Reenactment & Living History

While modern-day armies may function with complex and entirely state-run logistics, 18th and early 19th century campaigns depended on many camp followers to make military life tolerable, and even, at times, rather pleasant. Moreover, civilians were found in the many theatres of war not only as official (and often unofficial) camp followers, but also as refugees and unlucky bystanders.

Portraying a civilian is incredibly interesting, as there is a variety of representations that are well-documented. The QHC encourages its members portraying civilians to research and represent the various aspects of civilian life as relevant to time, place and socioeconomic status.

Civilians in the Seven Years War

It has been estimated, according to firsthand sources, that in the mid to late 18th century, the ratio of female camp followers officially supported on half-rations by the British army in North America varied between 1:6 and 1:10. Most of these women were soldiers wives and daughters, hired to act as nurses, seamstresses, laundresses and cooks. Indeed, for many soldiers, the military was a family affair. And when a military wife became widowed on campaign, she could choose to return to England at the Crown's expense, or remarry within the regiment. There were also civilian men attached to the army, as sutlers (traders and sellers of sundry goods), tailors, surgeons, and the like.

Some officers wives, although less representative of the mass of female camp followers, were also likely to follow their husband on campaign, bringing along their maids, and possibly their children.

As well, many frontier settlers were caught in the midst of armed conflict due to the location of their homes. In New France, for example, the British army raided and burnt farms up and down the Saint-Lawrence river, forcing many civilians to flee.

American Revolutionary War

Beyond the aforementionned roles as camp followers and civilians caught in the midst of conflict, the American Revolutionary War also witnessed large bodies of refugees loyal to the British Crown fleeing persecution and bodily harm in the yet-to-be-born United States. Historians estimate that up to 90 000 Loyalists fled to the northern British colonies (located in present-day eastern Canadian provinces of Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia).

On of the roles of the army, particularly the King's Rangers, was to assist refugees in Quebec and aiding the escape of Loyalist families.

War of 1812

New settlers along the US/British North America border, either Loyalists or simply families looking for land and a new life, were caught in a conflict opposing them to yesterday's neighbours. Alongside the army's camp followers, they formed a mass of civilians having to flee their homes, or living in fear of their backyard becoming the next battleground. Often refugees in the various forts erected along conflict lines, they were at the mercy of military victories and defeats.