The ditch surrounding Fort Stanwix would have served not only as an extra defensive line, but also as housing for the soldier's families.
National Park Service
October 10, 2006
Mike Kusch, 315-337-7730
In the 1770s and 1780s, when the fort was garrisoned by the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War, the wives and children of some of the soldiers lived in the ditch for protection. However, there are no women and children living in the ditch today. If this was occurring the National Park Service staff would work with social service organizations to find help for these people.
“We wish to thank the citizens of the City of Rome who have donated food, bedding and other needed supplies for people they believed were living in the fort’s ditch. After investigating the situation we found that there are no people living in the ditch today,” stated Mike Kusch, Chief of Interpretation. “There may have been a misunderstanding. When park staff and volunteers talk about the women and children who lived in the ditch, they are discussing people who were there over two hundred years ago, not anyone today.” The staff at Fort Stanwix requests that people call them at (315) 338-7730 if they hear something about the fort that they question. The fort staff can then determine if what was learned is true. If it is, they will address the situation appropriately. In the meantime, the donated items that were received have been returned to those who gave them.
In the future, if you wish to donate items for the homeless please contact the local Rome Chapter of the American Red Cross, (315) 336-0030, Welcome Hall Community Center, (315) 337-2516, or your local place of worship. These organizations will provide information about what items are best to donate, as well as what is needed.
The women and children who lived in the ditch over two hundred years ago are commonly called camp-followers. These people followed their husbands and fathers who were serving in the army because they had nowhere else to live. The locations around the fort where these people stayed changed from year to year; sometimes they lived in the ditch and other times outside of the picket fence. They lived very harsh lives, but acceptable considering the time and conditions. It is these women and children who are often considered the unsung heroes of the American Revolutionary War, because of the much needed support they provided to the army. To maintain the efficiency of the army, military commanders employed the wives and children of soldiers to serve as nurses, laundresses, gatherers of food, water and wood, and other necessary jobs. For their work they were paid in rations at the rate of half a man’s ration for a woman and one quarter a ration for a child. For a child that is roughly equivalent to living on a quarter pound hamburger, a cup of peas and a dinner roll for an entire day.
Fort Stanwix National Monument is open seven days a week 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., except Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Days. Admission to the Marinus Willett Center and Fort are free. Visitors are encouraged to start their experience at the Marinus Willett Center at the intersection of West Dominick and James Streets. A park ranger can assist you in planning your visit. For more information about upcoming events call the park at (315) 338-7730. Please visit the park's web page at www.nps.gov/fost for additional information.