Posted by Captain Everett on April 25, 1998 at 16:48:34:
In response to How did the widows of Waterloo cope?, written by Leanne S on April 24, 1998 at 14:51:50
] Having just recently read one of the Derbyshire Writer's Guild fanfics which involved Lydia moving in with Elizabeth after Wickham had been killed in battle -- *and* after reading Georgette Heyer's "An Infamous Army" with thousands of soldiers and officers killed at Waterloo ... I wondered: would all of the women moved back in with family? or gone street-begging/finding another profession? or taken care of by some sort of charity??
A women's choices would depend largely upon the social standing of her husband, and how willing her, or her husband's family would be willing to support her. Some discussion on this point has already been given below.
The relative wealth of the families would be a major factor. It would be much harder (generally speaking) for the wives of officers who did not purchase their commissions. This would include those in such branches as the Artillery, and those who rose from the ranks. For the wives of the rank and file, the story would be quite different. A little background might be of service.
The army allowed twelve women per hundred men to be carried on the battalion rolls as "wives." They would live in barracks with their husbands. The best description I ever heard of barracks was from an
interpreter at Old Fort Eire: "Barns for People." Married quarters amounted to the bottom of a double-width bunkbed, with a blanket hung for privacy. Hardly a genteel setting. They also were entitled to receive half the mens' rations, the makeup of which would appall modern nutritionists . Children received quarter rations. When a battalion was to be sent overseas they were marched to the port and the men loaded aboard. The wives would then draw tickets saying "Go" and "Not Go." Those with "Go" went aboard. (It was done in this way to prevent the men from deserting en route.)
The "No Go" tickets, after a hasty farewell, would be given tickets intended to get them to their home parish. They were entitled to 1½d per mile to a maximum of 2d on their journey. They would show their certificate at the different Justices of the Peace along a prescribed route and receive money for the next section of their trip (up to 18miles - they probably didn't trust them with more than that much money). Once home they'd be dependant upon the charity of their family, the parish, and most likely their own devices. Little is known about what happened to these women, at least from military sources, once they moved out of the army's juristiction.
The six per hundred who accompanied the army would suffer the same privations as did the men: long marches, harsh weather, poor accomodation when not actually sleeping in the open. If their husband should die, they were in theory entitled to transportation to an English port, and the same 1½-2d per mile as were those who drew No-Go tickets. However, it seems very few bothered to do so. Most remarried in the army, most likely in the same Battalion, if not the same Company. It's said any tolerable looking women would have no lack of suitors. They had, depending upon the source, from a few days to two weeks to make a decision before they would be cut off ration strength.
Marrying outside the army would have been difficult for those women. People refered to "Officers' Ladies, Sergeants' Wives, and the Mens' Women." Those on the lower end were not looked upon as entirely honorable. One officer described the wives of the common soldier as, "Nothing more or less than devils!" Some viewed them as more vulgar, and more inclined to plunder then the men. One wonders what type of match they would be able to find.
Married in, or outside the army, the wife of the common soldier was probably quite capable of handling most of what came her way. They aready came from a harsh society,,nevertheless the stories of the hardships they endured are simply incredible.
I remain, etc.
- Army Wives John W 03:51:09 4/26/98 (5)
- thank you... P. Bingham 22:35:21 4/25/98 (0)
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