But what can I do? – The Camp Followers of the American Revolution

A little recognized fact of the American Revolution was the contribution – indeed, the critical needs fulfilled – by women during the American Revolution. They acted as cooks, maids, laundresses, water bearers and seamstresses for the always-moving Patriot army in order to free up the Minutemen to fight, and they were the bulk of George Washington’s famous spy network because they also were employed by the British to cook and clean. They eavesdropped on British conversations regarding troop movements, battle plans, shortages and resupply efforts and then got the information back to Washington.

In fact, the war could not have progressed without the efforts of the women of the Revolution.

Although most women were noncombatants, they still suffered the same consequences of war as the militia. Those who struggled to maintain their homesteads in the absence of their husbands and sons as fighting raged nearby confronted the real threat of violence. Rape by the enemy troops was always a possibility as well as having their homes looted and burned to the ground.

Some women who followed Washington’s army were seeking safety, shelter, food and work. They needed the army, and while Washington and many officers did not like to admit it, the army needed them. It had to do with attrition as many soldiers would leave to take care of their families. General Washington couldn’t afford to lose men because of their family needs, but neither could he afford to feed every hungry mouth that sought assistance from the army. Throughout the war, destitute civilians fled to the army for safety and food even though the army could barely provision its own troops.

Other women at home running the homesteads supplied the provisions needed by the army as it meandered from battle to battle. So successful was the effort to provide for the militia that the British began burning homes and crops to the ground and slaughtering farm animals as the army moved through an area to keep the provisions out of Patriot hands. Without the efforts of the populace supporting them, the American Revolution would have had a very different outcome.

Today, we’re facing danger of losing our freedom just as great as we faced 240 years ago. And Idaho’s Constitutionally-mandated militia needs the support of our citizens. If our militia is called out, we need to have supply line processes ready to deploy along with our men. They will need the same things the Patriot army needed long ago: meals, laundry, fresh socks, medical supplies, etc. If any of you have already supported deployed husbands, sons and daughters in recent combat zones, you already know what is needed. Step up now and find out how you can be involved in your county’s plan by contacting: or

Gem State Patriot News