Tuesday 6 June 2017

An Orphan of the Regiment

It's my pleasure to welcome Jude Knight, to discuss the fate of children born to camp followers in the Peninsular War. Don't forget to leave a comment for your chance to win an eBook of A Raging Madness!


To modern ears, the term camp follower may imply someone who follows an army in order to ply one of the oldest of trades.
For most of history, the meaning was far broader. A camp follower was any civilian who provided services to an army on the move. From the Crusades to the Crimean War, this group included blacksmiths, surgeons, cooks, launderers, nurses, and sutlers. And, for just as long, the wives of soldiers have filled at least the last four roles.
Anthonie Constantijn Govaerts - The Sutler

During the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars, British Army regulations specified the number of wives of ordinary soldiers who could travel with the regiment and receive an army ration. The number may have varied by regiment—I’ve seen four wives per one hundred soldiers, and also six. In a regiment of 1500 men, that’s somewhere around 75 wives. Off to war with the men. 
In this post, it’s the children who interest me. Technically, wives with children couldn’t sail with the regiment, though some may have done so anyway. But wives and husbands in army camps do what wives and husbands do anywhere else, and in any posting of more than a few months, children would start to arrive. 
Their stories are hard to find. They were the sons and daughters, usually, of people who didn’t write letters or keep diaries, and they weren’t army, so were seldom referred to in military logs and dispatches. Their presence is hinted at with tantalising glimpses. For a start, they were assigned one quarter of the full ration given to a soldier. One ration for a soldier. Half a ration for his wife. One quarter for each child. No wonder the few brief mentions include stories of women and children falling behind the line of march.
One of the worst impediments to the free movement of the host came from the unhappy practice that then prevailed of allowing corps on foreign service to take with them a proportion of soldiers' wives…  They were always straggling or being left behind, because they could not keep up with the long marches the army often had to take. [Sir Charles Oman]
Pregnancy was seldom mentioned, unless women gave birth. For example, during the retreat from CorÅ©na in the Peninsular War, a number of pregnant women gave birth, one to twins. 
 John Everett Millais – L’Enfant du Regiment
And tragic deaths might also get a line or a paragraph.
A soldier's wife had sought shelter beneath his (a dead drover's) cart, but she, too, was lying lifeless;· and the tragic part of it was that child, who was still alive, was whimpering and trying to find nourishment at her frozen breasts! One or two officers had the child taken from her, and wrapping it in a blanket, carried it away. [August Schaumann]
So what happened then?
The army had a system for sending widows back to England, though their half portion and their husband’s pay stopped as soon as the man died, and many widows chose to stay and speedily remarry (because in England they would be destitute). But the army didn’t offer such options to orphans.

The memoirs tell us that boys were sometimes adopted, by individual soldiers or by the regiment. But what happened to the daughters and the rest of the boys? A charitable fund , perhaps, if some officers’ wives took up the cause? And a trip back to England to an army orphanage? Or adoption by another camp follower with a kindly heart? That might be the best they could hope for, and a chance to grow enough to join the army as a boy soldier or the camp followers as a young  bride. 

A Raging Madness
Ella survived an abusive and philandering husband, in-laws who hate her, and public scorn. But she’s not sure she will survive love. It is too late to guard her heart from the man forced to pretend he has married such a disreputable widow, but at least she will not burden him with feelings he can never return. 
Alex understands his supposed wife never wishes to remarry. And if she had chosen to wed, it would not have been to him. He should have wooed her when he was whole, when he could have had her love, not her pity. But it is too late now. She looks at him and sees a broken man. Perhaps she will learn to bear him. 
In their masquerade of a marriage, Ella and Alex soon discover they are more well-matched than they expected. But then the couple’s blossoming trust is ripped apart by a malicious enemy. Two lost souls must together face the demons of their past to save their lives and give their love a future.
About the Author
Jude Knight’s writing goal is to transport readers to another time, another place, where they can enjoy adventure and romance, thrill to trials and challenges, uncover secrets and solve mysteries, delight in a happy ending, and return from their virtual holiday refreshed and ready for anything.
She writes historical novels, novellas, and short stories, mostly set in the early 19th Century. She writes strong determined heroines, heroes who can appreciate a clever capable woman, villains you’ll love to loathe, and all with a leavening of humour.

Buy the Book
Kerridge was alone when she brought Ella’s evening dose of laudanum. Presumably Constance believed that Ella was still under the influence of the measure forced down her throat this morning, and would swallow Kerridge’s without offering a struggle. 
Constance was nearly right.
Even though Ella had managed to dribble at least part of what she secreted in her cheeks onto the pillow without Constance noticing, she was still mazed. Another dose would take her under, but Kerridge resented being forced to a task so beneath her dignity as a dresser, and would do no more than make sure the liquid arrived in Ella’s mouth. She would not insist on waiting until Ella swallowed, would not pinch her nose and hold her jaw shut.
Being too meek would be suspicious. Ella turned her head away from the spoon, her teeth clenched shut, but yelped at Kerridge’s sharp pinch and the dresser immediately forced the spoon into Ella’s mouth.
Glaring sullenly, she stopped struggling, and the dresser withdrew the spoon, stretching her thin lips into a smug smile.
“There, Lady Melville. This would go more easily for you if you would just do as you are told,” she said.


Alanna Lucas said...

Fascinating post- thank you for sharing!

caroline Wrarfield said...

Fascinating Jude! The Shaumann quote broke my heart. As an army brat, as we were known, I'm glad things changed. I had housing, education in DOD schools, and good health care. I wonder when change occurred. Between the world wars?

Jude Knight said...

By the end of the nineteenth century, Caroline, but slowly, with some countries and even some divisions of the army, lagging behind others.

tlmoore11 said...

I loved this post. It was very enlightening and quite sad for these families. Carol is right, things are much better for military families today.