An Introduction To  

Period Trekking 

 

A Brief Dissertation on Time Travel,  

and How to Not Be Discovered 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Assembled from Documents and Articles Written by a Variety of Authors 

WELCOME TO PERIOD TREKKING 

 

Period trekking can build character in one's self and in one's outfit; it can underscore what one knows about history; and it can verify what one thinks is true. It can teach secrets only historical experimentation can whisper in the period trekker's heart.  --Mark A. Baker

 

GOALS: 

--To explore some of the philosophy behind Period Trekking, and to take a brief look at how living history and experimental archeology combine with blackpowder to create 18th century "trekking."  

--To explore some of the basic concepts behind "time warping" or historical simulation, such as clothing and gear, skills and knowledge, activities, persona, and personality. 

--To explore how a small number of people are approaching life in the 18th century to gain an understanding of "what it was like."  

--To share some thoughts and ideas, as well as resources that participants may be able use for themselves. 

 

GLOSSARY 

 

Artifact-- An artifact is an article or item of clothing, gear, or equipment from the 18th century that has been preserved and survived to today. An "original" from the Period. 

 

Copy-- A copy is an exact recreation or a duplicate of an artifact. 

 

Experimental Archeology-- Experimental archeology is the exacting recreation of clothing, gear, and equipment from the Past and then using those recreations in a strict historical environment to experience "what it was like" to live in the Past.  

 

First Person Impression-- Approaching the study of the Past from the perspective of someone actually living in it. When talking, references are to "I am" or "I hunt" or "I do this. " A "persona."  

 

Historical Archeology-- Historical archeology is the use of written materials such as journals, diaries, letters, documents, etc. to supplement artifacts in gaining an understanding of living in the Past. 

 

Historically Correct-- Proper to the Period, or "Period Proper." Meaning that the recreated item is done within the material culture of the18th century in terms of materials and construction methods. “Period Correct”. 

 

Living History-- The technique of studying history not from books but from having to  

experience as many of the same aspects (clothing, food, activities) as someone would have in the 18th century. “Living” the history that you are presenting. 

 

Period-- The "date" or "time" in the Past being studied. Meaning, what actually existed or took place on a certain date in Time. Time periods may be viewed as a definitive periods, such as the French and Indian War Period (1755 to 1763), or the Revolutionary War Period (1774-1783),  or they may be more broad in concept, such as the Fur Trade era (beginning with the original colonist and ending in the early 1840's), or the Colonial Era ( beginning with the first colonist and extending through the beginning of the Revolutionary War) .

 

Plain, Everyday, and Common-- A standard for clothing, gear, and equipment that ignores the outrageous, the rare, the one-of-a-kind, the exception and strives for what is correct for the socio-economic class and geographica1 location of the individual. 

 

Primary Account-- A record of an event that was written at the time it took place. Primary documentation, written by the people who were actually living the history written about. 

 

Reenacting-- The recreation of historical events, or "reenacting" what took place. Usually applies to military history.  

 

Relic-- An artifact that has not been well preserved. Usually applies to archaeologically "dug" items in rusted or poor condition. 

 

Research and Documentation--The combination of the study of Period accounts with the use of surviving artifacts to recreate clothing, gear, and equipment that was actually used in the Past.  

 

Reproduction-- To be "produced" again. Meaning a continuation of materials and construction methods used to produce the  last of something as though the process was started up again at a later time. The modern use of "reproduction" usually means something is "kind of like" or "inspired by" or "taken from" something without copying it exactly.  So, a “reproduction" could be anything from a 100% copy to a 1% copy.

 

Secondary Account-- A record of an event that was recorded after the fact or at a latter time. A primary account is usually given by the person something happened to at the time. A secondary account could be that person telling it to their son or daughter years later and son/daughter giving or writing the account. 

 

Scout-- The term now being applied to 18th century "trekking" that involves the use of first         person impression or persona and a structured, historically constructed setting of a woods or wilderness type environment. “We went on a scout of the area.”

 

Third Person Impression-- Approaching the study of the Past from the perspective of "they did this" or "they did it this way." It is approached, or presented to the public, as the historical way things were done by those from the Past. 

 

Tertiary Account-- A record of an event written by someone not connected to actual event. For example, a modern writer writing about 18th century history. Tertiary accounts can range from myth through fiction to well-researched and factual writing. 

 

Trek or Trekking- A term taken from the Boer word which means to undertake a long travel. It is believed to be first coined by Mark A. Baker in 1986 to describe  

researched and documented living history "experiments" where the results of his trips in which his research was tested in woods or wilderness settings as a study into life in the Past. 

 

A Brief history of LIVING HISTORY  

 

Although cultures have always measured themselves by their past, there is a distinction between classical history and what has come to be called "living history." Remembering or recalling the past through oral or written traditions is perhaps timeless. Recreating, reenacting, or re-experiencing the past is not so old.  

 

The model, or prototype for living history, lies with an attempt to remove the concept of history from the museum shelf and glass case to the "open air." Perhaps the earliest achievement in the area of "open air" museum can be traced back to Sweden in the 19th century, in the person of Artur Hazelius (1833-1901).  

 

Artur Hazelius was the son of a Swedish general who had non-traditional ideas about how his son was to be raised and educated. Artur's father did not want him to be educated in the negative urban environment of Stockholm, but rather in the country where he could be closer to nature and "farm folk." Artur prospered in the country environment, becoming a linguist who traveled across Sweden studying Swedish vernacular speech and collecting information on dialects and regional folklore.  

 

In 1872 his travels took him back to a small town called Dalecarlia where he had grown up and went to school. He was shocked and dismayed at the changes that had taken place in the few short years since he had left. A combination of high-Victorianism and religious fundamentalism had attacked the regional folkways and changed them into affectations for the tourists (where have we seen that before?) or abolished them totally as part of a puritan-like revival.  

 

Hazelius had an idea. He applied for a grant from the Swedish Antiquarian Association, and returned to Dalecarlia in the fall of 1872 to begin documenting the vanishing Dalecarlia folklore. He employed and interviewed a number of "informants," and started collecting not only oral traditions but folk art as well. In 1873, he and his wife opened a small museum of Scandinavian folklore in Stockholm called the Nordiska Museet (Northern Museum).  

 

In the spring of 1874, Hazelius' wife died in childbirth. A profound loss, Hazelius committed himself to the idea that the Nordiska Museet could become a national institution that could awakened and preserve a national consciousness and foster a sense of Swedish national identity rooted in folklore. A powerful speaker, Hazelius gained the support of the Swedish Parliament and more importantly wealth backers and the Swedish people. A large indoor museum was built, and by 1880, its exhibits were extremely popular.  

 

What was different about Hazelius' museum was that he believed that the folk art he and his wife had collected in Dalecarlia should be displayed and presented in their cultural context and not on a sterile shelf behind a glass case. Borrowing from regional painters and documentary photographers, Hazelius relocated entire rooms and portions of houses from the outlying provinces and set them up complete with authentically costumed wax figures, furniture and furnishings, and small artifacts.  

 

Hazelius knew what his audience liked. His displays, or "tableaux" were designed to show everyday life, and as he wrote to give a "live impression of people's moods and customs." One of his tableaux was the deathbed of a little Dalecarlia girl complete with minister, mother and father, two sisters, and the dead infant in her crib 

 

But Hazelius was not done. He had a grander vision of a place where Swedes "could see their greatly loved country in summary." To Hazelius, individual rooms and tableaux did not go far enough. During the 1880's, he began to collect entire farms, churches, manor houses, cottages, workshops, stores, windmills, native plants and animals, and invented the first freilichtmuseen, or "open air museum," which he called Skansen.  

 

Hazelius was a functionalist, believing that material culture could only be understood in terms of its cultural environment. That concept will become very important for the concept of experimental archeology a bit later. Hazelius believed that artifacts should be displayed in their own actual setting or environment. For example, cooking utensils should be displayed in a peasant kitchen and not on a sterile shelf. He collected more than just artifacts, he acquired buildings and structures as well as artifacts from the 1600's to the present and reestablished them in something that was part natural history park, part historical museum, and even part zoo. When Skansen opened on October 11, 1891, it was an immediate national success.  

 

Hazelius was not entirely happy. In 1898 he wrote, "We want to exhibit folklore in living style." He felt that without activity, Skansen would be just another colorful but "dead" museum-a dry shell of the Past. At first his concept was more entertainment than anything else. Hazelius brought in folk musicians to play fiddles and dances were held. Museum staff and visitors danced around the Maypole on Midsummer's Eve. Folk music and dances were created during the warm months and handicraft markets and fairs were held in the winter.  

 

With 150 buildings on 75 acres, Skansen became an immediate success creating physical windows into 300 hundred years of Swedish history. The idea caught on. Oslo, Norway established their Norsk Folkemuseum in 1894. Copenhagen, Denmark, established the Frilandsmuseet in 1897. And, the Netherlands established the Nederlands Openluchtmuseum in Arnhem in 1912.  In 1974, the European Open Air Museum Association commissioned a guidebook that contains 314 significant open-air museums in 21 European countries.

 

But open-air museums are not living history museums.  Open-air museums are, perhaps, at best, historical "theme parks." They are perceived as a pleasant place for a picnic lunch and light entertainment. In Europe they are referred to as "folk parks." But, by and large, they all fall short in the area of "interpretation." Without "interpretation" these folk museums are still static tableaux.

 

But there are problems with interpretation. Collections of artifacts, whether entire structures or everyday tools and utensils, are put at risk when life in the Past is recreated or simulated. There, the decision is made to let the displays be passive, inactive, or static and let a "guidebook" or guide provide the "education." The demonstrating of tools or farm equipment as the normal, everyday, practices of a farmer or blacksmith, for example, is not done.  

 

There is a great fear fueling that debate, called in Germany "folklorismos." Hazelius came under sharp criticism that his musicians and dancers provided more entertainment than historical education and were actually "hoking up" the Past by creating fake folklore, or fakelore. The criticism is that such activities cheapen national heritage or regional heritage. This practice is something akin to criticisms of "Dollywood" in Tennessee. Of all these open-air museums, few, if any have continued on with Hazelius' Skansen concept. As G. Ellis Burcaw wrote in 1980,  "On the living history continuum, history on the Continent is dead; beautifully embalmed, but dead. The farmsteads are empty hulks of peasant culture, collected as curiosities, not as settings for the explication of social history."

 

During the summer of 1876, Artur Hazelius sent six tableaux to the United States for the Swedish exhibit at the Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia. It was a popular display.   Along side it was another interesting and popular display, this one American. It was a one-story log cabin, titled "New England Farmer's Home" and a "Modern Kitchen." The two exhibits were designed to compare modern 1876 kitchen life with pioneer kitchen life.

 

Oddly enough, this experiment with living interpretation predated Skansen by fifteen years, thanks to the efforts of George Dow (1868-1936). Dow was an antiquarian, keenly interested in New England folk history. In 1898, he became secretary of the Essex Institute in Salem, Massachusetts, and attempted to apply Hazelius' techniques. In 1907, Dow created three rooms there: a period 1750's kitchen, 1800 bedroom, and 1800 parlor.  

 

In 1909, Dow acquired the old John Ward house, dating from 1685, and Salem's oldest structure. It was removed and relocated to a lot next to the museum. Between 1909 and 1913, Dow restored the Ward house for the Essex Institute. His goal was first to refurnish the house in a realistic way, and then to present "a truthful picture of 17th century household life in Salem." Dow had Sarah Symonds and her staff work out of the second floor of the house as "custodians" dressed in homespun costumes that would greet visitors when the cowbell rang at the front door.  

 

Dow went further. He obtained an apothecary shop, spinning and weaving room, shoemaker's shop, a general or "cent" store, and a shed for storing the tools. He planted an "old fashioned flower garden and two pear trees.  In the course of four years, Dow had established America's first open-air museum.

 

In 1923, Henry Ford visited the Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities to look over the collection and to chat with Dow and the Society's influential secretary William Sumner Appleton. Ford was in the middle of a project to restore his boyhood home back to its 1876 condition. Ford was also thinking about building his own open-air museum, centering around the Wayside Inn at South Sudbury, Massachusetts. He went ahead with the Wayside Inn project, sinking millions into it. When it opened in 1926, he held a country ball with everyone in colonial costumes.  

 

Being the '20's, Ford thought that Massachusetts was too far a trip from Dearborn, Michigan. In 1927, he restored the Botsford Inn in Dearborn, where he had danced as a boy and young man, at a cost of half a million dollars. It became a center for old-time and evening dancing. Ford clearly understood the value and educational potential of a "living museum." Two years later, Ford began working on Greenfield Village-- the first really large-scale open-air museum in America, based on Skansen. By 1935, Ford was able to move and restore more than fifty historic buildings.  

 

While Henry Ford was assembling his little slice of America at Greenfield, John D. Rockefeller, Jr., was embarking on a similar project of his own in Williamsburg, Virginia. In 1926, Rockefeller had agreed to provide funding for. the restoration, reconstruction, and refurnishing of the old colonial capital. Eventually, over 500 structures were restored or rebuilt in an accurate "landscape."  

 

The idea for recreating an entire town had come from the rector of the 1715 Bruton Parish Church in Williamsburg, William Goodwin. Goodwin had come to Williamsburg at the turn of the century to supervise the reconstruction and restoration of the church building. In 1907, he wrote about restoring the church, and laid out his goal of restoring the whole town. In 1924, he suggested to the Fords that the area around historic Williamsburg could be purchased for a "mere four or five million." Henry Ford turned him down, for a number of reasons-the main one being Ford's own Greenfield Village project. Goodwin turned to Rockefeller, who had visited Williamsburg on November 26, 1926. Rockefeller was impressed, and asked Goodwin to prepare a master plan. In addition, Rockefeller also had definite ideas about the educational value of the Williamsburg project, but it was Goodwin who strongly advocated for the concept of site interpreters.  

 

In 1932, Kenneth Chorley, who had been hired to supervise and direct the project, suggested that local people be hired as hostesses on a part-time basis. On September 16, 1932, Martha Dovell and Doris Macomber, dressed in colonial costumes, greeted visitors to the Old Raleigh Tavern- the first of Williamsburg's exhibitions to open.  

 

By the 1940's, Williamsburg was utilizing a "corps" of interpreters to simulate life and everyday work in the restored houses and shops with not only explanation and interpretation, but also historically accurate craft demonstrations. It was a great success.  

 

A number of other American open-air museum concepts were coming together during the same period, and Williamsburg's success had an impact on their development as well. Plimoth Plantation, Old Sturbridge Village in Massachusetts, the Farmer's Museum in Cooperstown, New York, and Mystic Seaport in Connecticut were all inspired by Williamsburg's use of costumed interpreters and craft demonstrations.  

 

Each of these open-air museums sought to become a "living museum" based on the belief that regional folk life was historically significant and that its material culture should be collected, preserved, studied, and actively interpreted. Although each differed somewhat, the central theme involved relocated or recreated buildings set in a "village" landscape with a simulation of the lives and activities of the ordinary people who would have lived there. Based on the groundwork laid by Skansen, the Essex Institute, Greenfield Village, and Colonial Williamsburg, a uniquely "American way of history" had emerged.  

 

Through the 1940's and the 1950's, these museums served as great attractions for millions of Americans, and the rise of the post World War II phenomena of "leisure time" accelerated this interest. Oddly enough, it was the National Park Service that really took the concept of "costumed interpreters" a step farther. In 1957, Freeman Tilden, the Park Service's leading spokesman for site interpretation, challenged site rangers and interpreters to "people" their sites to keep buildings and furnishings from having been "frozen at the moment of time when nobody was home." Tilden advocated for demonstrations, participation, and animation. The National Park Service took up Tilden's challenge, particularly in the area of "animation."  

 

But, "animation" sounded more like something from cartoons, and in the 1960's replaced "animation" with "living history." In 1970, and later in 1974, the Park Service published two guides for "living history" detailing not only how a site manager could use living history as a mode of interpreting, but also how to script, set, equip, direct, and present history from a stage or drama background. Unfortunately, a certain president by the name of Richard Nixon would severely cut back on the Park Service's living history programs in the early '80's. 

 

Paralleling living history as a method of site interpretation, in the 1960's and 1970's there was an outside movement in the area of living history "farms", where the daily tasks and lifestyles of farmers was illustrated through the actual running of a working farm as a living museum.  

 

But there was a fly in the ointment.  Although many praised the living museum concept, many came away with an impression that even the most earthy realism and enlivening activities at these sites was still only artificially simulating history in an "antiseptic" manner-- often overly simplified, overly shallow, or just plain wrong.

 

In 1978, Thomas Schlereth, head of the American Studies program at Notre Dame, wrote that historical museum villages were "peaceable kingdoms, planned communities with over-manicured landscapes or idyllic small towns where the entire population lives in harmony." He added that "the visitor to such sites... comes away from the museum village with a romanticized, even Utopian perspective of the popularly acclaimed 'good old days.'  

 

Schlereth was getting at the false sense of "homogeneity" of museum villages not only in that lacked dirt, garbage, flies, and sweat. but also that were populated by "white, Anglo-Saxon, nondenominational Protestant males." He argued that the visitor did not see a true representation of life in the Past.  

 

Calls for a clarification of living history purpose prompted many museums to look at just what themes historical museums had the ability to best address. Four major "themes" emerged from the discussions in the 1960's and 1970's:  

 

        --what is the historical context of the site?

        --what processes went on there?

        --what manner of unique folk life was evident?

        --what cultural differences are there from today's world?

 

Living museums slowly began to adopt "programs" that dealt with the "ins and outs" of everyday life in the Past, focusing on "people" instead of talking about buildings and furnishings. What people did in the Past slowly became more important, perhaps, than a restored or recreated structure. Taken together, the four concepts of context, processes, folk life, and differences from today evolved into a different approach.  

 

As part of that process, "experiments" or "simulations" that started out as something like "this is how a plow works" or "this is how a loom or spinning wheel works" or "this is how they baked bread" suddenly took on a new meaning. At first these activities were done more so as "animating" or “enlivening" or even "entertaining" at historical sites and living museums. In a large sense they were done to "illustrate" life in the Past and sometimes to even wax nostalgic.  

 

But a search started and grew. That was a search for the meaning behind the relics, artifacts, and structures. Part of that search for knowledge created a "new" discipline-- historical archeology. Instead of just digging up artifacts, analyzing them, writing about them, and then putting under glass in museums, attempts at reproducing past conditions and circumstances surrounding their creation and use can provide greater insight into their importance, the problems associated with their construction and use, and what they have to say about the values of the makers and their lives. But above all, this type of study is designed to look at what kind of human being the maker and user was, what his technical abilities were, and his reasons for choosing one course of action over another.  

 

It would take the coming together of two disciplines to set the stage for what we do:  the combining of historical archeology with experimental archeology.  Oddly enough, we tend to think of these things as a "process" that has developed over time. In a small-sense that is true, but in the larger sense it is nothing all that "new." What is new is that we are applying it in an area where traditionally it had not been done quite in the same way before-- and that is in the area of blackpowder.

 

But, "experimental archeology" was developed in the late 19th century; about the same time Hazelius was establishing Skansen!  

 

 

A Brief History of EXPERIMENTAL ARCHAEOLOGY  as related to LIVING HISTORY

 

Experimental archeology was developed in the late 19th century, roughly at the same time Artur Hazelius was establishing Skansen. Period archaeologists came-to see "experimenting" as a practical means of testing their theories about cultural behavior in the Past. Secondly, their focus was on the technological processes surrounding the making and use of tools. Between the two, experimental archeology was seen as a method for obtaining data that could not be had as a result of the more traditional analysis of artifacts or historical research. This new data could then be used as a base for generating additional data about historic economic and culture systems. Because the experimental archaeologist worked at "imitating," "replicating," or "recreating" the original activity or process as closely as possible, some older accounts refer to experimental archeology as "imitative archeology."  

 

Perhaps the first example of experimental archeology involved the excavating of two Viking burial ships at Gokstad and Oseberg, Norway beginning in 1880. Up to that point, much of the history and archeology of the Viking culture was a mixture of myth, romantic 19th century writings, and some decidedly anti-Viking writings by the 9th and 10th century monks in the English monasteries they looted. These two ships fueled both knowledge and the desire for research. A copy of a Viking ship was handcrafted, and sailed across the Atlantic to gain an understanding of the technology and knowledge and skill required to strike America. 

 

But experimental archeology has been much more widely practiced than written about. A number of people tend to look at John Coles, a professor of archeology at Cambridge University, as the "father of modern experimental archeology".  His 1973 ARCHEOLOGY BY EXPERIMENT, and 1979 EXPERIMENTAL ARCHEOLOGY built on an interesting 1961 work by Robert Asher entitled "Experimental Archeology" in the AMERICAN ANTHROPOLOGIST 63. Cole, in his two books, covered more than three hundred experimental archaeological projects covering prehistory as well as history. Some are as simple as flaking a flint spear point or knife blade, and then using it.

 

Aside from the little experiment of the Viking ship in 1893 (1892-93), it would take another kind of ship to gain high publicity for experimental archeology.  

 

Thor Heyerdahl was born in Larvik, Norway in 1914. His father was a wealthy businessman and his mother a freethinking Social Darwinist. Oddly enough, they chose to educate Thor in the same manner as Artur Hazelius' parents had-- a heavy emphasis on the social sciences and a great deal of time in the "back country." That "back country" was 100 miles from Dalecarlia where Hazelius had done his fieldwork. For the next fifty years or so, Heyerdahl looked at the modern world from the perspective of a prehistoric one. In 1937 he left with his wife, Liv, for the South Seas to live for a year on the primitive island of Fatu-Hiva. Using the proceeds from the book of his experiences, Heyerdahl moved to a remote mountain area of British Columbia two years later. While there, Heyerdahl worked on his theories of North and South American influences on Polynesian culture-particularly that there may have been two migrations from the Americas to Polynesia. The first was from Peru, via Easter Island, and the second through Hawaii, from British Columbia. After having researched balsa wood rafts used by indigenous Peruvians, Heyerdahl built a raft in the spring of 1947. Obviously since there were originals to copy, he had to reconstruct one, much in the manner Plimoth Plantation had to do, based on his research.  

 

On April 28, 1947 the un-seaworthy looking raft, named Kon-Tiki, set sail from Callao, Peru. One hundred and one days later, the ship reached the Tuamotu Islands some four thousand miles away. But the raft was the object of his "experiment.'' They did not live on the raft-as ancient Peruvians did; they did not eat a period diet; and they did not wear traditional clothes. But Heyerdahl accomplished what he set out to do, and inspired a new generation of experimental archaeologists. Heyerdahl's book KON-TIKI provoked scholars and intrigued armchair adventures. Heyerdahl had applied the guiding principle of science-that theory should be checked out with experimentation--to a historical problem. And all across the country, if not world, there were new methods of "experimental historical research."  

 

Since then there have many, many experimental archaeological projects, too numerous to mention in such a short article. But something else happened something that would shift the emphasis from pure analytical research to "recreation," "play," or "fun" under the name of "living history" or "experimental archeology."  

 

As the Centennial Exposition of 1876 drew to a close in Philadelphia, a group of historically minded individuals put on a "show" on October 19, 1876 that was to change the future. October 19th was Virginia Day, and in celebration, the Southern states staged, or reenacted, a medieval tournament (shades of the SCA...). There were fifteen knights representing each of the original colonies as well as one for the Union, and one for the Centennial. Mounted, their activity was to spear rings from horseback using lances. 5,000 Virginians came to watch along with 60, 000 other spectators, making it second only to Pennsylvania's "day."  The newspaper account seems to indicate that it was done in the spirit of fun, a la the SCA, and not in pursuit of any great authenticity of clothing, gear, or activity. That evening, a "Queen of Love and Beauty" was crowned, and a hall furnished with bronze figures of knights and pyramids of "rare exotics." Those in attendance were there for the fun alone.

 

However it would be the muzzleloading rifle and-not the lance and sword that would become the center-piece for "living history buffs."  For many years, particularly in the South, where tradition and poverty had kept the muzzleloader alive long after single-shot and repeating cartridge guns came to dominate shooting sports, "shooting matches were a common pastime.  In Portsmouth, Ohio, on February 22, 1931, at one such match held by the Norfolk and Western Railroad's YMCA, an argument over the accuracy of the old muzzleloaders came up. The club's secretary, Oscar Smith, suggested a match between old and new. Sixty-seven riflemen showed up with seventy rifles, "the youngest of the lot dating back to 1880." A second match, held a year later, turned out a number of old-time gunsmiths, and in 1933, more than 260 competitors and 2,000 spectators came to Friendship, Indiana. Year after year, they came back to participate in the association they had founded, the National Muzzleloading Rifle Association. By 1939, the NMLRA had grown large enough to produce a four-page newsletter.

 

After World War II, and what many consider the invention of "leisure time," three groups evolved within the NMLRA: 

--1. Those concentrating on the rifles themselves and who felt target shooting and hunting with them were sufficient,  

--2. Those interested in experiencing the clothing and lifestyle of the "primitive" culture that went along with frontiersmen and mountain men 

--3.  Those who took up interest in the Civil War

 

In 1949, a match was organized between those interested in Civil War military shooting at the Berwyn Rod and Gun Club in Maryland. It proved popular, and was repeated in May of 1950 with a "Southern" unit competing against a "Northern" unit. For months, participants had scoured antique shops to turn out as authentically as they could (or knew how). The guns were original, and so was the equipment-- much coming from Bannerman's.  Several hundred spectators showed up, and set the stage for many similar events to come through the 1950's. The Civil War Centennial swelled the ranks of the new North-South Skirmish Association founded in 1958.

 

In the early '60's, interest began to take form in the Revolutionary War, but did not really take off until preparations for the Bicentennial (or Buy-centennial as some us remember it...) got under way. In the early '60's, an umbrella organization was founded, the Brigade of the American Revolution (BAR) by more "serious buffs." Similar in organization to the N-SSA, the brigade placed extraordinary (for the time) emphasis on standards of authenticity and safety. The impact of the BAR on living history was immense during the Bicentennial. Its newsletter, THE DISPATCH, was widely circulated, its camps visited and studied, and its drill and evolutions closely watched. The 200th Anniversary reenactments set new levels for verisimilitude--particularly for the 3,000+ participants at Yorktown in 1981. 

 

It had been said that Yorktown was the doom of military living history (then always called "reenacting "). By the winter of 1981-82, the ranks of the Revolution had thinned drastically. It was reported that 1/3 remained, while 1/3 went into the Civil War for the upcoming 125th-Series, and 1/3 went in French and Indian War reenacting. And, on a smaller scale, someone, somewhere, was reenacting just about every war the U.S. had except the Nam! 

 

Just as the BAR had set the standards for living history in terms of research and authenticity through the '70's, another organization was going in a direction away from the military.  In San Diego, California, in 1968, Walter Hayward organized the American Mountain Men.  Early members seemed to have been a combination of both history "buff" and wilderness "survival experts." Interest spread east, attracting new members from the NMLRA who wanted something more than paper target match shooting. The AMM went about setting tough membership requirements, wanting men "who are willing to step back in time, to attempt, for a short time, at least, to live life as man was meant to live it, a Free Individual, a true Son of the Wilderness."  The AMM had set standards for its members that were a combination of knowledge, skill, craft, and demonstrated application within the historical parameters of the "mountain man."

 

In the mid 1980's, there were two independent developments. One was interest in the upcoming Civil War 125th Anniversary. The other was interest in something, for lack of better term,-known as "historical trekking."  Seen by many as a "lunatic" or "radical fringe," an evolution was taking place. Just like the NMLRA and N-SSA started out as a vehicle to shoot "old timey" guns, evolved into reenacting, and then evolved into living history, there has been a further evolution among these groups to produce a new activity.

 

Living history is a medium with three components: historical research, interpretation, and celebration. Although we can never truly "recreate" the Past, we are challenged to experience as many aspects of it as is possible. That places living history, and I do not mean "living history" as now being applied to anyone putting on a "costume" of one kind or another and parading around a craft fair or gun show, outside of traditional and established academic and public history. Each person, whether an individual, museum, or project must make a covenant with historical truth and set how it will carry on their own dialog with the Past.  

 

That covenant calls for a tough-mindedness.  It seems we are harsher and more critical of ourselves, as "living historians" or "experimental archaeologists," than any outside academic or public historian could ever be. Here is an excerpt from a 1983 letter that is still valid today:

 

"We have lived cheek-by-jowl with many, many recreation groups... Few are totally authentic; they compromise on important things and totally ignore the small. Some of this is excusable, if you know and recognize and admit that you aren't up to snuff due to cost, lack of time, etc. But willfully ignoring authenticity is a crime.  

In the field, such groups are known as FARBS and are quickly disassociated from the mainstream. Do it right, or try to do it right. It's not easy, but what is, if it's to be worthwhile?"

 

That was 1983, and although the standards have changed immensely, the opinion is still just as valid as when it was penned. This is where experimental archeology has changed the face of reenacting. This is where experimental archeology has changed the face of living history.  

       

        As I learned history through elementary school, junior high, senior high, and college, leading to a BA in history/prehistory, I rarely saw history not failing to study, interpret, and experience the everyday reality of ordinary people in the Past. It was always some politician or dictator, some general, some battle on such and such a day. The goal of experimental archeology is to step back in-the historical context of a place and time and to come away with an understanding, appreciation, and feel for the people who were there.

 

The new question is not where you went to school, what degrees you earned, or who you know. The new question is, do you have the right stuff?  It their own way, each of the organizations mentioned above have pioneered and broken new ground and pushed into new territories--often that were radical and "lunatic" at the time. In simple terms, the "state of the art" in 1994 was different that that of 1984, which was different than that of 1974, 1964, 1954, 1944, 1934, 1924, and so on.

 

There seems to be a developmental pattern that emerges. As a parent organization is created, develops, and grows, it seems to establish its own culture. As times change, and people's interests change, that culture no longer provides what some members are looking for. They then leave, taking with them what is good and leaving behind what no longer is working for them. It never seems to be a majority, just the "lunatic fringe" as it were. It can be seen that the old "lunatic fringe" that rebelled against an organizational status quo, often finds itself "outdated" and rebelled against by the next generation of players.  

 

The concept of evolution, in regards to standards, is a complex one. Looking back on the past three decades, it is quite obvious that there has been progress made, and considerable progress at that. By and large, the days of "buffs" running around with gray J.C. Penney permanent work suits with chevrons sewed on and M-1 Garand rifles shooting blanks are gone (although I do know some N-SSA "old-timers" who were able to except themselves from uniform standards and still wear that level of "uniform"). Most all, "historical groups" espouse some level of authenticity to some degree. 

 

Perhaps the exception to this process is the SOCIETY FOR CREATIVE ANACHRONISMS or the SCA. In their defense, I would say that they should be exempted from historical scrutiny because "history" is not what they are about. The SCA is dedicated to recreating "the Middle Ages, not as it was, but as it should have been, doing away with the strife and pestilence and emulating the beauty, grace, chivalry, and brotherhood." 

 

The SCA sees the Middle Ages not from a historical or archaeological stand point, but from a magical, comic book, "Prince Valiant" point of view. Where groups like the American Mountain Men and Society of Longhunters require a year's probation, the SCA courteously and generously invite any and all to "play" at their recreated courts, revels, and tournaments.  

 

Founded at Berkeley, California in 1966, two friends, Dave Thewlis and Ken de Maiffe, threw a costumed going away party for their friend Diana Paxton. They had so much fun, they agreed to meet in a park six weeks later. Just before the event, Marion Zimmer Bradley coined the term "Society for Creative Anachronisms". 

 

For that "event", two dozen competitors showed up complete with rattan swords, clothes hanger chain mail, and flat-iron shields. They were joined by spectators, some science fiction fans, and veterans of a 1962 "Renaissance Fair". The combination of fun, fantasy, and neo or pseudo medieval martial arts was a rousing hit. Within ten years, the SCA had grown to over 5,000 members, embracing the years 499 through 1500.  The "Known World" (North America) was reordered along feudal lines into shires, baronies, and kingdoms. One member wrote quite accurately:

 

        "An anachronism is a tradition which has outlived its original purpose, but which         has survived just because it's a lot of fun. That's probably the best description of our group, since you can make anything you want from it. For some it's a means of serious research into Medieval culture, by trying to re-learn the skills, knowledge, and life-style of our ancestors. For others, it's a hobby, a way of relaxing after a normal ("mundane") day, and an excuse to pursue interests and crafts they never found time for before. For many of us, it's the most interesting continuous costume party we've ever been to. A few members joined with an interest in history, drama,and folklore [having] found them dull as traditionally studied."

 

The SCA is meant to be FUN, not history, not archeology. It is a celebration of spirit and pleasure. Through their enthusiasm, the SCA illustrates "history" as a pure form of recreation.  

 

I have included the SCA because their philosophy carries over into what we do and others do not do. The first SCA member I ever saw, a Mr. Williams, posed for our college art class in 1972. He was dressed in a "tunic" of fabric print leopard fur, wore a welding tank tip as a helmet, and carried a sword consisting of a broom handle wrapped with foam rubber and sealed with duct tape. Yet, I know of SCA members, particularly in England, who have their armor and weapons hand forged from originals.  For most of an estimated 200,000 members around the world, that level of research and application is the rare exception in the SCA. Simply put, the membership is into the SCA for the mirth, fantasy, and recreation, and it does not matter if R&D means Rayon and Dacron, not research and documentation. It is not suppose to. If you go to an SCA "Renaissance Fair", you know exactly what to expect, and what you will see.  As Cliff Nagle once said to me, "Research is fine, but it can get in the way of the fun." Groups like the SCA don't let it.

 

When you cross over to blackpowder, it is not the same. To a large extent, the buckskinners' "rendezvous" is much like the SCA's "Renaissance Fair." You may find the rare SCA member with forged weapons and hand-forged chain-mail, just like you may find the rendezvouser in a brain-tanned, smoked, and quilled elk skin shirt. And, much like "Renaissance Fair" has little association with the historical event, "rendezvous" has little association with an actual fur trade era commercial rendezvous between traders and companies and/or free trappers. I think a major difference is that the SCA member would say that it's not supposed to, while the rendezvouser would argue that it does.  

 

The "Trekking" Phenomena as Living History and Experimental Archeology 

 

CLOTHING AND ACCOUTREMENTS 

 

". . . Throughout all this country, and in every back settlement in America, the roads and paths are first marked out by blazes on the trees, cut alternately on each side of the way, every thirty or forty yards . . . The convenience and simplicity of this mode has rendered it universal throughout the whole back country.  

 

"It became the more readily adopted, as all who travel beyond the roads and beaten tracks, always have tomahawks in their belts; which, in such situations and circumstances, are more useful than anything, except the rifle-barreled firelocks; both of which all the male inhabitants habituate themselves constantly to carry along with them everywhere.  

 

"Their whole dress is also very singular, and not very materially different from that of the Indians; being a hunting shirt, somewhat resembling a waggoner's frock, ornamented with a great many fringes, tied round the middle with a broad belt, much decorated also, in which is fastened a tomahawk, an instrument that serves every purpose of defense and convenience; being a hammer at one side and a sharp hatchet at the other; the shot bag and powder-horn, carved with a variety of whimsical figures and devices, hang from their necks over one shoulder; and on their heads a flapped hat, of a reddish hue, proceeding from the intensely hot beams of the sun.  

 

"Sometimes they wear leather breeches, made of Indian dressed elk, or deer skins, but more frequently thin trowsers [sic]. 

 

"On their legs they have Indian boots, or leggings, made of coarse woolen cloth, that either are wrapped around loosely and tied with garters, or are laced upon the outside, and always come better than half way up the thigh: these are a great defence and preservative, not only against the bite of serpents and poisonous insects, but likewise against the scratches of thorns, briars, scrubby bushes and underwood, with which this whole country is infested and overspread.  

 

"On their feet they sometimes wear pumps of their own manufacture, but generally Indian moccossons [sic], of their own construction also, which are made of strong elk's or buck's skin, dressed soft as for gloves or breeches, drawn together in regular plaits over the toe, and lacing from thence round to the fore part of the middle of the ankle[sic], without a seam in them, yet fitting close to the feet, and are indeed perfectly easy and pliant.  

 

"Thus habited and accoutered, with his rifle upon his shoulder, or in his hand, a back-wood's man is completely equipped for visiting, courtship, travel, hunting or war.  

 

"And according to the number and variety of the fringes on his hunting shirt, and the decorations on his powderhorn, belt and rifle, he estimates his finery, and absolutely conceives himself of equal consequence, more civilized, polite and more elegantly dressed than the most brilliant peer at St. James's in a splendid and expensive birthday suit, of the first fashion and taste, and most costly materials.  

 

"Their hunting, or rifle shirts, they have also died [sic] in variety of colours, some yellow, others red, some brown and many wear them quite white.  

 

"Such sentiments as those I have just exposed to notice, are neither so ridiculous nor surprising, when the circumstances are considered with due attention, that prompt the back-wood's American to such a train of thinking, and in which light it is, that he feels his own consequence, for he finds all his resources in himself.  

 

"Thus attired and accoutered, as already described, set him in the midst of a boundless forest, a thousand miles from an inhabitant, he is by no means at a loss, nor in the smallest degree dismayed.  

 

"With his rifle he procures his subsistence; with his tomahawk he erects his shelter, his wigwam, his house or whatever habitation he may chuse [sic] to reside in; he drinks at the crystal spring, or the nearest brook; his wants are all easily supplied, he is contented, he is happy. For felicity, beyond a doubt, consists, in a great measure, in the attainment and gratification of our desires, and the accomplishment of the utmost bounds of our wishes.  

 

"This digression, which I thought necessary to impress an idea of the singular appearance and sentiments of these men, for that reason, I am hopeful, will be excused; and for which, I flatter myself, this will be deemed a sufficient apology."  

 

J.F.D. Smyth, Tour In The United States of America, 1784. 

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". . . The uniform of Morgan's Regiment was a short frock made of pepper and salt colored cotton cloth like a common working frock worn by our country people, except that it was short and open before, to be tied with strings; pantaloons of the same fabric and color, and some kind of a cap, but I do not now remember its form. This was their summer dress."  

 

19th Century Pension Papers. Describing Daniel Morgan's Company of Riflemen In 1775.  

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"Declarant states that he was then stationed at Fort Pitt, the place aforesaid. Declarant states that in obedience to the order of his said Captain Brady, he proceeded to tan his thighs and legs with wild cherry and white oak bark and to equip himself after the following manner, to Wit, a breechcloth, leather legging, moccasins and a cap made out of a racoon skin, with the feathers of a hawk, painted after the manner of an Indian warrior. His face was painted red, with three black stripes across his cheeks, which was a signification of war. Declarant states that Captain Brady's company was about sixty-four in number, all painted after the manner aforesaid."  

 

George Roush, 19th Century Pension Papers. Describing His Clothing In 1777. 

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"Captain Hugh Stephenson's rendezvous was Shepherd's Town (not Martinsburg) and Captain Morgan's was Winchester. Great exertions were made by each Captain to complete his company first, that merit might be claimed on that account. Volunteers presented themselves in every direction in the vicinity of these towns, none were received but young men of character, and of sufficient property to clothe themselves completely, find their own arms, and accoutrements, that is, an approved rifle, handsome shot pouch and powder horn, blanket, knapsack, with such decent clothing as should be prescribed, but which was at first ordered to be only a hunting shirt and pantaloons, fringed on every edge and in various ways."  

 

Major Henry Bedinger, Letter to a Son Of General Samuel Finley, Describing The Riflemen Of His Unit In 1775, written some time later. 

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". . . I have had the happiness of seeing Captain Michael Cresap marching at the head of a formidable company of upwards of one hundred and thirty men, from the mountains and backwoods, painted like Indians, armed with tomahawks and rifles dressed in hunting shirts and moccasins, and though some of them had traveled near eight hundred miles, from the banks of the Ohio, they seemed to walk light and easy, and not with less spirit than at the first hour of their march. Health and vigor, after what they had undergone, declared them to be intimate with hardship and familiar with danger . . ."  

 

Extract From a Letter To a Gentleman in Philadelphia. 1775. 

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"Hundreds of backwoodsmen collected at Fredericksburg, Virginia and continued there one or two days longer should have had upwards of ten thousand men. All the frontier counties were in motion . . . Fredericksburg never was so honored with so many brave hearty men . . . every man rich and poor with their hunting shirts, belts and tomahawks fixed . . . in the best manner."  

 

Michael Wallace, Letter to Gustavius Wallace. 1775        

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An eyewitness described the southern riflemen as ". . . Not over-burdened with fat, but tall, raw-boned and sinewy."

 

Drury Mathis, Loyalist Captured at King's Mountain. 1780. 

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"The committee appointed me captain of this company of rangers, and gave me the appointment of my subalterns. I chose two of the most active young men that I could find, who had also been long in captivity with the Indians. As we enlisted our men, we dressed them uniformly in the Indian manner, with breech-clouts, legging, mockesons [sic] and green shrouds, which we wore in the same manner that the Indians do, and nearly as the Highlanders wear their plaids. In place of hats we wore red handkerchiefs, and painted our faces red and black, like Indian warriors. I taught them the Indian discipline, as I knew of no other at that time, which would answer the purpose much better than British. We succeeded beyond expectation in defending the frontiers, and were extolled by our employers."  

 

James Smith, Life and Travels of Colonel Tames Smith. 1799, describing the dress of his "Black Boys" when formed in the early 1760's. 

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"Our clothing was all of domestic manufacture. We had no other resource for clothing, and this, indeed, was a poor one. The crops of flax often failed, and the sheep were destroyed by the wolves. Linsey, which is made of flax and wool, the former the chain and the latter the filling, was the warmest and most substantial cloth we could make. Almost every house contained a loom, and almost every woman was a weaver.  

 

"Every family tanned their own leather. The tan vat was a large trough sunk to the upper edge in the ground. A quantity of bark was easily obtained every spring, in clearing and fencing the land. This, after drying, was brought in and in wet days was shaved and pounded on a block of wood, with an axe or mallet. Ashes was [sic] used in place of lime for taking off the hair. Bears' oil, hog's lard and tallow, answered the place of fish oil. The leather, to be sure, was coarse; but it was substantially good. The operation of currying was performed by a drawing knife with its edge fumed, after the manner of a currying knife. The blacking for the leather was made of soot and hog's lard.  

 

"Almost every family contained its own tailors and shoemakers. Those who could not make shoes, could make shoepacks. These, like moccasons [sic], were made of a single piece of leather with the exception of a tongue piece on the top of the foot. This was about two inches broad and circular at the lower end. To this the main piece of leather was sewed, with a gathering stitch. The seam behind was like that of a moccason [sic]. To the shoepack a sole was sometimes added. The women did the tailor work. They could all cut out and make hunting shirts, leggins and drawers."  

 

Reverend Joseph Doddridge, Notes on the Settlements and Indian Wars of the Western Parts of Virginia and Pennsylvania, 1763-1783.  

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"The principle distinction between us, was in our dialects, our arms and our dress. Each man of the three companies bore a rifle-barreled gun, a tomahawk, or small axe, and a long knife, usually called a 'scalping knife,' which served for all purposes, in the woods. His under-dress, by no means in a military style, was covered by a deep ash-colored hunting shirt, leggins and moccasins, if the latter could be procured. It was the silly fashion of those times for the riflemen to ape the manner of savages . . . 

 

"My wardrobe was scanty and light. It consisted of a roundabout jacket of woolen, a pair of half-worn buckskin breeches, two pairs of woolen stockings, (bought at Newburyport,) a hat with a feather, a hunting shirt, legging, a pair of mockasins [sic], a pair of tolerably good shoes, which had been closely hoarded . . .  

 

" [George] Merchant was a tall and handsome Virginian. In a few days, he hunting-shirt and all, was sent to England, probably as a finished specimen of the riflemen of the colonies. The government there very liberally sent him home in the following year . . .  

 

"By-and-by [Daniel] Morgan came, large, a commanding aspect, and stentorian voice. He wore legging, and a cloth in the Indian style. His thighs, which were exposed to view, appeared to have been lacerated by the thorns and bushes  

 

"My gloves were good and well lined with fur, and my mockasins [sic] of the best kind, well stuffed . . . 

 

"Having on a fine white blanket coat, and turning my cap or 'bonnet rouge' inside out, the inside being white, made me, as it were, invisible in the snow . . .  

 

John Joseph Henry, An Accurate and Interesting Account of the Hardships and Sufferings of That Band of Heroes, Who Traversed Thru The Wilderness in the Campaign Against Quebec in 1775,1812. -~ 

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James Smith as an Indian:  

 

"They gave me a new ruffled shirt, which I put on, also a pair of leggins done off with ribbons and beads, likewise a pair of mockasons [sic], and garters dressed with beads, porcupine-quills and red hair also a tinsel laced cappo. They again painted my head and face with various colors, and tied a bunch of red feathers to one of these locks they had left on the crown of my head, which stood up five or six inches . . .  

 

And Smith as a returning Long Hunter:  

 

"When I came in to the settlement my clothes were almost worn out, and the boy had nothing on him that ever was spun. He had buck-skin legging, mockasons [sic], and breech-clout a bear-skin dressed with the hair on, which he belted about him, and a raccoon-skin cap ... 

 

"I went to a magistrate, and obtained a pass, and one of my old acquaintances made me a present of a shirt. I then cast away my old rags, and all the clothes I now had was an old beaver hat, buck-skin legging, mockasons {sic], and a new shirt; also an old blanket, which I commonly carried on my back in good weather. Being thus equipped, I marched on, with my white shirt loose, and Jamie with his bear-skin about him: myself appearing white, and Jamie very black alarmed the dogs wherever we came, so that they barked violently."  

 

James Smith, An Account of the Remarkable Occurances in the Life and Travels of Colonel James Smith, 1799.  

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"The people all travel on horseback with pistols and swords, an a large blanket folded up under their saddle, which last they use for sleeping in when obliged to pass the night in the woods.  

 

"The moccasin is made of the skin of the deer, elk or buffalo, which is commonly dressed without the hair, and rendered of a deep brown colour by being exposed to the smoke of a wood fire. It is formed of a single piece of leather, with a seam from the toe to the instep, and another behind, similar to that in a common shoe; by means of a thong it is fastened round the instep, just under the anklebone, and is thus made to sit very close to the foot. Round that part where the foot is put in, a flap of the depth of an inch or two is left, which hangs loosely down over the string by which the moccasin is fastened; and this flap as also the seam, are tastefully ornamented with porcupine quills and beads: the flap is edged with tin or copper tags filled with scarlet hair, if the moccasin be intended for a man, and with ribbands [sic] if for a woman. An ornamented moccasin of this sort is only worn in dress, as the ornaments are expensive, and the leather soon wears out; one of the plain leather answers for ordinary use. Many of the white people on the Indian frontiers wear this kind of shoe; but a person not accustomed to walk in it, or to walk barefoot, cannot wear it abroad, on a rough road, without great inconvenience, as every unevenness of surface is felt through the leather, which is soft and pliable: in a house it is the most agreeable sort of shoe that can be imagined: Indians wear it universally.  

 

"Above the moccasin all the Indians wear what are called leggings, which reach from the instep to the middle of the thigh. They are commonly made of blue or scarlet cloth, and are formed so as to sit close to the limbs, like the modern pantaloons; but the edges of the cloth annexed to the seam, instead of being turned in, are left on the outside, and are ornamented with beads, ribands [sic], &C., when the leggings are intended for dress. Many of the young warriors are so desirous that their leggings should fit them neatly, that they make the squaws, who are the tailors, and really very good ones, sow [sic] them tight on their limbs, so that they cannot be taken off, and they continue to wear them constantly till they are reduced to rags. The leggings are kept up by means of two strings, one on the outside of each thigh, which are fastened to a third, that is tied around the waist.  

 

"They also wear round the waist another string, from which are suspended two little aprons, somewhat more than a foot square, one hanging down before and the other behind, and under these a piece of cloth, drawn dose up to the body between the legs, forming a sort of truss. The aprons and this piece of cloth, which are all fastened together, are called the breech cloth. The utmost ingenuity of the squaws is exerted in adorning the little aprons with beads, ribbands [sic] &C.  

 

"The moccasins, leggings, and breech cloth constitute the whole of the dress which they wear when they enter upon a campaign, except indeed it be a girdle, from which hangs their tobacco pouch and scalping knife, &C; nor do they wear anything more when the weather is very warm; but when it is cool, or when they dress themselves to visit their friends, they put on a short shirt, loose at the neck and wrists, generally made of coarse figured cotton or calico, of some gaudy pattern, not unlike what would be used for window or bed curtains at a common inn in England. Over the shirt they wear either a blanket, large piece of broad cloth, or else a loose coat made somewhat similarly to a common riding frock; a blanket is more commonly worn than anything else. They tie one end of it round their waste [sic] with a girdle, and then drawing it over their shoulders, either fasten it across their breasts with a skewer, or hold the corners of it together, in the left hand. One would imagine that this last mode of wearing it could not but be highly inconvenient to them, as it must deprive them in a great measure of the use of one hand; yet it is the mode in which it is commonly worn, even when they are shooting in the woods; they generally, however, keep the right arm disengaged when they carry a gun, and draw the blanket over the left shoulder."

 

Isaac Weld, Travels Through the States Of North America, 1799. 

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"You expressed apprehension that the rifle dress of General Morgan may be mistaken hereafter for a waggoner's frock, which he, perhaps, wore when on the expedition with General Braddock; there is no more resemblance between the two dresses, than between a cloak and a coat; the waggoner's frock was intended, as the present cartman's to cover and protect their other clothes, and is merely a long coarse shirt reaching below the knee; the dress of the Virginia riflemen who came to Cambridge in 1775 [among whom was Morgan] was an elegant loose dress reaching to the middle of the thigh, ornamented with fringes in various parts and meeting the pantaloons of the same material and color, fringed and ornamented in corresponding style. The officers wore the usual crimson sash over this, and around the waist, the straps, belts, etc. were black, forming, in my opinion, a very picturesque and elegant as well as useful dress. It cost a trifle; the soldier could wash it at any brook he passed; however worn and ragged and dirty his other clothing might be, when this was thrown over it, he was in elegant uniform."  

 

John Trumbull, Personal Letter, circa 1780. 

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"Leggers, leggins, or Indian spatterdashes, are usually made of frieze or other coarse woolen cloth; they should be at least three quarters wide (which is 3 x 3) then double it, and sew it together from end to end, within four, five or six inches of the outside selvages, fitting this long narrow bag to the shape of the leg; the flaps to be on the outside, which serve to wrap over the skin, or forepart of the leg, tied round under the knee, and above the ankle, with garters of the same colour; by which the legs are preserved from many fatal accidents, in marching through the woods. The Indians generally ornament the flaps with beads of various colours, as they do their moggasan [sic], for my part, I think them clumsy, and not at all military; yet I confess they are highly necessary in N. America; nevertheless, if they were made without the flap and to button the outside of the leg, in like manner as a spatterdash they would answer full as well: but this is a matter of opinion."  

 

Captain John Knox, Historical Journal, 1757. 

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"At the head of the column marched a group of woodsman, all of course, bearing rifles.  Some strode on foot, but many of them, perhaps the majority, were mounted on horses that walked slowly along.

 

"They wore loose hunting shirts, and trousers of dressed deerskin, gayley [sic] decorated with the colored fringes so widely affected as a backwoods fashion. Their feet were clad in moccasins and on their heads were many sorts of fantastic caps of skins or of linsey-woolsey, each fashioned according the whim of its owner. Every man was girt with a leather belt from the right side of which hung a tomahawk to be used either as a hatchet or for some more violent purpose. On his left side he carried his hunting knife, a full powder horn, a leather pouch of home made bullets and another large leather pouch holding a quart or two of parched corn." 

 

Anonymous Description of a Party of Long Hunters, 1773. 

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"I am of opinion that a number of hunting-shirts, not less than ten thousand, would in a great degree remove this difficulty, in the cheapest and quickest manner. I know nothing in a speculative view, more trivial, yet which, if put in practice, would have a happier tendency to unite the men, and abolish those provincial distinctions that lead to jealousy and dissatisfaction." 

 

George Washington, Letter to the President of Congress, 1775. 

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"Hunting shirts with long breeches . . . it is a dress justly supposed to carry no small terror to the enemy who think every such person a complete marksman."  

 

George Washington, July, 1776.  

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Nicholas Cresswell recalled that his companions on a journey along the Kentucky River had not two pairs of breeches among them. "The rest wear breechclouts, leggins and hunting shirts, which have never been washed, only by the rain since they were made.

 

"It is a custom with our company, as soon as it begins to rain to strip naked and secure their clothes from the wet. I have attempted it twice today, but the drops of rain are disagreeable to my skin, that it obliged me to put on my shirt. " Cresswell noted that the frontier was "an asylum for rascals of all denominations."  

 

Journal of Nicholas Cresswell, 1774-1777.  

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"The Indians, who have any dealings with the English or American traders, and all of them have that live in the neighborhood, and to the east of the Mississippi, and in the neighborhood of the great lakes to the north-west, have now totally laid aside the use of furs and skins in their dress, except for their shoes or moccasins, and sometimes for their legging, as they find they can exchange them to advantage for blankets and woolen cloths, &C. which they consider likewise as much more agreeable-and commodious materials for wearing apparel."  

 

Isaac Weld, Travels Through the States of North America, 1799. 

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"On the frontiers, and particularly amongst those who were much in the habit of hunting, and going on scouts and campaigns, the dress of the men was partly Indian, and partly that of civilized nations. 

 

"The hunting shirt was universally worn. This was a kind of loose frock, reaching halfway down the thighs, with large sleeves, open before and so wide as to lap over a foot or more when belted. The cape was large, and sometimes handsomely fringed with a raveled piece of cloth of a different color from that of the hunting shirt itself. The bosom of this dress served as a wallet to hold a chunk of bread, cakes, jerk, tow for wiping the barrel of the rifle, or any other necessary for the hunter or warrior.  

 

"The belt, which was always tied behind answered several purposes, besides that of holding the dress together. In cold weather the mittens, and sometimes the bullet-bag, occupied the front part of it. To the right side was suspended the tomahawk and to the left the scalping knife in its leather sheath. The hunting shirt was generally made of linsey, sometimes of coarse linen, and a few of dressed deer skins. These last were very cold and uncomfortable in wet weather. The shirt and jacket were of the common fashion. A pair of drawers or breeches and legging, were the dress of the thighs and legs; a pair of moccasons [sic] answered for the feet much better than shoes. These were made of dressed deer skin. They were mostly made of a single piece with a gathering seam along the top of the foot, and another from the bottom of the heel, without gathers as high as the ankle joint or a little higher. Flaps were left on each side to reach some distance up the legs. These were nicely adapted to the ankles, and, lower part of the leg by thongs of deer skin, so that no dust, gravel, or snow could get within the moccason [sic].  

 

"The moccasons [sic] in ordinary use cost but a few hours labor to make them. This was done by an instrument denominated a moccason [sic] awl, which was made of the backspring of an old clasp knife. This awl with its buckhorn handle was an appendage of every shoe pouch strap, together with a roll of buckskin for mending the moccasons [sic].  This was the labor of almost every evening. They were sewed together and patched with deer skin thongs, or whangs, as they were commonly called.

 

"In cold weather the moccasons [sic] were well stuffed with deer's hair or dry leaves, so as to keep the feet comfortably warm; but in wet weather it was usually said that wearing them was 'a decent way of going barefooted,' and such was the fact, owing to the spongy texture of the leather of which they were made. 

 

"Owing to this defective covering of the feet, more than to any other circumstance, the greater number of our hunters and warriors were afflicted with the rheumatism in their limbs. Of this disease they were all apprehensive in cold or wet weather, and therefore always slept with their feet to the fire to prevent or cure it as well as they could.  This practice unquestionably had a very salutary effect, and prevented many of them from becoming confirmed cripples in early life.

 

"In the latter years of the Indian war our young men became more enamored of the Indian dress throughout, with the exception of the matchcoat. The drawers were laid aside and the leggins made longer, so as to reach the upper part of the thigh. The Indian breech clout was adopted. This was a piece of linen or cloth nearly a yard long, and eight or nine inches broad. This passed under the belt before and behind leaving the end for flaps hanging before and behind over the belt. The flaps were sometimes ornamented with some coarse kind of embroidery work. To the same belt which secured the breech clout, strings which supported the long leggins were attached. When this belt, as was often the case, passed over the hunting shirt the upper part of the thighs and part of the hips were naked. 

 

"The young warrior instead of being abashed by this nudity was proud of his Indian like dress. In some few instances I have seen them go into places of public worship in this dress. Their appearance, however, did not add much to the devotion of the young ladies." 

 

Reverend Joseph Doddridge, Notes on the Settlements and Indian Wars of the Western Parts of Virginia and Pennsylvania 1763-1783. 

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MARKSMANSHIP AND EFFECTIVENESS 

 

"Colonel, now General, Tarleton, and myself, were standing a few yards out of a wood, observing the situation of a part of the enemy which we intended to attack. There was a rivulet in the enemy's front, and a mill on it, to which we stood directly with horses' heads fronting, observing their motions.  It was absolutely a plain field between us and the mill; not so much as a single bush on it. Our orderly-bugler stood behind us about three yards, but with his horse's side to our horses' tails. A rifleman passed over the milldam, evidently observing two officers, and laid himself down on his belly, for in such positions they always lie, to take a good shot at a long distance. He took a deliberate and cool shot at my friend, at me; and at the bugle-horn man. Now observe how well this fellow shot. It was in the month of August, and not a breath of wind was stirring. Colonel Tarleton's horse and mine, I am certain, were not anything like two feet apart; for we were in close consultation, how we should attack with our troops which laid 300 yards in the wood, and could not be perceived by the enemy. A rifle-ball passed between him and me; looking directly to the mill I evidently observed the flash of the powder. I directly said to my friend, 'I think we had better move, or we shall have-two or three of these gentlemen shortly amusing themselves at our expense.  The words were hardly out of my mouth when the bugle-horn man behind me, and directly central, jumped off his horse and said, 'Sir, my horse is shot.' The horse staggered, fell down, and died . . . Now speaking of this rifleman's shooting, nothing could be better . . . I have passed several times over this ground and ever observed it with the greatest attention; and I can positively assert that the distance he fired from at us was full 400 yards."

 

Colonel George Hanger, To All Sportsmen and Particularly to Farmers and Gamekeepers, 1814.  

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"They are remarkable at Philadelphia for making rifled Barrell Gunns, [sic] which throw a Ball above 300 yards, vastly well, & much better than any other Barrells. People here in general Shoot very well with Ball, but don't doe [sic] much with Shot." 

 

Sir William Johnson Papers, 1761.  

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"A large part of the provincials are armed with grooved rifles, and have their molds. Lead in bars will suit them better than bullets likewise the Indians, but they also need fine powder FF." 

 

Colonel Henry Bouquet. Carlisle. Pennsylvania, 1758. 

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"On Friday evening last arrived here, on their way to the American Camp, Captain (Michael) Cresap's Company of Riflemen, consisting of 130 active, brave young fellows; many of whom had been in the late expedition under Lord Dunmore, against the Indians. They bear in their bodies visible marks of their prowess, and show scars and wounds, which would do honour to Homer's Iliad, etc. They shew[sic] you, to use the poet's words--'Where the goar'd bull bled at every vein.'  

 

"One of these warriors, in-particular, shows the cicatrices (scar tissue) of four bullet holes through his body. These men have been bred in the woods to hardships and danger from their infancy. They appear as if they were entirely unacquainted with, and had never felt, the passion of fear. With their rifles in their hands they assume a kind of omnipotence over their enemies. You will not much wonder at this when I mention a fact, which can be fully attested by several of the reputable inhabitants of this place, who were eyewitnesses of it. Two brothers in the company took a piece of board, five inches broad, and seven inches long, with a bit of white paper, about the size of a dollar, nailed in the center, and while one them supported this board perpendicularly between his knees, the other at the distance of upwards of sixty yards, and without any kind of rest, shot eight bullets successively through the board, and spared a brother's thighs!  

 

'Another of the company held a barrel stave perpendicularly in his hand, with one edge close to his side, while one of his comrades at the same distance, and in the manner before mentioned, shot several bullets through it, without any apprehensions of danger on either side. The spectators, appearing to be amazed at these feats, were told that there were upwards of fifty persons in the company who could do the same thing; that there was not one who could not plug 19 bullets out of 20 (as they termed it) within an inch of the head of a ten-penny nail; in short, to evince the confidence they possessed in their dexterity at these kinds of arms, some of them proposed to stand with apples on their heads, while others at the same distance undertook to shoot them off; but the people who saw the other experiments, declined to be witnesses of this. At night a great fire was kindled round a pole planted in the courthouse square, where the company with the Captain at their head, all naked to the waist and painted like savages (except the Captain, who was in an Indian shirt), indulged a vast concourse of the inhabitants with a perfect exhibition of a war dance, and all the manoeuvres [sic1 of Indians holding council, going to war, circumventing their enemies, by defiles, ambuscades, attacking, scalping, etc. It is said by those who are judges, that no representation could possibly come nearer the original. The Captain's agility and expertness, in particular, in these exhibitions, astonished every beholder.  

 

'This morning they will set out on their march to Cambridge."

 

Pennsylvania Packet, August, 1775 Lancaster, Pennsylvania 

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"Yesterday the company was supplied with a small quantity of powder from the magazine, which wanted airing, and was not in good order for rifles; in the evening, however, they were drawn out to show the gentlemen of the Town their dexterity at shooting. A clapboard, with a mark the size of a dollar, was put up; they began to fire offhand, and the bystanders were surprised, few shots being made that were not close to or in the paper. When they had shot for a time in this way, some lay on their back, some on their breast or side, others ran twenty or thirty steps, and firing appeared to be equally certain of the mark. With this performance the company was more than satisfied, when a young man took up the board in his hand, not by the end, but by the side, and holding it as it was held before, the second brother shot as the former had done. By this exercise I was more astonished than pleased. But will you believe me when I tell you, that one of the men took the board, and placing it between his legs, stood with his back to the tree while another drove the center. What would a regular army of considerable strength in the forests of America do with one thousand of these men, who want nothing to preserve their health and courage but water from the spring, with a little parched corn, with what they can easily procure in hunting; and who, wrapped in their blankets, in the damp of night, would choose the shade of a tree for their covering, and the earth for their bed?" 

 

Extract of a Letter to a Gentleman in Philadelphia. Describing a Shooting Match Held by Captain Michael Cresap's Company of Riflemen , 1775. 

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"The inhabitants of Red Bank are only hunters, or what are called foresters. They cultivate no ground, but subsist on the produce of their hunting and fishing, and are almost naked. The following trait may serve to give an idea of their character. At our arrival we found a number of these hunters who had assembled to regale themselves on the banks of the river with the spoils of their chace [sic] on the preceding day, when they had killed a very fine buffalo.  They had drunk plentifully of whiskey, and though the greater number were intoxicated, they were amusing themselves in firing with carabines [sic] against a piece of plank tied to a tree, which is called shooting at a mark.  The board, probably ill-fastened, fell at each shot; one of the party at length losing patience, took it up, and placing it between his legs, called out to his companion, 'Now fire away!' which they did immediately, and always with the same address; whilst he who held the board exclaimed at each shot, 'It is in!' This amusement, which lasted two hours without any accident taking place, may appear incredible to those who are not acquainted with the singular skill of these men; but it is sufficient to observe that they will aim at the head of a squirrel or a turkey and very rarely miss.  The seeming intrepidity of the man who held the board becomes, therefore, only an ordinary circumstance."

 

General Victor Callot, 1796. 

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"Their guns are rifled barrels, and they fight in ambush, five hundred provincials would stop the march of five thousand regulars. And a whole army might be cut off, without knowing where the fire came from." 

 

Gentleman's Magazine, 1775. 

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"I have many times asked the American backwoodsman what was the most their best marksmen could do; they have constantly told me that an expert rifleman, provided he can draw good and true sight, can hit the head of a man at 200 yards. I am certain that provided an American rifleman was to get a perfect aim at 300 yards at me standing still, he most undoubtedly would hit me, unless it was a very windy day . . ." 

 

Colonel George Hanger, To All Sportsmen and Particularly to Farmers and Gamekeepers, 1814. 

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".. . they apprehend a Rifleman grows naturally behind each Tree and Bush on the Continent." 

 

Captain Thomas Pinckney, Commenting on the British Fear of Riflemen, 1775. 

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At one time, Thomas Jefferson advised Lafayette to retreat to the west so that the British would be exposed "...to their most dangerous Enemies, the Riflemen."

 

Thomas Jefferson, Letter to the Marquis de Lafayette, 1781. 

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Well into the war, the commander-in-chief still believed that a ". . . corps of riflemen will be for several purposes extremely useful."

 

George Washington, Letter to the Secretary of War, 1778. 

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"Let us take a view of the benefits we have received, by what little we have learned of their art of war, which cost us dear, and the loss that we have sustained for want of it; and then see if it will not be well worth our while to retain what we have, and also to endeavor to improve in this necessary branch of business. Though we have made considerable proficiency in this line, and in some respects out-do them viz. as marksmen, and in cutting our rifles, and in keeping them in good order; yet, I apprehend we are far behind in their manoeuveres, or in being able to surprize [sic], or prevent a surprize [sic]. May we not conclude that the progress we had made in their art of war contributed considerably towards our success, in various respects, when contending with Great Britain for liberty?  

 

"Had the British King, attempted to enslave us before Braddock's war, in all probability he might readily have done it, because, except the New Englanders, who had formerly been engaged in war with the Indians, we were unacquainted with any kind of war: but after fighting such a subtil [sic] and barbarous enemy as the Indians, we were not terrified at the approach of British red-coats.  --Was not Burgoyne's defeat accomplished in some measure by the Indian mode of fighting? and did not Gen. Morgan's rifle-men, and many others, fight with greater success, in consequence of what they had learned of their art of war? Kentucky would not have been settled at the time it was, had the Virginians been altogether ignorant of this method of war."

 

Colonel James Smith, An Account of the Remarkable Occurances in the Life and Travels of Colonel James Smith, 1799. 

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"The fire was now return'd, but the enemy had a great advantage from their rifles . . ."  

 

Colonel Henry Hamilton, 1779, describing his defense of Fort Sackville in the Illinois Country.  

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"I cannot sufficiently thank your Excellency for sending Col. Morgan's corps to this army; they shall be of the greatest service to it . . ." 

 

General Horatio Gates, Letter to George Washington, 1777, during the Saratoga campaign. 

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"They either did not or would not take the signal; and though there were but two of us, from whom they could not possibly expect a design to attack, they did not cease firing at us. I may venture to say, that not less than ten guns were discharged with their muzzles towards us, within the distance of forty or fifty yards, and I might be nearer the truth in saying, that some were let off within twenty. Luckily for us, it was not our riflemen to whom we were targets  

 

Alexander Graydon, Commenting on the Ineffectiveness of British Muskets in Battle, 1776. ..  

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"An unusual number of the killed were found to have been shot in the head. Riflemen took off riflemen with such exactness, that they killed each other when they were taking sight, so effectually that their eyes remained after they were dead, one shut and the other open, in the usual manner of marksmen when leveling at their subjects."  

 

A Loyalist's Description of Riflemen at King's Mountain 1780. 

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"Shooting at marks was a common diversion among the men, when their stock of ammunition would allow it; this, however, was far from being always the case. The present mode of shooting off hand was not then in practice. This mode was not considered as any trial of the value of a gun; nor, indeed, as much of a test of the skill of a marksmen. Their shooting was from a rest, and at as great a distance as the length and weight of the barrel of the gun would throw a ball on a horizontal level. Such was their regard to accuracy, in these supportive trials of their rifles, and of their own skill in the use of them, that they often put moss, or some other soft substance, on the log or stump from which they shot, for fear of having the bullet thrown from the mark by the spring of the barrel. When the rifle was held to the side of a tree for a rest, it was pressed against it as lightly as possible, for the same reason. 

 

"Rifles of former times, were different from those of modern date; few of them carried more than forty-five bullets (.47 caliber) to the pound. Bullets of a less size were not thought sufficiently heavy for hunting or war."  

 

Reverend Joseph Doddridge, Notes on the Settlements and Indian Wars of the Western Parts of Virginia and Pennsylvania. 1763-1783. 

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"In consequence of the orders of His Excellency Gen'l Washington, I now send Major Miller for arms and clothing for the First Pennsylvania Regiment commanded by Colonel Chambers; they never received any uniforms, except hunting shirts, which were worn out and although a body of fine men, yet from being in rags and badly armed, they are viewed with contempt by the other troops, and began to despise themselves. The conduct of the Pennsylvanians the other day, in forcing General Grant to retire with circumstances of shame and disgrace into the very lines of the enemy, has gained them the esteem and confidence of His Excellency, who wishes to have our rifles exchanged for good muskets and bayonets, as experience has taught us they are not fit for the field, and a few only will be retained in each regiment which will be placed in the hands of real marksmen." 

 

General Anthony Wayne, Letter to the Board of War, 1777. 

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Interestingly, while Wayne acknowledged the victory of the riflemen, he also believed their arms to be inferior. The following year he issued an order to ". . . 'make a return of the number of Rifles in each Brigade, in order to Exchange them for an equal number of Muskets and Bayonets'."

 

General Anthony Wayne, 2nd Pennsylvania Regiment's Orderly Book, 1778. 

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" Several different kinds of articles are manufactured at Lancaster by German mechanics, individually, principally for the people of the town and the neighborhood. Rifled barrel guns however are to be excepted, which, although not as handsome as those imported from England, are more esteemed by the hunters, and are sent to every part of the country. 

 

"The rifled barrel guns, commonly used in America, are nearly of the length of a musket, and carry leaden balls from the size of thirty to sixty in the pound (from .53 to .42 caliber). Some hunters prefer those of a small bore, because they require but little ammunition; others prefer such as have a wide bore, because the wound which they inflict is more certainly attended with death; the wound, however, made by a ball discharged from one of these guns, is always very dangerous. The inside of the barrel is fluted, and the grooves run in a spiral direction from one end of the barrel to the other, consequently when the ball comes out it has a whirling motion round its own axis, at the same time that it moves forward, and when it enters into the body of an animal, it tears up the flesh in a dreadful manner. The best of powder is chosen for the rifled barrel gun, and after a proper portion of it is put down the barrel, the ball is inclosed [sic] in a small bit of linen rag, well greased at the outside, and then forced down with a thick ramrod. The grease and the bits of rag, which are called patches, are carried in a little box at the but-end [sic] of the gun. The best rifles are furnished with two triggers, one of which being first pulled sets the other, that is, alters the spring so that it will yield even to the slight touch of a feather. They are also furnished with double sights along the barrel, as fine as those of a surveying instrument. An experienced marksman, with one of these guns, will hit an object not larger than a crown piece, to a certainty, at the distance of one hundred yards. Two men belonging to the Virginia rifle regiment, a large division of which was quartered in this down [sic] during the war, had such a dependence on each other's dexterity, that the one would hold a piece of board, not more than nine inches square, between his knees, whilst the other shot at it with a ball at the distance of one hundred paces. This they used to do alternately, for the amusement of the town's people, as often as they were called upon. Numbers of people in Lancaster can vouch for the truth of this fact. Were I, however, to tell you all the stories I have heard of the performance of riflemen, you would think the people were most abominably addicted to lying. A rifle gun will not carry shot, nor will it carry a ball much farther than one hundred yards with certainty." 

 

Isaac Weld, Travels Through the States of North America, 1799. 

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" Rifle Men that for their number make the most formidable light infantry in the world. The six frontier countries (of Virginia) can produce 6000 of these Men (with) their amazing hardihood, their method of living so long in the woods without carrying provisions with them, the exceeding quickness with which they can march to distant parts, and above all, the dexterity to which they have arrived in the use of the Rifle Gun. Their [sic] is not one of these Men who wish a distance less than 200 yards or a larger object than an Orange -- Every shot is fatal." 

 

Richard Henry Lee, Personal Letter, 1775. 

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" Sirs: I am favor'd with yours of the 16th. The Spears have come to hand, and are very handy and will be useful to the Rifle Men. But they would be more conveniently carried, if they had a sling fixed to them, they should also have a spike in the but end [sic] to fix them in the ground and they would then serve as a rest for the Rifle. The Iron plates which fix the spear head to the shaft, should be at least eighteen inches long to prevent the Shaft from being cut through, with a stroke of a Horseman's Sword. Those only intended for the Rifle Men, should be fixed with Slings and Spikes in the end, those for the Light Horse need neither. There will be 500 wanting for the Rifle Men, as quick as possible." 

 

George Washington, Letter to the Board of War, 1777. 

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"I have formed two companies of grenadiers to each regiment, and with spears of 13 feet long. Their rifle (for they are all riflemen) slung over their shoulders, their appearance is formidable, and the men are conciliated to the weapon. I am likewise furnishing myself with four-ounced rifle-amusettes, which will carry an infernal distance; the two-ounced hit a half-sheet of paper 500 yards distant." 

 

Charles Lee, Letter to George Washington, 1776. 

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Riflemen picked off Tories, too, at Saratoga: "This misfortune accelerated their estrangement from our course and army."

 

Sergeant Roger Lamb, British Soldier, 1777. 

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"In the open field the rebels do not count for much, but in the woods, they are formidable."  

 

A Brunswicker, 1777. 

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As for the Indians at Saratoga: ". . . not a man of them was to be brought in within the sound of a rifle shot."

 

British Officer, Conduct of the Canada Campaign, 1777.  

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"These [rebel riflemen] . . . hovered upon the flanks in small detachments, and were very expert in securing themselves, and in shifting the ground . . . many placed themselves in high trees in the rear of their own line, and there was seldom a minute's interval in any part of our line without officers being taken off by a single shot."  

 

General John Burgoyne, State of the Expedition. 1777 [Surrender of Burgoyne at Saratoga. October. 1777]. 

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" . . . their rifle-barrel guns with a ball slit almost in four quarters, when fired out of those guns breaks into four pieces, and generally does great execution."  

 

Virginia Gazette, 1775. 

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"The Americans load their rifle-barrel guns with a ball slit almost in four quarters, which, when fired out of those guns, breaks in four pieces and generally does great execution."  

 

London Chronicle, 1775. 

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"I cannot help mentioning one thing, which seems to show the hellish disposition of the accursed rebels: by parcels of ammunition which were left on the field, their balls were all found to be poisoned."  

 

A Loyalist Merchant, Boston, 1775. 

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"No man could stand at the helm in safety; if the men went aloft to band the sails, they were immediately singled out." 

 

Action Off Hampton Roads. Virginia, 1775, where riflemen fired upon the enemy from the shore.  

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" . . . the Riflemen had in one day killed 10 men of a reconnoitering party, and it is said they have killed three officers. A sentry was killed at 250 yards distance." 

 

Pennsylvania Gazette, Reporting news from the siege of Boston in 1775. 

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[The] ". . . shirt-tail men, with their cursed twisted guns, the most fatal widow-and-orphan-makers in the world. "

 

London Newspaper, 1775.  

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"The express, who was sent by the Congress, is returned here from the Eastward, and says he left the Camp last Saturday; that the riflemen picked off ten men in one day, three of whom were Field-officers that were reconnoitering; one of them was killed at the distance of 250 yards, when only half his head was seen."  

 

Pennsylvania Packet, 1775.  

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A riflemen had killed from a distance of 400 yards to which was added "take care, ministerial troops."

 

Virginia Gazette, 1775.  

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"Lord Dunsmore, it is said, is much afraid of the riflemen, and has all his vessels caulked up on the sides, above men's height."  

 

Edmund Pendleton, Letter to Richard Henry Lee, 1775.  

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"The time for which the riflemen enlisted will expire July 1st, and as the loss of such a valuable and brave body of men will be of great injury to the service, I would submit to the consideration of Congress whether it would not be best to adopt some method to induce them to continue. They are indeed a very useful corps; but I need not mention this, as their importance is already well known to the Congress."  

 

George Washington, Letter to the President of Congress, 1776. 

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"It is a certain truth, that the enemy entertain a most fortunate apprehension of American riflemen. It is equally certain that nothing can contribute to diminish this apprehension so infallibly as a frequent ineffectual fire. It is with some concern, therefore, that I am informed that your men have been suffered to fire at a most preposterous distance. Upon this principle I must entreat and insist that you consider it as a standing order, that not a man under your command is to fire at a greater distance than an hundred and fifty yards, at the utmost; in short, that they never fire without almost a moral certainty of hitting their object."  

 

General Charles Lee, Letter to Colonel William Thompson, 1775. 

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"At the distance, perhaps, of one hundred and fifty yards, nothing but his head above water, a shooting-match took place, and believe me, the balls of Morgan, Simpson, Humphreys, and others, played around, and within a few inches of his head . . ."  

 

John Joseph Henry, Campaign Against Quebec, 1812, indicating that these rifle officers also used long arms 

Riflemen… "can hit a man if within 250 yards, and his head if within 150."

 

Virginia Gazette, 1775. 

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"A gentleman from the American camp says - 'Last Wednesday, some riflemen, on Charlestown side, shot an officer of note in the ministerial service, supposed to be Major Small, or Bruce, and killed three men on board a ship at Charlestown ferry, at the distance of full half a mile,"        [800 yards!?! ]

 

Pennsylvania Gazette, 1775. 

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"The provincials have not a rifleman among them, not one being yet arrived from the southward; nor have they any rifle guns; they have only common muskets, nor are these in general furnished with bayonets; but then, they are almost all marksmen, being accustomed to sporting of one kind or other from their youth."  

 

Dr. William Gordon, Personal Letter, 1775. 

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[It is] ". . an unfair method of carrying on a war."

 

William Carter, British Soldier, 1775, expressing the typical redcoat opinion of the use of rifles in warfare.  

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[They] ". . . do execution with their rifle guns at an amazing distance."

 

Warren Adams, Personal Letter, 1775.  

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"They are grown so terrible to the regulars that nothing is to be seen over the breastwork but a hat."  

 

Dr. Joseph Reed, Personal Letter, 1775. 

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"Maryland, December 20, 1775 . . . Rifles, infinitely better than those imported, are daily made in many places in Pennsylvania, and all the gunsmiths everywhere constantly employed. In this country, my lord, the boys, as soon as they can discharge a gun, frequently exercise themselves therewith, some a-fowling and others a-hunting. The great quantities of game, the many kinds and the great privileges of killing, making the Americans the best marksmen in the world, and thousands support their families principally by the same, particularly riflemen on the frontiers, whose objects are deer and turkeys. In marching through woods, one thousand of these riflemen would cut to pieces ten thousand of your best troops."  

 

A Minister of the Church of England to the Earl of Dartmouth, 1775. 

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"This province has raised 1,000 riflemen, the worse of whom will put a ball into a man's head at the distance of 150 to 200 yards; therefore, advise your officers who shall hereafter come out to America to settle their affairs before their departure."  

 

London Chronicle, 1775.  

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"In this situation Your Excellency would not wish me to part with the corps the army of General Burgoyne are most afraid of."  

 

General Horatio Gates, Letter to George Washington in Reference to Morgan's Riflemen, 1777. 

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"'. . . rifles peculiarly adapted to take off the officers of a whole line as it marches to an attack,' and that each rifleman was attended by two men to load for him, 'and this is the real cause of so many of our brave officers falling, they being singled out by these murderers, as they must appear to be in the eyes of every thinking man."'  

 

London Chronicle, 1775. 

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"A party of these men at a late review on a quick advance, placed their balls in poles of 7 inches diameter, fixed for that purpose, at the distance of 25O yards."  

 

London Chronicle, 1775. 

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"Sir, you command the finest regiment in the world."  

 

General John Burgoyne, Words Reputedly Spoken to Colonel Daniel Morgan, 1777.  

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"August . . . Several companies of riflemen, amounting, it is said to more than 1400 men, have arrived here from Philadelphia and Maryland, a distance of from 500 to 700 miles. They are remarkably stout and hardy men; many of them exceeding 6 feet in height. They are dressed in white frocks, or rifle shirts, and round hats. These men are remarkable for the accuracy of their aim; striking a mark with great certainty at 200 yards distance. At a review, a company of them, while on a quick advance, fired their balls into objects of 7 inches diameter, at the distance of 250 yards. They are now stationed on our lines, and their shot have frequently proved fatal to British officers and soldiers who expose themselves to view, even at more than double the distance of common musket shot."  

 

Dr. James Thatcher, Military Journal During the American Revolutionary War, 1775.  

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". . . about twilight is found the best season for hunting the rebels in the woods, at which time their rifles are of very little use; and they are not found so serviceable in a body as musketry, a rest being requisite at all times, and before they are able to make a second discharge, it frequently happens that they find themselves run through the body by the push of bayonet, as a rifleman is not entitled to any quarter."  

 

Middlesex Journal, 1776.  

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". . . meeting a corps of rifle-men, namely riflemen only, I would treat them the same as my friend Colonel Abercrombie . . . treated Morgan's riflemen. When Morgan's riflemen came down to Pennsylvania from Canada, flushed with success gained over Burgoyne's army, they marched to attack our light infantry, under Colonel Abercrombie. The moment they appeared before him he ordered his troops to charge them with the bayonet; not one man out of four had time to fire, and those that did had no time given them to load again; the light infantry not only dispersed them instantly but drove them for miles over the country. They never attacked, or even looked at, our light infantry again without a regular force to support them."  

 

Colonel George Hanger, To All Sportsmen and Particularly to Farmers and Gamekeepers 1814, evidently referring to the action at Whitemarsh, December 7,1777.  This account is not vouched for in any other contemporary description of that battle.

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"Riflemen as riflemen only, are a very feeble foe and not to be trusted alone any distance from camp; and at the outposts they must ever be supported by regulars, or they will constantly be beaten in, and compelled to retire."  

 

Colonel George Hanger, To All Sportsmen and Particularly to Farmers and Gamekeepers, 1814.  

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"The riflemen, however dexterous in the use of their arm, were by no means the most formidable of the rebel troops; their not being armed with bayonets, permitted their opponents to take liberties with them which otherwise would have been highly improper."  

 

Lieutenant Colonel John Simcoe, Simcoe's Military Journal, New York, 1844. 

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"If muskets were given them instead of rifles the service would be more benefited, as there is a superabundance of riflemen in the Army. Were it in the power of Congress to supply musketts [sic] they would speedily reduce the number of rifles and replace them with the former, as they are more easily kept in order, can be fired oftener and have the advantage of Bayonetts [sic]."  

 

Richard Peters, Letter to the Council of Safety, 1776. 

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"The inhabitants of the Ohio country in general have very little of that unmeaning politeness, which we so much praise and admire in the Atlantic States. They are as yet the mere children of nature, and neither their virtues nor their vices are calculated to please refined tastes. They are brave, generous, and humane, and, in proportion to the population, are able to produce the most effective military force of any in our country.  

 

"This preeminence may chiefly be attributed to their exposed situation on an Indian frontier, where they were not only kept in constant danger and alarm, but even found it necessary to teach their sons and daughters, as soon as they were big enough to raise a gun, to load and level the rifle. On more than one occasion have I seen these Spartan females, while engaged at the spinning wheel, or in some other domestic occupation, snatch up the loaded rifle, and fell the bounding deer as he incautiously passed within shot of the cabin. But since peace has been established with the Indians, (most of whom have removed to a greater distance from the whites,) the rifle has become the target of honour among these hardy Americans; and a Kentuckian would scorn to shoot a squirrel, or even a swallow, unless with a rifle; in the choice of which they are even more particular than in selecting a wife. There are a number of rifle manufactories established in this country, but the best and handsomest I have seen are to be procured in Kentucky and Tennessee, where they are made of every size from twenty balls (.61 caliber) to the pound up to one hundred (.36 caliber), and the price from fifteen to a hundred dollars."  

 

Christian Schultz, Travels on an Inland Voyage, 1810. 

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CHARACTERISTICS AND BEHAVIOR 

 

"A day or two preceding the incident I am about to relate, a rifle corps had come into camp from Virginia, made up of recruits from the backwoods and mountains of that state, in a uniform dress totally different from that of the regiments raised on the seaboard and interior of New England. Their white linen frocks, ruffled and fringed, excited the curiosity of the whole army, particularly . . . the Marblehead regiment, who were always full of fun and mischief. {They] looked with scorn on such an rustic uniform when compared to their own round jackets and fishers' trousers, [and they] directly confronted from fifty to an hundred of the riflemen who were viewing the college buildings. Their first manifestations were ridicule and derision, which the riflemen bore with more patience than their wont, but resort being made to snow, which then covered the ground, these soft missives were interchanged but a few minutes before both parties closed, and a fierce struggle commenced with biting and gouging on the one part, and knockdown on the other part with as much apparent fury as the most deadly enmity could create. Reinforced by their friends, in less than five minutes more than a thousand combatants were on the field, struggling for the mastery.  

 

"At this juncture, General Washington made his appearance, whether by accident or design I never knew. I only saw him and his colored servant, both mounted. With the spring of a deer, he leaped from his saddle, threw the reins of his bridle into the hands of his servant, and rushed into the thickest of the melee, with an iron grip seized two tall, brawny, athletic, savage-looking riflemen by the throat, keeping them at arm's length, alternately shaking and talking to them. In this position, the eye of the belligerents caught sight of the general. Its effect on them was instantaneous flight at the top of their speed in all directions from the scene of the conflict. Less than fifteen minutes time had elapsed from the commencement of the row before the general and his two criminals were the only occupants of the field of action. Here bloodshed, imprisonment, trials by court-martial were happily prevented, and hostile feelings between the different corps of the army distinguished by the physical an mental energies timely exerted by one individual."  

 

Israel Trask, 19th Century Pension Papers 

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"A large portion of the backsettlers, living upon the Indian frontiers, are, according to the best of my information, far greater savages than the Indians themselves. It is nothing uncommon, I am told, to see hung up in their chimney corners, or nailed against the door of [their cabins, scalps. They have] employed their skins as they would have done those of a wild beast, for whatever purpose they could be applied to. An Indian is considered by them as nothing better than a destructive ravenous wild beast, without reason, without a soul, that ought to be hunted down like a wolf wherever it makes its appearance; and indeed, even amongst the bettermost sort of the inhabitants of the western country, the most illiberal [intolerant, narrow-minded] notions are entertained respecting these unfortunate people, and arguments for their banishment, or rather extirpation, are adopted, equally contrary to justice and to humanity. 'The Indian,' says they, 'who has no idea, or at least is unwilling to apply himself to agriculture, requires a thousand acres of land for the support of his family; an hundred acres will be enough for one of us and our children; why then should these heathens, who have no notion of arts and manufactures, who never have made any improvement in science, and have never been the inventors of any thing new or useful to the human species, be suffered to encumber the soil?'-'The settlements making in the upper parts of Georgia, upon the fine lands of the Oconee and Okemulgee rivers, will,' says Mr. Imlay, speaking of the probable destination of the Indians of the south western territory, 'bid defiance to them in that quarter. The settlements of French Broad, aided by Holston, have nothing to fear from them: and the Cumberland is too puissant [powerful] to apprehend any danger. The Spaniards are in possession of the Floridas (how long they will remain so, must depend upon their moderation and good manners) and of the settlements at the Natchez and above, which will soon extend to the southern boundaries of Cumberland, so that they (the Indian) will be completely enveloped in a few years. Our people (alluding to those of the United States) will continue to encroach upon them on three sides, and compel them to live more domestic lives. and assimilate them to our mode of living, or cross to the western side of the Mississippi."'  

 

Isaac Weld, Travels Through the States of North America, 1799. 

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" [There were]. . . a great number of American riflemen along with the redcoats, who scattered out, took trees, and were good marks-men; therefore they found they could not accomplish their design, and were obliged to retreat. When they returned from the battle to Fort DuQuesne, the Indians concluded that they would go to their hunting. The French endeavored to persuade them to stay and try another battle. The Indians said if it was only the red-coats they had to do with, they could soon subdue them, but they could not withstand Ashalecoa, or the Great Knife, which was the-name they gave the Virginians."  

 

Colonel James Smith, An Account of the Remarkable Occurances in the Life and Travels of Colonel James Smith, 1799.  

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"Thomas and Daniel Cresap (sons of Colonel Cresap) went out about three weeks since, with sixty People, dressed and painted like Indians, to kill the Women and Children in the Indian towns, and scalp them, while their Warriors are committing the like Destruction on our Frontiers." 

 

Maryland Gazette, 1756. 

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"Between this place (Virginia) and the Blue Mountains the country is rough and hilly, and but very thinly inhabited. The few inhabitants, however, met with here, are uncommonly robust and tall; it is rare to see a man amongst them who is not six feet high. These people entertain a high opinion of their own superiority in point of bodily strength over the inhabitants of the low country. A similar race of men is found all along the Blue Mountains." 

 

Isaac Weld, Travels Through the States of North America, 1799. 

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". . . the first settlers on the frontiers; in general they are men of a morose and savage disposition, and the very outcasts of society, who bury themselves in the woods, as if desirous to shun the face of their fellow-creatures; there they build a rude habitation, and clear perhaps three or four acres of land, just as much as they find sufficient to provide their families with corn: for the greater part of their food they depend on their rifle guns. These people, as the settlements advance, are succeeded in general by a second set of men, less savage than the first, who clear more land, and do not depend so much upon hunting as upon agriculture for their subsistence. A third set succeed these in turn, who build good houses, and bring the land into a more improved state. The first settlers, as soon as they have disposed of their miserable dwellings to advantage, immediately penetrate farther back into the woods, in order to gain a place of abode, suited to their rude mode of life. These are the lawless people who encroach, as I have before mentioned, on the Indian territory, and are the occasion of the bitter animosities between the whites and the Indians. The second settlers, likewise, when displaced, seek for similar places to what those that they have left were when they first took them. I found, as I proceeded through this part of the country, that there was scarcely a man who had not changed his place of abode seven or eight different times." 

 

Isaac Weld, Travels Through the States of North America, 1799. 

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"Come and help me fight the King's regular Troops . . . You know they stand all along close together, rank and file, and my men fight as Indians do."  

 

Colonel Ethan Allen, An Appeal to the Iroquois Confederacy, 1775. 

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"This distinguished race of men are more savage than the Indians, and posses every one of their vices, but not one of their virtues. I have known one of these fellows [to] travel two hundred miles through the woods never keeping any road or path, guided by the sun by day and the stars by night, to kill a particular person belonging to the opposite party. He would shoot him before his own door and ride away to boast of what he had done on his return." ! 

 

Colonel George Hanger, To All Sportsmen and I Particularly to Farmers and Gamekeepers, 1814. 

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The earliest settlers of Kentucky were described as ". . . a set of scoundrels who scarcely believe in God or fear a devil . . ."

 

Richard Henderson, of the Transylvania Company, 1775. 

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"Of all useless sets that ever encumbered an Army, surely the boasted Rifle-men are certainly the most so. To be sure, there never was a more mutinous and undisciplined set of villains that bred disturbance in any camp."  

 

Benjamin Thompson, (later Count Rumford) Boston, 1775, who later became a professed Loyalist.  

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"They conduct themselves with a barbarity worthy of their savage neighbors. The ferocious practice of stageboxing in England, is urbanity, compared with the Virginian mode of fighting. In their combats, unless specially precluded, they are admitted (to use their own terms), 'to bite, b-ll-ck, and goudge,' which operations, when the first onset with fists is over, consists in fastening on the nose or ears of their adversaries, seizing him by the genitals, and dexterously scooping out an eye; on which account it is no uncommon circumstance to meet men in the prime of youth, deprived of one of those organs."  

 

Marquis de Chastellux, Travels in North America in the Years 1780. 1781. 1782 and 1787. 1827. 

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"Of all the uncouth human beings I met with in America, these people from the western country were the most so; their curiosity was boundless . . ."  

 

Isaac Weld, Travels Through the States of North America, 1799. 

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"We may learn of the Indians what is useful and laudable, and at the same time lay aside their barbarous proceedings. This much to be lamented that some of our frontier rifle-men are prone to imitate them in their inhumanity."  

 

James Smith, An Account of the Remarkable Occurances in the Life and Travels of Colonel James Smith, 1799.  

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"They are such a boastful, bragging set of people, and think none are men or can fight but themselves."  

 

A Virginian's Description of Riflemen, ca 1780 

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PERSONALITY 

 

Perhaps the ultimate goal of pursuing this "hobby" along historical lines is to work towards the "Time Machine Test." The Time Machine Test says that should you go back in time to you would fit in with the original (fill in the blank= longhunter, Rev War soldier, Civil War soldier, etc.) and not be noticed. Not be noticed?  Not being noticed is the ultimate historical challenge because it takes in so many aspects:

 

1. Clothing, gear, and equipment.                2. Skills and knowledge.

3. Activities.                                         4. Persona.

5. Personality.  

 

These five aspects represent a tiered system, meaning that one overflows up, and into, the next higher level. If you were a woodsman in the year 1781, the men you were with would exhibit certain qualities in all five areas. They would have the certain "longhunter" look about them in regards to the cut, style, and choice of clothes they were. Likewise for their longrifle, knife, and belt ax, etc. Their woods skills as demonstrated in their handling of themselves in the forest would have something to say. The activities that they engaged in, from hunting deer to sharpening a knife would be the tasks and chores of woodsman.  They would have a woodsman's "persona" about them. And last, each and every one of them would be an individual with his own unique personality.

 

Thinking of individuals I have known and met over the past twenty years, I could count on one hand those who made it through all five aspects. Thinking back, I recall many individuals who were excellent historians and researchers into the printed record-but who were very poor in researching the material culture and artifacts of the 18th century. One of the best Rogers' Rangers historians around has some of the worst clothing and gear-inspired by Hollywood, imagination, and extensive borrowing from the Rev War period. His activities are those of sitting around a marquee, or directing assaults across crowded parking lots and well mown lawns. Yet, the individual is a tireless researcher in journals, deserter reports in period newspapers, etc., and one of the best Ranger historians around.  

 

In previous editions of YE SOCIETY PAGES, we have dealt with clothing and gear, skills and knowledge, activities, and personae. But, we have never looked at personality.  I suppose trying to emulate the original frontiersman-whether longhunters, commercial hunters, renegades, or soldiers requires us to look at all five aspects.  So, what is the difference between persona and personality?

       

        Persona is those elements of heredity and environment that make a person an individual. All those wonderful elements that are listed for a persona such as religion, socio-economic class, education, occupation, work history, significant life events, relationships, tastes, likes, preferences, beliefs, prejudices, hates, loves, habits, etc., etc.; all come into play in giving a person a personality!

 

I suppose personality is the hardest element to understand. Ha, we have a hard time understanding our own modern selves let alone trying to understand a complex individual from the 18th century! But, when you go about putting the elements together that go into a persona, you should also give thought to how those elements are going to affect personality.  For example, if under the category of education, your chosen persona has no formal education-then speech patterns, choice of words, grammar, etc., are going to reflect it. If under the category of socio-economic situation, your chosen persona comes from a dirt poor family-then they may not know how to use a fork and knife properly.

 

Attitudes, hates, and prejudices based on education received in the home while growing up, or based upon life experiences will also affect personality. If you are from a poor Irish catholic family-you are going to have certain feelings (or hatreds) against the English. Or if your family was killed by Indians, you are going to have certain hostile feelings towards them (unless, in the rare exception, you were kidnapped and adopted as a very young child and raised as a "white Indian"). 

 

The creation of a personality to go along with a persona is not as difficult or steeped in socio-psychology as it may sound. Having worked out the elements of a persona, the next stepped is to figure out how you (your persona!) feels about those things. In my guide to personas, I listed some of the major "events" of the Period and asked you to list your feelings on them. That should have given you the foundation to have already added your feelings and opinions as though they were part of your personality.  

 

The use of personality closes parallels the concept of projection. Having projected yourself back to 1781, in terms of environment, or the physical world using personality simply puts your mental state in sync with your physical world.  

 

Much like some actors and actresses study the history of the characters they are about to play, using a persona and personality should put you inside of your historical character's head. You are acting out his part in his environment. You approach the wilderness and the things in it with the same or similar set of hopes, fears, desires, needs, expectations, motivations, and likely responses to the historical situations you are likely to experience in an 1781 setting.  

 

In a discussion on personae, I was once asked why a person could not "stay themselves" and project themselves back to the 18th century just the way they were? My answer was "cultural baggage", that being, that we have intimate knowledge from an alien and unknown world in terms of the 18th century. It would work out something like this:  

 

        "Yeah, I reckon' I'll be a'goin' te Fort Pitt fer supplies. Then south te

        Tennessee Country. Care fer some jerky?"

        "Is that buffalo jerky?"

        "Yeah."

        "Where 'd you get buffalo?"

        "From a buffalo."

        "Where did you get a buffalo?"

        "Shot one last week."

       

The second speaker in this true dialog from a trek in Pennsylvania failed to grasp the concept of projection and that-the first speaker was in "first person" speaking from the year 1781 as that person WOULD have spoken had it been 1781.. The second speaker was nowhere near the same level of historical interaction as the first. The second speaker, although wearing the clothing and carrying the gear of a longhunter, was still in a modern world wondering where in the modern world his trekking partner had gotten buffalo meat to jerk. The first speaker, not about to come out of his persona or that persona's personality refused to come down to the level of the questioner  

 

Is it really necessary, though, to always work from the position of a persona and a persona's personality?  No. There is nothing wrong with being yourself in 1781. At least, that is, if you make yourself real to the year 1781 (and not your 1994 self in 1994 woods).  For example, being a black belt in Okinawan karate, my 1994 response to an attack would be based on years of martial training in oriental methods of attack and defense. Being a renegade in 1781, my response to an attack would be based only upon what I may have learned about hand-to-hand combat from the Indians, or, perhaps what I learned about street and bar room brawling.

 

The same is true for education. In a period when most all frontiersman were illiterate, you cannot make use of an advanced college degree (no Oxford educated Cherokee, like Mingo Ed Ames...).  

 

"Acting the part" of a frontiersman can go a long way in understanding them and how they fit into their world. If we strive to emulate them, we should strive to not look like them-but act like them too!  

 

The danger with personae and personality is the temptation to want to be frontier notables such as Simon Kenton or Daniel Boone whose legendary skills and feats fire the imagination of the would-be woodsman. A persona, much like clothing and gear, should reflect a concept of plainness, commonness, and everydayness. The simpler the persona-the easier it is to use and the more believable it is to you and the people around you! Create or develop a persona that matches not only your own personality but also matches your level of skill and knowledge. Just like on the frontier, your persona-will grow as your own knowledge and skills grow.  

 

        "It was here on the frontier on the middle and upper South the Indian Wars

        rose to their fiercest and cruelest pitch. Here the savage was taught his

        lessons in perfidy by masters of the trade."

 

        H. Caudill

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Personality Profile of Michael Archer 

 

In developing a workable persona, the element of personality can play an important part. Yet, personality can go beyond just a working persona to become an aspect all its own.  Emulating a frontiersman, whether longhunter, borderer, or renegade, takes in historically accurate clothing, gear, skills, interaction, and personality.  I thought I would take a look at Michael Archer's personality.

 

Michael Archer's personality has been lost to history. The sketchy records of his life are so thin that it is next to impossible to historically reconstruct what Michael Archer was like. In the absence of accounts and records (few, even well documented individuals, have "personality" neatly recorded for us to examine) we can only look towards the Period and the environment to attempt to overlay history or social history with the psychology of the inner mind.  Since heredity is of little help, I have to look at the history of the frontier and the happenings that were going on around the Archer family. To a larger extent, the history of the Archers is almost stereotypical frontier history.

 

The Archer family settled east of Fort Jackson, Westmoreland County (later reformed into Greene County in 1796), Pennsylvania-that being the southwest most county bordering on the Ohio and Virginia frontier. The Archers took up land in the vicinity of the old double bridge at Morrisville. A William Rhodes, who ran the trading post at Fort Jackson, made a note in his journal that the Archers were a family of "roving hunters," and that James Archer was the first to come west. Rhodes also notes that the Archers were the first Roman Catholic family to settle in that area. (Note, the Archers are given credit for establishing the first Catholic church in Ohio...) James went "back of the mountains" and convinced his father, Patrick Archer, to come west with him. Patrick Archer then bright his whole family to Fort Jackson, which consisted of five sons and three daughters. When game got scarce and the threat of Indian attack made "forting up" no longer necessary, the Archers moved further west into Ohio.  

 

The Children of Patrick Archer:  

 

1. James Archer, was an ensign in Captain David Owens' Company of Frontier Rangers in 1776. When Captain Owens was dismissed, James became captain. James was known for being a fearless commander and an implacable foe of the Indians. His reputation may have contributed to the massacre of his and his father-in-law's (Robert McClelland) families who shared the same cabin. Several members of both families were killed during an Indian attack. James' first wife was Sophia McClelland, and his second Jane Lincicum. Children:  

 

        1. ??? killed by Indians

        2. ??? killed by Indians

        3. Jane, born February 20, 1778. During the Indian attack Jane was scalped but survived by

        crawling under some bed covers. She was nursed back to health. Married Henry Church

        and remained behind in Pennsylvania when the rest of the family moved to Ohio. Died in

        1814 (?). Henry Church later married her sister Nancy.

        4. James, Jr. Born October 15, 1779

        5. Nancy

        6. Susan

        7. Joseph

        8. Rachel

        9. Michael

        10. Jacob

        11. Sarah

        12. Simon

        13. Nathan

        14. Elizabeth

        15. Mary (Polly)

 

2. Joseph Archer served in his brother's militia company. He married Margaret (the daughter of George and Jane Church), the sister of Henry Church who married James' daughter Jane (and then Nancy when she died). Joseph moved to Guernsey County, Ohio and then west.  

 

3. Michael Archer was on his way to join Captain James Harrod on a scouting party when he was ambushed by Indians (probably Shawnee) on Fishing Creek off the Elk River in 1787. Captain Harrod's men later discovered the body and reported from the evidence they found. They reconstructed the fight which must have taken place.  Michael Archer's body was badly scratched and cut with many bones being broken, while in his hands his clutched hair pulled from his attackers.

 

Michael's wife Elizabeth went to live with her brothers, and later followed them to Tyler County, Western Virginia. The census of 1790 lists Elizabeth Walls Archer with one child Joseph.  

 

4. Simon Archer, served in his brother James' militia company. . 

 

5. Jacob Archer. Is listed in the 1790 census as belonging to a family with one male over 16, two males under 16, and two females.  

 

6. Elizabeth (AKA Bett, AKA Betsy) Archer.  

 

7. Polly Archer.  

 

8. Nancy Archer.  

 

Other than the fact that the Archers were Scots-English, there is little I have been able to find.  So, to make the historically "thin" Michael into a working persona, I had to "borrow" from the Period to flesh out the skeleton and make him as real a person as possible.

 

Michael Archer was born on December 8, 1737 (this birth date goes back one year, each year, so that his age always matches 1781). As part of a family of "roving hunters`," Michael roamed and hunted western Pennsylvania and the Ohio Country from the age of twelve on. As the frontier crept west, so did the Archers.  

 

Prior to coming west in 1776, Michael had lived in the area of Lancaster. He had served in Major Robert Rogers' Rangers in the French and Indian War. On July 1, 1775, Michael enlisted in Captain Robert Cluggage's Company of Colonel William Thompson's Battalion of Pennsylvania Riflemen. When Thompson's (then Hand's) Battalion was reformed into the 1st Continental Regiment, Michael did not reenlist, as did many of the original members.  

 

On January 1, 1776, Michael Archer enlisted in Colonel Daniel Morgan's Riflemen and served a three-year enlistment, which included the abortive Quebec Campaign, as well as Freeman's Farm and Bemis Heights. He was promoted to Lieutenant. 

 

His enlistment over, Michael went west to join his family at Fort Jackson, arriving late in February, 1779. He served in his brother James' ranger company, first as an ensign, and later in 1780 as a lieutenant.  

 

The Archers were on good terms with the neighboring Delaware before the encroachments of the whites of 1774 tended to split the Delaware into pro-American and anti-American factions.  

 

The Archers roamed the western section of Pennsylvania, selling deer and elk hides on the commercial market, and hunting for meat for Fort Jackson. Michael came to be adopted by the aged Connemaugh who lived in the Laurel Highlands at Old Connemack's Town (later Johnstown in 1796). 

 

Having done his time in the "Rebellion", Michael Archer did not find the peace and solitude he was looking for in the wilds of Pennsylvania and Virginia. His relationship with the Delaware after 1780 was strained by the attacks of the Shawnee and anti-American Delaware. Yet, the encroachments and treaty violations of the whites were an equal threat to the traditional Indian life.  

 

The success of James Archer's ranger company led to a Shawnee attack on the Archer/McClelland homestead in which a number of relatives were killed and scalped. After a number of retaliatory raids against the Shawnee and Munsee Delaware, Michael found it difficult to "sit on the fence."  In 1780, Michael Archer left Fort Jackson and headed west by himself-some said to take a private war to the Shawnee, others said to lose himself in the wilderness.

 

In 1781, Michael Archer was seen variously at frontier forts and settlements, and sometimes claimed to have been seen by traders at various Delaware towns. Some claimed he was a renegade, while others thought he was just a solitary trying to escape the bad memories of the war and the massacre of his family.  

 

Having created this persona from the Archer family history, and the history of the western frontier, it was necessary to add an element of personality to the character of Michael Archer.  I play the character of Michael Archer as a somewhat possessed, or driven, man trying to find a higher meaning to life but not finding it no matter where he looks. In the wilderness, Michael has an earned reputation for the craft of weapons and the arts of war, as practiced by the Indians. He appears and disappears at odd times. He does not discuss his past, and is considered somewhat secretive as though there are many stories that could be told if he would.  There is a certain competency about his person, no matter what the situation or circumstance although he is plagued by self-doubt and self-loathing.  Michael pays the price for his views and frontier politics, and is either admired or hated depending upon who is doing the talking. He shuns gatherings and settlements, and is given to wandering alone or in the company of two or three others-whether white or red. This gives rise to much speculation-which fuels the mystery and suspicion. Being neither on one side, or the other, in the border war- he is mistrusted by both sides at the same time.  He prefers not to comment on politics, or frontier doings, making it hard for others to really get a handle on him, or label him.

 

The rest of Michael Archer's personality is just the play of his life's experiences-some good, mostly bad. He is a loner, a solitary, and much like Lewis Wetzel, finds pleasure only in the company of children and dogs. He has no friends, but can occasionally be found on a hunting party of Delaware, trading for supplies at a fort, or chasing marauding Shawnee.  Such a life makes him moody and sullen, almost taciturn and bitter.

 

Tips on Developing a Persona 

 

One of the hardest research tools to use well is the concept of "first person impression" or persona. Developing a persona proves to be most troubling to many people, and we even had a potential member quit after several months because he claimed to be having difficulties with the persona, even though he had created and developed a fine one.  The use of a persona falls into two areas:

 

1) a personal research tool 

2) a vehicle by which other people can relate to you and the historical environment we try to create/recreate. 

 

As an Experimental Archaeologist, you are portraying an individual in an earlier time. Whether that individual is based on a real person, or an invented person, there are still elements that go into a person that makes him/her who and what they are: identity, family, occupation, religion, politics, socioeconomic class, personality, skills, knowledge, experiences, etc., etc. That person exists in a larger World as well, where there are other people and other things happening all of the time.  

 

In trying to research and understand life in the 18th century, it is important to look at other things other than just a longrifle of a particular style or school or how knives were forged, etc., etc. Just putting on the clothing and using the equipment will not get you there.  The easiest way to approach a persona is to consider that people are just people no matter what period of time they happened to be born in. They were born, they grew up, they made a living, they made a family, and they died. Through all of those elements, things are happening to them, and they are doing things.  They have dreams, they have ideas, and they have opinions and views on the political, social, and religious issues of the day.

 

I am going to recycle my "Ye Quickie Guide to Personas" to help you along.  Once you fill this assignment/guide in, you will find the going a whole easier. Also, these basics will open the door for you into further inquiries and studies.  Obviously, the more layers of "believability" you can add to your basic persona, the better you will find yourself, and the better other associates can react and interact with you in a realistic and believable manner.

 

Having developed the basics for a persona, the next step is developing the ability to use it as a research tool. First off, just answering the questions and filling in the blanks will get you far towards beginning to understand the social history of the 18th century. Second, doing just that much will also give you some of the basics for interacting with other associates.  Interacting should be natural and not forced. How little or how much you do interact is up to you and how you see your chosen persona. Some say much, some naturally say little. Too much can be unnatural and forced, especially when you start asking "detailed questions in 1781 that you would not ask someone else in the 21st century.

 

Some people who are uncomfortable with personas have the notion that they need to invent, reinvent, memorize, and recite tons and tons of historical data, like relatives' names, birthdates, etc. Someone in 1781 is no more likely to ask you your sister's birth date or your parents' birthdates than someone would in 2003. But, someone may ask around the campfire if you served in the army, or where you got your longrifle, or what are doing in these parts?  

 

A basic persona starts small and grows over time. You do not usually fall into a detailed account of another person's life overnight. How far you go will depend upon the level of your interest and the time you are willing to invest in researching.  The first round of questions should revolve around:

 

1. Your name?  

2. How you came to be a (your persona)?  

3. What have you been doing up to (your chosen time)?  

 

If you can answer those three questions, you are already well on your way to being able to participate in campfire discussions.  One of the easiest ways to work a persona is simply to say nothing modern! Or, for that matter, say nothing at all! Silence is the easiest persona to work.

 

The "culture" of the Living Historians will start telling about you to other historians in the way you dress, your choices of gear and equipment, the wear and tear (or lack of) on your clothing and gear, how you carry yourself, AND most importantly your skills. If you deviate from the "norm" in any of these areas it will SPEAK about you and invite questions, comments, or concerns.  

 

One of the hardest elements to avoid in the creation of a persona is ego/ fantasy! WE ALL would like to let our egos run wild in the woods, making the impossible shots, making the daring escapes, and rescuing the innocents from the villains! But, the persona should be as close to you as an individual as you can make it. DO NOT chose Simon Kenton as your persona, or any famous person for that matter: 1) because you will have to remember a ton of facts, and 2) you had better have the knowledge, skills, and abilities to go with the name.  

 

Perhaps the second most apparent feature (after its research value) of a persona is not that you need to "perform" it, but rather you are ready and able to use it as the situation requires. You may never be asked about your persona's feelings, but sometime or another the conversation may just revolve around to an issue or topic of debate. At that point in time, you may just sit around the campfire in silence, or you may jump in--whenever and wherever you feel comfortable. A good tip is to let other people more comfortable start out, and then you can add a comment or two here and there.  

 

Some treks will be designated as "persona" or "first person". Most treks are undertaken with a "persona" umbrella but not strictly first person. Some treks are undertaken as a "third person" learning experience where longhunter gear and habits/practices/skills are discussed for their historical value. Reviewing treks over the past four years, most are done with the "persona" umbrella and the ban on anything "modern".  

 

Up to a point, the proper utilization of one's persona is something close to acting a part without having fixed lines of dialog to memorize and recite. Essentially, history is the script but has no specific dialog, if that makes better sense? You need to understand your character's place in the Script (history), even if you do not have a "speaking part" to play.  

 

Having a working and believable persona will enable you to obtain the maximum benefits and enjoyment from Projection.  

 

Ye Quickie Guide to Personas 

 

Part I. Basic Facts about yourself. 

 

Name:                                                        Birth date:                        Age:

 

Place of Birth: 

 

Social Class (socio-economic): 

 

Ethnicity: 

 

Religion: 

 

Present Occupation: 

 

Previous Occupation: 

 

Education: 

 

Part II. Family Background  

Father's Name:                                                Mother's Name:

 

Father's Occupation:                                        Mother's Occupation:

 

Father's Ethnicity                                        Mother's Ethnicity

 

Father's Education                                        other's Education:

 

Place and Date of Parent's Marriage: 

 

Parent's Residence: 

 

Siblings (names and birthdates): 

 

Part III. Friends and Key Relatives (Include: Name, Relation To You, & Key Information) 

 

 

Part IV. Personal History (use additional sheets as needed) 

 

1. What remarkable or noteworthy events have occurred during your lifetime (wars, revolutions, meeting famous people, being involved in what historical events, places you have been, things that have happened to, etc.)  

 

2. What are your views, beliefs, opinions, positions, etc. on the following subjects:  

 

        French and Indian War                                Treaty of Paris 1763

        Stamp Act, Sugar Act, Intolerable Acts                British Government

        Continental Government                                Revolutionary War

        Indian Policy                                                Colonial Expansion

        Religious Freedoms

 

3. How and where were you raised and educated (school, home learning, apprenticeship, etc.)  

 

4. What memorable things happened to you as a child?  

 

5. What memorable things happened to you as an adult?  

 

6. How have you come to be where you are now, doing what you are doing now?  

This is a sample Scenario 

 

YE GRAND SCOUT 

Basic Rules and Considerations 

 

1.  In the event of any emergency, noticed or even suspected, I am to be immediately informed.

2.  Just before we enter the forest, we will open up our knapsacks, tumplines, haversacks, hunting pouches, etc. for inspection to insure that no incorrect equipment, food, accouterment, etc. is inadvertently brought along that will corrupt the integrity of the entire project.  This is not to embarrass or reprimand, but merely to further insure that nothing happens on the trail to compromise or diminish the incredibly high level of authenticity this group is capable of.  (Exceptions:  contact lenses, medications, first aid kits - all to be carried in appropriate 18nth century containers).

3.  On the trail we function as a single cohesive group. No small scouting parties to spontaneously shear away from the body without my knowledge and approval.

4.  Absolutely no talk even remotely connected to the 20th century on this scout! We will talk, visit, and take pictures prior to, and at the conclusion of, the scout and at great length at a nice restaurant.  No cameras will be allowed on the trail.

5.  Talking while on the trail shall be quiet and guarded.  No unnecessary, "visiting".  We enter a hostile situation here as our long journey carries us into the northern-most reaches of the Cherokee, with whom we are now embroiled in a nasty little war.  In addition, George Croghan has done his best to agitate the Ohio Valley nations against all southerners in general and The Ohio Valley Land Company of Virginia in particular! - Remain alert at all, times!!!

We are charged however, with the responsibility to engage and deal with any and all nations being desirous of establishing peaceful trade relations with ourselves. So, while not appearing to be openly "war-like", we must of necessity remain focused and vigilant.  

6.  (Optional) As a courtesy to members, no "man-made" personal shelters of any kind (i.e. simple lean-tos or Russia sheeting), will be brought along or used in any way

7.  When the, entire party is moving, we will employ two forward scouts, one flanker on each side, when feasible, and two spies to cover our back trail.

8.  We will never cook and camp in the same spot unless we run into extremely fowl weather.  Otherwise, we will keep a "cold" camp.  Our cooking fires should be few, small, and brief.  The chopping and breaking of large pieces of firewood is to be avoided.  This excessive noise carries through the forest and betrays our encampment.  Larger pieces of wood (in excess of 1" to 1 1/2") should be burned in two.

9.  In camp, two guards will be posted from sunset to sunrise.  All will be expected to take their turn at "the watch".

10.  During the day, scouts, flankers, and spies shall communicate with the rest of the party using turkey calls.  A "gobble" means stop or danger!  Three "clucks" means all is well!  Evening scouts and/or sentries on watch will communicate by using pre-agreed upon night bird sounds; i.e. loons, owls, whippoorwills, bob white quail, etc.  Any "call" made during the night will indicate "danger" or "be on the alert".  Word will be quietly passed from man to man when all is well.

11.  Men will sleep with their weapons; (guns, knives, tomahawks, etc.).  All equipment should be cleaned up, put neatly away, and be worn while sleeping or be ready to be worn in the blink of an eye.  We may very well be attacked and chased out by Cherokee during the middle of the night.

 

Our goal is to make this the most incredibly realistic scout any of us has ever been on. This simply cannot be done if we allow ourselves to chatter and "carry on" like a bunch of cub scouts on a field trip.  

On this scout, we must see without being seen, observe without being observed.  Our actions ought to be a compliment to those we emulate.  I would be quite ashamed of myself if we were to be discovered completely unawares by a rowdy pack of mountain bikers or a happy-go-lucky group on horseback.

On this particular foray we will not be content with being merely "eye ball" correct.  We will attempt to capture the very essence and personality of a post F&I War middle ground scout; along with the outlook, attitude, and behavioral characteristics of those men who actually did this sort of thing.

 

Our Reasons & Justification for Being Where we Are and What We are Doing 

 

This is not just a long time ago when guys carried muzzleloaders. This is not just back in the 18th century. This is not even just back in the "1760's".  This is a specific day in the year 1761. The French & Indian War is over. Barriers and politics of the late hostilities are slowly grinding to a halt.

 

The Officer in command has been commissioned by the Ohio Valley Land Company of Virginia to organize and lead a sizable, well-equipped party of only the finest, most daring woodsmen and scouts.  We are a party of over 50 men; floating down the Ohio River in 11 boats protected by small swivel cannon and loaded with horses, trade goods, and sufficient supplies to sustain us for three months.

 

We are charged with the responsibility of exploring as well as carefully and thoroughly assessing the value and the various assets and natural resources of 800,000 acres of land chartered to our company by the Crown. In addition we are required to establish friendly and equitable relationships with any and all Indian nations we may encounter along the way.  

 

I have taken the liberty to engage a few highly regarded French traders as well as several well known Native warriors to assist us in this endeavor due in part to the tactics employed by George Croghan and the Loyal Company.  

 

Our journey began March 1st at Redstone on the Monongahela, from thence to Ft. Pitt, --with a 3rd rendezvous point being half a league down the Ohio at Logstown to gather the remainder of our men and have a word with Mr. Croghan at his trading post.  

 

We will travel as far west as the village of Vincennes in Piankashaw country. Our journey down the Ohio will be devoted to the company's land holdings to the south. Two weeks ago we scouted the Kanawha to the Elk River; early last week, the Big Sandy. We now explore the valley of the Licking River.  

 

Upon reaching Vincennes, I have been empowered to re-equip wherever necessary and re-supply our group for the return trip. A partial payment of funds due will be made to each man upon our arrival at Vincennes for any "personal" business he may deem necessary.  

 

Our return route will be overland; roughly paralleling the northern shore of the Ohio River, passing through and dealing with the nations of the Miami, Delaware, Shawnee, and Seneca in the Ohio country. Upon arrival at Ft. Pitt in the early fall our business will be finished and our party paid in full and disbanded. 

 

I am then required to journey on to Williamsburg with a full detailed account of the entire proceedings... 

 

We carry the following rations from our boats.  This is all we have; use them in any combination you like.

 

Parched Corn                        Dried Corn                        Corn Meal       

Salt                                Small Irish Potatoes                Small Yellow or White Onions

Brown Rice                        Walnuts                        Raisins                       

Period Correct Chocolate        Period Correct Tea                Muscavado Cone Sugar

Raw Cone Sugar                Maple Sugar                        Jerky                       

Salt Pork 

 

Since we are a group of hunters in the "great hunting grounds'; one would expect to see raw "hunks" of meat roasting on green sticks everywhere around our cook fires. If you don't have venison, buffalo, or elk at home, feel free to substitute rough, unprofessional looking cuts of lean beef to serve as freshly shot game.  

 

[Note:  The second half of this document is comprised of excerpts from various issues of the Society of Longhunter's journal. YE SOCIETY PAGES.  Some of the articles are a continuation of a previous article or will be "continued next month".  As this is a sampling, some of these pieces are missing.]

 

From Philip Tomes' PIONEER LIFE or, THIRTY YEARS A HUNTER:  

 

ELK HUNTING ON THE SUSQUEHANNA.

 

"When I lived on Kenzua Flats, in 1816, I went to see Cornplanter, about catching some elk. He said that I could not do it; that no Indian of the Six Nations had done it, or any white man that he knew of. He said that young elk three or four months old have been caught, but no live, full-grown one could be they were lords of the forest. I told him that I had caught or assisted in catching and leading in three. He asked how we had led them, and I informed him. He said he did not know but it was possible, but he did not believe I could take one that winter on the Allegany, as he thought they were larger and wilder than those on the Susquehanna. I told him that if he would show me the track of an elk-I did not care how large- the larger the better; I would willingly wager a small sum of money that I would bring one in alive. He said that he could show plenty of elk-tracks. I told him to find a man that I could hire, and I would employ him. He brought a man who charged a dollar a day, which I had agreed to pay him on condition that he would find a track. He said there was no doubt but that we could find one. There was no rope to be procured except on that belonged to Cornplanter, for which he wanted two dollars, but agreed to refund the money if I returned the rope uninjured. I agreed to his terms, and left the money.  As we parted he wanted to shake hands, saying that he never expected to see me again if I attempted to catch an elk alive. The next morning the Indian I had engaged joined me, and I entered into a partnership with a Mr. Campbell, each of us to stand half the expense and have half the profits. We hired two other men who were to have all they killed and half that we killed. On the third day of January, Campbell and myself, the two white men, the Indian, and four dogs started up Kenzua Creek. We went about twelve miles up the south branch, and encamped for the night. The next morning we continued about six miles, to the top of a hill, and halted. The Indian said we would find elk within four or five miles of this spot. I proposed to divide, Campbell, myself and the Indian each taking a separate course while the two others should remain to build a camp where we would all meet at night. Accordingly as soon as we had eaten dinner we all started, and remained out until dark, when we met at the camp. No one had discovered any indications of elk. The next morning I told them we would hunt one day more, each upon a different course. I took a direct easterly course, and the others chose each his own route.  At night all but the Indian came in, without having discovered any signs of an elk. I told Campbell I thought it useless to hunt here longer, as there were probably no elk in the vicinity. About eight o'clock one of the party discovered the Indian coming in, followed by one of the dogs.  He remarked that one of the dogs was loose, and following the Indian in. I found the dogs all in their places, and told the men I thought it was a wolf they saw. At this moment he stopped and we saw at a glance that it was a panther. We sprang forward with our guns, without obtaining a shot at him, when we returned to the camp. We paid the Indian and let him go. I told Campbell I would not be disappointed in this manner, but would hunt all winter rather than give up. We concluded to go to the headwaters of the Susquehanna, and accordingly started on the eighth of January, going about fifteen miles up the Kenzua, and encamped for the night. The next day, when we had proceeded about twelve miles we arrived at a place where a village now stands, but at that time was but a solitary house in which lived a family named Smith. The man had gone to procure a barrel of flour, and since his departure a deep snow had fallen. He had now been gone three days beyond the expected time, and the supply of provisions and fuel that he had left was nearly exhausted. In addition to the prospect of starvation that stared them in the face, his family were harassed with the fear that he had perished in the snow. The next day we prepared her a supply of firewood, left a loaf of bread and flour enough to supply her for two days, and promised to send a man back, on our arrival at the canoe place. We arrived there a little before night, and engaged a man named Burt to go back to the distressed family. He took with him some corn meal and potatoes, and we continued on to Isaac Lyman's, about twelve miles farther. He asked us to come in; we got to talking about elk-hunting, and I asked him what a full-grown live elk would be worth. He said from three to four hundred dollars. I asked him if he would purchase one if I had the luck to catch one.  He replied that he had not the means, but would like to join us, and would furnish three men, a horse, and all the provisions necessary, and have one-half the profits. After some consultation, Campbell and I finally consented to accept the proposal. The whole party, consisting of Campbell, myself, three assistants, a horse and four dogs, started the next morning, taking the road to the Susquehanna River. About twelve miles from Lyman's we came upon the track of eight elk, going west. We followed about four miles and encamped for the night. The next morning Campbell, myself, and one of the men continued on track of the elk, leaving the others to build a shanty. We went about five miles, started the elk and killed one, with which we returned to the camp. We sent one of the men home with the meat, and started with the other two for the Susquehanna. The man who went home was to return to the camp in three days, with a supply of provisions. After traveling seven or eight miles, we came to where a large drove of elk had been some time before. We hunted during the day to ascertain what course they had taken, and about five miles distant we came to where they had lain the preceding night. Campbell and one of the men George Ayres, went forward, while the other man and myself remained behind with the dogs. They were to call to us when they saw the elk, and we were to let the dogs loose, though I told him I did not believe there were any there we would want to catch, as I thought there were all fawns and does. After they had gone a short distance, they saw them, and counted forty-two. They called to us, and we let the dogs loose. The elk scattered, and each of the dogs took after a separate animal, but none of them stopped, and we did not kill any. The dogs all came back that night, and the next morning we went so[u]theast, and found signs of elk, but they all appeared to be small ones. By this time Mr. Lyman's hands wished to go home, so we told them we would keep on the southeast, and they might go. The following morning they said they did not like to go, as the tracks might be filled with snow. We then said we would strike the road and they might go home from there, while we would go to our log hut, and procure some more provisions. When we reached the road, we told them they might as well go to the shanty and stay with us that night, as it was late. We found two men there with an abundance of provisions. The next morning two men left, while Ayres and another remained."

 

Continued next month... 

 

Ye Homespun Shot Pouch Part Ye 2 

 

Last month I went over the making of my particular shot pouch and this month I want to cover the contents. In my ever-constant quest for packing light, I am constantly evaluating my choices of items carried in my shot pouch. Over the last few years, my shot pouch and its contents have undergone many changes. I am now carrying things in my shot pouch that I only used to carry in my knapsack. I lightened up some things and quit carrying some others. This is a constant learning process and a never-ending one for me. I have learned much by comparing what I carry and use to what other woodsman are carrying and using. It is with that in mind that I am writing this article. 

 

Starting on the bottom of my pouch, I carry several "non-shooting" items: a couple of brain tanned thongs and a small hank of hand twisted Indian Hemp (Dogbane) cordage. Cordage is very useful when in the field. I can make shelters with it, make snares with it, make repairs with it, sew-with it if need be, tie animals to my belt with it, etc..   This cordage weighs next to nothing and is not bulky, so it is not in the way. Also on the bottom of my pouch is my small sewing kit. It consists of a few hand-forged needles in a turkey wing bone, and a deer antler tine tipped awl. Next to this goes a very small linen bag containing assorted hand forged fish hooks, a horn bobbin with linen thread wound around it that doubles as fishing string or sewing thread. These items are all kept at the bottom of my pouch for a several reasons: I don't use them as often as other items carried in my pouch, I don't need to get to them in a hurry, and when I need to use any of these items I am usually sitting down and they are easily retrieved.

 

The next "layer" is my original hand forged bullet mold, a lead bar or part of, and my small light ladle. My bullet mold, unlike popular opinion, does have sprue cutters. My friend Billy Heck said that he has seen a couple original bullet molds at Fort Loudon, that were dug up from a circa 1790 site, that DID HAVE sprue cutters. There are other examples, such as Curt Schmidt's original Queen Anne bullet mold that has sprue cutters, that dates back into the late 1600's. My lead ladle is a small light hand forged one that comes from Ed Wilde. A green stick is jammed into the end for a handle. This setup is not a high production one to be sure, but this is all I need to run ball while in the woods. The setup works well, the items are common, and it is a very practical setup for a middle ground hunter. Again, these are close to the bottom because I do not normally need them while moving about. When I use them, I am normally at camp or sitting down.  

 

The next "layer" is a greased deerskin cow's knee that can be retrieved in damp or rainy weather, a roll of pre-greased linen for patching, a small creek stone for sharpening my knife, and a small brain tanned deerskin bag that contains some rifle flints along with a small hand forged screwdriver. To change flints, it is a simple procedure to grab the bag and I have everything I need. No digging around for my screwdriver or flints, as they are all together in one bag.  

 

The next "layer" is my iron tinderbox of fire makings. It is filled with charred punk wood, a flint and a striker that was made by my blacksmith friend Dennis Miles. Dennis copied the striker from Madison Grant's book "The Kentucky Rifle Hunting Pouch". I carry my fire works in my pouch so that I am never without means to make a fire, even if I don't have my bedroll or knapsack.  I learned this the hard way after a dark night stumbling around the woods looking for camp because my fire kit was stored in my knapsack back at camp. Laying next to my iron tinder box is a small tin of pregreased, pre-cut squares of linen for immediate use as patching.

 

On top of all this is my final "layer", which consists of a small bark tanned deerskin ball bag that holds about 20 balls. Lying next to this is an extra piece of uncharred punk wood for fire starting. I keep it on the top so that it doesn't get crumbled up, yet it is still out of the way when I am loading.  

 

Attached to my shot pouch strap is my hand-forged pick and brush set made by my friend Billy Heck and my turkey wing bone powder charger. I keep these tucked into my shot pouch with the charger lying on top of everything else so I can get to it quickly. Also I have recently attached my little bullet block to my shot pouch strap so that I don't have to reach into my pouch for a quick reload.        

 

This is all that I carry in my shot pouch. Pretty plain, nothing fancy, nothing out of the ordinary. My pouch, with all these contents, only weighs about three pounds. Not a lot of weight considering that I have everything that I need to shoot my rifle and maintain it, run balls, make a fire, sew with, fish with, and tie things with. 

 

I often wonder what I would find if I could only, for a minute, peek into Simon Kenton, Daniel Boone or Lewis Wetzel's shot pouch. How would what I am carrying measure up to what they carried?  It is a shame that there are not more original woodsman's shot pouches and contents that have survived the ages. However, by reading original written accounts and combining them with the process of experimental archeology, we can re-learn what the woodsman of old carried. But like I said before, this is a never-ending process. Through this process, and woods-use we are constantly learning. How does what you carry compare?

 

Your Humble Servant, 

Jerry DeVilbiss 

(Silas Ramsey)  

 

Michael Archer's Knapsack 

 

There are three things that affect the nature of my historical clothing and gear:  

 

1. Season                2. Scenario                3. Personal preferences

 

My choices of historical gear have oft been discussed in previous articles, and the options of researched/documented and museum quality were covered in other articles. The purpose of these new articles on our clothing and gear is not to recover theory, but rather to show the thinking behind those historically correct options.        

 

My chosen persona is not a hunter, commercial hunter, or longhunter, as are most of my friends. The real, or historic Michael Archer, was a member of a family of roving hunters who settled in the area of Fort Jackson, in Western Pennsylvania. During the Indian Wars, the Archer family was famous as "rangers" and Indian fighters. When there were no Indian "troubles", the Archers made a living hunting for the fort for meat and hides. Michael was killed off Fishing Creek, off the Elk River, in western Virginia in 1787. He was on his way to Kentucky to join up with Harrod. When his body was found, it was determined that he had "gone down hard" as he was badly beaten up, had broken bones, and some of the hair from his Indian attackers clenched in his fists.  

 

So, my chosen persona is a hunter of men as well as a hunter of animals, and that has a great bearing on my choices for gear, as well as the reclusive and taciturn nature of my personality and interaction with others.  

 

The time of the year dictates most loudly to me. If you know the nature of Middle Ground weather, you will know that I been "fooled" into being hot or cold, wet or dry, at all times of the year. No amount of planning or consideration will get me safely by 100% of the time. Nature is like that.  So, I approach the different seasons differently, as far as possible. Still, as a woodsman, I have to approach the environment from a combination of three levels:

 

1. Season appropriate clothing and gear  

2. Supplements from Nature 

3. Knowledge and skill, or "tricks of the woodland trade" 

 

To me, no one piece of clothing or gear is going to function perfectly 100% of the time for 100% of the situations God and Nature dream up for me. It ALWAYS takes a combination of clothing/gear, assists from Nature, and some woodsy "tricks" too. I am no Lewis Wetzel or Daniel Boone, just a common woodsman and Indian killer named Michael Archer (a relative of my wife...some 200 years removed). Unlike the historic Michael Archer, I am a little better than he, and have lived a few more years, ha, ha.  

 

Obviously, winter demands more gear than summer, and while I have never been overdressed for summer, I have been underdressed for winter. But first let me talk a little about my concept of packing "light."  

 

"Packing light" is an eternal quest that the Seasons tend to mock and laugh at. I approach that challenge first through the consideration of who and what my persona is. If I am the hunter on a scout I pack one way. If I am the security for a group of hunters and have to range and roam, come and go, appear and disappear, I am going to pack lighter. I pack one of three ways:  

 

1. Bare necessities in a haversack, rolled up in a blanket, hung from a tumpline.  

 

2. Bare essentials in a goat fur double strap knapsack that has only a lOx13 inch linen canvas bag inside.  I know, the goat hair makes it look big and roomy, but even a second pair of moccasins fills it up!).

 

3. Bare-essentials plus the luxury of winter moccasins, mittens, a second shirt, and a wool weskit in a New Invented Haversack/Knapsack of 1776 or a single bag knapsack with double straps. Since I carry the same gear, and only the clothing changes, I do have extra room in the knapsack (the key is to avoid the temptation to fill the space!). Whether the haversack, the goat hair knapsack, or the linen knapsack, they all hold the same basics. 

 

For the sake of being short, I will take a look inside the "big" knapsack.  

 

Folding skillet-- a rare item, as I rarely have need to cook with it.  

Food Bag-- linen outer bag containing smaller linen bags of rations: parched corn, dried corn,  

        buffalo or beef or deer jerk maple sugar "cakes," sometimes sassafras roots or

        muscavado sugar chunks.

Sewing Kit-- deerskin pouch holding antler case with needles and awl, "bobbin" of horn  

        wrapped with prewaxed linen thread, a small spool of unwaxed linen thread, a small

        fragment of yellow or white beeswax, several small wrappings or bundles of oil tanned

        leather "whangs," a few small squares of oil tanned leather patches for moccasin repair.

        I have been known to pull off a dangling piece of linen from the hem of my hunting shirt

        or frock and sew with it. Scissors.

Fishing Kit-- four-five differently sized forged hooks, a few split shot for sinkers, and a length  

        of linen string for line.

Horn Spoon, Cow's knee, 25' of hemp roping, a beeswax candle or two, copper boiler, blanket pin or two, two "rolls" of pre-waxed/greased striped linen patching, creek stone for sharpening, a deerskin bottle with 35 cast balls, tin of beeswax and bear's grease mix, a lead ladle and some bar lead (1/2 pound), "charring tin" of brass kept filled with charred punk wood, "weskit" folding knife, a scrap of tartan plaid for a scarf or rag or bandage, a "burning lens," a brain-tanned thong or two (or silk ribbon) for hair ties,  

Rifle Kit--a brain-tanned small pouch with spare mainspring, spare frizzen spring, and a spare sear spring, tow for cleaning, fire making, plugging bullet holes (keeps the wound from sealing), etc.  

"Hygiene" kit-- a chunk of lye soap and a horn comb 

 

Those are the "basics," and do not change all that much. It is the winter months that will add, and the summer months subtract the most clothing, even though the gear remains remarkably the same year round. A winter "pack" will add:  

--a spare shirt 

--a wool weskit 

--two pairs of knit mittens or a pair of mitts and a pair of mittens 

--winter moccasins with woolen liners 

--spare stockings 

--a piece of dry punk or two, perhaps a little dry tinder 

--perhaps a larger tin of beeswax/bear's grease 

 

As you can see, what is actually "gear" and not clothing does not change much unless I want to go "extra" light due to the nature of the scenario. A month long hunt may require more than a lightening pursuit of raiding Indians where I expect to be back to the fort (Pitt, Jackson, or Henry) within two or three days.  

 

Obviously, the biggest change in winter attire lies with what I am wearing, and not all that much what is in the knapsack, such as breeches, woolen leggings or wraps, scarf, etc., etc. As the Middle Ground weather cools (freezes) at night, the extra shirt and weskit may come out of the pack. As the day warms, they may come off and return to the knapsack. Knowing what and how much to wear and not wear comes from woods experience (and years of bad experiences...). I remember 65-70 degree temperature drops from day to night that can tax your ability to pack as well as your ability to improvise.  

 

As I said, whatever you pack will not be 100% sufficient for "creature comfort" 100% of the time. Accept that as the price of playing at the natural man! Nature must be used to lend a hand. That could be in the choice of a fallen tree as a windbreak. a rock shelter, a blanket shelter, a pile of dead leaves, a mattress of pine or spruce or hemlock boughs, etc.  

 

Tricks of the trade would take a much longer article to begin to address properly. "Woodland basics" often are the earnings of a harsh taskmaster, and it is true that Nature is a harsh teacher. Experience is worth its weight in gold. "Reading" weather sign and anticipating a thunderstorm by the smell of wind, the up turn of leaves, the antics of birds settling before the blow, the crunch of leaves before a killing frost, the clear bite of a night that is clear and will fall to subfreezing, all of these "tricks", and many others, that take several lifetimes to learn and master (not to mention all that have been forgotten that we can never know...).  You have to supplement your clothing and gear so that you know what to expect so that, as the SOCIETY OF LONGHUNTERS' motto says, "Just deal with it."

 

My winter pack, normal winter knapsack, with a four-fulled, plaid, Wilde "4 point" blanket sandwiched between the flaps weighs 22 pounds, of which the first 7 pounds or so are the blanket. That set up is designed for a 3-4 week scout in cooler weather.  

 

Taking out items, like winter moccasins, spare shirt, socks, and mittens, will shave a few pounds from the total, and a "summer" blanket, a three-fulled dirty brown, Wilde "4 point" or even a smaller tan and brown striped "match-coat," sheds even a few more pounds. But, other than a pound or two more of food for longer scouts, the "basics" remain the same and the weight is relatively constant.  

 

I could not quite end without mentioning personal preferences as one of the three things that affect my historical choices for clothing and gear. Inside of this edition of YE SOCIETY PAGES you will find a write-up on the OLDE NORTHWEST RENDEZVOUS and some rendezvouser insults about our party of four woodsmen "belonged to the same regiment" because we looked alike to the observer.  

 

From my personal historical viewpoint, I am as dissimilar to Silas Ramsey or James Moore or Mike Alton or Mark Baker or Johnny Manire or Bill Heck, etc. as anyone could be TO MY EYE.  Granted, an 18th century shirt of linen, dyed in walnut juice is not going to be too radically different amongst us all. Brain-tanned leggins and shoepack moccasins, well, are going to look pretty generic. A flop hat will look pretty much generic.  To the rendezvouser's eyes, we did, indeed, look like G.I. issue.

 

To the historical eye, the rendezvouser's insult was simply wrong.  Whether powder horn or pouch, rifle or knife or belt ax, screwdriver or bullet bag, our individuality is expressed in how our personal likes and dislikes, woods experiences, biases and prejudices, and our mental image of gear combines to cause us to pick one thing over another.

 

In that respect were are from a generically similar material culture with limited means of production and manufacturing methodologies. But how we pick and choose to suit our whims, notions, and ideas and then we adapt, adopt, and improvise after our first round of historical choices are tested in the laboratory of the woods, well that is a different story only those who "play" in the woods can speak to. 

 

Who we are, and what we do, ultimately ends up expressed in our choice of clothing and gear. What works for me may or may not work for the next scout or longhunter. What 18th century gear was available to Michael Archer at Fort Pitt or Fort Henry in 1781 may not have been the same as that available from George Morgan at Kaskaskia. So we choose and choose, and so come to our own unique "personas," to the woodsy eye as sublime as fingerprints...  

 

Part of those highly personal and individualistic choices are "tinkerings" or experimentation. I constantly experiment, weigh and balance, try and retry, succeed and fail, work and rework-all the while trying to "fine tune" form and function into the optimum choice for ME. To that end, I think, I observe, I borrow ideas and concepts, I analyze my experience and that of others, and I constantly "recycle" notions based on outcomes. In a way, it is like sculpting a statue from a block of stone. The first efforts break away rough and massive chunks of stone. Further efforts become more precise and refined. Additional efforts serve only to free the image of a woodsman captured within the stone, and the strokes of the mallet and chisel become small and fine. And, the final efforts are to smooth and polish the carved image that has been released from its imprisonment within the block of stone.  

 

Maybe someday, it can be seen as a woodsman... 

 

Birchbark Canoes 

 

I recall for many years my mother-in-law's attempt to get a paper birch tree to grow in her front yard, and remember how many nursery store birches ended up with dried leaves and dead limbs.  The problem was that the birch is a tree from more northern climes than those of the south shores of Lake Erie. Now, for those who are familiar with Great Lakes' winters, there can be little difference between those of the lower Canadas at times other than the Canadas stay colder longer and the snow piles up deeper without those "come and go" cycles of snow and thaw. For the would-be horticulturalist, perhaps the biggest reason birch do not grow well in the northern Middle Ground is soil conditions such as acidity, etc.

 

But, at last, my mother-in-law did get a birch to take root after so many dead predecessors. And, on occasion, you will see the white telltale birches on a rare suburban or exurban yard in these parts.  

 

Having walked a good many trails and a few miles over the Middle Ground, I had come to the conclusion that I wanted to try "period" canoeing and ply some of the better rivers and streams of the Middle Ground in a canoe.  

 

About fifteen years ago, I thought that I could use our family's aluminum (al-you-minimum, as the English say) and just "project" it into a sleek birch bark canoe. But every time I looked upon its dull silver shape I shook my head knowing that I was not that good at projection.  

 

During the research into just what would be a Period Proper canoe for the Middle Ground, I had to wonder just how popular were birch bark canoes in a region that could not grow birch? Research indicates that period accounts often speak of three types of canoes: elm, spruce and similar forms of bark, birch bark, and dugouts. Generally, any of these bark canoes could not be cut and sewn like birch bark, and the sheet of bark had to be dealt with as a whole. Because of that, elm and spruce bark canoes were constructed differently. A rough frame of branches served to hold the bark sheets together with wide spacing and a single, long piece of wood was used for each of the gunwales. Due to the nature of the bark, and the nature of the construction, these canoes were heavy and they were not durable. But, I guess, they were lighter, faster, and more easily transported over portages than dugout canoes.  

 

It is not known exactly when, (probably during their wars of empire in the early 17th century), but the Iroquois in New York abandoned them in favor of the far more efficient birch bark canoes of the Algonquin tribes living in southwestern Quebec and eastern Ontario who were living in the paper or canoe birch climatic zones. The Iroquois quickly came to favor the birch bark Algonquin canoes and gave them the name of natowe tciman.  

 

There is a technical evolution of birch bark canoes in the eastern Woodlands. Edwin Adney, the author of the classic work on birchbark canoes, classified canoes on the basis of how the builder achieved a canoe bottom that was level but yet wide enough to travel shallow streams. Adney argued that there were approximately four stages of development to the bark canoe:  

 

1.  Elm and spruce bark canoes with slight ties set at wide intervals.

2.  Prototype birchbark canoes similar to elm bark canoes and spruce bark canoes, but with gunwale                           attachments that allow for only a little compression.

3.  Birchbark canoes with gunwales strengthened to allow for increased compression by the ribs.

4.  Birchbark canoes with root wrappings close together to make the gunwale attachment stronger.

 

From there, development seemed to split into two different "schools," one using close wrappings with open spaces between where the ribs found secure footing, and the other, using a single, rounded gunwale with a recess for the ribs.  

 

The system of close wrappings with open spaces between the ribs seems to have been the most popular in the central region of the eastern Woodlands. Probably due to a combination of tribute to the Iroquois Empire and intertribal trade, the popularity of the birchbark canoe spread down into the Middle Ground and became the dominant type of canoe among the Iroquois, Shawnee, and Delaware.  

 

Original Algonquin birchbark canoes were rarely longer than 20 feet, the "two fathom" and "three fathom" varieties being the most common. The large canoes of the fur trade came into existence due to the need to transport large amounts of merchandise, whether trade goods going out, or furs coming back in to Montreal. At one point, the wily French even tried to limit the number of canoes that could be used in the fur trade, and that acted to increase the length of canoes as well. More than likely, the Indians made these monster canoes on order, but later the French gave up supervision and set up their own production facilities such as at Trois-Rivieres, downstream from Montreal.  

 

Our romance with the birchbark canoe is a carry-over from their popularity among late 19th century sportsmen who extensively used them. In western Quebec and eastern Ontario birchbark canoes were probably the most easily procured canoes at that time. Around the turn of the century, the increasing use of canvas canoes was one of the major factors in the decline of the manufacture and use of the birchbark canoes. Yet, the birchbark canoe did not entirely die out. Some white sportsmen and Indians continued to use them for hunting, trapping, and transportation. Some Algonquin tribes continued to make them until recently (1980). Today Indian makers of birchbark canoes number but a couple or so.  

 

What is exciting, is that a few others (count them up on the fingers of one hand...) are continuing the art of building birchbark canoes. But like other items of gear, a birchbark canoe must be researched to the Middle Ground and although an Abenaki or Chippewa canoe might be appealing, one's choice is best kept with the simple Algonquin style obtained by the Iroquois and then subsequently traded down the Allegheny and Ohio Rivers into the Middle Ground.  

 

Hopefully, by the end of the summer, some water-born longhunters and scouts will again by silently sliding down Ohio Country waterways...  

 

 

 

 

POCKET SOUP 

 

It takes something good to get me on my soapbox, and pocket soup is GOOD. I first encountered this item while reading my club magazine, thought it interesting, but a lot of work and time for a food source. Parched corn and jerk is much simpler, and tried and true. But at a recent national event that was too close to resist, a fine fellow and brother club member took pity upon my person, and offered me a piece of this wonderful item. I took it and promised to try it. Later that evening, I boiled up some rice and remembering this odd looking stuff I took a small bit and tasted it. As it melted on my tongue, I knew I was hooked.  This stuff would be a part of my equipment. I tore off a quarter-sized piece and put it in to simmer with my rice.  When eating it, it tasted like a fine meat stew. This item is what is called for to spice up an otherwise bland diet on the trail, be it for a couple of days, or several weeks. The next morning I tried just boiling a small amount in my cup for a plain meat broth. Again with fine results, I ended up with a meat broth that would be very welcome after a long day, or on a cool morn.

 

The following comes from "History of the Dividing Line" by William Byrd, printed in 1729.  

 

"...This Glue is so strong, that two or three Drams, dissolv'd in boiling water, with a little salt,  will make half a Pint of good Broth, & if you shou'd be faint with Fasting or Fatigue, let a small Piece of this Glue melt in your Mouth, and you will find yourself surprisingly refreshed.

 

One Pound of this Cookery wou'd keep a Man in good Heart above a Month, and is not only nourishing, but likewise very wholesome. Particularly it is good against Fluxes, which Woodsman are very liable to, by lying too near the moist Ground, and guzzling too much cold Water. But as it will be only us'd now and then, in Times of Scarcity, when Game is wanting, two Pounds of it will be enough for a Journey of six Months.  

 

But this Broth will be still more heartening if you thicken every Mess with half a Spoonful of Rockahominy, which is nothing but Indian Corn parched without burning, and reduced to Powder.... 

 

The following is a recipe for veal glue from "The Lady's Companion" 1753: 

 

"To make a veal Glue, or Cake Soup to be carried in the Pocket" 

 

Take a Leg of Veal, strip it of the Skin and the Fat, then take all the muscular or fleshy Parts from the Bones; boil this Flesh gently in such a Quantity of Water, and so long a Time, till the Liquer will make a strong Jelly when it is cold: This you may try by taking out a small Spoonful now and then, and letting it cool.  

Here it is to be supposed, that though it will jelly presently in small Quantities, yet all the Juice of the meat may not be extracted; however, when you find it very strong, strain the Liquer through a Sieve, and let it settle; then provide a large Stew-pan, with Water, and some China Cups, or glazed Earthenware; fill these Cups with Jelly taken clear from the Settling, and set them in a Stew-pan of Water, and let the Water boil gently till the Jelly becomes as thick as Glue; after which, let them stand to cool, and then turn out the Glue upon a Piece of new Flannel, which will draw out the Moisture; turn them once in six or eight Hours, and put them upon a fresh Flannel, and so continue to do till they are quite dry, and keep it in a dry warm Place: This will harden so much, that it will be stiff and hard as Glue in a little Time, and may be carried in the Pocket without Inconvenience. You are to use this by boiling about a Pint of Water, and pouring it upon a piece of the Glue or Cake, about the bigness of a small walnut, and stirring lt with a Spoon until the cake dissolves, which will make very strong good Broth. As for the seasoning part, everyone may add Pepper and Salt as they like it, for there must be nothing of that Kind put among the Veal when you make the Glue, for any Thing of that Sort would make it Mouldy. As we have observed above, that there is nothing of Seasoning in this Soup, so there may be always added what you desire, either of Spices or Herbs, to make it savoury to the Palate; but it must be noted, that all the Herbs that are used on this Occasion, must be boiled tender in plain Water, and That Water must be used to pour upon the Cake Gravy instead of Simple Water, so may a Dish of good Soup be made without Trouble, only allowing the Proportion of Cake Gravy answering to the above said direction: Or if Gravy be wanted for sauce, double the Quantity may be used that is prescribed for Broth or Soup. 

 

This article has run plenty long enough. If you should decide to tackle this recipe, I have been told that any good LEAN beef or Venison will suffice just as well. 

 

Thank you for your indulgence.  

 

I Remain Sir, 

Dennis Miles 

 

PROJECTION: YE ULTIMATE CHALLENGE 

 

Among the three levels or tiers of living history and experimental archeology (R&D gear, historical environment, and projection...), the hardest to master is the skill of projecting one's self back to an 18th century world.  For the majority of the blackpowder hobby, there seems to be a constant and on-going struggle in just trying to have historically accurate or historically faithful clothing and equipment.  There are a very small number of individuals who have risen above the challenge of researched and documented gear, and who engage in structured historical activities. There are very few, miniscule numbers, of individuals who work at projection.

 

Projection is hard, and is the most demanding of the three tiers. Once we have researched and documented gear, and once we go out into the woods or wilderness to learn and practice skills and knowledge associated with the 18th century, we are face-to-face with a 2003 environment!  

 

Although I did not know it at the time, I first learned about what I now call "projection" from the Japanese some 25 years ago or so. As a martial student working towards a "black belt" in unarmed combat and primitive weapons, I learned that the centuries-old method of teaching martial arts in the Orient was through something the Japanese called "kata." Kata is a pre-arranged series of punches, strikes, kicks, and blocks that are strung together in a choreographed sequence. Since martial arts were considered so lethal, they could not be practiced against a human "target." The only time they were practiced "live" was in the case of war, or in the case of being challenged to a duel. It was not until the 20th century that "kumite" was developed, and what was martial was modified with "pulled punches" into a competitive sport.  

 

The essence of a warrior's development in the martial arts was measured, of course, in combat; but it was also gauged and practiced in the "kata." Kata was not intended to be "shadow boxing." Kata was intended to be an action and reaction to a series of invisible attackers attacking from different directions. It was a sign of development when the student acted and reacted, not against an imaginary set of attackers, but against invisible attackers, to the point where you actually saw the enemy in your mind's eye, felt their presence, and could feel the rush of the air as they punched or kicked or slashed at you. The "more" real you saw it, the "more real" the reality of the combat became.  

 

In watching students at different levels, you could see those "going through the moves" as if shadowboxing and you could see those acting and reacting with and to every life threatening attack as though it were real. Projection is remarkably similar.  

 

When we go out in the "woods," it is, beyond a doubt, a 2003 woods." We can be wearing museum quality reproductions of 18th century clothing and gear.  We can go out with a historical framework as to the time and place, and even as to the nature of the persona we have chosen to emulate and study, and we can engage in activities, chores, and tasks that were performed in the 18th century.

For the ultimate expression of living history, we need to approach the "woods" from an 18th century perspective, and not a 2003 perspective! How one acts and reacts in the woods has an immediate and direct bearing on how one perceives the environment. Barreling through the forest at a high rate of speed, talking and singing loudly, pop-shooting at targets, joking around, day-dreaming, etc. means that it will always be 2003 no matter how fine one's clothing and gear is or how expansive one's persona has been developed.  

 

The difference is twofold: one, an 18th century individual was in the forest for a specific purpose whether commercial hunter, roving hunter, scout, spy, Indian warrior, or renegade. The nature of the activities undertaken by those individuals determined their approach to the woods: the greenhorn who raced through the woods ended up a scalp on a Shawnee or Delaware warrior's belt and the farmer turned commercial hunter returned to camp with no meat.  

 

More times than not, we approach the woods as a hostile environment in the 18th century. Quiet, stealth, and caution are the watchwords of the day for enemy warriors may be just ahead behind a tree, or a she-bear, or panther around the next bend in the trail. 

 

But there is more to projection than just things like stealth and "noise discipline."  I recently ran into another Living Historian. He talked about a recent scout and how they approached their "time window" from a 1763 perspective as a small of group of traders picking up on the opportunities to be had by the French departing the Ohio and Illinois Country at the end of the F&I War. He added that they were undecided about what to do, as there had been some talk about a general Indian uprising but they had seen nothing to support it. So, they decided that the frontier was heating up too fast and that they should return to the safety of Fort Pitt (not knowing Pontiac had already besieged it...). My friend beamed at the new-found experiences of having to deal with the woods in a 1763 context and to have to act, react, think, and plan based on what they knew was going on at that time in 1763.  His personal discovery is what projection is all about.

 

Projection starts small, and lack of it is obvious, even if you do not look around. The companion who builds a huge bonfire in hostile Shawnee country, or the companion who shoots his rifle just to see "if it will go off" are companions in a 21st century woods, where the realities and dangers of the 18th century woods are truly some two hundred years removed. Sometimes the lack of projection begins at home when knapsacks are being packed for a day or two and not for outings of weeks and months. Why carry a mould, ladle, and lead when the only round I am going to shoot in two or three days is the ball at the end of the scout to unload my rifle? Why carry a sewing kit when I will be back home in three or four days and can sew up that tear then?  

 

The key to successful projection is to keep in mind three things:  

 

1. In my chosen time period, who and what am I?  

2. In that time period, what I am doing here?  

3. In that time period, and in my chosen locale, what is going on that is going to have an effect on me?  

 

Knowing those three things, and acting and reacting accordingly, we put you in an historical window or time capsule and force you to understand the Past from the perspective of someone having to live in, and not just "visit" certain select portions of it such as wearing Period clothes or engaging in Period activities. Having to act and react to a more structured historical environment, and to have to think and make decisions based upon 18th century realities, gives us a better picture of the 18th century and life's daily events faced by our ancestors. As with Japanese karate, you need to both see and feel that Shawnee warrior behind that oak tree up ahead on the trail...  

 

A LOOK AT COMMON EIGHTEENTH CENTURY SHELTERS 

 

Recently Curt Schmidt and I ran into our friend John Curry while at Friendship. John was weighing the particular merits of three different deer antlers for a knife handle and trying to choose between them when we ran into each other. We started talking and soon John asked us what we thought about his most recent article on oilcloth shelters in the latest Smoke & Fire News. He jokingly backed up as he asked the question! We had a rather lengthy discussion on the subject and Curt and I spoke our thoughts on why we felt that the original middle ground woodsmen DID NOT carry such items. John also spoke his mind on why he felt they DID carry such items. Our discussion ranged from the lack of documentation, to the commonness of such items, to the practicality of such items. We must have talked for 1 1/2 to 2 hours on this subject alone. John asked me to send him my thoughts and documentation for period shelters that I had come across in doing my research. I thought that I would share with you some of the details from-my letter that I sent to him:  

 

As you know by now from reading past Society Pages, we in the Society of Longhunters are required to research and document each and every piece of gear, clothing, weapon, etc, that we use. Taking that idea one step further, we also require each piece of gear, clothing, weapon, etc. to conform to what we call the plain, common and everyday rule. Meaning was it commonly used and an "everyday" item, and was it plainly made and not extravagant. For example, I can document silk knee breeches to the 1760's, so it is documentable for me to wear a pair of silk knee breeches in my portrayal as a mid-eighteenth century woodsman. This is wrong thinking and I think that anyone could see the flaw in this type of logic. To accurately portray any persona in history you must use gear that was common to that particular type of persona.  

 

If we are not able to document an item of gear as plain, common and everyday, we simply do not allow it to go on a scout with us. To some this seems rather narrow and silly, but to anyone who knows us, they know how serious we take our re-learning of the past. It is good to see that there are others out there that share our same passion for the eighteenth century woodsmen and in being "correct" and "common" in our gear choices.  

 

In my personal research of what the eighteenth century woodsmen and Indians used as shelters, I have not yet come across one single reference to them using an oilcloth for shelters while traveling on foot. However, I have found many, many references to them using naturally made shelters, and shelters made from their blankets. I thought that I would share some of these references with you. 

 

Philadelphia Botanist John Bartram, during his 1743 journey to Fort Oswego, described the shelter made by his Delaware Indian guides:  

 

"About break of day it began to rain, and the Indians made us a covering of bark got after in this manner: they cut the tree round through the bark near the root, and made the incision about seven feet above it; these horizontal ones are joined by a perpendicular cut, on each side of which they after loosen the bark from the wood, and hewing a pole at the small end, gradually tapering like a wedge about two feet, they force it till they have completed the separation all round, and the bark parts whole from the tree, one of which, a foot in diameter, yields a piece seven foot long and above three wide. And having now prepared four forked sticks, they are set into the ground the longer in front; on these they lay the cross poles, and on them the bark. This makes a good tight shelter in warm weather. " (Bartram 20-21)

 

Bartram also described another hurried camp made in the middle of a sudden rainstorm:  

 

"One of our Indians cut four sticks five feet long and stuck both ends into the ground at two feet distance, one from another; over these he spread his match coat and crept through them, and fell to singing; in the mean time we were setting poles slantwise in the ground, tying others cross them, over which we spread our blanket and crept close under it with a fire before us and fell fast asleep. " (Bartram 38)

 

French Captain M. Pouchet gives a form of Indian shelter in wintertime:  

 

"They encamp at an early hour in the thickets and construct a shelter on the side towards the wind by forming a half-roof with two crotches supporting little poles covered with branches of spruce, flat foliage, or rushes gathered from the swamp. Before this shelter they build a good fire. " (Pouchot 214)

 

Benjamin Franklin wrote in his autobiography of the manner in which a group of hostile Indians had encamped close to a fort in Gnadenhut, Pennsylvania without being detected. It was wintertime and the Indians, even though in enemy territory, had to have a fire so they devised a clever way to stay warm, all the while concealing their presence. 

 

"It being Winter, a fire was necessary for them. But a common fire on the surface of the ground would by its light have discovered their position at a distance. They had therefore dug holes in the ground about three feet diameter and somewhat deeper. We saw where they had with their hatchets cut off the charcoal from the sides of burnt logs lying in the woods. With these coals they had made small fires in the bottom of the holes, and we observed among the weeds and grass the prints of their bodies made by their laying all around with their legs hanging down in the holes to keep their feet warm, which with them is an essential point." (Franklin 159-160)

 

Peter Kalm, in his Journals, described the manner in which an Indian made a quick shelter:  

 

"The Indian made his hut which was constructed in the following way. He had placed pieces of birch bark and other bark on top of slender rods as a roof over himself where he lay and had hung an old blanket to protect himself on the sides from winds and storms. His companion had done likewise on his side and their fire was between them. " (Kalm 591)

 

John Heckewelder, in his Journals, describes a quick shelter erected immediately prior to a storm, during the funeral of the Delaware Shingas's wife in 1762:  

 

" Mr. Calhoon and myself expected that we might be permitted to go home, as we wished to do, particularly as we saw a thundergust from the west fast approaching; but the Indians, suspecting our design, soon came forward with poles and blankets, and in a few minutes erected a shelter for us. " (Heckewelder 61).

 

James Smith, in his fine captivity narrative, details the manner in which he rode out a particularly nasty storm during the winter of 1756:  

 

"As it began to snow and blow most violently, I returned and proceeded after my company, and for some time could see their tracks; but the old snow being only about three inches deep, and a crust upon it, the present driving snow soon filled up the tracks. As I had only a bow, arrows, and tomahawk, with me, and no way to strike fire, I appeared to be in a dismal situation - and as the air was dark with snow, I had little prospect of steering my course, than I would in the night. At length I came to a hollow tree, with a hole at one side that I could go in at. I went in, and found that it was a dry place, and the hollow about three feet diameter and high enough for me to stand in. I found that there was also a considerable quantity of soft, dry rotten wood, around the hollow: I therefore concluded that I would lodge here; and that I would go to work, and stop up the door to my house. I had a block prepared that I could trawl after me, to stop this hole: and before I went in I put in a number of small sticks, that I might more effectually stop it on the inside. When I went in, I took my tomahawk and cut down all the dry rotten wood I could get, and beat it small. With it I made a bed like a goose-nest or hog-bed, and with the small sticks stopped every hole, until my house was almost dark. I stripped off my mockasons, and danced in the centre of my bed for about half an hour, in order to warm myself. I then coiled myself up in my blanket, lay down in my little round bed, and had a tolerable nights lodging." (Smith 76-77)

 

Edna Kenton described the camp made by Simon Kenton, George Strader, and John Yeager in the winter of 1773 at the mouth of Elk River in what is now Charleston, WV:  

 

"So near the mouth of Elk River they erected their shelter, a half-faced camp than which no better primitive quarters have been invented to this day. They found their huge fallen tree, cleared a square in front of it large enough for the cabin floor, and at the far corners sunk two forked poles. They laid a twelve foot pole in the forks, and laid other poles from it to the fallen tree. They piled this roof foundation with brush, dry grass, leaves, and sod, enclosed the two sides with bark and heaped logs, gathered moss and dry leaves for their beds, and their camp was done. Before its wide-open face they built their campfire, cooked their meals in the open, and at night lay down to sleep wrapped in blankets and furs with their bodies under shelter and their feet to the coals. " (Kenton 38-40)

 

John Cuppy related the manner in which he and Capt. Samuel Brady set up camp for the night while out on a scout:  

 

"Once while out spying with Captain Brady, Cuppy did not spread his blanket... until after dark, when both laid down and covered themselves with another blanket, when they felt something squirm under them. But it was too dark to discern what it was...and (they) were much too weary to care, so they fell asleep. Next morning, when they took up their blankets, they found a copperhead all flattened out like a pancake. (Draper 9S:38)  

 

Joseph Doddridge gave us a nice little quote describing the end of a typical day for the eighteenth century woodsman:  

 

" The toilsome march of the day being ended, at the fall of night he seeks for safety some narrow, sequestered hollow, and by the side of a large log builds a fire, and, after eating his course and scanty meal, wraps himself up in his blanket, and lays him down on his bed of leaves, with his feet to the little fire, for repose, hoping for favorable dreams ominous of future good luck, while his faithful dog and gun repose by his side. " (Doddridge 23)

 

R. Getty Browning describing his grandfather, the exceptional late eighteenth and early nineteenth century hunter, Meshack Browning:  

 

" Since he had to carry everything on his back, he reduced his load to the barest necessities as his chief object was to kill game rather than enjoy a comfortable vacation. His rifle, powder horn, and bullet pouch, together with his hunting knife, punk, flint and steel for fire-making, and possibly a tomahawk covered the balance of his outfit. If the trip was in cold weather and he expected to camp out, he probably took, in addition a home-made blanket, some salt and bread."  

 

Meshack Browning describing some of his hunts:  

 

" I searched for a hollow tree to creep into, but could find none, nor a shelter of any kind. At length, finding two trees laying across each other, I gathered the bark from them, and, by laying it over the cross-logs, thus made a poor kind of resting place for that night. My next job was to make a fire, which I was afraid I would be puzzled to do, everything being wet and covered with snow. However, I succeeded in kindling a large fire before my camp, when I crawled under the shed, which was not more than two feet high, and lay there half the night; first turning one side of my body to the fire, and then the other, in order to dry my clothes. While I lay with one side up, the fine hail would fall into my ear, and when I turned over, it fell into the other. Finally, I took the tow I used for cleaning my gun, and with it corked up both ears; and after laying down again, I found I had hit on an excellent way of keeping the hail out." (Browning 114-115)

 

" After laying down our blankets and provisions, I scraped away the snow, collected enough wood to last during the night, laid spruce limbs thick on the ground, spread one blanket over them, and reserved the other to cover ourselves. " (Browning 257)

 

Jeptha Simms describes the manner in which the hunter/trapper, Nat Foster of New York, made his camp in the late eighteenth century and early nineteenth century:  

 

" Foster set his camp up in forty-five minutes. He made a lean-to, in front he built a fire, put his provisions under his head for a pillow, in cold weather he carried a blanket strapped on his back like a knapsack, he always carried a pocket compass." (Simms 251-252) . . .

 

As you can see from just these few period accounts, the eighteenth century woodsmen and Indians used a lot of natural materials in making their shelters. It also appears to have been very common to have used a blanket in making a temporary shelter. Lastly we know for certain that many, many nights were spent laying on the ground wrapped up in a blanket with feet to a fire. In no account is there a mention of an oilcloth, sailcloth, etc. I am of the opinion that the woodsmen and Indians needed to travel light and they found no use in carrying what was naturally available all around them. There are many more references, such as the ones above, which leads you to believe that natural materials and single blankets were the common modes of shelter and warmth while in the eighteenth century woods.  

 

In my research, oilcloths do not conform to the plain, common, and everyday rule that we in The Society of Longhunters must adhere to. Still, there is not even one single reference to woodsmen carrying such things while traveling on foot.  

 

One factor that the original woodsmen and Indians did not have to deal with is time restrictions. They did not have to be somewhere Monday morning at 8 a.m. They had all the time in the world to get where they were going, and if bad weather came along they could just " hole up " and weather out the storm, even if it took days. They could take the time to stop and build a sturdy shelter to fend off the rain or snow. They did not have to be concerned with being somewhere by a certain time in order to be back " home " by a certain time. They were truly " a part of the woods ", and not " just in the woods ".  As modern woodsmen, we do have to deal with time restrictions, and sometimes there is not time for us to make even a temporary shelter when in the woods. I have to think that wrapping ones self up in a blanket and enduring a rainy night is much more common than we would like to think. I will admit that the romance of having a sturdy oilcloth shelter with a nice warm fire in front is very appealing. However, if we are striving for true authenticity, then we have to stay away from shelters that we CAN NOT document and stick with those shelters that we can.

 

Best Regards, 

Jerry DeVilbiss 

(Silas Ramsey) 

 

Fads, Fashions, and Fun 

 

When dealing with the material culture of the 18th century, we are often confronted with but a handful of researched and documented choices for our clothing and gear.  Once such limitation has been in the area of compasses. For years, the only "more or less" Period Proper choice was the Rogers' Island sundial compass. It was affordable and it was available. Subsequent research turned up the original, which only remotely looked like the modern day reproduction. But, it had an "18th century flavor" and it was the only poker game in town.  Then Ames Manufacturing came out with an affordable "box compass" but not before thousands of individuals were already carrying the Rogers' Ranger compass.  And then came Mark Baker's article featuring his own, personal compass made by Frank Twist. Better still, Frank was now producing two styles of hand-made compasses suitable for a woodsman. Being the kind Friend Mark carried, guess which one sold the most?

 

In our quest for the "Four H's", hand grown, handspun, hand forged, and hand-dyed, we have latched on to the fine weaving skills of C.J. Wilde. The first blanket she made for me was a copy of a dirty brown blanket carried by Henry Marble during the Rev War, and now residing in the Museum of the Fur Trade.  Cool.  The second was a tan and brown plaid. Guess why?  The current interest in C. J.'s offerings coincided with the archaeological excavation of a woolen scrap (blue and red) from the well of an 18th century tavern that was abandoned and used for a dumping pit. I remember when Silas Ramsey moved up to a hand-woven blanket from a Witney, and decided to order a brown version of the Williamsburg remnant. On a trek of some ten guys in Indiana, there were three more just like it. Since then, brown, tan, and gray variations of the Williamsburg pattern proliferate.

 

At the OLDE NORTHWEST TERRITORY RENDEZVOUS last week, Silas and I ran into John Moore of Holder's Company. He was wearing a checked hunting shirt, and had just put his new "Williamsburg Pattern" Wilde blanket on the trade blanket because everyone in the world now has one!  

 

While at the OLDE NORTHWEST, a group of rendezvouser’s insulted our longhunter party with the jeer: "You guys all belong to the same regiment?" It was a reference to the fact that all four of us had some shade of walnut juice dyed hunting shirts on (even though one was wearing a hunting frock...). That is why John Moore had gone to a checked hunting shirt.  

 

The point I am getting at is this. With a limited amount of technology, with a limited amount of "on hand" options available on the frontier, and with an extremely limited archaeological and historical base for clothing and gear from which to choose, we ARE going to end up with a generic "look" about us.  And, like ripples in a pond, the choices made (and the choices Friend Mark makes) will be immediately picked up, echoed, and copied by those individuals a few ripples away.  There will also be a fringe of "woodsman wannabe's" who will copy the look so that they appear as woodsmen without having to go out in the woods.

 

When planning out our historical choices for clothing and gear, we need to be aware of fads and fashions within the "hobby." One's chosen persona will always define what Period choices and options are available to select from.  A persona is limited to the material culture of the local geographic area he lives in. For example, the choices in "leathers" available to a fort hunter or scout at Fort Pitt would be broad:

 

1. Commercially tanned cow, deer, and elk from the East  

2. Locally tanned cow, deer, and elk-- all bark-tanned on site  

3. Brain-tanned buffalo, elk, and deer from the nearby Indian towns, or from Indian and white traders  

(Granted there is overlap, as history tells us Indians would raid the tan vats...)  

 

On the other hand, an isolated frontiersman "doing his own thing" is going to be heavier into bark or brain-tanned hides he has done himself and would not have access to professionally done Eastern leathers. In simple terms, his options would be limited and not broad.  

 

The same is true for fabrics. In the Middle Ground, wool, linen, and hemp fabrics are the dominant culture. Yet, once again there is a split between what is available, homespun versus Eastern or British imports from the East. The frontiersman will rely more on homespun and therefore home-dyed fabrics more so that the finer Eastern trade articles. The same is true for choices of dyes: the frontier versus the manufacturing centers of Britain.  

 

Fads and fashions can be vexing, because it is often common that a current fad whether inspired by a movie, the hobby, Mark Baker, etc., etc., may have a basis in historical fact and not just fiction. One such area is the wool and linen sashes made by C. J. Wilde. C.J. cannot keep them in stock for they sell out so fast. People like Michael Archer and Silas Ramsey who still wear leather belts are considered so out of fashion.  

 

Why are fads and fashions vexing then? If you are wearing a historically correct item, so what? Well, when you go out in a party of ten men and nine of them have some shade of brown/tan/gray C.J. Wilde "Williamsburg Pattern" blanket with them...well, it looks like everyone just came back from the same 18th century store. The odds of a party of ten longhunters having nine blankets that are the same are.... But yet, for each of them, by themselves, there is nothing wrong, for they have all made independently correct choices from the 18th century.  It is only when we get together,-that the fads and fashions stick out.

 

For me, I want to be "different," I want to be "unique," and I want to be special when it comes to my personal preferences and choices of clothing and gear. So, when I needed a thicker WILDE blanket for Deep Winter, I had a tan and brown plaid made- something akin to the Archer family's Scots ancestry. Now, I may confess and admit to wearing a breechclout of C. J.'s woven in "Williamsburg Pattern" because I like the archaeological associations with a surviving scrap of fabric. But, I would confess that I am "gear vain" enough that I want my own "brand" of clothing of gear. So now I wear a black wool one... A plain linen hunting shirt, hand grown, handspun, and hand-dyed, is not going to look any different from the next, because shirts are generically universal.   But when it comes to other articles, think about your choices carefully.

 

What can be done to avoid spending $280 for a C.J. Wilde blanket and then finding out there are hundreds of blankets "just like" yours?  In most respects there is nothing that can be done.

 

In 1989, it occurred to me that it was better for a hunter and an Indian scout to be dressed in earth tones- dirt browns. In 1992, it occurred to me that because of the "Four H" direction I was taking that those dirt browns should come from various shades of walnut hull juice/dye. Now, walnut dyed linen is almost a standard among woodsmen and woodsmen wannabe's. Are they copying me, or am I copying them? Neither, actually, it is just that our mutual research and mutual interests have come to the same place on the trail. Could I have predicted that walnut brown would be the woodsmen’s' color "of choice" in 2003? Nope.  And, part of me wants to be different, so I dyed a hemp linen winter hunting shirt in sumac for a dirty gray color, just to be different from another set of Period options.

 

Yet, there is an indicator to watch out for.  First, I want to say that this is not a negative thing, for emulation and outright copying of quality articles of clothing and gear that are historically researched, documented, and crafted only helps the "hobby." What point I would like to make is that as individualists, "too much" replication and copying can be frustrating.

 

Now, that frustration can be a good thing too. I recall having all of my clothing and gear copied 100% by a gentleman. That was a motivating factor for me, for I then had to go out and replace 100% of what I had to retain my individuality. The gentleman could not keep up the pace. It started in 1992 with his copying my flop hat pinned up on the side with a deer's tail. That prompted me to go to a fantail hat, pinned up in the back.  

 

Anyway, the indicator to watch out for is if you read about an item in Mark Baker's "A Pilgrim's Journey," and within the last year in "Pioneering: The Longhunter Series," you will see a rash of emulators jumping on the bandwagon.  

 

We have a commitment, and the pleasure of sharing, with the discoveries we make and the fine craftspeople who produce those wondrous items we need and crave. Whether sharing an excellent source, or emulating a popular writer, there WILL BE a turn-out of that item both from among those who appreciate its special worth and from among those who want to look like Mark Baker. Each to their own, but, I can hear Silas' lament in having had the thought of reproducing the red and blue "Williamsburg" fragment into a brown and tan "woodsman's" blanket because who would want a striped blanket in the first place, and a dull brownish blanket in the second place?  

 

At this spring's Manskers 'Station Trade Fair, C.J. Wilde emptied her stock of Williamsburg stripe blankets, breechclouts, and mitts. Left on the table, were two manure brown blankets, one of which I tried to convince a customer to buy over a Williamsburg striped blanket with no success.  

 

What is perhaps the hardest part of all of this, is that it does not make a lick a difference if you were the FIRST person to order up a Williamsburg striped blanket or the 300th! You will be viewed as the imitator and not the originator of the fashion. It is hard to be the trailblazer and not seemingly the imitating follower back in the pack.  Ah, a woodsman's vanity, tsk...tsk!

 

It seems so long ago I was talking to C.J. about how anything other than "earth tone" browns would get me killed in 1781. It is hard to believe I had to explain those choices just four or five years ago. 

 

Just for fun, here is the prediction for what will be coming into fashion next: dark powder horns. The subject of the color of original horns is a tricky one, and the experts do not all agree on what the honey yellow and amber and yellowish-orange color of surviving horns means.  Some say amber dye, some say a reaction with the nitrates in the contained black powder, and some say it is a natural yellowing process akin to elderly peoples' toenails turning yellow with age.

 

The type of dairy cows common in colonial America generally produced a white or yellowish-white horn most of the time. On occasion, a greenish-gray and a dirty amber color horn can be found.  

 

We tend to have a somewhat statistically flawed view of original powder horns. That is because the majority of surviving horns of the 1750-1800 era are "special" horns. By "special", I refer to the fact that fancy, scrimshaw horns (alright "engraved") tend to have a higher survival rate than plain, everyday, common "ugly" utility powder horns. I would guess that is because they have greater value to their owners, have greater value to relatives and descendants, and have greater value to collectors. Although there are a handful of engraved horns other than white or yellowish-white, a "white" horn made a better "canvas" to show off the engraving. And, even among "unengraved" Period powder horns, white or yellowish-white horns dominate because those were the type of horns readily available both from the farm and from the horn-sellers in the cities.  

 

For hunters and scouts, and more so for scouts than hunters, the consideration of earth tone colors for clothing and gear is an obvious one: if the Indian or animal sees you first... Last weekend, I was standing behind a nine foot tall trunk of a rotted tree. The light colors of the rotten wood, punk wood, and still firm wood seemed to "absorb" the colors of my walnut dyed hunting shirt, smoked and greased brain-tanned leggings, and the browns of the various oiled and greased leather belts and straps. Chameleon-like, I felt and looked like the tree I leaned against. Save for a yellowish-white powder horn. Yet, the light colored horn was sandwiched between my ribs and elbow, sandwiched between the walnut dye linen of my side and sleeve, Not of much concern considering how much could be seen. But still, the brightest thing about my person was my face and hands, and then my powder horn.  

 

In my small collection of original powder horns, I have an ugly greenish-gray one engraved with bands of "X's" and a small plain horn that is a murky shade of greenish brown, the color of fresh manure. To my woodsman's eye, I think I would have preferred either the "green" or the "brown" colored horns to the dirty white one I carried. Having in mind to make a couple or three new horns, I am tempted to try to find, or make, a manure brown horn next, its greenish-browns offering the chance to eliminate one more thing that could catch the sharp eye of a watching warrior.  

 

Normally, I will, when hunkering down and hiding in ambush, pull my dark brown hat down over my face to present as little light color skin as possible. I remember being described by an observer as I stood below the skyline on a ridge above the Clarion River in Pennsylvania. I was told that the only thing that did not blend into the dead leaves and browns of the forest floor was the white of the bucktail in my hat. I dumped the bucktail...  

 

In the art of stealth and ambush, you need all the edge you can get. 

 

 SCALPS

 

I had just finished putting a coating of bear's grease on the red and brown stained skin side of a scalp, and wiped the surplus from my hands on the 14 inches of smooth black hair. I worked some grease into to the raggedy looking scarf-skin ties, shifted the trade beads, adjusted the two silver ring brooches, and put the scalp on the workbench.  

 

Silas Ramsey and I had gathered five such scalps to see if it could be done. Our vision was to recreate scalps with a proper 18th century flavor, to museum quality, that would be indistinguishable from originals.  

 

There was no way that such a project could be undertaken to "fake" a scalp. I had seen attempts by rendezvousers using black horse hair, but all had failed: because horse hair ultimately can only look like horse hair. At Mansker's Station, we spied some scalps that Ken Scott, the master relic pouch maker, was selling. Ken had glued "clumps" of real human hair to real animal skin, and disguised the glue efforts with an artist's clever skill with paints, tints, and washes. Handsome though they were, the majority looked like clumps of hair glued to a leather or skin backer.  

 

Could we do better, and improve upon the idea?  We had access to real human hair in whatever lengths we wanted.  We had access to a range of brain-tanned and rawhide deerskin. We had experience with the bloody skins and matted hair of animals.  We had experience with paints, dyes, washes, and tints, and, through the kindness of Jim Dresslar, we had had experience with real scalps.  Confident, we were sure we could succeed.

 

The subject of the history of scalping has been covered many times. While doing some slight research to answer a question about the British scalp "industry" at Fort Detroit under "Hair Buyer" Henry Hamilton, we had wanted to check on the elaborate "coding" system developed by the British.  

 

The purchasing of scalps by the British, at Fort Detroit and Fort Niagara, was a gruesome aspect of Border Warfare, built on a long standing colonial American practice. The somewhat repulsive practice was a daily occurrence on the frontier, and something as casual to some red and white men as pulling a dandelion from our yard is to us today.  

 

The exact number of scalps taken and sold is lost to history, and I have to wonder what happened to those thousands of scalps.  Were they lost, destroyed, burned, etc. when the savagery of the frontier was past and the ancestor of political correctness made those relics undesirable?

 

The Archer family, of which my wife is a descendant, were Indian fighters and scalp takers. Archer children were killed and scalped by Indian raiders. Michael Archer's sister, Jane, was scalped during the attack on the Archer/ McClelland cabin. She survived by crawling under some bed covers, and recovered. She later married Henry Church, had a number of children, and died young around 1814 (?).  

 

There is some confusion concerning the rates of exchange at Niagara for scalps and rates of exchange for prisoners. Some accounts give the rate at $5 per scalp but $10 per prisoner. Some at $8 per scalp, some $10. The key is that a higher rate was paid for a live prisoner than a scalp, which may have been the British way of easing their consciences a little bit. It did not take the Indians to realize that it was less work to send a scalp to Detroit than it was to escort a live prisoner there. When Daniel Boone surrendered the salt-makers to the Shawnee at the Blue Licks, there was a council to see if the Shawnee would just go ahead and kill them or take them back. History suggests it was a close vote...  

 

It also did not take the Indians long to realize that the whites had more hair than did Indian warriors. A warrior's scalp consisted of a three to four inch "circle" of hair allowed to grow into a long "scalplock" that was styled according to the whims and notion of the owner. A white, on the other hand, had a full head of hair that could be removed by circumscribing a cut around the head. Then, the full scalp could be divided in half, or thirds, and the profits doubled or tripled!  

 

Perhaps to alleviate their consciences, and more likely to prevent "scalp fraud," the British developed an elaborate system of coding so that scaIps could be read as to occupation, sex, and age of the previous "owner!" 

 

It was a long haul to Fort Detroit from the lower Ohio Country where the tribes lived. Scalps were usually coded, bundled together in 90-100 scalp bundles, and then 8-20 of these bundles were shipped. A usual shipment could contain at least 700 scalps. (When Robert Rogers entered the Abenaki town of Odenak, he counted over 600 white scalps flying over the council ground).  

 

Although it is not known, it would appear as though the elaborate scalp codes were done for statistical reasons by the British, or perhaps they actually had a monetary breakdown set up to pay different rates for different types of scalps. Differential payments do not seem to appear in the old accounts, so I would have to assume scalp codes were a "demographic" study. 

 

        Four inch hoop painted black = Soldier

        Four inch hoop painted red = A man other than a soldier

        Four inch hoop painted green = Old person

        Four inch hoop painted blue = Woman

        Two inch hoop painted green = Boy

        Two inch hoop painted yellow = Girl

        Two inch hoop painted white = Baby

 

        Skin painted red = 0fficer

        Skin painted brown = Farmer killed in a house/cabin

        Skin painted green = Farmer killed in a field

        Skin painted white = Baby

        Skin painted yellow = Girl

        Skin painted with red tears = Mother

        Hair braided = Wife

        Skin with a black spot = Killed by a bullet

        Skin painted with a red hoe = Farmer

        Skin painted with a black ax = Settler

        Skin painted with a black tomahawk-in-the center = Killed with a tomahawk

 

I wonder what happened to the two-inch hoop painted yellow of Jane Archer?  

 

Jacob Dickert 

 

[This article came with a set of views of a Dickert rifle.  I chose not to copy these, as there are many such sets found in the variety of magazines and books found in the typical black powder shooter's home library.--Lou]

 

Probably more recorded information has been found concerning Jacob Dickert than any other early gunsmith. A complete and interesting study could and should be made on him even though it might be difficult to gather sufficient rifles together to show his style. He worked over a long period of time, and probably produced a great many rifles, but his work is now extremely rare.  

 

There are many records of Jacob Dickert in the Moravian Church of Lancaster, Pennsylvania. A very fine article about him by Henry Kauffman appeared on pages 348 and 349 of the April 1952 magazine "Antiques". There is a great deal of information pertaining to Jacob Dickert and his gunsmithing in the two volumes of U. S. Ordnance by Major James E. Hicks. These are probably just a few of many available sources of information.  

 

We know that Dickert was born in Maintz, Germany, in 1740. He came to America with his parents and settled in Berks County, Pennsylvania, in 1748. His family moved to Lancaster in 1756. In 1764 he married Johnanneta Hofer who was born in York County in 1746. Jacob became a citizen of Pennsylvania and the Kingdom of Great Britain in 1765.  

 

In 1776 Jacob Dickert and John Henry, another Lancaster gunsmith, bought ground and built a boring mill in Manheim township, Lancaster County. When John Henry died in 1779, Dickert bought the other half of the boring mill from Henry's widow for 250 pounds.  

 

Jacob Dickert probably made rifles for the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War, but the first known contract between Dickert and the United States is dated 1792. Dickert, together with Peter Gunter and John Groff (also of Lancaster), contracted to furnish rifles for a rifle battalion that was being established in the United States Army.  

 

In 1787 Jacob Dickert's daughter Anna Maria married James Gill, a merchant of Lancaster. On July 1, 1795, this very interesting advertisement appeared in the Lancaster paper:  

 

        Dickert and Gill, at their new Store, in Queenstreet, in the well known dwelling house of said Dickert, in the borough of Lancaster, are now opening

a general assortment of fresh MERCHANDISE for sale, the particulars whereof 

they think unnecessary to insert, as they flatter themselves that the quality and prices of their goods, with a desire to please, will induce a discerning and generous public to favor them with a share of custom.  

 

        Any person desirous of a supply of articles in the GUN-SMITH line, may depend upon being well suited, as said Dickert, by having forty years experience in that line, is enabled to give all possible satisfaction. He carries on the Gun-smith business as usual.

 

        Any particular orders they may be favored with in their line, will be attended to with expedition and punctuality.

 

        N. B. They, have just received an additional assortment of large and elegant

Looking-glasses. July 1, 1795.  

 

This indicates that in 1795 Dickert was in the general merchandise business with his son-in-law James Gill. Gill died the following year. One grandson, Benjamin Gill, apparently apprenticed with Dickert and later became his partner in the gunsmithing business. (I have two rifles signed "Dickert and Gill.") This advertisement reveals another fact about Dickert's life. It states that he had had forty years experience in the gunsmithing business. Since this statement was made in 1795, we know that Dickert began his apprenticeship about 1755 when about fifteen years of age. I tend to believe that he served his apprenticeship in Lancaster, but since his family moved in 1756, he may have apprenticed in Berks County before moving to Lancaster.  

 

On August 21, 1799, Jacob Dickert advertised in the Lancaster Journal for two thousand musket locks and barrels to fulfill another military contract. In 1801 Dickcrt and Matthew Llwellyn contracted with the State of Pennsylvania for one thousand muskets of the Charleville 1795 pattern. In 1807, the widow of James Gill (Anna Maria Dickert) married Matthew Llewellyn. By September 7, 1810, only nine hundred of these muskets had been delivered to the State, and Dickert had to promise to supply one hundred more.  

 

Jacob Dickert died in 1822. An inventory of his "goods and chattles" was taken March 22, 1822, by Christopher Gumpf and Jonathan Foltz. At least one of these men, Christopher Gumpf, was also a Lancaster gunsmith. Some items included in this very long inventory are: 

 

        15 rifles @ $9.00 = $135                5 muskets @ 1.80 = 7.50

        1 river gun and fouling piece 3.00        1 rifling bench 1.00

        1 lot gun barrels 2.00                        1 rifle barrel 3.00

        1 1ot brass mounting 2.00                1 box brass 1.00

        1 gun lock 1.87-1/2                        1 1ot molds 1.50

        1 lot iron mountings .75                        1 shot mold .25

 

Although these items prove Jacob Dickert's activity in the gunsmithing business, the fact that no gunsmithing tools were listed suggests that he was not actually making rifles at the time of his death.  

 

"U. S. Ordnance" contains a great deal of correspondence between the United States government and Jacob Dickert relative to various contracts for firearms. Many of these contracts are not in Dickert's name alone, but include two or three other gunsmiths of Lancaster. Also, there are a number of papers in the Ninth Series of the Pennsylvania Archives, which report that Dickert made arms for the State of Pennsylvania. All this leads to the conclusion that Dickert operated a large business.  

 

I believe that Jacob Dickert probably produced Kentucky rifles as an individual, from the time he finished his apprenticeship, until he became a partner with James Gill in the mercantile business. During that time, he possibly had a number of apprentices. After that period he probably operated on a larger scale, with employed hands to actually make the guns. I believe that few rifles of the true Kentucky type were made by him personally during this later period. This is an assumption which I cannot prove, but in general, his signed rifles appear to have been made during the earlier period. I rather believe that later on he devoted his time to merchandising in his store, and supervising the fulfillment of government contracts. Considering the long time Dickert was in business, signed rifles by him are scarce.  

 

There is a notion, prevalent among writers, that Jacob Dickert spelled his name a number of ways. I believe they have confused his name with Dreppard or some other. I have always seen "Dickert" on rifle barrels, and, Henry Kauffman, who located a great deal of this information, has never seen a variation of his name in documents.  

 

In addition to business, Jacob Dickert had many other activities. He subscribed to the Philadelphia and Lancaster Turnpike-one of the first great highways built in America and finished about 1790. When the turnpike was extended to Middletown, Pennsylvania, Dickert was one of the managers of that enterprise. He served on various committees of the Moravian Church, and for more than forty years was one of the workers or servers at their Love Feasts. The church record says "his death was due to old age," and his obituary in the Lancaster Intelligencer declares that he "sustained the character of an honest man, a good citizen, and an exemplary Christian."  

 

Much more study should be done on Jacob Dickert, for he was a very important figure in early Kentucky rifle making in Pennsylvania. I believe he greatly influenced the makers of his period and the rifle in general. I do not consider him one of the most artistic gunsmiths, but he is one of the earliest makers for whom recorded data has been found in any quantity. With effort we may some day be able to recognize guns by his apprentices.  

 

No. 19 is an early specimen of Jacob Dickert's work. It is engraved "J. Dickert" on the barrel in script. Between the initial and last name there is a little oval touch mark of an Indian tomahawk crossed with an arrow. This charming detail occurs occasionally and possibly often on Dickert's work and indicates its earliness. Indian decoration of any type is generally found on fairly early guns. The daisy patch box has very simple upper and lower plates and very simple engraving. This rifle has a thick heavy stock, a flat butt plate, and a fairly high comb. It is stocked with very plain maple. The ten silver inlays including the star on the cheek piece indicate the period following the close of the Revolutionary War. I do not believe that many guns with silver inlays, and especially guns with as many as ten pieces of inlay, were made until after the Revolution. The carving on this rifle is extremely simple in design and is only incised. This is a good specimen of Jacob Dickert's work, which is, as I have said before, far from plentiful.  

 

No. 20 is another example of Jacob Dickert's early work. This gun also has a flat butt plate, thick heavy stock, high comb, and a daisy patch box. It is engraved "J. Dickert" on the barrel. The maple stock is relatively plain. The carving is a good simple design in relief.  

 

One of the two silver inlays on this rifle is a star on the cheek piece. This type of eight-pointed star was a widely used carry-over from a star of similar design sometimes inlaid on German rifles in horn or bone. It is generally considered the earliest inlay found on Kentucky rifles. Although the outline of this star was in common use, the engraving may be a characteristic detail of~ Dickert's work. Notice the similarity in the engraving of the stars on No.19 and No. 20.  

 

Several details on the patch boxes of No. 19 and No. 20 also indicate Jacob Dickert's work, I believe. The pyramid-like detail filled with cross-hatching between the two screws close to the hinge on the head of the patch box is very similar on both rifles. He also engraved a three-lobed detail close to the hinge on the patch box lids of both guns. These details probably identify the work of Dickert or one of his apprentices. They are also found on rifles by Jacob Haeffer. The little detail engraved around the patch box latch and the carving in front of the patch box might also indicate Jacob Dickert's hand.  

 

 

 

THE CAPTIVITY OF JOHN McCULLOUGH  1756-1764

 

"Mahoning lay on the frontier, as they had evacuated all their towns to the north of it when the war commenced. Shortly after the commencement of the war, they plundered a lanyard near to Pittsburgh, and carried away several horseloads of leather; they also committed several depredations along the Juniata; it happened to be at a time when the small-pox was in the settlement where they were murdering, and the consequence was, a number of them got infected, and some died before they got home, others shortly after; those who took it after their return, were immediately moved out of the town, and put under the care of one who had had the disease before. In one of their excursions, they took some prisoners-among them was one of the name of Beatty, whom they beat unmercifully when they took him to Mahoning; they set him to make bridles for them, (that is, to fill old bits,) of the leather they took from Pittsburgh; he appeared very cross; he would often run at the little fellows with his knife or awl, when they came to look at him where he was at work; however, they soon took him off to CAY-A-HAW-GA, a town not far distant from Lake Erie.  

 

We remained in Mahoning till shortly after the memorable battle at Bushy Run; we then moved to CAY-A-HAW-GA; the day before we got there they began to be alarmed at Beatty's behavior; they held a council and agreed to kill him, lest he should take some of their lives. They led him about fifty or sixty perches out of the town, some walking before and some behind him; they then shot him with arrows. I went out the evening after we got there, along with some little fellows, to see him; he was a very disagreeable sight to behold; they had shot a great number of arrows into his body-then went off and left him exposed to the vermin!  

 

The same year that Beatty was taken, KET-TOO-HA-LEND was the MOY-A-SOOH-WHESE, or foreman, of a party consisting of nine Indians; they came to a house where there were two men and a woman who had killed a hog, and had a large pot of water on the fire, making ready to scald it-KET-TOO-HA-LEND rushed into the house-the rest stopped at the outside; he seized the woman and shoved her out of the door, and told the rest to take care of her; one of the men broke out of the house and made off, whilst the other catched hold of KET-TOO-HA-LEND by the arm, and endeavored to put him into the pot of boiling water, shoving him back to the corner of the house, where two guns were standing-he said he frequently called on the rest to come in to assist him, but none of them would venture in. The man was constantly looking about, either for assistance or from fear of the rest of the Indians; he therefore, after he was almost exhausted, watched his opportunity, and suddenly putting his hand up behind the man's back, and catching hold of his queue, jerked his head back, by which means he got his other arm disengaged, and drew his TIM-MA-KEEK-CAN, or tomahawk, and knocked him on the head. But, to his great mortification, when he came out, he found the woman he had shoved out of the door lying dead and scalped.  

 

We stayed but a short time in CAY-A-HAW-GA, then moved across the country to the forks of the MOOSH-KING-OONG, (Muskingum,) which signifies clear eyes, as the river abounds with a certain kind of fish that have very clear eyes; from thence we took up the west branch to its source, and from thence I know not where.  

 

Nothing remarkable happened during our peregrinations, excepting that we suffered by hunger, it being in the Winter; we sometimes had to make use of the stems of turkey quills for food, by running them under hot embers till they would swell and get crisp. We have subsisted on gum bark, and sometimes on white plantain; by the greater part of our time on a certain kind of root that has something of the resemblance of a potato.  

 

In the Spring we returned to the west branch of MOOSH-KING-OONG, and settled in a new town, which he called KTA-HO-LING, which signifies a place where roots have been dug up for food. We remained there during the Summer. Sometimes in the Summer, whilst we were living at KTA-HO-LING, a great number of Indians collected at the forks of MOOSH-KING-OONG; perhaps there were three hundred or upwards; their intention was to come to the settlements and make a general massacre of the whole people, without any regard to age or sex; they were out about ten days, when the most of them returned; having held a council, they concluded that it was not safe for them to leave their own towns destitute of defence. However, several small parties went on to different parts of the settlements; it happened that three of them, whom I was well acquainted with, came to the neighborhood of where I was taken from-they were young fellows, perhaps none of them more than twenty years of age-they came to a school house, where they murdered and scalped the master and all the scholars, excepting one, and a full cousin of mine. I saw the Indians when they returned home with the scalps; some of the old Indians were very much displeased at them for killing so many children, especially NEEP-PAUGH-WHESE, or Night Walker, an old chief of Half King-he ascribed it to cowardice, which was the greatest affront he could offer them." 

 

From Charles McKnight's OUR WESTERN BORDER IN EARLY PIONEER DAYS, 1875, 

Chicago: Educational Company 1902 available as a facsimile reprint by Heritage Books, Inc. Bowie, MD 1993  

 

Taking It One Step Farther: The "Trekking" Phenomena As Living History and Experimental Archeology Part III 

 

Last month we took a brief look at the development of experimental archeology and its more-or-less formal history and development. This time around we thought to take a look at the development of the "trekking" phenomena and how it has affected the blackpowder hobby.  

 

"Experimental archeology" was something people were doing long before the term became popular, and I would have a very hard time giving credit to any one individual or group for that popularity. Still, there is considerable disagreement on what the term means, and from the varied applications it can be seen that there is wide variation in what it is and how it works.  

 

If there is one aspect of experimental archeology that has changed over time, I would have to say that it is the area of context. On the basic end, if you pick up a piece of flint and chip a spear or knife point-that is experimental archeology. On the complex end, if you go about creating a 1761 or 1781 historical environment as to purpose, dress, tools and weapons, food-stuffs, speech, and activities-that is also experimental archeology. 

 

In the past few years, there has been a rush by blackpowder groups and individuals to get on the bandwagon of experimental archeology. In simple terms, just putting on polyester copies-of historic clothing and walking up and down the aisles of a craft-show is being presented as "experimental archeology" by some people these days. In most respects, though, they are right. Experimental archeology can be brief and small, or it can also be complex and large in scope. Literally any anachronistic happening with a reconstructed relic of the past IS actually a form of experimental archeology stripped of its science.  

 

Does the stripping of the formal methods of science diminish what is, or is not, experimental archeology? Can experimental archeology be for "fun" or should it be for academic purposes alone? The obvious answer is that you do not have to be a college professor conducting a precise experiment to practice some of the elements of experimental archeology.  

 

What separates the practitioners of experimental archeology from living historians from reenactors from hobbyists is the depth of the activity more so than the level of academic research that is obtained as an end result. Some do it for the fun, others for what they can experience and learn, and others in a quasi-academic fashion performing their own brand of experimentation, discussing data and results, and sharing the results verbally or in the popular hobby-related press or newsletter format. 

 

By the definition of "experimental archeology" we have come to use, there is no definitive "date" or starting point to write about that I know of. There is, however, what seems to be a number of independent initiatives taking place in different areas, at different times, by different people. Basically, that means the research is used to illustrate the manner in which tools and weapons were used in the Past and then the tool or weapon recreated for use in a controlled historical setting applicable to the artifact. Meaning the clothes and equipment of an 18th century hunter are recreated and taken into the woods to be used. 

 

The combining of research with the "laboratory" of an historical environment is what makes experimental archeology what it is. Granted, the definition has evolved away from the discharging of a blackpowder gun or the simple wearing of a costume at a park, fair, or reconstructed fort site. As a result, we have seen the practice "evolve" more than just "begin" at some point in time.  

 

The idea occurred to me in 1982 at the end of Bicentennial of the American Revolution. I had always had an interest in Rogers' Rangers since 1968, and when I "learned" about blackpowder in 1973 it seemed a natural blend of history and hobby. After having "reenacted" the 2nd Company of Rogers' Rangers from 1973 to 1982, I came to the desire of having wanted to apply the history of what Rogers did to the "woods" and "woodskills" he did them in. Sleeping in a canvas tent outside of Fort Niagara was great reenacting fun, but I had a desire to sleep on the trail in wilderness settings instead of marching and blowing smoke at reenactments. 

 

But there was a big gulf between what history knew of Rogers' Rangers and what I needed to have to create a historically accurate uniform with its gear and weapons. To that end, I combined the history in the form of accounts and period writings with the archaeological finds from Ranger sites. Still coming up short, I used historical archeology to fill in the missing gaps from Period British army practices supplemented by artifacts and relics.  

 

A small number of people across the country were bitten about the same time, and those individuals were branching off of the well-mown lawns of forts and away from the canvas tipi's of rendezvous to take their interests into the woods. And so it became something of an "underground movement" of sorts. We originally called them "scouts" because that is what-they were called in Rogers' Rangers' day. I really do not what other people called their "functions" at that time. We just knew them as "scouts," and they seemed so natural and right.  

 

And then came a new writer, who would become something of the "national spokesman" for something called "trekking" in 1986. Mark Baker's "Pilgrim's Journey" features in MUZZLELOADER proved that something had changed in the hobby between 1984 and 1986. More and more people were looking for that blend of research and application we have come to label as "trekking,'' "period trekking," or "historical trekking." Like it or not, the term "trek" and "trekking" stuck, perhaps because it took a new name to describe-the more-or-less "new" activity and such older terms such as "scout" just did not seem to work. Say that you are going "trekking" and it conveys a certain mental picture. Say that you are going "scouting" and people think you are on your way to a Boy Scout camp. Oddly enough though, we have started to refer to our "treks" as "scouts" once again.  

 

There are a handful of people across the country who have taken things one step farther through their own efforts and personal accomplishments, and the nature of "experimental archeology" has been formed and reformed as our knowledge of the Past and life in the past improves. That book, or that chapter in that book better still, is waiting to be written...  

 

The thrust of those initiatives was the concept of taking the history out of the books, out of the rendezvous culture, out of the "shoots" culture, and carrying it into the woods to experience first-hand elements and aspects of "what it was like."  The desire to experience a portion of "what it was like" probably fueled much of the passion for research and documentation that has come to identify "serious trekking," "living history," or "experimental archeology.''  An additional layer was added in the form of research and documentation not only of activities but also of basic clothing, gear, and equipment.

 

That process is a long story in and of itself. What started out as a desire to experience more and more historical activities through simulation and duplication moved into the realm of wanting more "virtual reality" added to the growing mix of elements that separate living history from reenacting and rendezvousing. That virtual reality was in the form of accoutrements that had to be researched and documented, as well as painstakingly crafted to museum quality standards.  

 

That was (is) a domino effect, as the need or desire for better research and better museum quality articles led to increased research into the material culture of the 18th century. As the process evolves, previous standards and accepted practices or "norms" fall by the wayside. For example, cast steel being replaced with hand-forged iron, or RIT chemical dye being replaced by natural vegetable dye such as walnut or sumac dye, or sewing machine stitching being replaced by hand stitching. And, as the dominos fall forward, in the past year or two, that desire has evolved into the realm of duplicating the hand-made technology of the 18th century in the form of exclusively hand-forged, hand-grown, hand-spun, hand-sewn, hand-tanned, hand-woven, etc., etc. and all of the elements of a hand-made material culture.  

 

And last, but not least, living history and experimental archeology are combining to create "projections" or historically crafted and recreated environments where such elements as "first person impressions" and "personae" open brief windows into life in the Past from the perspective of real people having to deal with the social, political, and economic events of history as part of the recreated environment.  And, the more the process evolves and refines itself, over and over, the "closer we are able to come to life in the 18th century.

 

Experimental archeology and living history as expressed in the "trekking" phenomena is now developing along two parallel lines of growth:  

 

1. Museum quality as the "standard" with researched and documented clothing and gear being replicated with 18th century technology. 

2. Efforts to structure and create a historical environment or "laboratory" where 18th century "events" or happenings can be experienced, can be reacted to, and can be expressed in terms of the social, political, economic, and cultural elements of the day. 

 

Perhaps a catchword for this process is "re-experiencing" rather than "re-enacting." The triple combination of museum quality gear, Period knowledge and skill or craft, and historical projection work together to allow us to examine life in the 18th century from the perspective of clothing and gear, activities, tasks, and chores, and finally acting and reacting, making decisions, and undertaking courses of action all based on how a hunter, scout, or spy would have had to make the same decisions in the 18th century.  

 

If I had a crystal ball to look into, and could make an attempt to see the future of living history, experimental archeology, or period trekking, I would have to say that I see two things happening:  

 

1. Research and documentation will progressively become more and more accepted thereby increasing the general level of historical accuracy or "historical faithfulness" across the hobby. More and more people will "buy in" to the concept of R&D meaning more craftspeople will produce better R&D articles for sale, AND that demand will continue to provide more and better sources of information and reference. 

 

2. "Events," "functions," "happenings," treks," "scouts," "encampments," whatever will gradually become more structured and controlled so as to be more like "time warping" or historical simulations or time capsules than they are now. Projection will become a more popular tool for researching the Past, and more people will "go out into the woods" under a given scenario or purpose than just those who "go out in the woods" and do the same things they do at rendezvous. Perhaps rendezvous and reenactments will move towards more projection and less "rendezvous culture" as what people want out of their historical "hobby" becomes better defined and better applied to history.