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Southern Magic - History Tidbits

Women Who Loved Those Frontier Men in Blue

By Carla Swafford

Army Regulations covered everything concerning army life including how to cook beans, but no mention was made on wives and children and they fell under the rule concerning "camp followers." The post commanding officer had the authority to ban or detain camp followers.

Two dangers during Indian attack for women were from the Indians and their love ones. Should all look hopeless, Army wives were instructed to kill themselves and their children or their husbands would do so.

Housing was determined by rank and/or by years of service. When an officer of senior rank or seniority arrived at the post, he would choose from the junior officers' quarters. Called "ranking out', some families would find themselves moved to hallways or converted chicken houses.

A "striker" or "dog robber" was an enlisted man that worked as a servant during his off hours for five to ten dollars a month. Later, General Order No. 92 of 1870 banned the use of a striker.

Marriage was discouraged for the enlisted man. Permission to marry had to be given by the commanding officer, and if he married without permission, it was equal to desertion.

Sometimes the enlisted man's wife would supplement their income by becoming a servant in an officer's household as a maid or cook. More often, the wife would become a laundress, also called a "spike".

Though quarters would not always be provided to married enlisted men, quarters were provided to laundresses. The housing was called "Sud Rows" or Sudsville. Laundresses were appointed or discharged by the captain of each company.

In 1802, four laundresses per 100 men were required. Later, one per every 19-1/2 men. (A half of a man? Hmm, that's too easy . . .)

"Hog ranches" or "whiskey ranches" specialized in watered whiskey and "daughters of joy". Rarely enforced, there was a territorial law that called for the wayward women to be punished by public whipping, having their hair cut off followed by being drummed off the post with military music blaring.

A jerkey was a stagecoach used during the late 1860s to early 1870s. With the swaying back and forth and sideways, you can understand the name.


Taken from Magic Moments - March 2001 Volume 4/Issue 3