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Title:Pistol's Legacy: Sutlers, Post Traders, and the American Army, 1820-1895
Author(s):Murphy, John Thomas
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Spence, Clark C.
Department / Program:History
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):History, United States
Abstract:Traditionally, civilians followed armies on campaign in order to supply liquor, food, or clothing, but by the sixteenth century, this practice, called sutling, had developed a questionable reputation. In Henry V, William Shakespeare depicted Pistol, a sutler with King Harry's army in France, as corrupt, unscrupulous, and cowardly. It was an image that persisted, and sutlers and post traders who served the American army from 1820 to 1895 have continued to be described as either price-gouging whiskey dealers or, at best, necessary evils. But such appraisals are simplistic and misrepresent the contributions and complexities of the sutler/post trader system.
Regulations introduced in 1820 integrated sutlers into the military community and created a cooperative relationship that continued until the Civil War. The war, however, engendered complaints about high prices and questioned the methods for appointing sutlers. Though not absolutely free of problems, rules governing appointments brought competent individuals into sutling, most of whom served the army well. Obtaining a sutlership was a process reliant on political networking, good personal contacts, and proof of ability to fill the position. During the administration of Ulysses S. Grant, partisan politics intruded upon the selection of post traders, but controversy involving Grant's secretary of war, William W. Belknap, revealed that difficulties were as much organizational as ethical or moral.
Despite periodic criticism, sutlers and post traders contributed to the quality of garrison life by providing merchandise and services for their customers. At each military post, the sutler's or post trader's store became a regular haven from army routine and the focal point for all community activity. The sutler/post trader system fulfilled this role for seventy-five years.
Issue Date:1993
Description:343 p.
Thesis (Ph.D.)--University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 1993.
Other Identifier(s):(UMI)AAI9314919
Date Available in IDEALS:2014-12-17
Date Deposited:1993

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