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Army Officers' Wives 1865-1900

army wivesCuster The University of Nebraska-Lincoln has a most unusual and lesser thought about database of real life stories surrounding the wives of US Army Officers between 1865 and 1900. This collection online has in their own words through journals, letters and diaries their thoughts and actual experiences living on military posts across the Great Plains in the last 35 years of the 19th century. What a rare opportunity to better learn what life was like to military families, hundreds of miles away from their hometown, family and friends.

There are sections on what family life was like, how the rank of a specific officer could affect the family, what regular daily life was for the civilians, and a fascinating section on the relationships with the native American Indians.

Each of the major sections is then divided into lesser categories such as food preparation, weather conditions, church services, raising children at an isolated military post, what was done for entertainment, and when there were Indian wars. So many interesting topics to read over.

You may not find a journal or letter from one of your ancestors who may have been an army officer wife, but it will give you some wonderful insight into that relative’s life on the Great Plains in the military. These conditions applied to any women or families living on a military post or nearby.

Here is an example of a typical day for an Army Officer’s wife – Jennie Platt Barnitz (1841-1926) without any children yet in 1867. The description was for December 12, 1867 at Fort Leavenworth.

“In the morning we return from breakfast, then I read the morning paper, & do the dusting and picking up. We drive about two, come home, dress, read or sew some, and it is time for tea. The evenings are altogether taken up with making or receiving calls, and reading. We read aloud all the time evenings that we are not otherwise engaged, and so the days go by like one happy dream.”

Wonderful reading for anyone but especially for those who did have ancestors in the military in the late 19th century.

Photo:Elizabeth Bacon Custer (1842-1933) Photograph by Hill, 1876.Wife of Gen. George Armstrong Custer.

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