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Book tells of Army wives on frontier

It wasn't an easy life. Living on the American frontier between the end of the Civil war and the beginning of a new century. In her book, "Army Wives on the American Frontier: Living by the Bugles," Anne Bruner Eales describes the cultural, economic and physical shocks women faced when they and their children accompanied their army husbands from post to post. She focuses on officers' wives because they left a paper trail of letters, journals and memoirs.

In her opening chapter, Eales describes the social conditions and style expected of a young, well-bred woman in the East. They had no clue of what was in store for them when they said "I do" to an equally young lieutenant who was soon to be stationed in the West.

Most army wives were from affluent backgrounds and were well-educated for the time. They went from living in large, well-furnished and well-staffed houses in the East to living in dugouts or tents, making furniture out of barrels or packing boxes, removing rattlesnakes or tarantulas from bedding or kitchens, going hungry because the food shipments were delayed by Indian attacks, being buried in avalanches or nearly swallowed by quicksand, giving birth in the back of a wagon with the help of a stranger and then protecting their children with a pistol or bullwhip. Such circumstances were not covered in their etiquette books!

Just getting to a frontier post gave women only a small sampling of what was to come. They may have traveled by rail, with questionable schedules, and/or by boat from the East to within several hundred miles of their final destination. Then it was by wagon starting with reveille at 4 a.m. and driven by teamsters who used foul language, another new experience for these ladies. Many areas they traveled through were desolate of water and wood.

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