Ella Wheeler Wilcox

(5 November 1850 - 30 October 1919 / Johnstown Center / Rock County / Wisconsin)

Camp Followers - Poem by Ella Wheeler Wilcox

In the old wars of the world there were camp-followers,
Women of ancient sins who gave themselves for hire,
Women of weak wills and strong desire.
And, like the poison ivy in the woods
That winds itself about tall virile trees
Until it smothers them, so these
Ruined the bodies and the souls of men.
More evil were they than Red War itself,
Or Pestilence, or Famine. Now in this war-
This last most awful carnage of the world-
All the old wickedness exists as then:
But as a foul stream from a festering fen
Is met and scattered by a mountain brook
Leaping along its beautiful, bright course,
So now the force
Of these new Followers of the camp has come
Straight from God's Source
To cleanse the world and cleanse the minds of men.
Good women, of great courage and large hearts,
Women whose slogan is self-sacrifice,
Willing to pay the price
God asks of pioneers, now play their parts
In this stupendous drama of the age
As Followers of the Camps.


They come in the name of God our Father,
They come in the name of Christ our Brother,
They come in the name of All Humanity,
To give their gold, their labour, and their love
To help the suffering souls in this war-riddled earth,
The New Women of the Race-
The New Camp Followers-
The Centuries shall do honour to their names.


Comments about Camp Followers by Ella Wheeler Wilcox

  • Susan Williams Susan Williams (12/16/2015 2:52:00 PM)

    I have always thought that the camp followers were sweethearts and wives and sometimes sisters and mothers of the soldiers trying to take care of their loved ones needs- food, clothing, health. I suppose some of these women were prostitutes but I must study this matter further before I think Ella a tad bit harsh in the first lines of this piece (Report) Reply

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Poem Submitted: Friday, April 2, 2010



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