Life for women at U.S. Army forts on the frontier was not any easier. Being far away from their families and friends, they were often lonely. Just like any other women at that time, many died in childbirth.
Different classes of women lived or worked at army forts, but they did not always socialize with one another because of the army caste system. In other words, officers’
wives did not befriend other women, such as enlisted men’s wives who often worked as servants for officers or as laundresses for the army.
Of all the women who lived at western army forts, officers’ wives probably had the hardest time adjusting to the frontier because they usually had a pampered upbringing. Like my character Elizabeth, they disliked having no voice in their housing arrangements. 'Falling Bricks' aspect of fort life meant officers received quarters, which was their housing based on their rank and seniority, but they could be “ranked out” of the house by a superior officer. A military wife worked hard to make their cramp quarters into a nice home, but if a new officer arrived at the fort who had a higher rank than your husband, and he selected your house to be his own, the existing family had to leave, and in turn bump someone else of lower rank, then that family would have to move, and so on. They had servants to help with household chores. So they spent their time making clothes for the family, educating their children, managing the household, reading and writing letters, sidesaddle horseback riding, putting on plays, and going on picnics.
Enlisted men’s wives didn't have it as nice. They endured miseries, suffered hardships, and often worked from sunrise to sunset. They took jobs on the forts, usually working as:
1. army laundresses—who washed uniforms and other clothes for soldiers,
2. hospital matrons—who did laundry at the post hospital, or
3. officers’ servants—who cooked, cleaned, and did laundry for officers.
The fort in my novel is Fort Laramie, so the links on forts that I used came from their main site, which is wonderful! They have added a site tour that shows some of the buildings.
Another great resource for me at least has been Libby Custer memoirs. She has three, but the one I resourced was Boots and Saddles.
http://philkearny.vcn.com/bozemantrailhistory.htm This link has great information on forts and the trail history
http://www.fas.org/man/dod-101/sys/land/bugle.htm For information on different bugle calls
As I'm continuing the series, I'll post more links as I run across them in my own writing. If you have any questions, send me an email.