farriers, sutlers, craftsmen, wagoners, carpenters, wives, kids and loved ones of the soldiers. They sewed and washed clothes, nursed wounded, prepared meals, transported goods, built and repaired equipment. They also fought in several battles of the war.
The efforts to win the Revolutionary War were not just those of soldiers, but also a hearty group of civilians. Called camp followers, distaff or civilians, these men, women and children were the loved ones of the soldiers, and played an important part of American’s victory. Beyond cooking, mending and washing clothes, these civilians were blacksmiths, carpenters, cobblers, coopers, farriers, sutlers, tailors, and wagoners. Boys and girls were messengers and scout. Women and children defended their homes and their camps against the British. They brought water to the soldiers in battle, repaired equipment, nursed the wounded and more. Without civilians, America’s victory might have been hard to achieve.
During events, civilians will play an active role. Men, women and children can support the cause either on the battlefield or in camp. We may bring water to the solders during battle, defend our homes, or have kangaroo courts. In camp cooking, mending, and laundry are common activities, but an impromptu sewing or stocking knitting lesson may pop up, or the opportunity to teach soldiers to read. Tradesmen may mend the cooperage, shoe a lame horse, or build a shelter. All the while, our civilians will educate and entertain the public.
Horsemanship was an essential skill in the 18th century and only the poorest of individuals would not have had access to a horse or known how to ride. Horses were the main mode of transportation throughout history whether it was via carriage, wagon, or riding.
Gentlemen were expected to be accomplished horsemen. It is noted that George Washington was considered the finest horseman in Virginia, riding every day for many hours when at home and of course through the many years of the Revolutionary War. Washington’s two war horses, Nelson and Blueskin, made the history books for their faithful service during the war years before coming home to Mount Vernon to retire.
Riding was not limited to men in the 18th century. Women rode for practical means of transportation in addition to being encouraged to ride for exercise, health benefits and to cure some conditions.
“Exercise in nervous disorders is superior to all medicines. Riding on horseback is generally esteemed the best, as it gives motion to the whole body, without fatiguing it. I have known some patients however, with whom walking agreed better, and others who were most benefited by riding in a carriage” (Buchan, 1790, 423).
Riding aside, or side-saddle, was introduced to England in the 14th century. Women sat completely sideways on the horse and required being led by a groom. By the 18th century, saddles had evolved to allow the woman to face forward, with her knee looped over an extended pommel, the front part of the saddle, allowing her to control her own mount. Women could still ride astride, legs on either side of the horse, though this was out of fashion by the mid part of the century, except for those who could not afford a separate saddle. By the later part of the century it was strongly discouraged that a lady ride anything but aside.
Our Civilian Riders group is open to anyone with a horse and love for history. We have an unlimited opportunity to portray individuals from history. Come lend your support to the troop by portraying spies and messengers, wives of our cavalry men, supporting townsfolk, or visiting gentry, the possibilities are endless.
We can bring history to your classroom. Invite us to your next reenactment or historic event.
We welcome newcomers. Together, we can learn more about your character, develop the associated skills, and round out the kit. Civilians will be able to tap the expertise of others in the group. We have cooks, knitters, seamstresses, spinners, laundry women, and others willing to share their trades. The civilian group strives to be inclusive, welcoming, sharing, and caring.