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: