Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Historically Correct Militia?

Seems like every time I visit a Revolution War forum someone is arguing about the "correct" something. Haversack vs knapsack, shot pouch vs cartridge box or some other silly item the Militia would have used. 

For Militiamen of the Revolutionary War, unlike the British counterpart, there was no uniform issuance of equipment. They acquired their weapons from a various sources: the F&I War left overs, inheritance and limited new purchases. Throughout the colonies, in hopes to bring some of uniformity to its militia companies, suggested Militia resolves were passed, such as ; 

"A firelock, bayonet, waistbelt, a cartridge box, cartridges, and a knapsack to hold a bushel ."

“a powderhorn, a bullet pouch to contain 40 leaden balls, a knapsack, a canteen, a firearm of good worth, a cutlass or tomahawk, a haversack, a belt, a good pair of overalls.”

“a good fire lock, bayonett, cartouch box, one pound of powder, twenty-four balls to fit their guns, twelve flints, good clothing and a knapsack.” 

When all said and done it was a “use what ya’ broung” situation for the Militia in the beginning. 

So if you are pursuing Militia persona do what these guys are doing and don't worry about the HC police. 

A neat picture from Wulff's Rangers blog, "This is another image I like very much. This group of Revolutionary War era re-enactors shows the evolution of the militia. They are clothed in their everyday clothing, but have made certain adjustments to how they march and travel. One man has a simple market wallet slung over his shoulder carrying any extra gear, which would be minimal, inside. Another soldier had his blanket tied across his one shoulder while a small snapsack rides on the other, again, very lightly equipped and on the march." Captain Wulff.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

"Discovering Lewis & Clark"

By Michael Haynes

For those interested in the "Corps of Discovery" here are some must visit web sites you should bookmark. Loads of information!

"Discovering Lewis & Clark" site HERE

The Public Broadcasting Service site HERE

University of Nebraska Press site HERE

The last website makes available the text of the day by day Lewis and Clark journals, printed as they were written. Engrossing.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Don't Blame Washington for the F&I War

It was in May, 262 years ago, the Jumonville Glen incident occurred. You know that was the "battle" where Lieutenant George Washington started the French and Indian War. Or at least that is what historians tell us was the “spark” that ignited the Seven Years War between France and England.

Lighten up, the French and English had been "going at it" long before they even came to North America and once here nothing changed. So, as I see it, blaming 22 year old Lieutenant Washington is giving the guy a bum rap.

In the early 1600’s, in North America, both French and British imperial officials and colonists sought to extend each country’s sphere of influence in frontier regions and hostilities in North America began long before Jumonville and long before war was declared.

The aggression on both sides started in the late 16 century and kept escalating. In 1642 the 
British encouraged and supplied the Iroquois to attack Quebec on a regular basis. In 1688, King Williams War began and the English and Iroquois launched a major assaults on New France. These hostilities were followed by Queen Anne's War in 1710, Father Rale's War in 1722, King George's War in 1744 and Father La Loutre's war in 1749. The latter four resulted in the Conquest of Acadia (Nova Scotia) by the British. Some of these "sparks" began before Lt. Washington was born.

In 1755, in order to stem more British aggression, the French sent additional battalions of reinforcements to New France. When the English government got wind of this it immediately ordered the Royal Navy to intercept any French ships with troops on board.

If historians need a "spark", to start the war, how about this? 

On June 8,1755 when off the coast of Newfoundland. British Admiral Edward Boscawen's squadron sighted three French ships separated from their own squadron by fog: these were the Alcide, the Lys and the Dauphin royal. With the English and French ships within hailing distance, the commander of the Alcide asked, "Are we at peace or at war?" "We can't hear," answered the HMS Dunkirk, the nearest of the English ships, before adding, "Peace, Peace!" But after moving to within 100 metres of the Alcide, the Dunkirk opened fire Some 80 French sailors were cut down. The broadside was a complete surprise. The French gunners did what they could to respond to the English fire, but the battle was already lost. The Alcide and the Lys had to lower their flags. Only the Dauphin royal was able to escape and reach Louisbourg. 
It was following this bloody incident, that war was declared between France and England, even though hostilities would not be officially declared until a year later.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Meriwether Lewis' Air Gun

Lewis & Clark demonstrate the airgun for the Yankton Sioux, by Warren Lee (2005)

On August 31, 1803, Meriwether Lewis wrote in his journal:
"Left Pittsburgh this day at 11 ock with a party of 11 hands 7 of which are soldiers, a pilot and three young men on trial they having proposed to go with me throughout the voyage. Arrived at Bruno’s Island 3 miles below halted a few minutes. Went on shore and being invited on by some of the gentlemen present to try my airgun which I had purchased brought it on shore charged it and fired myself seven times fifty-five yards with pretty good success; after which a Mr. Blaze Cenas being unacquainted with the management of the gun suffered her to discharge herself accidentally. The ball passed through the hat of a woman about 40 yards distanc cuting her temple about the fourth of the diameter of the ball; shee feel instantly and the blood gusing from her temple. We were all in the greatest consternation supposed she was dead … in a minute she revived to our enespressible satisfaction, and by examination we found the wound by no means mortal or even dangerous."

Thus began the checkered history of Meriwether Lewis’s air gun. Air guns represent the oldest pneumatic technology in warfare, dating at least back to the 16th century. In the 17th and 18th centuries, air rifles in calibers .30 – .51 were used to hunt big game and by skilled soldiers in battle. These air rifles were charged using a pump to fill an air reservoir and gave velocities from 650-1,000 feet per second.

The most famous example of an early air gun is the Girandoni Air Rifle, used by the Austrian army from 1780 to around 1815. Though no detailed description of Lewis’s air gun exists, it is now believed that the gun he took on the expedition was a Girandoni Air Rifle he purchased with his own money in Philadelphia.

Lewis’s air gun had high-tech advantages over the typical firearms of the day. For example, it could be fired in wet weather and rain, was relatively quiet, and gave off no muzzle flash or smoke, unlike flintlock and muzzle-loading guns which spewed out dense smoke that could obscure the shooter’s view. Furthermore, the air gun could be fired with greater rapidity than a normal gun. The air rifle Lewis had could, under ideal conditions, fire about 22 rounds a minute, versus two or three rounds a minute maximum for a typical musket or rifle.

While the air gun was a powerful weapon, Lewis’s main purpose in bringing it along was not hunting but “shock and awe.” It was intimidating technology to the Indians, who had never seen anything like it. The air gun made its diplomatic debut on August 3, 1804, before a delegation of Missouri and Otoe Indians. Clark recorded what happened:

“After Delivering a Speech informing thos Children of ours of the Change which had taken place, the wishes of our government to Cultivate friendship & good understanding, the method of have good advice & Some Directions,” Lewis and Clark presented medals and flags and listened to several speeches of good will by the assembled chiefs. “I answered those Speeches…gave them 50 balls one Canister of Powder & a Dram,” Clark wrote. “After Cap Lewis Shot his air gun a few times which astonished the nativs, we Set Sail.”

Astonishment was a common reaction as the Expedition ascended the Missouri. Lewis and Clark were not above claiming that the air gun was magic. On August 30, 1804, the party was visiting with the Yankton Sioux. Private Joseph Whitehouse wrote:

Capt. Lewis Shot his air gun told them that their was medician in hir & that She would doe Great execution, they were all amazed at the curiosity, & as Soon as he had Shot a fiew times they all ran hastily to See the Ball holes in the tree they Shouted aloud at the Site of the execution She would doe &c.

Though the air gun consistently amazed the Indians all the way to the Pacific and back, it was of less use as a practical weapon. Valve leaks often caused the weapon to lose its charge, and delicate parts broke and were difficult to repair. On June 10th, 1805, Lewis reported that the Corps blacksmith, John Shields, had done some repair work on the gun. “Shields renewed the main Spring of my air gun. We have been much indebted to the ingenuity of this man on many occasions.” On August 6th, 1805, Lewis reported that the air gun was again “out of order” following a scary swamping of their canoes. “Her sights had been removed by some accident,” Lewis wrote. “I put her in order and regulated her. She shot again as well as she ever did.”

Lewis prized the gun and cared for it carefully, and it appeared on a list of items the explorers shipped east from St. Louis when they returned in 1806. In 1846, the gun was was listed in the estate sale of Isaiah Lukens, a Philadelphia clock and gun maker. It has only recently resurfaced. 
January 5, 2011 by Frances Hunter


Another view of the Lewis & Clark airgun; the air reservoir is in the stock.


Friday, May 13, 2016

Heroines of the Revolution


My plan was to write a short blog post on “camp followers” and as I started digging in the internet I ran across this engrossing 
article from the Colonial Williamsburg Interpreter.
I stopped right there. No matter what I could have come up with it would not hold a candle to this article! I just had to pass this on!

It is written by Kaia Danyluk. Kaia is a graduate of William and Mary College and former member of the Williamsburg interpretive staff at the Military Encampment. 

 It is a tad lengthy but a fascinating well researched read. You will find it HERE on the Colonial Williamsburg site. Bookmark it and read it when you have a few minutes. Time well spent!

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Heroine of the American Revolution

Penelope Pagett Barker

Tired of the British taxing the colonists while not letting them have a say in the government – taxation without representation – Penelope wrote a public statement in which she endorsed a boycott of tea and other British products, such as cloth.
In the early fall of 1774, Penelope Barker visited more fifty homes, and invited the ladies to a very special tea party to be held at the home of Mrs. Elizabeth King On October 25, 1774. At the party, she encouraged her neighbors and friends to stop drinking English tea and using English products until the King repealed the tea tax.

Penelope said, "Maybe it has only been men who have protested the king up to now. That only means we women have taken too long to let our voices be heard. We are signing our names to a document, not hiding ourselves behind costumes like the men in Boston did at their tea party. The British will know who we are."
The Edenton Tea Party, as it came to be called, is believed to be the first political action by women in the American colonies – ten months after the famous Boston Tea Party was organized by men. Penelope Barker and 50 other women became the signers of the Resolutions of the Edenton Tea Party. This document is the first purely political action by women in the American Colonies.
They signed the resolution to show their support of North Carolina's Provisional Assembly:

Monday, May 2, 2016

"Once Upon A Time", in May

Charles Deschamps de Boishébert
On May 8, 1756The Raid on Lunenburg, Nova Scotia occurred during the French and Indian War.
Charles Deschamps de Boishébert (also known as Courrier du Bois, Bois Hebert), was a member of the Compagnies Franches de la Marine and was a significant leader of the Acadian militia's resistance to the Expulsion of the Acadians. He encouraged a militia of the Wabanaki Confederacy (Mi'kmaq and Maliseet) to attack a British settlement at Lunenburg. The native militia also raided two islands on the northern outskirts of the fortified Township of Lunenburg, Rous Island and Payzant Island (present day Covey Island). The Maliseet killed twenty settlers and took five prisoners. This raid was the first of nine the Natives and Acadians would conduct against the peninsula over a three year period during the war. 
 Boishébert also settled and tried to protect Acadians refugees along the rivers of New Brunswick. At what is now, Beaubears National Park on Beaubears Island, New Brunswick he settled refugee Acadians during the British Expulsion of the Acadians.


On May 10, 1775, during the American Revolution, Benedict Arnold of Massachusetts joined Ethan Allen and the Green Mountain Boys of Vermont in a dawn attack on Fort Ticonderoga, surprising and capturing the sleeping British garrison. The fort, located on Lake Champlain in northeastern New York, served as a key point of access to both Canada and the Hudson River Valley during the French and Indian War. Although it was a small-scale conflict, the Battle of Fort Ticonderoga was the first American victory of the Revolutionary War, and would give the Continental Army much-needed artillery to be used in future battles.


On May 14, 1804, the Lewis and Clark “Corps of Discovery” with approximately 45 men left St. Louis for the American interior.


On May 17, 1777, The Battle of Thomas Creek, or the Thomas Creek Massacre , was an ambush of a small force of Georgia militia cavalry by a mixed force of British Army, Loyalist militia, and Indians near the mouth of Thomas Creek in northern East Florida. The encounter was the only major engagement by American forces to invade East Florida in the early years of the American Revolutionary War.


On May 18, 1812, the US signed its declaration of war on Great Britain.


On May 19-20, 1776, the Skirmish at the Cedars occurred during the American Revolution. The Cedars was a strategic landing point for anyone navigating the Saint Lawrence river to or from Montreal. Brigadier General Benedict Arnold, commanding the American military garrison at Montreal, had placed a detachment of his troops at The Cedars to guard the landing point. The Cedars garrison surrendered on May 19 after a confrontation to a superior force of British and Indian troops led by British Captain George Forster. American reinforcements on their way to The Cedars were also captured after a brief skirmish on May 20. All of the captives were eventually released after negotiations between Forster and Arnold, who was bringing a sizable force into the area. 


Marquis de Lafayette
On May 20, 1778, The Battle of Barren Hill occurred during the American RevolutionBritish forces from Philadelphia attempt to trap 2,200 Continentals defending Valley Forge led by Marquis de Lafayette. Lafayette, through skillful maneuvering, avoids the entrapment and the destruction of his forces. The encounter takes place at Barren Hill, now known as Lafayette Hill, just northwest of Philadelphia.
Washington had dispatched Lafayette and his men two days before to spy on the British in Philadelphia. The British learned of Lafayette’s mission and intended to surprise, surround and capture the encampment with a force of 7,000 to 8,000 men. Lafayette, in turn, learned of the British plan late on May 19.
Lafayette assigned 500 men and approximately 50 Oneida Indians armed with cannon to face the British onslaught and stand their ground by the local church, while the rest of Lafayette’s forces fled west over the Schuylkill River to safety. Before the Oneida warriors followed the Continental Army across the Schuylkill, they are believed to have bravely given chase to the British as they marched back to Philadelphia.


On May 24, 1815 "The Battle of the Sink Hole was fought, after the official end of the War of 1812, between Missouri Rangers and Sauk Indians led by Black Hawk. The Sauk were unaware, or did not care, that their British patrons had signed the Treaty of Ghent with the U.S. The battle was fought in a low spot near the mouth of the Cuivre River in Missouri (present day City of Old Monroe), near Fort Howard and Fort Cap au Gris. An ambush by Sauk on a company of rangers led to a prolonged siege in which seven Rangers (including their commander, Cpt. Peter Craig) and one Sauk were killed. Conflicting accounts of the action were given by John Shaw and by Black Hawk.
After the battle, in 1816, Black Hawk reaffirmed the Treaty of St. Louis after re-negotiation with the United States government." 


On May 25-27, 1813, The Battle of Fort George was a battle fought during the War of 1812, in which the Americans defeated a British force and captured the Fort George in Upper Canada. The troops of the United States Army and vessels of the United States Navy cooperated in a very successful amphibious assault, although most of the opposing British force escaped encirclement.


On May 28, 1754, The Jumonville Skirmish 

Forts were in present day Pennsylvania 
 In 1753, 1,500 French soldiers entered the disputed Ohio Valley area and established several forts, including Fort Le Boeuf and Fort Machault.

Concerned by reports of French expansion into the Ohio Valley, Virginia Governor Robert Dinwiddie sent Lt. George Washington on a mission to confront the French forces.Washington was to deliver a message from the governor demanding that the French leave the region and halt their harassment of English traders.

Washington departed Williamsburg, Virginia in October 1753 and made his way into the rugged trans- Appalachian region with Jacob Van Braam, a family friend and French speaker, and Christopher Gist, an Ohio company trader and guide. On December 11, 1753, amidst a raging snowstorm, Washington arrived and was politely received by Captain Jacques Legardeur de Saint-Pierre at Fort LeBoeuf. After reviewing Dinwiddie's letter, Legardeur de Saint-Pierre calmly wrote a reply stating that the French king's claim to the Ohio Valley was "incontestable."

Responding to the defiant French, Lt. Governor Dinwiddie sent Captain William Trent and approximately 20 Virginians to build Fort Prince George at the forks of the Allegheny and Monongahela rivers. Work began on the fort on February 17.

In March Dinwiddie then ordered the newly promoted Lt. Col. George Washington and approximately 160 Virginia militia to return to the Ohio country as part of a small force that was to construct a road to Fort Prince George and defend the fort upon their arrival. Washington was to "act on the defensive," but also clearly empowered Washington to "make Prisoners of or kill & destroy…" all those who resisted British control of the region.

On April 18, a large French force of five hundred strong arrived at the forks, forcing the small British garrison there to surrender. The French knocked down the tiny British fort and built Fort Duquesne, named in honor of Marquis Duquesne, the governor-general of New France.

Eager to send their own diplomatic directive demanding an English withdrawal from the region, a French force of 35 soldiers commanded by Ensign Joseph Coulon de Villiers de Jumonville was dispatched.

On May 26 Washington's road building had reached Wills Creek, in south central Pennsylvania, when he received news of the surrender of Fort Prince George as well as the approaching French party.

On May 27 the French diplomatic party camped in a rocky ravine not far from Washington's encampment at the Great Meadows.

Receiving word of the French approach and accompanied by Tanacharison, a Seneca chief (also known as the Half-King) and 12 native warriors, Washington led a party of 40 militiamen on an all night march towards the French position. On May 28, 1754, Washington's party stealthily approached the French camp at dawn. Finally spotted at close range by the French, shots rang out and a vigorous firefight erupted in the wooded wilderness. Washington's forces quickly overwhelmed the surprised French force and killed 13 soldiers including Jumonville and captured another 21. Both sides claimed that the other fired first.
Jumonville Glen


On May 29,1755, General Edward Braddock set out from Fort Cumberland, Maryland on his ill-fated French and Indian War campaign.