Both American and British soldiers were permitted to have wives and children attached to the regiment but the commanding officer limited the number of dependents. Women attached to the army were expected to contribute by working or she could be turned out of the regiment. Jobs such as sewing, cooking, cleaning, and acting as laundresses were popular, but one vital job performed by women was acting as nurses.
Under American regulations, every hospital and infirmary was to have one or more female attendants under the discretion of the senior surgeon. Nurses were not only expected to attend to patients, but were also expected to “scour and cleanse the bunks and floors, to wash the blankets, bed sacks, and cloths of the patients, to cook the victuals of the sick, and to keep clean and in good order the cooking utensils.” For this work, American nurses were paid six dollars a month and one ration a day.
British army regulations concerning hospitals stipulated that:
there is to be one decent, sober woman nurse, who shall receive at the rate of one shilling [about 20 cents] per diem, whose duty will be to prepare the slops and comforts for the sick, and occasionally to assist in administering medicines, cooking the victuals, washing, &c. and for every ten men confined to bed by fever, an additional Nurse and Orderlyman should be allowed.
British regulations also showed that nurses were to ensure that patients were extremely clean and that cloths brought into the hospital “should be purified.” Patients were to be given a clean shirt and pair of stockings twice a week and were to be shaved two or three times a week. Some additional duties included combing the patients’ hair, washing their hands and face each morning, and preparing food for the patients.
One good thing about the job was that nurses would not have to face disorderly conduct as British regulations specified, “every species of gaming is strictly forbidden” and patients who were “convicted of swearing, disorderly behaviour, insolent and provoking conduct towards the attendants, or of any deviation from the hospital regulations, must be severely punished.” The role of army nurses was gruelling and challenging, having to deal with horrible combat wounds and patients suffering from terrible diseases. Due to their important work, men recovered from their aliments and those who did not recover were no doubt eased in there suffering.