Front row (left to right): Anne Godwin, Mae Hughes, Deborah Duncan
Middle row: Debbie Mixon
Top row (left to right): Barbara Harrell, Captain Kathy Clifton, Billie Earnest, Jean Spencer, Sarah Duncan
Mae Hughes is the mother of Deborah Duncan and the grandmother of Sarah Duncan; Barbara Harrell is the mother of Anne Godwin, making the 1st Virginia Cavalier Cantinieres very much a "family affair."
Long before they began to serve in the ranks themselves, women were a part of military life. Wives,
mothers, and daughters often chose to follow their men to war to share the dangers of battle and
the hardships of life in the camps. During the Napoleonic era, the French Army made an effort to
regulate the activities and numbers of these women. Thus did the cantiniere (also known as the
vivandiere) gain official recognition. A cantiniere's main duty was to provide food and drink for
the soldiers; the small wooden cask or canteen that she carried was her badge of recognition.
Cantinieres remained a recognized part of the French Army until the late 1800s.
During the War Between the States, cantinieres were most likely to be found in regiments made up of soldiers from the same community or from neighboring communities. The troops themselves chose the women who served, and they were often referred to as "daughters of the regiment." Unlike the French Army, however, neither the Confederate Army nor the Union Army gave official sanction to the cantinieres. Only a few cantinieres are mentioned in the official records of either army (although, for reasons unknown, more documented cases exist in Union records).
The 1st Virginia Cavalier Cantinieres were formed in November 1996 from members of the Virginia Division UDC's Norfolk County Grays Chapter, based in Chesapeake, Virginia. Their purpose is to assist at official functions of the United Daughters of the Confederacy.
During wartime, cantinieres did not attempt to look like men, nor do the members of the 1st Virginia Cavalier Cantinieres. Their uniforms, which they designed themselves and had made by hand, are similar in appearance to the Confederate cavalry uniform, and consist of: