Morristown's Camp Followers

painting of women in 18th century clothes outside a log cabin

Eric Olsen, Park Ranger/Historian, Morristown NHP

“they were encamped together during the winter…in a place called Jockey Hollow, and they washed together while there.”

When you think about the women related to the various encampments at Morristown, its usually Martha Washington or Kitty Greene that come to mind. And the Broadway musical “Hamilton” has made Eliza Schuyler extremely popular. However, their overall contributions to the encampments were small. They boosted the morale of their husbands and future husband. They enlivened the parties and dances the officers attended. But that’s about it.

On the other hand, at the opposite end of the social and class structure, there were many women who assisted the army daily. These were the women, both married and unmarried, who supported the soldiers in camp. They did the laundry, cooked the meals, mended clothes and nursed the sick. Despite their contributions, for the most part these women, commonly called camp followers, remain faceless and nameless.

This paper will attempt to provide the names of some of these women who supported the army at Morristown. In most cases if I’m lucky, I can give you is a name. But these women never had their portraits painted, so a face is out of the question. But in a couple of rare cases, I’ve found a pension account or a diary entry that can at least give a tiny hint of the actual person.

These women of the camp did not come to Morristown just during the winter of 1779-1780. Morristown was the site of four different winter encampments. And it was a temporary campsite for passing armies throughout the war. Additionally, for much of the war Morristown served the military as a supply depot, hospital. and jail. All these activities brought the army and its women to Morristown during the eight years of the American Revolution. To provide a bit of structure to this information, I have grouped the women by the year that they appeared in Morristown in the records.

Morristown 1777

The first time names of camp followers appear in Morristown was in 1777, when the army made Morristown the site of a winter encampment. Camp followers probably visited Morristown earlier in the war, but their names haven’t popped up in any records.

We know the names of 7 women who were part of the 1777 winter encampment at Morristown
Five are known because their names appear in the marriage records of Morristown’s Presbyterian Church. We know that these marriages are related to the army because of the use of the notation “soldier” after the husbands’ name. Here is a list of the happy couples and the date of their weddings.“

Jan. 27. John Holden & Hannah Allibe [Soldier]”“
Feb. 6. Will. McCormick & Dranna Grammer [Soldier]”“
Mar. 27 Jacob Longhals & Martha Rhoderick [Soldier]”“
Apr. 15. William Rogan, soldier [4th PA Regt.?], and Sarah Greer.”
“Jul. 10. James Gardiner [MD & NJ Regts?], soldier and Nance Burn”

The other two named women appear in a June 1777 “Mess Roll” for Captain Ross’s Company in the Third New Jersey Regiment. There were ten “messes” in the company. Each mess shared one cooking kettle and presumably one tent. Elizabeth Evans was listed in the 5th mess along with her husband, Emmanuel Evans and Edward Brady, Joseph Johnson, and Patrick Ryan. While Margaret Johnson [or Johnston] was in the 2nd mess with her husband Corporal Samuel Johnson [or Johnston] and Jonathan Emmons and Edward Howell. Both women most likely cooked for the men in their mess and did laundry for them and others in the company.

Elizabeth Evans name only appeared in that single Mess Roll. The rest of her story is a mystery. Records indicate that her husband deserted to the enemy on March 24, 1779, while the regiment was posted in Elizabethtown, New Jersey. There is no record what happened to Elizabeth. Her husband Emmanuel was captured and returned to the regiment on February 1, 1780, while the army was wintering in Morristown. He was thrown into the “provost” jail in Morristown and court martialed on February 24, 1780. He was “charged with “Deserting to the enemy and taken in arms against the States,” was tried and found guilty of the charges and sentenced to suffer Death, more than two thirds of the Court agreeing. The Commander in Chief approves the sentence.” The execution took place on May 26th. Evans was scheduled to be executed along with 10 other men. But as the men stood at the gallows, a reprieve was read for Emmanuel Evans and 9 other condemned men. Only one man out of the eleven was executed. Unfortunately, Evans records stop at this point, so I have no idea what happened to him or his wife Elizabeth.

We know a little bit more about Margaret Johnston. She was the wife of Samuel C. Johnston, a soldier in the 3rd New Jersey Regiment. Her husband got a veteran’s pension in 1820 when he was 67 years old. In his pension application he described his military service. He also briefly described his wife, “Margaret she is 64 years old, she is unable to earn her support but is able to do a little light work.” After Samuel died, Margaret applied for a widow’s pension in 1838. In order to get the pension, she was required to prove that her husband had served and that she was his widow. Fortunately, Margaret provided a little more information regarding her service in the army.

Margaret wrote, “She further says that her oldest child was eleven months old, when she went to her said husband, when he was in Capt. Ross’s Company, and that she lived in Mount Holley in the State of New Jersey, before she went, she says her child’s name was Rebecca Johnston, which she left at home, with her mother and agreed to give her one Dollar per week for the taking care of her said Child, which her said husband paid, out of his wages received while in service – she further says that her said Husband had the small Pox and hired a man to come to Mountholey and bring her to camp, to take care of him – that he was stationed not far from Morristown, in New Jersey, it was in the spring of the year [1777] that she staid with him a few days over two months & took care of him, & she thinks there was twelve in the Mess to which she was attached – that she cooked & washed for the Mess, while there, she says that Capt. Ross said to her she ought to have had two Dollars per week for what she did – Capt. Ross said to me, that he would try to get some out of their wages (to dict) [deducted?] the soldiers and pay me – but I never received one penny…” Margaret like many lower class women could not read or write and she signed her statement in court with an “X”.

Based on her statement, Margaret was only with her husband in the army for a little over two months, caring for him while he recovered from smallpox. Based on the date of the mess roll she was probably with him for the months of May and June. Her husband brought her out to be his nurse, but she also washed and cooked for the mess which she said consisted of 12 men. With the season of campaigning beginning and her husband recovered from smallpox, Margaret returned home. Afterall, she had left her 11-month-old daughter back home at Mount Holly under the care of her mother. Plus, she was paying her mother a dollar a week to care for Rebecca. Margaret’s husband Samuel continued to serve in the 3rd New Jersey Regiment until his enlistment expired and he was discharged in January 1780 when the army was encamped at Jockey Hollow.

Morristown 1778 & 1779

There were no large-scale winter encampments during these years, but troops passed through and camped briefly in the area. The military storehouses, hospital and provost jail were also in operation. The only identified camp followers for the years 1778 and 1779 come from the records of the Presbyterian Church in Morristown. They list three camp related marriages for 1778 and one for 1779. There are,

1778 [3 marriages]
“Aug. 1 Job Brown a Soldier & Elizabeth Hopkins.”
“Sep. 20. Rubin Cooper of Virginia, Sergeant, & Elizabeth Cady.”
“Dec. 3 George Thorborn Soldier & Nancy Kenny, late Nancy McGowen Widow

1779 [1 marriage]
“Dec. 12. Frederick Hill molat. Sol. Free as he saith & Hannah Coran, Ser. of Sam’l Hopping.”

I’ve attempted to identify the various soldiers that appear in the church records but have found little. Even if I could find pay rolls or muster rolls for the soldier, there is no reason that his wife would be mentioned in those records. If the soldier later applied for a pension all he had to prove was that he served in the Continental Army. Again, there was no reason to mention a wife. If the veteran’s widow applied for a pension, she did not have to mention any of her service as a camp follower. Service as a camp follower was not required to get a widow’s pension. She merely had to prove that her husband served and that they were married. A few women did mention their service with the army, while others did even bother to mention it.

I found a potential Job Brown who served in various New Jersey Regiments during the war. In August 1778 his unit was stationed in Elizabethtown not far from Morristown. He is listed in the rolls for August 1778 as “absent without leave.” Which might explain how he could have gotten married. There is no record of any punishment for his being AWOL and there is no mention of his wife Elizabeth in his military records.

I found a payroll for the 14th Virginia Regiment that includes a Sergeant Rubin Cooper. In a September 1778 payroll he is listed as being “Sick Absent.” A Muster roll lists him as being“sick at Morristown.” Unfortunately, the payroll and muster roll make no mention of his new wife Elizabeth. But it does place him in Morristown when the wedding of Rubin Cooper and Elizabeth Cady took place.

A Fold3 search through the records in the National Archives didn’t turn up a soldier named George Thorborn. But I did find a service record for a Frederick Hill of the 4th Pennsylvania Regiment, but nothing more. On the plus side the Pennsylvania Line was in Morristown in December 1779, so this guy could be the one. Interestingly the church record said, “Frederick Hill molat. Sol. Free as he saith & Hannah Coran, Ser. of Sam’l Hopping.” If I’m interpreting the abbreviations correctly, “Frederick Hill molat. Sol. Free as he saith” meant that Frederick Hill was a mulatto soldier who claimed that he was not enslaved. Mulatto was a term for an African American who had light brown skin color probably the result of parents of two different races. Hannah Coran was listed as “Ser. of Sam’l Hopping” meaning she was Hopping’s servant. The term “servant,” at the time, could refer to a paid employee or an enslaved person.

Morristown 1780

This was the year of the biggest winter encampment at Morristown. Consequently, it’s also the period in which the most camp follower names appear in the historic records. The greatest number of army related marriages in the local church records appear in 1780, when there were ten thousand soldiers camped nearby in Jockey Hollow. Eleven couples married between January and May while the encampment took place. Four marriages were listed between July and October. Though the bulk of the army had left town, there always was a military presence in town between 1777 and 1783

.1780 [ 15 marriages]
“Jan. 5. William Gregory, Corpral of Major Anderson Regiment & Jemima Burrell.”
“Jan. 31. John Carner, of 6 Pen. Reg. & Margaret Packers.”
“March 6. Lawrence Brennan, Serj. 7 Mar’d Reg. & Catherine Claney, of ye 1 Mor Brigade.”
“March 21. James Right & Jane Woodrough of Cap. Harmon Stout 10 Pen. Regt.”
“April 5. Griffith Davis [Sgt. 5th Maryland?] & Sarah Conaway. Both in the army.”
“May 11. Allen McLane [Spencer’s Regt?], a soldier & Mary Robinson.”
“May 14. John McCarrall, a soldier of 10 Pen. Reg. & Kezia Clark.”
“May 20. Thomas Brown, a soldier & Elizabeth Nicholson.”
“May 20. Patrick Rogers & Peggy Brien, Camp folks.”
“May 21. Elijah Pollock [4th Conn. & GW Guards 79-80], a soldier & Catherine Great, Camp folks.”
“May 24. Matthew Dorham [Corporal 5th PA], a soldier & Mary Davis, from the Camp.”
“July 28. William McMullen, soldier [1st NJ Daniel Piatt’s Co.?] & Jemima Guirin. [Guerin?]”
“Aug. 12. John Smith Waggoner & Margaret Wilson, Camp woman.”
“Sept 21. Jacob Whitehead & Mary Lyon – Continental”
“Oct. 15. William Shippen, Master of Musick [4th Artillery Regt. Proctor’s PA] & Lucretia Umberfield.”

The Morristown Presbyterian Church records also noted three baptisms related to people from the camp. Interestingly the records include the husband’s name and the child’s name but the mother, who did all the hard work of giving birth, was only referred to as the abbreviation “wf.” The happy parents were,
“May 15. [1780] William Garr, a soldier, & wf., ch. Sarah, born Jan. 27, ‘80”
“Dec. 21, [1780] Corporal John Smith & wf., from camp, recommended by yr. Capt., ch. Ann, born Jan. 12, ‘80”
“Dec. 21. [1780] Edward Blake, soldier, recommended by his Capt., & wf. Ch. Edward, born Oct. 29, ‘80

Since Mrs. Garr and Mrs. Smith both gave birth in January 1780, that means they walked into camp eight or nine months pregnant. If we count backwards, the babies of Mrs. Garr and Mrs. Smith were probably conceived in the spring of 1779 when the Pennsylvania Line had camped for the winter at Middlebrook.

Mrs. Blake gave birth to her son in December of 1780, the winter after Mrs, Garr and Mrs, Smith had their babies. I assume that Mrs. Blake was with the Pennsylvania Line who arrived in Jockey Hollow at the end of November 1780. Edward Blake [jr.] the new-born son of Edward Blake and his wife must have been conceived around January of 1780 when the Pennsylvanians were camped at Jockey Hollow the previous winter.

Another source for names of camp followers who were at Morristown during the 1779-1780 encampment is a document entitled, "A Return of the Women & Children Left in Charge of Baggage, Necessary to wash for Genl. Clintons Brigade." It lists some of the camp followers who were left behind at Fort Sullivan in Pennsylvania in 1779. This report made during the Sullivan Indian campaign in 1779 lists the names of several women from the New York Brigade who were left at the fort while the army proceeded into the Finger Lakes region of New York to fight the Iroquois. The New York Brigade would later come in Jockey Hollow so there is a good chance that some or all of these laundresses were part of the encampment.

According to the list the 2nd NY Regiment had two women, Mrs. Lambertson and a Miss Smith with two children. There were four women in the 3rd NY, Mrs. Parker, Miss Sherlock, Miss Haburn, and Miss Jackson. The 4th NY had Mrs. Cothal, Mrs. Penojer, Mrs. Canby & a child and Miss Smith & a child. Finally, the 5th New York Regiment had three unmarried women Miss Weymyre, Miss Clinton and Miss Austin. Historian John Rees was able to connect most of these women with the names of soldiers in the New York Brigade. However, when I looked at their service records and pensions there was no mention of their wives. The most interesting thing about this list is that many of the women are not married. Some of these single women were also listed as being with children. These women could have been the sisters, daughters or consorts of the soldiers. The children could have been born out of wedlock or these unmarried women were merely tasked with caring for the children. I’m afraid it is another unanswered question.

We do know that Anne Nice was with the army in Jockey Hollow in 1780 because of a statement she made in support of her friend Anna Ellmore. Nice testified on behalf of Ellmore in an attempt to get her a widow’s pension. Anne Nice stated that she “was in the service and saw Anna Elmore at Morristown at the time they were encamped together during the winter of seventeen hundred and seventy nine [1779-1780] in a place called Jockey Hollow, and they washed together while there.”

Anne Nice was married to Private William Nice of the 5th Pennsylvania Regiment. He joined the army in 1777 and was in Morristown in June 1777. He continued to serve in the 5th PA Regiment during their winter encampments at Morristown in 1779-1780 and 1780-1781. He was discharged in 1780 after the Pennsylvania Line mutiny but reenlisted and fought at Yorktown. He was finally discharged after Cornwallis’s surrender. We can only assume that his wife Anne was with him during all those periods of service. But if nothing else, we do know that according to her testimony she was part of the 1779-1780 encampment. I have checked both William’s service records and pension application and like most of the other soldier’s records his wife is never mentioned.

According to Anne Nice’s testimony another camp follower at Morristown during the winter of 1779-1780 was the above mentioned Anna Martha Ellmore, the wife of Private Frederick Wilhelm Ellmore. Mrs. Ellmore did not mention Morristown in her application for a widow’s pension, but she does reveal a bit of her life as a camp follower. She said, “she went out with her husband the said Frederick Wilhelm Ilmer alias Elmore in the Army three weeks after they were married and remained with him in the service until he was discharged at the close of the war, and that she nursed the sick and wounded in the army.” She also remembered that while serving in the southern states, “their first child was born at Mr. Copes at a little town called Ebenezer, and her Husband requested Mr. Cope to let her remain there until after she was confined. Her child died and was buried there.”

In another account Anna submitted in 1841 she stated, “I marched with him and assisted in cooking and washing for the troops.” Recalling a battle, she noted, “we women were placed in an old out house or cellar, until we retreated.” She added, “My husband was wounded in the leg near the knee. I after assisted in dressing the wound. I remember one poor man, by the name of John Lugley, a Sergeant who died immediately after we dressed his wound.”

Anna noted. “after the Troops were sent home; on our arrival at Philadelphia We lay in the Barracks, we were poor and obliged to stay until we could get a room.”,

Mary Painter, who was the bridesmaid at Anna’s wedding recalled that she “saw the said Frederick [Ellmore] in his uniform and was present at their marriage which took place about a week or ten days after he was enlisted by the Reverend Muhlenberg then pastor of the German Lutheran Church of St. Michael & Zion in the City of Philadelphia. The marriage took place at a tavern in Third Street in the Northern Liberties called the Cross Kings it being still a tavern. Witness officiated as a bridesmaid to the said Anne Martha, Deponent further states she saw said Frederick in his uniform which was blue turned up with red. He was made a sergeant as deponent then understood…she saw the said Frederick march from the said Barrack [in the Northern Liberties of Philadelphia] she thinks early in the fall and saw Mrs. Elmore in the Baggage Wagon…”

While Peter Kline, a soldier who served with Anna and her husband Frederick, testified,“ I remember she assisted in making fires and cooking for the troops…”

Eleanor Kramer, another childhood friend from the Northern Liberties of Philadelphia also testified for Anna. She said, “She was personally acquainted with Anna Martha Elmore widow of Frederick Wilhelm Elmore… and that they were brought up Girls together, and that she has a perfect recollection of the time she was married to the said Frederick Wilhelm Elmore in the year seventeen hundred and seventy seven, and that the said Anna Martha Elmore left Philadelphia with her husband the said Frederick a few days after they were married and went off with the troops and after some considerable length of time they went on to the South with the Army and remained there with her husband the said sergeant Elnore until the troops were sent home from the South, the reason the deponent recollects the particulars so distinctly is her husband George Goswell was a Sergeant in the Second Pennsylvania Regiment in Captain Bankson’s Company went to the South with the Army about the same time and died in South Carolina in the year seventeen hundred and eighty two.”

Eleanor Kramer was a camp follower married to a soldier just like her friends Anna Nice and Anna Ellmore, from the Northern Liberties. Based on a single line in her pension application she also was at the encampment at Morristown. She stated in her 1837 application for a widow’s pension,“…Eleanor Kramer is resident of the district of the Northern Liberties…aged Seventy three years…she was lawfully married to George Gosnell who was a sergeant in the Revolutionary War in Captain Bankson’s Company of the Second Pennsylvania Regiment commanded by Col. Walter Steward, that he enlisted in the year 1776 at Philadelphia for the term of during the war that he was in several engagements and that she was with her husband the said George Gosnell in the service during the year 1780 and that he died in the service when on a southern campaign In South Carolina. She further declares that she was married to the said George Gosnell on the 23rd day of January A.D. 1780 that her husband the aforesaid George Gosnell died in the service on the 22nd day of April A.D. 1782…” She went on to outlive two additional husbands.

Eleanor left out one interesting detail in her pension application. She stated “that her husband the aforesaid George Gosnell died in the service on the 22nd day of April A.D. 1782…” But she didn’t explain how he died, probably because she feared it might hurt her chances of getting a pension. Sergeant George Gosnell was the leader of a mutiny that planned on kidnapping Major General Nathaniel Greene. One of the conspirators warned Greene beforehand of the plans and the mutiny was suppressed.

Greene explained it all to Washington in a letter written on April 22, 1782, “Our force is inferior to the enemy and in a distressed situation the men are perfectly naked, and have been for a month past without a gill of rum. Their discontent is daily increasing and the spirit of mutiny is very prevalent. In the Pensylvania line it appears to have origionated and they have endeavoured to spread the contagions throughout the army with appearances of success. I have been able to prove the fact but upon one person, whom I have reduced to be shot this day. He was a serjeant and had much influence in the line. I wish this example may deter them from the execution of a scheme which we have been decoding every night. There never was an army more distressed or more discontented. They have so long been without pay and their provision is so bad that I am persuaded even if they were cloathed their uneasiness would not be fully removed.”

The names of the camp followers helped identify them as individuals but they still remain faceless. We don’t know what they looked like. However, I have found one detailed description of the women and children of the Continental Army. It was written on September 20, 1780, by Lieutenant Elias Parker of the 3rd Artillery Regiment as he watched the passing of the army’s baggage train. He said, “we march by the time prescribed in yesterdays orders—the sight of the women with the Baggage was curious –were the ugliest in the world to be collected they could not be uglier than those of the Army – their Visage, dress etc. every way concordant to each other – some with two other with three & four children & a few with none – I could not help pitying the poor innocent creatures --- their way of living and treatment with the many low & scandalous examples every day shown them will make them imitate their Parents vices; and make many who have naturally good dispositions as vicious as the worst of them – the furies who inhabit the infernal regions can never be painted half so hideous as these women – Their deformity of Aspect & Shape is so excessive that those of the Sex who possess the delicacy that is naturally great in them must not only raise in those of the opposite Sex certain ideas , but must possess us with notions that their minds & persons are no way inferior to Angels”

Morristown 1782

The last three recorded camp followers in Morristown come once again from the church records. In this case there were three marriages involving soldiers recorded in 1782. They were,
“Jan. 24. John Bolton, soldier 2d Jer. Reg. Jonathan Holms Cap’n. & Catherine Devins.”
“Feb. 1. David Lloyd, of Cap. Mead Company & 1st Jer. Reg. & Mercy Hayward.”
“July 21 Amos Sackers, a soldier & Elizabeth Godden.”

The first two marriages involved soldiers from the New Jersey Brigade which makes sense since the Jersey troops were camped in Jockey Hollow on land belonging to the Wick family. Amos Sacker and his wife Elizabeth Golden did not turn up in a search on Fold 3 so they remain a mystery.

If you’ve been keeping score, I’ve found 48 names of women associated with the soldiers at Morristown. No one knows exactly how many women followed Washington’s army, though historians estimate it could have been several hundred at any one time. We’ve only scratched the surface on the subject of camp followers. But hopefully this small attempt has helped humanize the many women whose hard labor kept Washington’s army going.


Quote - Anne Nice [wife of William] statement in pension application of Frederick Wilhelm Ellmore (Anna Martha or Hannah) R. 3,325 [page 114], W 20215, National Archives, Fold3

History of the First Presbyterian Church of Morristown, New Jersey (Part I: Records of the Trustees and Session) , Banner Steam Print, Morristown, N.J., 1885

History of the First Presbyterian Church of Morristown, New Jersey, (Part II: The Combined Registers from 1742 to 1885, Banner Steam Print, Morristown,

"The multitude of women …", An Examination of the Numbers of Female Camp FollowersWith the Continental Army, John U. Rees, © 1992, 1993, 1996, 2002, Published in The Brigade Dispatch (Journal of the Brigade of the American Revolution) Three parts: vol. XXIII, no. 4 (Autumn 1992), 5-17; vol. XXIV, no. 1 (Winter 1993), 6-16; vol. XXIV, no. 2 (Spring 1993), 2-6; reprinted in Minerva: Quarterly Report on Women and the Military, vol. XIV, no. 2 (Summer 1996)

"A Mess Roll of Captn. Ross's Compy", 1777, Revolutionary War Rolls, reel 62, section 44-2. Muster rolls for Captain John Ross's company, 3rd New Jersey Regiment, May and October 1777, ibid., section 44-1

Emmanuel Evans, Service Records, National Archives, Fold3

General Orders, 1 March 1780, National Archives, Founders Online,

Proclamation of Pardon, 26 May 1780, National Archives, Founders Online,

Pension Application, Samuel C. Johnston [Margaret] W 20215, National Archives, Fold3

Anne Nice [wife of William] statement in pension application of Frederick Wilhelm Ellmore (Anna Martha or Hannah) R. 3,325 [page 114], W 20215, National Archives, Fold3

Frederick Wilhelm Ellmore or Ilmore (Anna, Martha or Hannah), Pension Application R. 3,325, National Archives, Fold3

George Gosnell [Widow Pension of Eleanor Kramer], W 5016, National Archives, Fold3

To George Washington from Nathanael Greene, 22 April 1782,

"A Return of the Women & Children Left in Charge of Baggage, Necessary to wash for Genl Clintons Brigade", probably August 1779, Israel Shreve Papers, Rutgers University, Alexander Library, manuscript no. 287

Lt. Elias Parker [Unidentified Lieutenant], Cranes 3rd Artillery Regt., VA Historical Society MSS 5:1 Un 3:7

Last updated: March 30, 2023

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