This unidentifed young woman may well be a vivandiere, one of those unoffical women who were accepted by and often accompanied their regiment. These were not women who disguised themselves as male and enlisted, nor were they cheap "women of the town" but were instead women who played a ceremonial role in military parades and frequently also performed the duties as a nurse, sutler or other function. While most remained behind when their regiment left their home state, a few followed the men into the war zone.


Note this woman's full military size drum, the canteen on her hip and her very basic military style uniform adapted to female style and compare to this other picture of a Daughter of the Regiment.


Photo by Smith & Richardson, Birmingham, Connecticut.

Taken c. 1863 (+/- 1 year)

  • Brooke 7y

    She has exceptionally large hands.
  • David Foster 7y

    Very unusual photographic subject that illustrates a somewhat unknown aspect of the civil war. Since Vivandiers were sometimes in the war zone, she falls into the "contract,...or volunteer" descriptions of the Flickr group Veterans of the American Civil War.

    Thanks for the contribution.

  • sbl1952 6y

    I'm guessing that this is a young woman in military costume. Her boots may be later than the CW years. If she was really a vivandiere she would have a keg style canteen instead of a drum. There is a good chance the cap and drum were photographers props such as the rifles and Bowie knives that show up in soldier photos.

    There were a number of plays, Operas and Ballets at the time with female heroines in military costume such as The Fire Fly, Daughter of the Regiment, and La Vivandiere. Actress Lotta Crabtree had a number of photos taken of her in Vivandiere Costume. It's possible to mistake actresses and women in patriotic costumes as actual Civil War Vivandieres.

    Thanks for posting this image.

  • Mike Fitzpatrick 6y

    Thanks for the comment, Scott. But I respectfully disagree with your assertions that this is a post Civil War photo and your claim that a real vivandier would only carry a wooden keg canteen instead of a drum. One thing I've learned while studying history is to "never say never, and never say always" when talking about what happened in the past. While it is true that the vivandiere French Mary Tepe carried a keg in a famous photograph of her, that doesn't mean that all vivandieres always carried a keg and never carried a drum. As I pointed out in my description above, vivandieres performed a ceremonial role with their regiments and that role could vary from regiment to regiment. Who's to say this one could not carry a drum? Also, as I said above, not all vivandieres followed the troops when the regiments left their home state. Indeed, the vast majority of them did not. That doesn't make the women any less real as vivanieres. I am also aware of the plethora of theatrical productions with female heroines and, in fact, I have another photo from 1866 of such a woman dressed in pseudo-military attire. I have no doubt that she was an actress. The photo above, however, dates to the middle war years (as indicated by the style of the photographer's backmark) and in my opinion most likely depicts a vivandiere.
  • Samm Bennett 5y

    Judging from how she's holding those drumsticks (like she knows what she's doing), and by the way she looks completely comfortable and natural with the drum slung round her waist (at just the right angle) I'd say the drum is not merely a photographer's prop. I'd say she was a drummer for sure.
  • Mike Fitzpatrick 5y

    Thanks, Samm. I fully agree.
  • joe 5y

    Nice Vivandiere portrait. Some of these women were well heeled.
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Taken sometime in 1863
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