During the American Revolution thousands of women took an active role in both the American and British armies. Most were the wives or daughters of officers or soldiers and it was these women who maintained an almost constant presence in military camps, and were called “Camp Followers.” Camp Followers were also people who have served with the army, but who were not “listed” included: wagoners, butlers, servants, children, craftsmen, and gentlemen volunteers. Their presence enriched camp life and greatly enhanced the labor force necessary to support an army in the field. Specific duties consisted primarily of cooking, mending, laundry, childcare, and nursing the sick for which each woman was paid a small wage and supplied with a half ration of food for herself. The movie “Last of the Mohicans” visualized excellent examples of the importance of the role of a Camp Follower within the British army and the dangers they faced in Colonial America.
While the above mentioned tasks were performed by the majority of women found within camp life, an occasional woman found herself placed in extraordinary circumstances. Her participation in such situations were frequently well beyond the roles dictated by the society of the time. Margaret Cochran Corbin and Mary Ludwig Hays (or “Molly Pitcher”), were two camp followers whose husbands were artillerymen and they assisted by nursing the wounded and bringing water to those in need. Both women saw their husband wounded on the battlefield. As they went to their aid they found themselves participating as “combatants”; taking up their husband’s post as Matross or Gunner’s Assistant. These ladies were acknowledged for their service to their country with military rank and honors.