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The On-Line Institute for Advanced Loyalist Studies
This article on Loyalist families is presented in 8 parts. Click below to skip to:

Part 1 - Introduction
Part 2 - Those Left Behind
Part 3 - A Variety of Hardships
Part 4 - The Women Join Their Husbands
Part 5 - Services of the Women
Part 6 - Problems in Camp
Part 7 - Widows & Orphans
Part 8 - A New Life

Female Ancestors
Refugees & Others, Part 5 of 8

Services of the Women

In point of duty, the women of the Provincial Corps served exactly as their colleagues in the British regiments did, and which Don Hagist has so well pointed out in his articles on the subject.

The roles of laundress, sutler and nurse were common for the Provincials, with the latter duty mandatory when needed in order to be maintained on rolls for provisions. However mandatory though, the nurses received 6 pence a day pay, the same rate as a private soldier.25

While the mundane camp duties were the norm, these women's unique knowledge of the countryside, coupled with the assumed non-combatant status of women, allowed their use in various clandestine military roles.

The British Secret Service, run through the Adjutant General's Department, at least several times used women in their line of work.

In 1780, J. Mauritius Goetchius of the Bergen county, N.J. Militia reported to George Washington his apprehension of a "Refugies wife" who was piloting six deserters of the Pennsylvania Line to the British, five of whom made it.26

Earlier that year another continental deserter had reported to the British that Loyalist women had successfully carried General TRYON's proclamations offering pardons to Morristown from New York, adding "they cannot fail being publickly known."27

An even more daring episode occurred in 1781 when George Washington led a large force of continentals and French into Westchester.

The British seriously toyed with the idea of surprising them or possibly even kidnapping Washington.

To gather intelligence, a brave unknown Loyalist woman was selected from a regiment, dutifully completing her assignment and reporting her findings with extraordinary detail:

The woman is returned from Washington's Quarters. She saw him herself and says- that Washington sleeps in the back room- that there were two french sentries yesterday at his door and that his Guard consisted of French and rebels, which she judged to be about 30 or 40 men- that several Tents were near and about his House- that his Guard was much stronger by Night than by Day- the she saw no Horsemen there- that there was no Camp in the rear of his Quarters- that Genl. Howe lodged near half a mile back of it- that Appleby's was about half a mile back of the rebel Camp- that Lord Stirling and a french General lodged together at David Pugsley's between the two rebel Lines. 28

25 "Contingant Account of the First Battn. N.J. Volunteers From 25th Day of Decr. 1781 To 24th June 1782." Library of Congress, Miscellaneous Manuscripts Collection, 1st Battalion, New Jersey Volunteers, AC 458.

26 Library of Congress, George Washington Papers. Copy in the Johnson Public Library, Bergen County Revolutionary War Records & Orders.

27 "Intelligence by John Cunningham of Edinburgh in North Britain, aged 26. Given Sat: 26th Feby. 1780." University of Michigan, William L. Clements Library, Sir Henry Clinton Papers, 87:1.

28 Beckwith to Marquard, Morris's House, 28 July 1781. Clinton Papers, 167:10.

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                               Refugees & Others: Loyalist Families

                               Part 1 - Introduction
                               Part 2 - Those Left Behind
                               Part 3 - A Variety of Hardships
                               Part 4 - The Women Join Their Husbands
                               Part 6 - Problems in Camp
                               Part 7 - Widows & Orphans
                               Part 8 - A New Life

                               Top of Page

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