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Our online articles on historic fashions connect you to more information. "Girls of '61" by Cricket Bauer explores the role of Lizzie Jones as Daughter of the Regiment. For a view of her outfit at the Chicago Historical Society, see August 1999 calendar: Historic Fashions of Women & Children.


The Girls of '61

by M. Cricket Bauer

Photo - Womens Regimental Costume
Image from Calendar 1999: Historic Fashions of Women & Children. Courtesy of Chicago Historical Society

Who is that? Why, Maria! Our pretty daughter;
The jewel and the glory of the King's famous Regiment, the Twentieth!
Yes it is she, yes it is she, by Jove, she is a beauty!
How blest, how fortunate the Regiment, to possess such a daughter!
1

So sing the soldiers of the French Army's 20th Regiment in the opening scenes of the 1844 comic opera, "La Fille du Régiment" by Gaetano Donizetti. On April 17, 1861, a similar scene would be reported by a Boston, Massachusetts correspondent, with slightly less florid wording: "Miss Lizzie Clawson Jones, daughter of Col. Jones of the Sixth Regiment, was formally adopted as the "Daughter of the Regiment" this morning, amid much enthusiasm. She is a pretty little miss of 10 years and will not travel with the Regiment."2

But what exactly is a "Daughter of the Regiment?" Although the exact origin of the term is unknown, it is clear that "Daughter of the Regiment" was sometimes used as a sobriquet for a more official, often uniformed and occasionally paid, role-that of the Vivandière. The first year of the American Civil War, 1861, saw a proliferation of "daughters" like Lizzie Jones, whose role was primarily ceremonial, and who did not perform their duties far beyond the initial outbreak of hostilities. In comparison, only a few experienced the horrors of war and continued to serve until the War's end.

Although all European armies of the late 18th and early 19th centuries had some sort of provision for the soldiers' female relatives, the Vivandière as it would appear in the United States had its origins in France. The French Vivandière accompanied the troops, carrying food, liquid refreshments and nescessities, and sometimes acted as a nurse during combat situations.3 Although military uniforms were not officially prescribed for the early Vivandières, by the mid 19th century most wore a jacket similar to the men's, trousers, and a knee length skirt.4 Many Vivandière uniforms were merely feminine versions of the male uniform, but with extra touches, like more braiding on the jacket or an apron. All Vivandières carried their trademark cask, the contents of which were usually brandy, rum or wine.

The French female provisioner (Vivandière) and canteen woman (Cantinière) were such well-known characters in Europe that it became the subject of the popular media of the time, including Donizetti's opera. The heroine, Marie, is abandoned at birth, and collectively raised by the men of France's 20th Regiment. As she matures she fills the role of Vivandière, complete with uniform and canteen. Through a series of plot contrivances dealing with circumstances of her birth and a romance with a local boy who joins the unit just to be near her, the audience is treated to lighthearted yet stirring ballads and martial music. As any good "daughter" should, she eventually marries one of the soldiers- the one who enlisted just to be near her.5

Although the sight of a Vivandière in the US before the Civil War would have been a true oddity, the American audience was familiar with the Vivandière through popular fiction, news reports of the European armies in the Crimean and Italian War of the 1850s, and perhaps even Donizetti's opera. The first US performance of the opera was in New Orleans in 1844, and an English version debuted in San Francisco in 1854.6 The opera also played a part in encouraging the war-fever of the American Civil War. In the early months of the conflict, American prima donna Clara Louise Kellogg starred in the opera's east coast productions, in a blatant attempt to capitalize on the sentiments of the audience. For her role, she learned to play the drum, and the staging incorporated several American patriotic anthems and real Zouaves.7

Before and during the Civil War, the small Regular US Army had no official counterpart to the uniformed Vivandière. Certainly there were allowances for female employment as laundresses, and the young daughters of sergeants or officers were sometimes informally "adopted" as the "daughter," but no women were formally included within the ranks of the uniformed military.

The early war State militia units and the volunteer regiments, which did not necessarily follow the same guidelines as the Regular Army, made up for the omission of the Vivandière. They seemed particularly popular in units that adopted uniforms modeled on the French Zouaves. The Zouave, a soldier well-known for acts of bravery and élan, wore uniforms based on the costumes of indigenous northern African tribesmen that included baggy trousers and short collarless jackets.8

In 1861, uniformed women- not masquerading as men- proliferated. The 25th Pennsylvania was accompanied by five Vivandières, and the 39th New York, also known as the Garibaldi Guard, had six.9 However, these American Vivandières, and many others like them, fulfilled a role that was essentially ceremonial, such as marching in parades for the benefit of the cheering friends, families and officials at home.

American Vivandières modeled their costumes on that of their French counterparts, or feminine versions of their particular regiment's uniform, but also on "rational" or "bloomer" dress first introduced in 1851 by Amelia Bloomer, that featured a skirt over full trousers. Early war commentators on Vivandière dress often characterized it as "Turkish," referring to the combination of skirt and trousers in the style of the Middle Eastern dress. A case in point was when the Washington Evening Star described the marriage of Sarah Bezely, one of the "daughters" of a Rhode Island unit, to Charles Tibbets of that regiment. She sported "the Turkish costume," the reporter noted, "and wore a blouse of cherry-colored satin, pants of blue, and a felt hat with white plumes- the national colors."10

Like their French counterparts, the role of the American Vivandière had several aspects. Initially, it included the ceremonial functions like participation in parades and reviews. When in camp, they could, like Lizzie Jones, deliver, read and transcribe mail for the soldiers, or, like Mary Tepe of the 114th Pennsylvania, sell tobacco, alcohol, and other goods not supplied by the military. At the onset of active campaigning and battle during the American Civil War, the number of vivandières greatly diminished- the few remaining after 1861 bear familiar names, and are well documented, perhaps the best known being Mary Tepe. Those vivandières also provided nursing care for wounded-a task not considered appropriate at the outset of the war.

The harsh realities of war precluded the participation of the more fashionable early-war "daughters." The vivandières whose names are familiar to the modern reader, such as Kady Brownell, Mary Tepe, Bridget Divers, Anna Etheridge, Eliza Wilson and Hannah Ewbank, joined the army in 1861 and continued to serve in the subsequent years.11 Several of the Vivandières who continued had their roots in Europe, where women's participation in the military was more acceptable. Kady Brownell of the 1st Rhode Island was the daughter of a Scottish veteran of the British army, while Mary Tepe was born in France to a French mother and Turkish father.12

It is Mary Tepe's costume that captures the modern imagination as the "typical" vivandière, due not only to her war-time exploits, but also because of the widely published Carte-de-Visite of her wearing her uniform.13 Her initial participation in the military was as the wife of Bernard Tepe of the 27th Pennsylvania.14 Her fame grew in 1862 when she left the 27th to join the 114th Pennsylvania, also known as Collis' Zouaves. It was with this unit that she adopted her now famous Zouave Vivandière ensemble of red baggy trousers, blue skirt with red trim, and short blue jacket similar to the men's with light blue cuffs and brass buttons along the front edge.15

Other American Vivandières illustrate the variety of costume that was considered appropriate for their role. An observer described Eliza Wilson of the 5th Wisconsin dressed "in clothes of such pattern... which is Turkish costume, as near as I can judge-the same which sensible ladies favored a few years since as a national style. 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 boots."16

Eliza's costume lacks the military flair of Mary Tepe's, yet the "national style" that it refers to shares many of the same elements of dress. It is specifically referring to the Bloomer costume. Although it never gained widespread acceptance as a replacement for the long full skirts of the mid 19th century, the costume was deemed a suitable alternative for specific situations, like gymnastics or certain types of manual labor. It was a favorite of dress reformers and women who stepped outside of conventional stereotypes, such as Dr. Mary Walker, who wore Bloomer-inspired dress during and well after the Civil War.

Women did not need to be a Vivandière or "daughter of the regiment" to wear such a costume. Amanda Farnham, a nurse with the Sixth Corps, sported "full pants buttoning over the top of her boots, skirts falling a little below the knee, and a jacket with tight sleeves."17 Dorothea Dix, head of the Northern Nursing Corps, did not approve of it.18 Nor did one have to wear "Turkish" costume in order to perform the duties of a Vivandiere. Anna Etheridge of the 2nd Michigan is sometimes described as wearing a more conventional riding habit, a popular choice among women visiting the military camps.19

To the men of the 6th Massachusetts Volunteer infantry, the presentation of Lizzie's costume was a memorable event that was recorded in one of their regimental histories. Their Chaplain, John W. Hanson, writes, "July 16, the non-commissioned officers and privates presented the Daughter of the Regiment with a costly and beautiful uniform,-- a dark velvet jacket, trimmed with gold lace; a skirt of red white and blue silk; and a light-colored hat, with red, white and blue feathers, on one side of which was a gilt wreath, in which was a figure 6. The canteen was of silver, handsomely embossed. The presentation speech was made by Sergeant Crowley, to which the Daughter appropriately responded."20

The story of 10 year old Lizzie Jones may be considered unique among the "daughters" of the United States Volunteer Army. Her ceremonial "adoption" took place the day the 6th Massachusetts regiment left Boston, with her father, Edward F. Jones, as their Colonel. Although there was apparently no intention of her accompanying the troops, she later appears at their camp in Baltimore. The 6th had made its mark on history during its initial passage through Baltimore, where on April 19, 1861, they were attacked by pro-Southern mobs, resulting in some of the first casualties of the war. The circumstances seemed to calm down sufficiently for the Colonel's daughter to join them in May of 1861 in camp at the Relay House railroad station, eight miles west of Baltimore. The day before the troops were scheduled to return home, the soldiers presented the Daughter with her costume and accouterments. The Boston Evening Transcript recorded the event: "Miss Lizzie C. Jones, the Daughter of the Sixth Massachusetts Regiment, is said to look charmingly in her new costume as 'the child,' and will undoubtedly be an object of extraordinary interest when that famous regiment returns to Boston. A correspondent says-'She is but ten years old, and since she has been in camp she has been a great comfort to the soldiers in the hospital, visiting them daily, and dispensing among the unfortunate little delicacies, as well as going frequently through the streets of the camp with strawberries, cherries, &c.; Sometimes she has distributed as many as sixteen boxes to a company-- the market man of course driving his cart to each tent."21

Prior to this ceremony, Lizzie Jones performed the role of Vivandière in camp in her everyday clothes. At the cost of $125, her costume was a token of appreciation, and she most likely wore it in the parades and ceremonies that were waiting for the returning Regiment in Boston.22 Her acceptance speech was full of suitable sentiment: "Comrades-when you took me, a stranger, and adopted me as your daughter, I had but little idea of what you were doing, and of what my duties were; but having been in camp with you two months and learned to know you all, I have learned to love you all, and I feel that you all love me, because there are none of you when we meet but have a kind word and a pleasant smile for me. And now that you have put me in uniform, I feel still more that I belong to you, and I will try never to forget it. But you do not expect me to talk, but, like this splendid treasure, which I shall prize as a remembrance to the last day of my life-which is full to relieve the parched lips of my sick and wounded comrades-so shall my heart be a canteen full of love and sympathy for each and all of you. Comrades-Thank you-thank you-thank you."23

Lizzie's costume contains many elements that are similar to those worn by the other Vivandières described here, with one noticeable exception-the omission of trousers or pantalettes. This is for a very good reason-Lizzie was only 10 years old, and it was appropriate for a girl of that age to wear a skirt that falls only to mid-calf. Had she been over 18, trousers would have been a part of the ensemble, to be worn under the skirt. Yet the only elements of Lizzie's attire that make it particularly martial are the canteen and hat. Without them, the costume could have been merely a fancy ensemble suitable for a variety of situations.

Fortunately for the 20th century historian, Lizzie indeed kept her costume, "prized as a remembrance to the last day of her life." As a donation to the Chicago Historical Society by her granddaughter, the survival of this "daughter of the regiment" "uniform" reminds us of a particular aspect of American history that has almost been forgotten.

ENDNOTES

1Gaetano Donizetti, "The Daughter of the Regiment, A Comic Opera in 2 Acts with Italian-English text," Belwin Mills Publishing Corp. Melville, NY 197?.

2Boston Daily Evening Transcript, Wed., April 17, 1861.

3Although similar in dress, the French Vivandières and Cantinières differed slightly in their function. In 1854, the term Vivandière was officially replaced by Cantinière in France; however, in the US, Vivandière was the preferred term for the female provisioner. See H. Sinclair Mills, "The Vivandière," C.W. Historicals, Collinswood, NJ, 1988, pp. 2-3.

4Luce Riès, "Les Cantinières ou les 'Dessous' de la Gloire," in "Uniforms: les Armées de L'Historie," May-June 1982, p.6-7.

5Donizetti.

6Wallace Brockway & Herbert Weinstock, "The World of Opera," Pantheon Books, NY, 1962.

7Clara Louise Kellogg, "Memoirs of an American Prima Donna," G.P. Putnam's Sons, NY, 1913, p. 56. In Donizetti's opera, set in the early 19th century, the 20th Regiment does not wear the Zouave uniform, since the uniform was not adopted by the French until the late 1830s. The 1861 staging most likely took advantage of the proximity of the several Northern of Zouave units stationed in Baltimore and Washington.

8More information on Zouaves can be found at http://www.zouave.org.

9Mills, pp. 15-16.

10Washington Evening Star, May 3, 1861.

11More information on Kady Brownell can be found at http://www2.shore.net/~sbl/welcome.htm.

12L.P. Brockett and Mary C. Vaughn, "Women at War," originally published Boston, R.H. Curran, 1867, reprint. Longmeadow Press, Stamford, 1993, p. 82; Edward J. Hagerty, "Collis' Zouaves," Louisiana, LSU Press, 1997, p. 94.

13To view the CDV, go to http://clio.nara.gov:70/l/inform/dc/audvis/still/civwar/civil197.jpg.

14E.F. Conklin, "Women at Gettysburg," Thomas Publications, Gettysburg, 1993, p. 105; Gladstone M p. 18; Mills, p. 6.

15Mills, p. 7.

16Correspondence of Wisconsin Volunteers, p. 216, cited in "Wisconsin Women in the War between the States," Ethel Alice Hurn, Wisconsin History Commission, 1911, p. 101.

17Conklin p. 85.

18Ibid.

19Ibid. p. 95; Cricket Bauer, "Hardtack and Hairnets: Women's Costume as Depicted in Photographs of the US Military during the American Civil War," Master's Thesis, Univ. of MD, 1996.

20John W. Hanson, Chaplain, "Historical Sketch of the Old Sixth Regiment of Massachusetts volunteers during its 3 campaigns," Boston, Lee & Shephard, 1866, p. 66.

21Boston Evening Transcript, July 20, 1861.

22Ibid, July 19, 1861.

23Ibid, July 20, 1861.

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