from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. A civilian who follows a military unit from place to place, especially as a vendor of supplies or as a prostitute.
  • n. One who follows but does not belong to a main body or group.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. A civilian who works for a military organization, often a prostitute.
  • n. A hanger-on.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. a civilian accompanying an army, as a sutler, servant, etc.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. One who follows a camp or an army without being officially connected with it, as a sutler, washerwoman, etc.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. a prostitute who provides service to military personnel
  • n. a follower who is not a member of an ingroup


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  • Camp followers were the wives, children, and prostitutes who followed and supplied the army to make money, assist their husbands, and support the revolution. These women washed, sewed, cooked, and brewed for the troops and nursed them when they were sick and injured. Women had long played a valuable role in provisioning the English and colonial armies and were proud of their work. For example, Martha May stressed her commitment to the army when she wrote to Henry Bouquet in 1758, 'I have been a wife 22 years to have traveled with my husband every place or country the company marched to and have worked very hard ever since I was in the army.' When Mary Cockron applied for a pension in 1837 for her own and her husband's service to the Continental Army, she stated that she 'drew her rations as other soldiers did.'

    —Sarah Hand Meacham, Every Home a Distillery: Alcohol, Gender, and Technology in the Colonial Chesapeake (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2009), 112

    June 18, 2010

  • "'And you will go with him? As a camp follower?' William spoke with some disapproval; many soldiers' wives—or concubines—did 'follow the drum,' essentially joining the army with their husbands. He had not seen much of camp followers yet himself, as there had been none on the Long Island campaign—but he'd heard his father speak of such women now and then, mostly with pity. It wasn't a life for a woman of refinement."

    —Diana Gabaldon, An Echo in the Bone (New York: Delacorte Press, 2009), 412

    December 17, 2009