Vivandière or cantinière is a French name for women attached to military regiments as sutlers or canteen keepers. Their actual historic function of selling wine to the troops and working in canteens led to the adoption of the name 'cantinière' which came to supplant the original 'vivandière' starting in 1793, but the use of both terms was common in French until the mid-19th century, and 'vivandière' remained the term of choice in non-French-speaking countries such as the US, Spain, Italy, and Great Britain.Vivandières served in the French army up until the beginning of World War I, but the custom (and the name) spread to many other armies. Vivandières also served on both sides in the American Civil War, and in the armies of Spain, Italy, the German states, Switzerland, and various armies in South America, though little is known about the details in most of those cases as historians have not done extensive research on them.
A regiment is a military unit. Their role and size varies markedly, depending on the country and the arm of service.
A sutler or victualer is a civilian merchant who sells provisions to an army in the field, in camp, or in quarters. Sutlers sold wares from the back of a wagon or a temporary tent, traveling with an army or to remote military outposts. Sutler wagons were associated with the military, while chuck wagons served a similar purpose for civilian wagon trains and outposts.
World War I, also known as the First World War or the Great War, was a global war originating in Europe that lasted from 28 July 1914 to 11 November 1918. Contemporaneously described as "the war to end all wars", it led to the mobilisation of more than 70 million military personnel, including 60 million Europeans, making it one of the largest wars in history. It is also one of the deadliest conflicts in history, with an estimated nine million combatants and seven million civilian deaths as a direct result of the war, while resulting genocides and the 1918 influenza pandemic caused another 50 to 100 million deaths worldwide.
The origins of vivandières are impossible to pin down with precision. Soldiers' wives traveled with armies far back into history, and, in the years before 1700, armies often had more women and children than soldiers.By 1700, there was a clear category of women accompanying the French army, composed of soldiers' legitimate wives who served as vivandières. Until the French Revolution, the legal right to sell food, drink, and sundries like tobacco, wig powder, writing paper and ink to the soldiers in any regiment belonged solely to eight soldiers known as vivandiers. This was typical of Europe in the period of the Old Regime, in that custom and law granted a monopoly to a small number of privileged persons.
The French Revolution was a period of far-reaching social and political upheaval in France and its colonies beginning in 1789. The Revolution overthrew the monarchy, established a republic, catalyzed violent periods of political turmoil, and finally culminated in a dictatorship under Napoleon who brought many of its principles to areas he conquered in Western Europe and beyond. Inspired by liberal and radical ideas, the Revolution profoundly altered the course of modern history, triggering the global decline of absolute monarchies while replacing them with republics and liberal democracies. Through the Revolutionary Wars, it unleashed a wave of global conflicts that extended from the Caribbean to the Middle East. Historians widely regard the Revolution as one of the most important events in human history.
As serving soldiers (vivandiers) were often too busy with their military duties to spend much time selling, their colonels granted them permission to marry. Their wives became de facto 'vivandières' (the female version of 'vivandiers'). This private enterprise provisioning operation was needed because the logistical system seldom supplied the troops with food, drink, or other items beyond basic rations. If the troops could not get these things in camp, they would forage to get them outside, and the army feared that this would lead to desertions. Allowing vivandières to supplement army rations for a profit kept the troops in camp and thus lessened the chance of desertion.
The French Revolution of 1789 destroyed the rigid, aristocratic structure of the French army. Many noble officers left the country, and those that remained were politically suspect. Thousands of common soldiers also deserted in the general chaos. When France went to war with the monarchs of Europe in 1792, the army was a shell of its former self.
One key problem was that discipline and order had broken down. Thousands of women, many of them girlfriends or prostitutes, traveled with the armies, eating rations, consuming supplies, and taking up space. A small number of female soldiers, or femmes soldats also enlisted in the ranks and fought openly alongside the men. In addition, the usual (and vital) vivandières also continued to accompany the army.
At the same time, women's political groups in Paris such as the Society of Revolutionary Republican Women agitated for more equal rights for women now that the men had been freed by the Revolution. The male revolutionaries were rarely very radical when it came to women's rights; they wanted to make the armies more efficient, but they also wanted to crush women's political aspirations and keep French women in a subservient role.
The Society of Revolutionary and Republican Women were two most famous political clubs during the French Revolution formed May 10, 1793, lasting less than five months. In this short span, however, the two Societies managed to create quite a stir in the national political scene, and brought to light some controversial points about women and political and sexual equality.
The result was a series of laws from April through October 1793. The Law to Rid the Armies of Useless Women passed the National Convention on April 30, 1793. It banned all women from the armies, including female soldiers. This suited the political agenda of the government, since military service was equated with citizenship. However, the law specifically allowed women to remain with the army if they fell into one of two categories: laundresses ("blanchisseuses") and vivandières.
The term 'cantinière' came into use around 1793, since vivandières ran a 'cantine' in barracks and garrisons, and in their tents on campaign. The new word quickly replaced the old 'vivandière' among most French combat troops, but the War Ministry continued to use a mix of the two words (often interchangeably) until 1854.
Cantinières expanded their numbers greatly during the Napoleonic Wars, gaining fame for battlefield heroics as well as for nursing the sick and wounded. They fought in every French campaign and battle of the era, creating a legend that survived long afterwards. It was common for cantinières to provide food and drink to the troops while under fire (generally at no charge on days of battle), nurse the wounded, and generally stiffen morale. Some cantinières reportedly carried muskets and fought in the ranks.
After Napoleon I's defeat in 1814–15, the returning Bourbon Monarchy eliminated the title of cantinière and restored the word 'vivandière'. The Bourbons also tried to make vivandière appointments contingent on political loyalty to the monarchy. Soldiers continued to use 'cantinière' though to protect their cantinières from being removed. Cantinières accompanied French troops into Spain in 1823, and into Algeria in 1830. It was in Algeria that these women began to fashion military uniforms for themselves, a practice that rapidly spread throughout the entire army.
The overthrow of the Bourbon Monarchy of Charles X and the establishment of the July Monarchy in 1830 brought in a new government that was less hostile to the ideas and terminology of the French Revolution. While the new government continued to use 'vivandière' in regulations, 'cantinière' again became almost universally used by the troops, and by the cantinières themselves. These women were present in combat in Algeria throughout the period 1830–1848 and beyond.
During the Second Empire the cantinière achieved a popular, if romanticised, image as a virtual icon of the French military. Napoleon III doubled their numbers in 1854, and they served alongside their units in every campaign of the Second Empire, notably in the Crimean War, the Second Italian War of Independence, the French intervention in Mexico, the Colonization of Cochinchina, and the Franco-Prussian War. Cantinières were present on both sides during the Paris Commune.
With the adoption of a short-term conscript army under the Third Republic, the cantinières were phased out and replaced by civilian workers who were employed at the regimental depot only and did not wear uniforms. This process began in 1875 with a reduction in the permitted numbers of cantinières, and culminated in 1890 when the War Ministry forbade cantinières to wear uniforms, requiring them instead to wear a simple grey civilian dress and an identifying arm plaque. The new law also forbade cantinières from going on campaign or on maneuvers with their regiments. This effectively ended the role of cantinières as it had been known. In 1905, the War Ministry finally eliminated cantinières altogether, replacing them with male cantiniers who had to be retired veterans. Women who were still serving were allowed to continue, so that some served up to and even into World War I, but they were not allowed to go into combat.
The cantiniers turned out to be highly unpopular, and the army eliminated them in 1940. The popular perception among soldiers was that the male cantiniers were greedy, unhelpful, and unpleasant, in stark contrast to the female cantinières, whom the soldiers largely perceived as generous, selfless, and friendly mother and sister figures.
By the time of the French intervention in Belgium in 1832, cantinières routinely wore a female version of their regiment's uniform. It generally consisted of a tight-fitting uniform jacket, striped trousers, and a knee-length skirt over the wide-cut pants. This was topped off by a brimmed hat and worn with a tonnelet, or brandy barrel that the cantinière carried on a strap over her shoulder.A collection of colored prints dated 1859 of Second Empire cantinières by the French artist Hyppolyte Lalaisse, show their uniforms as matching the colors of their respective regiments in nearly all cases (for example green jackets and skirts with red facings, the latter worn over red trousers, for the Dragoons of the Imperial Guard).
During the Crimean War, the United States War Department sent three United States Army officers to Europe to observe the current art of war there. They brought back the idea of vivandières to America, and during the American Civil War of 1861–1865, many patriotic women on both sides served as vivandières, though exact numbers are unknown, and the practice does not appear to have had the strong and lasting official sanction that it had in France.
One American example was Anna (Annie) Etheridge who lived in Detroit when the American Civil War broke out. Etheridge joined 19 other women in April 1861 who enlisted as vivandières with the Union's 2nd Michigan Volunteer Regiment. When the 2nd Michigan first saw action at Blackburn's Ford, Etheridge was reported to have nursed the wounded and to have brought water to the dying. She served with the Regiment throughout its battles, including both at Bull Run. At Chancellorsville, Etheridge was wounded in the hand when a Union officer attempted to hide behind her, and he was ultimately killed and her horse wounded. For her courage under fire, Etheridge was one of only two women awarded the Kearny Cross, named in honor of Gen. Philip Kearny.The other recipient was French Mary Tepe} Another Civil War vivandiere was Kady Brownell.
There is documented evidence of cantinières serving in the civil wars of the 1870s in Spain. During the Second Rif War of 1909–1910 a photograph of "Senorita Asuncion Martos, Cantinera of the Talavera Battalion in Morocco" was published in the Illustrated London News, under the heading "The vivandière still a factor in modern warfare". In the photograph Senorita Martos wears a female version of the tropical uniform of the soldiers for whom she is pouring wine against a background of military tents, indicating that the classical role of the Spanish cantinière continued to a later date than that of her French counterpart.
French vivandières and cantinières frequently appeared in popular entertainment in the 19th century, from operas and musicals to picture postcards. In opera, the most well-known example is Marie in Donizetti's La fille du régiment – the "Daughter of the Regiment" in this case is a vivandière, though her portrayal in the opera is highly inaccurate. Even in 1840, popular culture could present a badly distorted, romanticized view of these women. Vivandières also appear in Act 3, Scene 3 of La forza del destino , and W. S. Gilbert's La Vivandière is a burlesque based on Donizetti's opera. Portrayals of cantinières and vivandières continue today to be popular among re-enactors, and a number of major companies and products continue to use the name or the image of these women in their advertising.
Swiss mercenaries (Reisläufer) were notable for their service in foreign armies, especially the armies of the Kings of France, throughout the Early Modern period of European history, from the Later Middle Ages into the Age of the European Enlightenment. Their service as mercenaries was at its peak during the Renaissance, when their proven battlefield capabilities made them sought-after mercenary troops. There followed a period of decline, as technological and organizational advances counteracted the Swiss' advantages. Switzerland's military isolationism largely put an end to organized mercenary activity; the principal remnant of the practice is the Pontifical Swiss Guard at the Vatican.
The French Army, officially the Ground Army to distinguish it from the French Air Force, Armée de l'Air or Air Army, is the land-based and largest component of the French Armed Forces. It is responsible to the Government of France, along with the other four components of the Armed Forces. The current Chief of Staff of the French Army (CEMAT) is General Jean-Pierre Bosser, a direct subordinate of the Chief of the Defence Staff (CEMA). General Bosser is also responsible, in part, to the Ministry of the Armed Forces for organization, preparation, use of forces, as well as planning and programming, equipment and Army future acquisitions. For active service, Army units are placed under the authority of the Chief of the Defence Staff (CEMA), who is responsible to the President of France for planning for, and use, of forces.
The Flight of the Wild Geese was the departure of an Irish Jacobite army under the command of Patrick Sarsfield from Ireland to France, as agreed in the Treaty of Limerick on 3 October 1691, following the end of the Williamite War in Ireland. More broadly, the term Wild Geese is used in Irish history to refer to Irish soldiers who left to serve in continental European armies in the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries.
A military uniform is a standardised dress worn by members of the armed forces and paramilitaries of various nations.
The Dahomey Amazons or Mino, which means "our mothers," were a Fon all-female military regiment of the Kingdom of Dahomey in the present-day Republic of Benin which lasted until the end of the 19th century. They were so named by Western observers and historians due to their similarity to the mythical Amazons of ancient Anatolia and the Black Sea.
The Kearny Cross was a military decoration of the United States Army, which was first established in 1862 during the opening year of the American Civil War. The original decoration was known as the Kearny Medal and was adopted as an unofficial medal by the officers of the 1st Division, 3rd Corps, of the Union Army of the Potomac, which had served under Major General Philip Kearny.
The Troupes coloniales or Armée coloniale, commonly called La Coloniale, were the military forces of the French colonial empire from 1900 until 1961. From 1822 to 1900 these troops were designated Troupes de marine, and in 1961 they readopted this name. They were recruited from mainland France or from the French settler and indigenous populations of the empire. This force played a substantial role in the conquest of the empire, in World War I, World War II, the First Indochina War and the Algerian War.
The French Revolutionary Army was the French force that fought the French Revolutionary Wars from 1792 to 1802. These armies were characterised by their revolutionary fervour, their poor equipment and their great numbers. Although they experienced early disastrous defeats, the revolutionary armies successfully expelled foreign forces from French soil and then overran many neighboring countries, establishing client republics. Leading generals included Jourdan, Bonaparte, Masséna and Moreau.
Camp follower is a term used to identify civilians and their children who follow armies. There are two common types of camp followers; first, the wives and children of soldiers, who follow their spouse or parent's army from place to place; the second type of camp followers have historically been informal army service providers, servicing the needs of encamped soldiers, in particular selling goods or services that the military does not supply—these have included cooking, laundering, liquor, nursing, sexual services and sutlery.
The 2nd Regiment Michigan Volunteer Infantry was an infantry regiment that served in the Union Army during the American Civil War.
Indiana, a state in the Midwest, played an important role in supporting the Union during the American Civil War. Despite anti-war activity within the state, and southern Indiana's ancestral ties to the South, Indiana was a strong supporter of the Union. Indiana contributed approximately 210,000 Union soldiers, sailors, and marines. Indiana's soldiers served in 308 military engagements during the war; the majority of them in the western theater, between the Mississippi River and the Appalachian Mountains. Indiana's war-related deaths reached 25,028. Its state government provided funds to purchase equipment, food, and supplies for troops in the field. Indiana, an agriculturally rich state containing the fifth-highest population in the Union, was critical to the North's success due to its geographical location, large population, and agricultural production. Indiana residents, also known as Hoosiers, supplied the Union with manpower for the war effort, a railroad network and access to the Ohio River and the Great Lakes, and agricultural products such as grain and livestock. The state experienced two minor raids by Confederate forces, and one major raid in 1863, which caused a brief panic in southern portions of the state and its capital city, Indianapolis.
During the American Civil War, Indianapolis, the state capital of Indiana, was a major base of supplies for the Union. Governor Oliver P. Morton, a major supporter of President Abraham Lincoln, quickly made Indianapolis a gathering place to organize and train troops for the Union army. The city became a major railroad hub for troop transport to Confederate lands, and therefore had military importance. Twenty-four military camps were established in the vicinity of Indianapolis. Camp Morton, the initial mustering ground to organize and train the state's Union volunteers in 1861, was designated as a major prisoner-of-war camp for captured Confederate soldiers in 1862. In addition to military camps, a state-owned arsenal was established in the city in 1861, and a federal arsenal in 1862. A Soldiers' Home and a Ladies' Home were established in Indianapolis to house and feed Union soldiers and their families as they passed through the city. Indianapolis residents also supported the Union cause by providing soldiers with food, clothing, equipment, and supplies, despite rising prices and wartime hardships, such as food and clothing shortages. Local doctors aided the sick, some area women provided nursing care, and Indianapolis City Hospital tended to wounded soldiers. Indianapolis sent an estimated 4,000 men into military service; an estimated 700 died during the war. Indianapolis's Crown Hill National Cemetery was established as one of two national military cemeteries established in Indiana in 1866.
Lorinda Anna "Annie" Blair Etheridge was a Union nurse and vivandière who served during the American Civil War. She was one of only two women to receive the Kearny Cross. She was inducted into the Michigan Women's Hall of Fame in 2010.
The British Army during the Napoleonic Wars experienced a time of rapid change. At the beginning of the French Revolutionary Wars in 1793, the army was a small, awkwardly administered force of barely 40,000 men. By the end of the period, the numbers had vastly increased. At its peak, in 1813, the regular army contained over 250,000 men. The British infantry was "the only military force not to suffer a major reverse at the hands of Napoleonic France."
Antoine Morlot was a French division commander during the French Revolutionary Wars and Napoleonic Wars. After almost eight years of service in the French Royal Army, he became an officer in a local volunteer battalion during the French Revolution. In 1792 he fought with distinction at Thionville and other actions, earning a promotion to general officer in 1793. He was notable for his participation at the Battle of Kaiserslautern where he led a brigade. After another promotion he became a general of division in the Army of the Moselle. In 1794 he led his troops at Arlon, Lambusart, Fleurus and Aldenhoven.
Louis-Charles de La Motte-Ango, vicomte de Flers joined the French Royal army and rose in rank to become a general officer in the French Revolutionary Wars. After serving in the Austrian Netherlands, he was appointed to command the Army of the Eastern Pyrenees. His army suffered several defeats in May and June 1793, but he rallied his troops to win a defensive victory at the Battle of Perpignan in July. The all-powerful Representatives-on-mission arrested him in August 1793 for a minor setback and sent him to Paris under arrest. The Committee of Public Safety executed him by guillotine on trumped up charges in the last days of the Reign of Terror. De Flers is one of the names inscribed under the Arc de Triomphe.
The French Royal Army served the Bourbon kings beginning with Louis XIV and ending with Charles X with an interlude from 1792 until 1814, during the French Revolution and the reign of the Emperor Napoleon I. After a second, brief interlude when Napoleon returned from exile in 1815, the Royal Army was reinstated. Its service to the direct Bourbon line was finished when Charles X was overthrown in 1830 by the July Revolution.
Irene Morales Infante was a Chilean soldier who served in the War of the Pacific. She was born in a barrio of Santiago, and lived in poverty throughout her life, working as a seamstress from an early age. At the time the War of the Pacific began she was only 13 years old, and had been orphaned and twice widowed. Her second husband was executed by the Bolivian military for killing a soldier. She tried to pass herself as a man and enlist as a soldier in the Chilean Army. This failed, but she was given a position as an unofficial cantinière and military nurse, marching alongside the infantrymen to sell food and drink, and caring for the wounded after battles.
Marie Tepe (1834–1901), known as "French Mary," was a French-born vivandière who fought for the Union army during the American Civil War. Tepe served with the 27th and 114th Pennsylvania Infantry Regiments.
Also known as Bridget Deavers and Bridget Devins, and "Irish Biddy" to Sheridan's men, Bridget Divers was an Irish immigrant who rode with the First Michigan Cavalry during the American Civil War.