Camp Life

Camp Life

By Joe Wagner

The following quotes are taken from a document entitled “ Orderly Book of Captain Robert Gamble of the Second Virginia Regiment, Commanded by Colonel Christian Febiger, August 21 – November 16, 1779”  They offer some insights on the daily doings of an American unit in camp.  The setting is Fort Montgomery, New York, overlooking the Hudson River, where in the fall of 1779 the American Corps of Light Infantry was in camp.  Spelling is, as always in those times, a do-it-yourself experience.

Listen up musick


Regimental order Sept. 1st ’79

. . .  the Col. o[b]serving that the Drums & Fifes in Stead of Improving themselves since they have Been on this Detachment have Grone a Great Deal worse Direct that Phillip Goaf,  Fifer in the 1st Battalion, and Wm. Armstead, Drumer of Second, take out the Drums & Fifes of the Reg’t Every afternoon Sundays and Rainy Day[s] exsepttd to Practice for hours From four to six o’clock,

After-dinner Entertainment


September 6th, ’79.

At a Gen’l Cort Marshal held this Day whereof Maj’r Stewart was President, Wm, Matlock Soldier in Capt. Talburt’s Company of Col. Butler’s Reg’t of Light Infantry, Charged with theft and escaping from the Quarter Guard, Disertion & attempting to go to the Enemy, was found Guilty of the whole of the Charges & Unanimously Sentenced to Suffer Death. When any Soldier becomes so Lost to Every Sence of Vallue & honour as to Be capable of commiting the Chrimes of which the above named Prisoner is found Guilty of; is no Longer fit [to] Exist in a Land of Liberty or to Remain a Disgrace to the Name of a Soldier. Gen’l Wayne therefore conftrm[s] the Sentence passed by the Cort Marshall & the Same Wm. Matlock to Be shot to Death at Six o’clock this Evening, the whole of the Troops to assemble at that hour on the Grand Parade & attend the Execution.

Baron who?

L. I. O. (Light Infantry Orders)

SATURDAY, Sept. 18th, 1779.

Field Officer to-morrow Col. Febiger, Ditto for Picquett this Night Maj’r Posey, adj’t to-morrow, Maury.

The Ge n’l Calls on the officers of this Corps to Pay the strictices & Immediate attention of the menuvering of the troops agreable to the mode & Rules Laid Down by the Barren Stewben. the officers will Carfully Exammen the State and Condision of the Arms, accutrements, ammunsion and Clothing of their respective Comp’s and see that Every thing be in Rediness to move at a moment’s notis as it is more than Proverble that the next Post will [be] in an Inhabited Contry [and] the Eyes of Every Individual will be on the Light Infantry & those Officers & Battalions most esteemed who make the Best appearance on the Parrade.

A stitch in time


September the 29th, 1779.

Field Officer to-morrow Maj’r Steward. Ditto for Picquett this Night Lt. Col. Hay.36 Adjutant to-morrow Farell.

The Troops are to Parade the day after to-morrow at troop beating, arms, accoutrements & ammunition in the Best order Possible with their Packs Slung & two Days Provision, Agreeable to the Standing order when the Strictices Scrutiny will be made [by] the officers into Every minucia, who will also be anserable For every Man belonging to their Respective Companys. No Excuse can be admited for non-attendance, unsoldierly appearance, & in order to Remove Every Pretext for the latter, the Quarters master will Call on Mr. Thomas at twelve O’clock to Day Each for four pounds Sewing thread and four hundred needles, and Immediately Distribute them among the Companies in their Respective Regiments.

Labor problems

13th 0ct’r, 1779

Frequent complaints are made to me that notwithstanding there are three Women who draw Rations in my Company-the Men Receive no benefit by Washing from them-for the future, to prevent complaints of this sort, and the more equitable distribution of the business amongst them. Sergeant Grymes will imediately divide the Company into three Squads as may be most agreeable to them and give each woman a list of those she is obliged to wash for-who will deliver her the soap they draw and pay her the stimulated [sic] price-except when the soap is not sufficient & she is obliged to purchase-then they must make a reasonable allowance-but on no pretence whatever is she on an average to exceed two Dollars [per] Dozen.  If any of the Women of my Company are properly convicted of refusing to comply with this reasonable Order, for the first fault her whole Rations shall be stopt- & and for the second she shall be dismissed with disgrace as a useless charge & Expence to the Continent.

Horse hairless

Oct. 22nd.
Gen’l Wayne has observed with Great Concern That the Virginians are the only troops in the Light Infantry that has not procured Hair for their Caps. The Cob. (Commander of the battalion?) is induced to Repeat the Order for that purpose once more And Directs the Officers to take the most speedy and Effectual means to procure that Article, no officers to Mount Gard or go on the grand parade Without a Cap, if he has not one of his own, he will [be] kind a nuff to borrow


Low expectations

C. O. Oct’r 24th, 1779.

Captain Gamble is much pleas’d that notwithstanding the Soldiers had drawn two days rum yesterday, Ensgn. Phillips says not one of his Company was drunk on the Parade-the Capt. earnestly wishes this good conduct may continue & would fondly hope it-But as the Commissary will soon have Liquor to Issue exclusive of what the Virg’a State so Generously has begun to Supply us with and as it may be most propper to draw several days at once on account of the distance, Soldiers who are accustomed to get drunk will by this means have it in their power. But the Captain is determined to suppress a practice distructive of good order & military discipline and does most peremptorily declare that the first man of his Company who he may catch Disguised with Liquor either on or off guard shall for the first offence have his Rum stop’d for two weeks both from the State & Commissary store, and be denied those privileges of recrea- tion which a good and orderly Soldier can be occasionally indulged with-& for the Second Offence shall have added to this punishment whatever the sentence of a Court Martial may inflict without favour to any Individual.

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