The Daughter of
A Brief History of Vivandieres
Cantinieres in the American Civil War
By Susan Lyons Hughes
* above image patriotic envelope depicting a
collection of the author.
Vivandieres, sometimes known also as cantinieres, were interesting military
figures with a fascinating history. By whatever name they were called, women who
followed the army in a
quasi-military capacity have intrigued observers and attracted the notice of writers for
decades. The ideal
was an attractive young woman - perhaps the daughter of an officer or wife of a
non-commissioned officer -
wearing an attractive costume and braving the vicissitudes of battle to provide care for
a wounded soldier on
the battlefield. The reality was perhaps a bit less romantic; however vivandieres
have an interesting
history. * image at right is patriotic envelope depicting a vivandiere. This
envelope was cancelled at Cumberland Gap, Tennessee in June, 1862, collection of the
The French Connection
Vivandieres first appeared under that name in French armies
during the Napoleanic
period. The army, intent upon reducing the number of camp followers and hangers-on,
restricted the number of
women following the army. However, in attempt to provide some of the same services to
the soldiers, the army
regularized and militarized the presence of a few women to serve as cantinieres or
Army commanders were authorized to appoint one vivandiere or cantiniere per
In French army practice, the functions of vivandiere and
somewhat different. Vivandieres were mainly confined to garrison camps or posts,
and served as a kind
of post sutler, selling food and drink to the troops. Cantinieres followed their
campaign and in parade, providing food and drink, and often performing the job of nursing
ill or wounded
soldiers. In 1854, the name vivandiere officially replaced the term
cantiniere in the French
army.2 Vivandieres of the Napoleonic armies wore no established
uniform, but were
distinguished by a cask containing spirits. Some army commanders took the initiative to
for vivandieres, and in many cases these were similar to the uniforms of the field
music of the
regiment, with the addition of a skirt worn over trousers, and, often, a white apron.
Illustrations of some
of these uniforms can be seen in a number of sources.3
Until the Franco-Prussian War of 1871-72, Napoleonic tactics,
uniforms, and practices were
the model by which all other western countries patterned their own armies, and the
influence of French
military practices was clearly apparent in the army of the United States throughout the
first half of the
19th century. The Crimean War of 1856-58 only strengthened the appeal of the
French military. In
part this was because the Crimean War was the first war to be photographed and widely
reported in newspapers.
In addition, American military leaders were sent to the Crimea to observe the British and
French armies in
action. Three years later, when civil war broke out in the United States, the lessons of
the Crimea - and
those of the French army - were still on the minds of military leaders, including General
McClellan, who had been an observer in the Crimea.
The most obvious "transplants" of French military practice
that took root in the
United States during the American Civil War were the volunteer regiments which adopted
the name and uniform
styles of the French "Zouave" and "Chausseur" regiments. Wearing
uniforms that selectively and sometimes creatively borrowed elements of their French
regiments were formed in both Union and Confederate armies. Another instance of French
American regiments was the adoption of a woman who served as a vivandiere or
American military practice the names vivandiere and cantiniere came to be
and many women who fulfilled this function came also to be known as "the daughter of
The uniforms worn by vivandieres and cantinieres changed along with
of the day. The popular silhouette of the Napoleonic period, a high waistline and narrow
reflected in the costumes adopted by vivandieres in the same period. By the
century, waistlines had dropped to a natural level, and skirts were held away from the
body in much the same
manner that fashionable crinolines supported the skirts of fashionable women. * image at left is color lithograph of French cantiniere, circa
1855, collection of the author.
The earliest recorded photographs of vivandieres date from the
War,4 and it is probable that images from that war were responsible for
popularizing many of the
French-inspired uniforms and customs including Zouave and Chausseur uniforms and
vivandieres in the
United States at the time of the American Civil War.
Vivandieres remained an established part of French armies until
Franco-Prussian War in 1871-1872. It is notable that after the defeat of the French in
War, the United States Army adopted uniforms and practices much more in line with those
of the Prussian Army
- the victors - and abandoned the French-style uniforms of the Civil War period.
Vivandieres in the American Civil War
The dashing image of French soldiers, especially the Zouave regiments,
in the Crimean War,
captured the imagination of Americans in the 1850s, and, by 1859, several local militia
regiments had adopted
the name "Zouave," as well as interpretations of the colorful Zouave uniforms.
Some of these local
groups sported a vivandiere in their ranks.5 At the outbreak of the
American Civil War,
most regiments were organized as independent companies of troops, raised in a local area.
Some of these
companies selected their own uniforms and accoutrements without regard to regular army
practice. And some of
these regiments also selected a local lady to serve as "the daughter of the
regiment," the American
equivalent to the French vivandiere. The 49th Ohio, organized at Camp
Dennison, Ohio in
1861, was one such regiment:
At four o’clock on Monday evening, a dress parade was held, and Miss
Ella Gibson, the
daughter of Colonel Gibson was chosen Daughter of the Regiment. Captain Hays presented
the young Miss to the
soldiers and Col. Blackman on behalf of the regiment adopted her as its daughter. Col.
Gibson was then
called out and made speech of some length.6
Calculating the exact number of women who served in this capacity is
difficult, if not
impossible. Because the presence of vivandieres was not sanctioned by the
military establishment of
either army, women who served as vivandieres are rarely mentioned in official
records. Only in
regimental histories, post-war records and personal accounts do their names and
identities emerge. In any
case, the total number of women who served in this capacity is quite small.
One documented image of a Confederate vivandiere is in an image
Louisiana Zouaves taken in May 1861. The lady pictured wears a uniform that consists of
full Zouave trousers,
a short but full skirt, short jacket, plumed hat, and apron.7 Another
Southerner, Lucy Ann Cox,
served as the daughter of the regiment with the 13th Virginia through the
surrender at Appomatox.
A monument to Cox was dedicated in 1894 in Fredericksburg, Virginia.8
There is more documentation of vivandieres serving with Union
many remain anonymous. Naturally, many served with Zouave regiments, the
114th Pennsylvania, for
example. The 39th New York, also known as the Garibaldi Guard, a popular New
York regiment, left
for war with six vivandieres. Some of the most well known vivandieres were
Marie Tepe of
Collis’ Zouaves, Kady Brownell of the 1st (later 5th) Rhode Island,
Bridget Divers of
the 1st Michigan Cavalry, and Annie Etheridge of the 3rd and 5th
exploits of these women were recorded shortly after the Civil War by Frank Moore in
Women in the War,
by L.P. Brockett and Mary Vaughn in Women’s Work During the War, and by others.
post-war accounts are filled with romantic language describing the noble deeds of these
women which have been
well-described in other sources. Despite the over-blown language of the immediate
however, the fact remains that the self-sacrifice and courage of these women saved lives
and provided care to
soldiers who might otherwise have had none.9 As one example alone, Tepe and
Etheridge were both
awarded the Kearny Cross after the Battle of Chancellorsville.10
The career of Marie Tepe (or Tebe, in some sources), has long fascinated writers.
"French Mary," as she was styled, served in the capacity of a vivandiere
Zoaves, the 114th Pennsylvania, receiving an ankle wound at Fredericksburg and
being awarded the
Kearny Cross after Chancellorsville. Tepe participated in many GAR activities and
reunions after the war, proudly sporting the Kearney Cross on her uniform. Her injury
continued to plague
Tepe, and she apparently committed suicide by taking arsenic in 1901.11 * photo at right is Kady Brownell of the 1st (later 5th) Rhode
Island, as depicted in Frank C. Moore, Women of the War, 1866.
Uniforms of Civil War Vivandieres
Uniforms of vivandieres in the American Civil War varied from
regiment. All had in common a knee-length skirt worn over full trousers, a tunic or
jacket, hat, and some
military trim or designation. This style of costume was very similar to bathing and
depicted in fashion magazines of the period, and was suitable for the outside exercise
vivandieres who lived and marched with their regiments. There was probably a
great deal of variation
in trim and materials in the costume of vivandieres because there was no
standardization of uniform
for this non-official post. Sarah Taylor, the daughter of the First Tennessee (United
joined her stepfather's regiment at Camp Dick Robinson, Kentucky in 1861. When the
regiment marched away from
Camp Dick Robinson toward Camp Wildcat in September of that year, a reporter for the
described her thus:
She has donned a neat blue chapeau, beneath which her long hair is
fantastically arranged; bearing
side a highly-finished regulation sword, and silver-mounted pistols in her belt, all of
which gives her a
very neat appearance…. She wore a blue blouse, and was armed with pistols, sword and
Eliza Wilson of the 5th Wisconsin appeared in a soldier's letter
… clothes of such pattern as the military (not millinery) board have ordered
for nurses in the
is the Turkish costume….The color is bright brown; no crinoline; dress reaches half way
between the knee and
ankle; upper sleeve loose, gathered at the wrist; pantalettes same color, wide but
gathered tight around the
ankle; black hat with plumes or feathers of same color; feet dressed in morocco
The vivandieres of the Garibaldi Guard were described as wearing
"feathered hats, jaunty red
jackets and blue gowns."14
The Role of Vivandieres in the American Civil War
Though non-essential to fighting regiments, vivandieres
important functions. The most important was as a nurse. With her cask of spirits or a
canteen of water, a
vivandiere gave a wounded or sick soldier immediate attention, comparable to a
situation. Some vivandieres were well-armed for self-defense, such as Sarah
Taylor, who carried a
sword, rifle and pistols. Annie Etheridge carried two pistols, and Marie Tepe was also
armed with a pistol.
Among the deeds of valor performed by vivandieres were Kady Brownell's actions at
the battle of New
Bern, where, carrying the colors into battle, Kady ran with the flag to the center of the
field to show the
Union troops that the 5th Rhode Island was not the enemy.15
Often the vivandiere was the wife of a soldier or the daughter of an officer,
"daughter of the regiment" commanded the respect of soldiers in ways that other
types of camp
followers could not. A soldier in the 5th Wisconsin wrote of Eliza
We have not seen a woman for a fortnight with the exception of the Daughter of
the Regiment, who is
us in storm and sunshine. It would do you good to see her trudging along, with or after
the regiment, her
dark brown frock buttoned tightly around her waist, her what-you-call-ems tucked into her
gaiters, her hat and feather set jauntily on one side, her step firm and assured, for she
knows that every
arm in our ranks would protect her. Never pouting or passionate, with a kind word for
every one, and every
one a kind word for her.16
Sarah Taylor was captured and paroled sometime after leaving Camp Dick Robinson, and
appeared in this
article in the Memphis Daily Appeal on July 18, 1863:
Sallie Taylor, "La Fille due Regiment." This notorious (beautiful,
though she was) woman
arrested, as our readers will remember, some months ago, and discharged upon her parole,
has kept herself
quiet recently, when, as we are informed, she so far captivated, if not captured, a
private in Cobb's battery
stationed at Clinton, as to induce him to steal the horse of one of the lieutenants of
his company and to
escape with her into Kentucky, where she may resume in propria personnae her
nom de plume of
"Daughter of the 1st (Bird's) Tennessee regiment." – Knoxville
Not all of those who wore the uniform of vivandieres were respectable, however.
Kenneth Olsen, author of Music and Muskets:
Not all vivandiere[s] were as pure in heart as the fair Marie. The
vivandiere attached to a New York regiment eventually got the generous lady into
trouble. She was
given the option of leaving the area quietly or being drummed from the camp. She elected
the easy way
Vivandieres seem to have been a more common sight during the first two
years of the war,
when fighting was sporadic and the armies spent much time in camps. As the war
progressed and campaigns
covered longer distances, there is less evidence of vivandieres remaining with the
Bellard drew a picture and described a vivandiere, who may have been Marie Tepe,
whom he saw in a
hospital near Chancellorsville, in May, 1863.19 In September 1864, General
Ulysses S. Grant
ordered that all women be removed from military camps in his theatre. In the wake of
this order, Annie
Etheridge was forced to confine her activities to the hospital at City Point, Virginia,
endorsements of numerous officers, including the corps commander of the Second Corps.
She returned at some
point, however, because she was with the 5th Michigan when it mustered out in
Myths and Misconceptions about vivandieres
In the last few years, several sources have been written about
during the Civil War containing a number of myths and anecdotal stories of
vivandieres, which have not
been adequately documented. Among these misconceptions is the tendency to equate
women who served in the army disguised as soldiers. Nothing could be further from the
Vivandieres or cantinieres made no effort to disguise their sex; nor were
"enlisted" as soldiers in their respective regiments. They were clearly and
quite obviously women
who adopted an obviously feminine role within a military organization.
A number of women in official or quasi-official capacities with the
army adopted costumes
similar to that of vivandieres; yet their function was not that of the
vivandiere. Dr. Mary
Walker, Loretta Valesquez, Madame Turchin, and others wore "uniforms" similar
to that of
vivandieres, with short skirts worn over trousers; however, these individuals
functions and cannot be classed as vivandieres in the strict sense of the term.
Others, such as Belle
Reynolds, were officially recognized as "daughters of the regiment" in
recognition of their
services to soldiers in the regiments commanded by their husbands, although their primary
rendered after battles in hospitals.
Finally, the recent fascination with vivandieres has prompted a
publications and commentaries which have incorrectly cited "the regulations of
1865" as proof that
vivandieres were established military functionaries in the United States Army.
The United States Army
did not publish a set of regulations in 1865, and vivandieres were never given an
established post in
American armies. The regulations to which these sources refer were published in 1865 by
the French army, and,
according to an article in Uniformes Les Armees de L’Histoire by Luce Ries
(translated by Nicholas
In 1860 they [French vivandieres] were assimilated with the rest of the
troops as regards
decorations and pay. They also took part in marches and parades. A regulation of 1865
fixed their number
1 per infantry battalion (2 after 1869)
2 per light infantry battalion (3 after 1869)
2 per cavalry squadron;
4 per artillery or engineers regiment.
The number of canteen women in the Imperial Guard was higher. Grenadiers and
voltiguers regiments had 20
Scholars studying the introduction of females into the military traditions of the
United States Army would
do well to consult original sources rather than the questionable regurgitation of myths
which surround the
history of vivandieres in the Civil War. * image at
left is carte de visite of of the American actress Lotta Crabtree as Firefly (from the play The Firefly) circa 1860-1870, collection of the
The number of women who served as vivandieres in the American
Civil War is quite
small, however, the romantic image of the vivandiere or cantiniere, in
dashing uniform marching
at the head of a column of adoring soldiers, remains a popular and intriguing subject for
both historians and
Civil War buffs. The presence of vivandieres in the armies of both sides during
the American Civil
War demonstrates the strength of the desire on the part of some women to have a more
active role in the
military. The presence of vivandieres in volunteer regiments of the Civil War did
established practice in the United States Army; nevertheless, their presence provided an
early hint that
women could be useful in a military environment.
1 Preben Kannik, Military Uniforms of the World (London: Macmillan,
2 Luce Ries, "Les Cantinieres: ou les ‘dessous’ de la
Les Armees de L’histoire 67 (May-June, 1982), 7 (translated by Nicholas Powell).
3 Kannik, 189-190, plate 203, illustration of a cantiniere of the
Infantry, 1809; Kannik, 212, plate 308, illustration of a cantiniere of the
Infantry of the Line in
1854. Kannik notes that "During the Second Empire period, the French
married to N.C.O.s, were dressed in quite becoming garments, although these were worn
over trousers and
gaiters. The feminine aspect was stressed by bonnets, lace-trimmed collars and skirts of
Instead of the large straw hat, made fashionable by the Empress Eugenie, a lighter
version of the regimental
headgear was worn."; Philip Haythornthwaite, Napoleon’s Light Infantry
Men-At-Arms Series, 1983, 34, plate 2); Michael McAfee, Zouaves: The First and
(Gettysburg, PA: Thomas Publications, 1991), 17,67.
4 Elizabeth Ewing, Women in Uniform: Their Costume through the
Centuries, (London, B.T.
Batsford, Ltd., 1975), 31.
5 Michael J. McAfee, Zouaves: The First and the Bravest
(Gettysburg, PA: Thomas
Publications, 1991), 25-26, 39.
6 The Seneca (Ohio) Advertiser, September, 1861, as it appeared in
an article in the
"Camp Noble Gallant," newsletter of the 49th Ohio Infantry
reenactment group, Todd
Miller, editor, September, 1991.
7 Ross Brooks, "Red Petticoats and Blue Jackets: 1st
Confederate States Zouave
Battalion or Coppens’ Louisiana Zouaves," Military Collector and Historian
Vol. XLV, No. 4
(Winter, 1993); James Hennessey, "The Vivandiere of the Louisiana Zouave
Journal, Confederate Historical Society of Great Britain Vol. 17, No. 1 (Spring
1989), 2-3. This same
image was apparently mis-identified as being of Wheat’s Louisiana Tigers in William C.
Davis, The Image of
War 1861-1865, Vol. 1, p. 191.
8 Mary Elizabeth Massey, Bonnet Brigades (NY: Alfred A. Knopf),
1966; Elizabeth D.
Leonard, All the Daring of a Soldier (NY: W.W. Norton and Company, 1999),
9 Moore, Frank, Women of the War (Hartford, CT: S.S. Scranton,
& Co., 1866), 51,
747; Brockett, L.P. and Mary C. Vaughn, Woman’s Work in the Civil War: A Record of
and Patience (Philadelphia: Zeigler, McCurdy & Co., 1867).
10 Department of War, Official Records of the War of the Rebellion
Series I., Vol. 51,
part 1. Brig. Gen. D.B. Birney, General Order #48 (May 16, 1863).
11 Lawrence G. Bixley, "Gettysburg Mystery Photo: A Second
Images (July-August, 1982), 24-25; William Gladstone, "Gettysburg Mystery Photo
answers," Military Images (March-April 1982), 16-18; "She Feared Not
Military Images (March-April 1982), 19; Marie Varrelman Melchiori, "The Death
Mary’," Military Images (July-August 1983), 14-15; Michael J. McAfee,
Pennsylvania Infantry: ‘The Collis Zouaves’," Military Images (July-August
1991), 29; Robin Smith
and Bill Younghusband, American Civil War Zouaves (London: Osprey Elite
series, 1996), 53-55,
12 The Picket Line and Camp Fire Stories (NY: Hurst & Co.,
13 Ethel Alice Hurn, Wisconsin Women in the War Between the States
History Commission, 1911), 100-101.
14 Robin Smith and Bill Younghusband, American Civil War Zouaves
Elite series, 1996), 61, plate I2; James Hennessey and H. Michael Madaus,
Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry, 1861-1864, ‘3rd California
Regiment,’ ‘Baxter’s Fire
Zouaves’," Military Uniforms in America, 75, Plate 495.
15 Moore, Frank, Women of the War (Hartford, CT: S.S. Scranton,
& Co., 1866),
16 Hurn, 100-101.
17 Memphis Daily Appeal (July 18, 1863), p. 1, c. 6.
18 Kenneth Olsen, Music and Musket: Bands and Bandsmen of the American
(Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1981), 211.
19 David H. Donald, ed., Gone for a Soldier: The Civil War Memoirs of
Bellard (Boston: Little Brown and Co., 1975), 219-220.
20 Leonard, 111-13.
21 Luce Ries, 7.
Bixley, Lawrence G., "Gettysburg Mystery Photo: A Second Look," Military
Images Vol. IV,
No. 1 (July/August 1982), 24-25.
Brockett, L.P. and Mary C. Vaughn. Woman’s Work in the Civil War: A Record of
Heroism, Patriotism and
Patience. Philadelphia: Zeigler, McCurdy & Co., 1867.
Brooks, Ross, "Red Petticoats and Blue Jackets: 1st Confederate
States Zouave Battalion
or Coppens’ Louisiana Zouaves," Military Collector and Historian Vol. XLV,
No. 4 (Winter,
Charleston Mercury (May 23, 1861), p. 1, c. 7.
Davis, William C. The Image of War 1861-1865 Vol. I. Garden City, NY:
Doubleday & Company,
Department of War. Official Records of the War of the Rebellion. Series I.,
Vol. 51, part 1.
Brig. Gen. D.B. Birney, General Order #48 (May 16, 1863).
Donald, David H., ed. Gone for a Soldier: The Civil War Memoirs of Private Alfred
Little Brown and Co., 1975.
Ewing, Elizabeth. Women in Uniform: Their Costume through the Centuries.
London, B.T. Batsford,
Gladstone, William, "Gettysburg Mystery Photo - more answers," Military
(March-April 1982), 16-18.
Haythornthwaite, Philip. Napoleon’s Light Infantry. London: Osprey
Hennessey, James, "The Vivandiere of the Louisiana Zouave Battalion,"
Confederate Historical Society of Great Britain Vol. 17, No. 1 (Spring 1989),
________ and H. Michael Madaus, "72nd Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteer
1861-1864, ‘3rd California Regiment,’ ‘Baxter’s Fire Zouaves’,"
Military Uniforms in
Horne, Alistair. The Fall of Paris: The Siege and the Commune 1870-1. London,
Hurn, Ethel Alice. Wisconsin Women in the War Between the States. Madison:
Jessee, Gail R., "Origin of Confederate Cantinieres," United
Daughters of the
Confederacy Magazine Vol., 58, No. 1 (January, 1995), 15.
Kannik, Preben. Military Uniforms in Color. NY: Macmillan Company, 1968.
Leech, Margaret. Reveille in Washington 1860-1865. Alexandria, VA: Time-Life
Books, 1980. 2d
Leonard, Elizabeth D. All the Daring of a Soldier. NY: W.W. Norton Company,
McAfee, Michael J., "114th Pennsylvania Infantry: ‘The Collis
Images Vol. XII, No. 1 (July/August 1981), 29.
________. Zouaves: The First and the Brave. Gettysburg, PA: Thomas
Massey, Mary Elizabeth. Bonnet Brigades. NY: Alfred A. Knopf, 1966.
Melchiori, Marie Varrelman, "The Death of ‘French Mary’," Military
Images Vol. V, No. 1
(July-August 1983), 14-15.
Memphis Daily Appeal (July 18, 1863), p. 1, c. 6.
Mobile Advertiser in the Mary Couch Scrapbook, Box 20, IV – B-4, Tennessee
State Library and
Archives, Nashville, Tennessee.
Moore, Frank. Women of the War. Hartford, CT: S.S. Scranton, & Co.,
Olsen, Kenneth. Music and Musket: Bands and Bandsmen of the American Civil
War. Westport, CT:
Greenwood Press, 1981.
The Picket Line and Camp Fire Stories. NY: Hurst & Co., n.d.
Ries, Luce, "Les Cantinieres: ou les ‘dessous’ de la gloire,"
Uniformes Les Armees de
L’histoire 67 (May-June, 1982), Translated by Nicholas Powell.
Rauscher, Frank. Music on the March 1862-1865 with the Army of the Potomac.
of William F. Fell & Co., 1892.
The Seneca (Ohio) Advertiser, September, 1861, as it appeared in an article in
the "Camp Noble
Gallant," newsletter of the 49th Ohio Infantry reenactment group, Todd
Shann, Stephen and Louis Delperier. French Army 1870-71, Franco-Prussian War
London: Osprey Men-At Arms Series, 1991.
"She Feared Not War'.," Military Images (March-April 1982), 19.
Smith, Robin and Bill Younghusband. American Civil War Zouaves. London:
Image of vivandiere on ceramic plate in my collection
2 patriotic envelopes depicting vivandieres in my collection
Photocopy of vivandiere in my collection
Image of Kady Brownell from Women in the War (copyright free)
Image of Marie Tepe from Library of Congress
Coppens’ Zouaves vivandiere from LoC
About the Author:
Susan Lyons Hughes is the Education Specialist and Coordinator of
Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill, Kentucky, a restored 19th century community.
Prior to her
employment at Shaker Village, she was employed for 17 years at the Kentucky Historical
Society. She serves
as editor of The Citizens' Companion, a bi-monthly magazine focusing on civilian
life during the Civil
War, and was the founding editor of The Watchdog, a quarterly review for Civil War
She is active in Civil War preservation efforts at Fort Hill in Frankfort and Mill
Springs Battlefield, both
in Kentucky. She is a frequent presenter at local, regional and national conferences,
focusing primarily on
civilian life during the war. Her article on Kentucky civilians, "My Old Kentucky
Home - At War,"
is slated for publication in North and South Magazine later this year.