Vivandieres, sometimes known as cantinieres, were women who followed the army to provide support for the troops. Ideally, a vivandiere would have been a young woman the daughter of an officer or wife of a non-commissioned officer who wore a uniform and braved battles to provide care for wounded soldiers on the battlefield.
Vivandieres did not fight in battles but were often armed, earned honors, and were sometimes captured by the enemy. Their most important contribution was the essential medical care they provided as field nurses. As battles raged, vivandieres made their way through the wounded offering immediate medial care. Calculating the exact number of women who served as vivandieres is nearly impossible. Neither North nor South recognized the service of vivandieres and they are rarely mentioned in official records. Their courage and brave deeds are recorded in personal accounts and post-war regimental histories. While we cannot put a name to the young woman in this photograph, there are a few vivandieres whose names have become symbolic of all those who served:
Sarah Taylor – 1st Tennessee (US) – prisoner of war
Marie Tepe – Collis’ Zouaves – awarded the Kearny Cross
Eliza Wilson – 5th Wisconsin
Ella Gibson – 49th Ohio
Lucy Ann Cox – 13th Virginia
Kady Brownell –1st and 5th Rhode Island
Bridget Divers – 1st Michigan Cavalry
Annie Etheridge – 3rd and 5th Michigan – awarded the Kearny Cross
Marie Tepe was one such courageous woman. Originally born in France in 1834, Marie was raised by her father and later moved to the United States following his death. When she was nearly 20 years of age, she married Bernhard Tepe, a Philadelphia tailor. When the Civil War began, her husband joined the 27th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry Regiment. As soon as her husband left so did Marie, despite Bernhard wanting her to stay and mind the tailor shop in Philadelphia.
After a short hospitalization she rejoined the regiment. In July 1863, Marie and her regiment joined the fight at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. When the battle was over, "French Mary" volunteered her services as a nurse to help the wounded. After a few weeks of tending to the injured she continued on with her regiment. Marie Tepe served through the rest of the war and later moved to Pittsburgh. She attended the reunion of the Battle of Fredericksburg in 1893. The famous "French Mary" died in 1901.
The Vivandieres who served in the Civil War showed great courage in the face of battle. These daring souls, like Marie Tepe, are the forgotten women of the Civil War. They went above and beyond the duties of a vivandiere to serve their country. French Mary and other vivandieres earned the recognition and respect of their regiments. They deserve to be remembered.
And here's my custom for the Marie Tepe aka "The French Mary"...
The French Mary 1834 - 1901
American Civil War