Errata, Addenda, and Corrections

As much as it pains me to say it, my book cannot be the final word on cantinières and vivandières. The book itself details the many obstacles and complications involved in doing serious academic research on military women, so I'll refer you to that work if you want to know everything. Here, suffice it to say that records on military women of the 18th and 19th centuries have been lost, destroyed, misfiled, hidden, and--in many cases--never kept in the first place.

Having done research on more traditional topics, I would say that researching vivandières and cantinières was about ten times as difficult and time consuming as researching, say, the Battle of Austerlitz. The problems I faced are slowly diminishing today, thanks largely to the digitization of many sources, the increasing democratization of knowledge brought about by the world wide web, and improving attitudes among archivists and historians brought about by many convergent causes.

The result is that today I can access, from my home or office, many sources whose existence would have been impossible to determine a decade ago. It is my hope also that my book and this website will draw out people, stories, and documentation long hidden, and that they will help create a network of those who research, hold information, or se passionnent on this subject.

The upshot of all this is that over time, more information will come out. Some of it will merely confirm what I wrote in my book. Some of it will add to our understanding. Some of it may contradict or modify my previous arguments. None of this should come as any surprise or shock. The story of the profession of history is the creation of historical knowledge that is the best possible with the information available at the time of researching and writing. Virtually every historical theory and work has been challenged or even refuted by later historians. Sometimes this was the result of flaws in the original work—faulty scholarship, incomplete research, and even deliberate biases and falsehoods. I hope this is not the case with my book.

More often, it has simply been the result of new evidence coming to light, and to a certain extent, to new ways of looking at the historical problems. For example, virtually everything written about World War Two grand strategy and operations in Europe prior to 1973-1974 was badly flawed, since authors were missing a vital fact—the Allies had broken a key German code and had advance notice of German intent in many major operations. Not knowing this, military historians had to explain allied successes in terms they knew about, but they could not possibly have the whole picture. Once the "Ultra" story became public, historians had to go back and revise their earlier assessments.

While my topic is not nearly so grand, I suspect that it holds far more secrets at present. As new information becomes available, this page is where I will display it, assuming available space. I will also discuss the significance and meaning of the new evidence in terms of our overall understanding of cantinières and their history, including how any of the new information modifies or contradicts my existing published work. In this way, I hope to make the book, which, barring a second edition, is a static, fixed work, into a living document that changes over time and keeps abreast of the most recent developments.

With this in mind, I invite you to contact me if you believe you have relevant information, and to watch this page from time to time for any updates.

Update:

Some time ago (but after the book went to press) I found a New York Times article from 1880 that briefly discusses a cantinière of the First Empire still alive at age 93 and living in Paris. Sadly, it confirms the information in my book exactly: despite extensive service, Mme. Fetter was living in poverty on a tiny pension that had only been augmented once by special request: from 60F to 100F. You can view the story here.

Update:

Today I added a brief links page.

Update:

I have a number of interesting new finds that will be appearing on the website from a cantinière serving during WWI to a new clue about a finger shot off in combat in 1859. Check back in the coming months for those updates.

Update:

I am moving to a new position at Arizona State University, so I will be most likely inaccessible for some time as I make the move. The good news: once I am settled I will have much for time for research, as well as for updating this site. Stay tuned.