Black market women, whose trading activities brought them to local garrisons and harbors, were uniquely positioned to sell provisions and other goods to sailors, soldiers, and units. The 1795 raising of the West India Regiments – black militia units established in the midst of the Haitian Revolution to police slave disturbances, capture runaways, and, later, conduct military operations in the Caribbean basin – only further strengthened the commercial and social bonds linking black market women and the military. Traditionally, the West India Regiments have been understood through the lenses of security and conflict. I argue that the entanglement of the Regiments and the informal economy was socially significant and not only kept troops fed and supplied but also allowed for enslaved women to accumulate funds and find measures of personal autonomy while forging personal and patronage relationships with military men.
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