Date Awarded


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)




James P Whittenburg


The Continental Army was the cause and the core of a military community made up of both army personnel and camp followers, who together and separately affected the military mission. The dissertation focuses primarily on the civilian, as opposed to the military, members of the "Continental Community." Fitting within the broad context of social history, it is also a part of the new military history.;Books and articles on armies have typically dealt with the military structure, the campaigns and battles, and the exploits of uniformed heroes or traitors. Those accounts provide merely the background here. In this dissertation, the military community is illuminated. It includes the prostitutes that most people immediately think of when they hear the term "camp follower," but, as American soldiers were too infrequently and poorly paid to support a large retinue of such followers, they are only a very small part of this work. Actually, the spotlight shines on those persons specified in Article 23, Section XIII of the 1776 Articles of War: "All sutlers and retainers to a camp, and all persons whatsoever serving with the armies of the United States, ... " The dissertation examines the sutlers and other merchants who supplied the encampments, the family members, servants, and volunteers who fell under the heading of retainers to a camp, and the other civilians who served with the army in various capacities. It is this very broad definition of camp follower that makes the topic unique.;This dissertation shows that camp followers engaged in numerous tasks to support the army. Men entered the camps to sell goods and services (from soap and liquor to dancing lessons), or busied themselves in the Quartermaster and Commissary Departments. Women cooked, cleaned, sewed, nursed, and sometimes engaged in espionage. African-Americans served not only their individual masters, but the army as well in jobs as diverse as courier duty and ditch-digging.



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