Sutlers

A sutler is a civilian merchant who sells provisions to an army in the field, in camp or in quarters. The sutler sold wares from the back of a wagon or a temporary tent, allowing them to travel along with an army or to remote military outposts. Sutler's wagons were associated with the military while chuck wagons served a similar purpose for civilian wagon trains and outposts.

These merchants often followed the armies of the American Civil War to try to sell their merchandise to the soldiers. Generally, the sutlers built their stores within the limits of an army post or just off the defense line, and first needed to receive a license from the Commander prior to construction; they were, by extension, also subject to his regulations.

Sutlers, frequently the only local supplier of non-military goods, often developed monopolies on simple commodities like tobacco, coffee, or sugar and rose to powerful stature. Since government-issued coinage was scarce during the Civil War, sutlers often conducted transactions using a particular type of Civil War token known as a sutler token.

Sutlers played a major role in the recreation of army men between at least 1865 to 1890. Sutlers' stores outside of military posts were usually also open to non-military travelers and offered gambling, and drinking.

Today the term sutler is often used to describe businesses that provide period uniforms and supplies to reenactors. These businesses will often themselves play the part of historical sutlers while selling their modern-day goods at reenactments. Below is a list of of sutlers this listing does not necessarily represent an endorsement of the business. If there is an organization not listed that you feel should be here or if you wish to add an organization, please contact the Webmaster.

 

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