Sunday, August 25, 2013

A totally cool occurance...

2 weeks ago, I was part of an honor guard at the Herkimer Home State Historic Site. I had worked there a few years ago and volunteered off/on for a few years. Gen. Nicholas Herkimer was commander of Patriot (or Rebel, depending on your PoV) militia at the Battle of Oriskany in 1777. The battle started a civil war here in central NY State. He received a wound to the leg, which was later amputated. He died of his injuries about 10 days after the battle.

Every August there is a wreath-laying on the grave of General Herkimer, around the time of his death. This year also commemorated the 100th anniversary of the site becoming a NY State historic site.

We marched out to the cemetery, lined up on the hill and waited as some opening words were said. First, the various chapters of the SAR/DAR went and laid their wreaths. Then we noticed, as the Masonic War Veterans rep started walking over, a mature Bald Eagle circled above the grave. It continued to do so, until the vet got back to his spot and then with one final turn, flew off into the distance.

We fired off a volley in honor of the General and all marched back.

Whether you are a Loyalist or Patriot re-enactor, a member of the UEL or SAR/DAR, a Christian or an atheist, you'd have to admit, that was one of the coolest things in the world...

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

“More savage than the savages themselves”: Joseph Brant and his Loyalist Volunteers on the NY Frontier, Part 2

Who were they?

Although many saw Brant and his Volunteers as superhuman, I can assure you, they were just men. Men pushed to the limit. Men fueled by revenge. But mortal just the same.

What they wore on campaign is a matter of debate. They are perhaps most famous (or infamous) for dressing as Indians, earning them the title of “Blue-eyed Iroquois” from their enemy. “Indian dress” was generally defined as a shirt, breechcloth, leggings and moccasins.

Cherry Valley Aug't 12th 1778.

The Examination & Declaration of Several Tories Bro't In this Day by ye Scout. 1st. Ephrum Marsh Being Examln'd Confess'd that he was with Brant in the Distroying Springfield. That their wase 106 Indians; their party near one half tories, & that Brant Left him at the Butternuts & was to Join him again; that Brant went to Yunadilla with a Number of Cattle he took at Springfield, and like wise, says that John Shelden in Indian Dress was one of Brant party at the Distruction of Springfield that Shelden returned with Brant to Yunadella and Return'd back with him to the Butternuts where Brant left him In Quest of Cattle.”(Testimony Of Tories Captured By Captain Ballard Taken Before Colonel Alden, George Clinton papers, courtesy of Mark Hersee)

Alden’s own report to General Stark that same day reads:

“Brought In Likewise two of Brant's party, who ware Collecting Cattel at the Butternuts for Brant. Ware Clothed and painted Like Indians.” (Col. Alden to General Stark, 12 Aug 1778, courtesy of Mark Hersee)

“Four days before the action of the 10th inst at Torloch, Henry Mlrch who went off to the enemy last Fall, came to Torloch and informed us that Joseph Brant was coming with a strong party of Indians and Tories to Destroy Curry Town, which party arrived on the Borders of Torloch the Day following, where they were furnished with provisions, and on the next day being Sunday, Marched from Torloch for Curry Town being joined by Lieut. Conrat Brown, Christian Olman, Christopher Riddich, Jacob Hanes, Jun'r, Henry Frauts, Michael Mirch, Jacobus Hopper, Matthias Mirch, Earnest Frets, Andres Fichter, Martis Bowman, Michael Fichter, George Walker, Godleap Bowman. John Summers, Henry Hanes, Frederick Mirch, Henry Loucks, Conrat Hopper, Christian Hanover, John Conradt, Jacob Coughman, Charles Hearwager, Michael Fredericks, Henry Hanes, Jun'r, Jacob Fraunce and myself, all Inhabitants of Torloch and Rynbecks; (we were all painted and equiped like Indians as were all the Tories belonging to the party). We were promised by Joseph Brandt and Barent Fry, the two Commandants of the Indians and Tories, Ten Dollars for every Scalp we took, and that each person who would join them should have fifty acres of land.” (July 1781 affidavit in the George Clinton papers, courtesy of Mark Hersee)

Was Tryon County militia surgeon, Moses Younglove speaking of Brant’s men and/or Indian Department rangers when he penned the following lines?

“Of two departments were the assailing foes;
Wild savage natives lead the first of those…

”With them, of parricides a bloody band,
Assist the ravage of their parent land:
With equal dress, and arms, and savage arts;
But more than savage rancour in their hearts.”

(Poem of Tryon County Militia Surgeon, Moses Younglove, about the Battle of Oriskany.)

Doing so was not a new practice. George Washington wrote of changing into Indian dress on his way back from messenger duty to the French. As an officer of the Virginia Regiment during the French & Indian War, he wrote:

My Men are very bare of Cloaths (Regimentals I mean), and I have no prospect of a Supply; this want, so far from my regretting during this Campaigne, that were I left to pursue my own Inclinations I wou'd not only order the Men to adopt the Indian dress, but cause the Officers to do it also, and be the first to set the example myself. Nothing but the uncertainty of its taking with the General causes me to hesitate a moment at leaving my Regimentals at this place, and proceeding as light as any Indian in the Woods. 'Tis an unbecoming dress, I confess, for an officer; but convenience rather than shew, I think shou'd be consulted. The reduction of Bat Horses alone, is sufficient to recommend it; for nothing is more certain than that less baggage will be requir'd, and that the Publick will be benifitted in proportion." (Washington to Col. Bouquet; Camp near Fort Cumberland, July 3, 1758.)

From various records, it seems Brant’s white Volunteers were supplied just like their Indian brothers in arms.

“March 31 1779 Niagara, John Burch ID Store Keeper

Return of Indians who received clothing, arms, ammunition etc at Niagara from November 1778 to March 1779. 1756 men, 2333 women, 2400 children Total 6489

Joseph Brant's men 27”

(Haldimand papers MG21 21769 B109 Indian Affairs 77-81, courtesy Mark Hersee)

“Return of the Six Nations Indians & Volunteers present at Oswego on Service from that Place
21st June 1782

Brant's Volunteers - Chiefs – 0, Warriors – 10, Women – 0 {meaning 10 BV were counted as warriors}

Return of Indian Presents sent to Oswego also what were given to Capt. Brant's party.
Niagara June 14th 1782

given to Capt' Brant's party

Blankets - 15,

Shirts – 327,

pairs Leggins – 342,

? - 367,
pcs. Gartering – 0,

Laced Hatts – 24,

Common Hatts – 44,

Looking glasses – 3,

Knives – 276,

Worms – 239,

Steels – 143,

Pounds Vermillion – 27,

pounds powder – 186,

pounds Lead – 550,

pounds Shot – 13,

Rifles – 2,

Fuzees – 9,

Pistols – 8,

Swords – 18,

Half Axes – 17,

Tomyhawks – 0,

Flints – 400,

Awls – 0,

Kettles – 15,

Muggs – 2,

Pounds Tobacco – 360,

Combs – 0,

pairs Indian shoes – 500,

Deer skins – 5,

pounds thread – 27”

(Haldimand Papers B.105 – B.M., 21,765)

Yet, they were dressed, at least on occasion, in regular Euro-style clothing. Guy Johnson noted in his “Account of ID Expenses”:

“to 36 pairs of Coating Trousers for Volunteers 20/ ea 36£ total.”(Haldimand Papers, 29 Feb 1780, courtesy of Mark Hersee)

According to the deposition of a George Cannotts, as a badge to distinguish themselves, they wore a piece of wool tape on their hat:

"…and that the Said Turneclift's Son was at his liberty when he saw him there, & wore the Same Tocken on his hat that Brant's own men wore, wich was a Peaice of yellow Lace..." (26 March 1779. Found in the Public Papers of George Clinton, page 418)

Wearing Indian Dress made sense on many levels.

1. As Washington’s quote shows, it allows one to travel light and move quickly. Exactly what a raiding party needed.

2. The psychological aspect. Most whites on the frontier had an innate fear of Indians. The more “Indians” running around, the greater the fear. Fear spreads. Fear is a weapon.

3. Disguise. These men expected to return home. They figured the British would be victorious and they would go back to their towns and continue on with life. They didn’t want their neighbors to recognize them as the ones who burnt their barn or killed their brother.

I have seen the value of being painted first-hand. At various events, people I had known for a few years have walked right past me when I was wearing war paint. Guys I know fairly well are barely recognizable when painted up and running through the woods.

At the End

On 24 March 1780, Joseph’s party consisted of 91 men, 172 women, and 186 children according to Guy Johnson (Return of Indian Department. Haldimand Papers, B109:51).

Some of the Volunteers drifted away to other units. After all, Brant’s Volunteers received no pay, unlike other Loyalist units. They were fed and much of their clothing and gear was supplied at Joseph’s expense. Some were ordered from the stores at Niagara and charged to Daniel Claus’ account. They received little from the British government, only the occasional provision or clothing handout.

The majority of Joseph’s men were frontier farmers with little money. With a couple of exceptions, they were a bit older or younger than your typical soldier of the time and had small landholdings before the war, some being borderline destitute.

After the fighting had wound down, 15 are known to have still been with Brant as of 1783, aged between 16 and 51 years of age.

Some received land grants in modern-day Ontario after proving their service. Doing so was often difficult as they were not paid, hence no written record of them serving. Joseph himself testified for some of them:

“I do hereby certify that Archd. THOMSON, John CHISHOLM, Daniel ROSE, James PARKES, Lodowick ZIELY & Rudolph JOHNSTON, have Served along with me as Volunteers, from the Year 1778 to the end of the late war and have always behaved themselves as faithfull Subjects to his Majesty and that they have not yet received any Gratuity for said Services.

Jos. Brant”

Niagra 29th Augt. 87

In closing, as someone whose family didn’t arrive until 1912 and 1962, my interest in American history may seem odd. Even more oddly, as a re-enactor, I portray Loyalists who fought against America. When I first started re-enacting, I wondered why any American would portray a Loyalist or, Heaven-forbid, a redcoat.

But after studying my chosen historical periods, I came to a stunning conclusion.

A country is defined as much by its enemies as it is by its own people. To understand one, you must understand the other.

Delivered to the Greater Milford Historical Association on March 18, 2012

I'd like to publicly thank Mark Hersee for his generosity with information he's found.

“More savage than the savages themselves”: Joseph Brant and his Loyalist Volunteers on the NY Frontier, Part 1

There are few groups of people so thoroughly despised as to warrant hatred almost 200 years after the last member dies. In NY, this distinction goes to a group of white, Loyalist irregulars who operated alongside Mohawk warriors along the NY frontier. Raiding, burning and pillaging, they tried to exact a measure of revenge on their former neighbors, while also helping serve the overall British strategy. These men were brutal, ruthless and perceived to be almost superhuman during the Revolutionary War on our western frontier. Their story is a part of America’s first civil war.

There is much we don’t know about the men called Brant’s Volunteers, but information comes to light more and more since the advent of the Internet makes sharing much easier. This is not meant to be an end-all concerning the subject. I merely look to outline these men’s activities and stimulate interest in a subject that I hold dear.

In order to discuss Brant’s Volunteers, one must first know a bit about Joseph Brant himself, as well as the local political climate that spawned them.

Joseph Brant was born in early 1743. His Mohawk name, Thayendanegea translated as “two pieces of wood bound together,” denoting stregth. As a young man, Joseph accompanied his kinsmen on the 1758 campaign to capture Fort Ticonderoga and on the 1759 Fort Niagara campaign, with local merchant, landowner and Superintendent of the British Indian Department, Sir William Johnson.

Having taken an interest in Joseph’s sister Molly, Sir William looked after the boy’s education after the war. Joseph was sent to the Reverend Eleazar Wheelock’s school for Indian boys in Lebanon, CT.

Taking part in an expedition to help put down Pontiac’s Rebellion of the early 1760’s, his party paused in the village of Oquaga (aka Onaquaga) where Joseph met an Oneida girl called Peggy. After a period of courting, Peggy became Joseph’s 1st wife on 22 July 1765.

Joseph ends up settling on a farm on the Mohawk River, just east of present day Little Falls, NY and just north of the “Indian Castle” Church on Route 5S. He also worked for wages as an interpreter for the Indian Department, most notably during the negotiations with Pontiac at Ft. Ontario in the summer of 1766. He stayed on at the fort afterwards in the same capacity for a time. Another notable example of hiring out was in 1769, when Joseph and his wife guided Englishman Richard Smith from Otsego Lake down the Susquehanna River. Smith was on an exploratory trip looking at property in the region. He wrote:

“Some of the Chiefs, however, imitate the English Mode and Joseph Brant was dressed in a suit of Blue Broad Cloth as his Wife was in a Callicoe or Chintz Gown.” (Smith, Richard. Page 150)

In 1774, the world turned upside down for residents of the Mohawk region of NY…

In July of that year, Sir William Johnson passes away. At the same time, colonists calling themselves “patriots” and the “Sons of Liberty” begin to agitate for increasing conflict with Britain. “Committees of Safety” are organized throughout New England and the Middle Colonies. These organizations’ goal is to root out Loyalist sentiment and in the Mohawk and Schoharie Valleys of NY, those who did not renounce their allegiance to the King were deemed traitors and risked confiscation of property, injury and even death at the hands of the Committees.

Hundreds are driven from their homes, including prominent locals such as Sir John Johnson (son and heir of the late Sir William), John Butler, Guy Johnson (John’s Cousin) and Daniel Claus (John’s brother in law). Fleeing to the British sanctuaries of either Montreal or Niagara, these men soon began to lobby for recruits to help put down the new rebellion.

A fair amount of the poorer sort of Loyalist made it to the village of Oquaga, where Joseph’s 1st wife was from. Since 1730, this Oneida village (in present day Windsor, NY) attracted refugees from various tribes such as Nanticokes from Virginia in 1753 and some Algonquin-speaking Lenape. By the time of the Revolution, families from the other 5 member tribes of the Iroquois had also joined the settlement.

On November 11, 1775, Brant, Guy Johnson and others set sail for England on the ship Adamant, arriving 40 days later. Brant is brought around as a bit of a curiosity, but gets to meet the King as well as Lord George Germain (the British Secretary of State for America).

Brant arrives in NYC on 29 July 1776 and by early spring of 1777, has made his way to the village of Oquaga. Men begin to join with him and he uses Oquaga as a FOB (Forward Operating Base) for his foraging raids into Rebel-controlled areas to the east.

At the end of June 1777, Brant met with Nicholas Herkimer of the Tryon County militia, and Herkimer tries to persuade Brant to not take part in any upcoming conflict.

By 23 July 1777, Brant and his men are at Oswego for the start of the St. Leger expedition. The mission being to sweep east along the Mohawk Valley and into Albany to meet up with General Burgoyne who was to sweep down from Canada and General Howe who was to come north from NYC. Howe went towards Philadelphia instead, Burgoyne was routed in the Saratoga Campaign and St. Leger’s force failed to take Fort Stanwix/Schuyler.

But as a result, the shooting war had come to NY’s western frontier.

The Battle of Oriskany and beyond

That single August day in 1777 could easily use a book of its own. But being so important to the overall story, it bears at least a small analysis.

The western branch of the British 1777 campaign has stalled at Fort Schuyler/Stanwix. His original information about the state of the garrison and structure being incorrect, St. Leger laid siege to the fort. To the east, General Nicholas Herkimer of the Tryon County Militia called for men to help relieve the fort.

After 2 days of marching, on the morning of August 6th, the militia walked into an ambush not far from the Oneida village of Oriska. The Loyalist forces had arranged themselves in a fish-hook pattern along the road. The “bend” and point was made up of men from Sir John Johnson’s King’s Royal Regiment of NY (KRR-NY). John Butler, about 20 Indian Department rangers and a swarm of Iroquois and Canada Indians, occupied the main shank of the hook. Brant’s men were posted at the “eye”, intended to close the door on retreating militia once the trap was sprung by the KRR-NY firing on the vanguard of the column. It inow thought that some of the Hessian Jaegers joined the KRR-NY positions as well.

Once the column’s flankers passed, Brant’s men moved in closer. At the front of the column, a flanker saw the ambush and was cut down by fire from Loyalist and Indian, as were a great many of his fellow militia. The trap had been prematurely sprung, but was effective nonetheless. Many a militiaman panicked and ran only to be chased down by the Indians. Officers were hit with uncanny marksmanship. Chaos reigned as the Indians posted at the center swooped down to close with the enemy. According to the deposition of Garret S. Van Bracklin (3rd Tryon), Brant’s men:

“Ran down upon the Right and Left of our main Body and kept a Running fire as they Proceeded.” (13 June 1778, NYHS, NYC, Tryon County, Mss. Transcribed by Jim Morrison)

General Herkimer was hit in the leg fairly early in the day, but managed to keep calm by all accounts. He had what was left of the militia pull back to some higher ground where, despite numerous assaults, they held their ground until the Loyalist forces pulled back. Whilst the Tryon County militia was badly mauled and failed to relieve Fort Stanwix, the siege had to be abandoned as a direct result of the ambush at Oriskany.

The strongest legacy of the battle, and one that would be strongly felt in the years to come, was that what had started as political issues, turned in to a full-fledged shooting war. As the men laying in ambush along those ravines watched the militia walk by, they saw the faces of men they knew. Some even saw relatives among the enemy. Others saw men who they felt cheated them in the past and those memories likely came to the forefront of their minds that day. The centuries-old bonds of the Iroquois Confederacy were broken that day when Mohawk & Seneca fired on their Oneida cousins. Men fired on their brothers, fathers, and uncles. This was no longer a revolution against a foreign monarch. This was now personal. NY’s frontier had entered into one of the bloodiest types of conflicts there is. A civil war.

The Raiding Strategy

After Oriskany, the British strategy changed. Instead of marching through with conventional forces to take ground, they would allow Loyalists and Indians to raid and pillage the borders of Tryon County. In doing so, they would accomplish 2 things.

1. They would destroy crops and farm equipment that went to feed Washington’s men around NYC. The Mohawk and Schoharie Valleys provided an estimated 60% of the flour Washington used. Cut off the supply, the Army starves and disbands.

2. They would drive Rebels from the frontier settlements east to Albany, exacting a psychological price as well as bleeding the Rebel authorities financially in feeding refugees.

In 1778, the raiding campaign started in earnest. Brant’s men were active, to say the least. In May, Joseph was at Oquaga collecting men for the campaign season. On the 30th, the village of Cobus Kill (present-day Cobleskill, NY) was attacked. A small force of Continentals and local militia discovered a party of Indians and decided to give chase, only to fall into an ambush. A few tried to take shelter from Brant’s force in a nearby home. The Loyalists set fire to the building, killing all. After trouncing the Rebels, Brant’s men burned the town, took as many head of cattle as could be handled and killed the rest.

A small party also attacked Durloch (present day Sharon, NY) to the north with minimal effect.

In July, Brant herded the women and children of Springfield into a single house in the settlement of and burned the rest of the homes and farm buildings. He then proceeded north and laid waste to Andrustown (present-day Jordanville, NY), coming within about 4 miles of German Flatts (present-day Herkimer/German Flats, NY).

In September, the village of German Flatts, rich in grain, was raided. The day before, Brant’s men came upon a party of 9 Rebel scouts and attacked, killing 3. Fortunately, a scout by the name of Helmer was able to escape and warn Col. Peter Bellinger of the impending attack. The following morning, Brant’s men assaulted Fort Dayton, but were driven off. On the north side of the river they rounded up cattle, burned barns full of grain as well as mills and homes. Only 2 homes, the local church and the Fort were left standing. The south side fared no better. The whole settlement was burned with the exception of the homes of the local minister and 2 Loyalist families (the Shoemakers and Thompsons). According to historian Barbara Graymont:

“They had destroyed 63 houses, 57 barns, 3 gristmills, one sawmill and carried off 235 horses, 229 horned cattle and 269 sheep.” (Graymont, page 179)

One of the most prosperous settlements and the one that was rumored to be on the “hit list” all year was Cherry Valley. Warnings came, but no raid. Cherry Valley was garrisoned by the 6th Massachusetts, a Continental regiment headed by Col. Ichabod Alden. Unfortunately, the colonel was not very well versed in the methods of war on the frontier. Although a few of Brant’s men had been captured in the area, he paid little attention to warnings from Oneida scouts of a coming raid. They had been crying wolf all summer. Surely November was too late for a raid. Even if having received a warning on 6 November from the commander of Fort Stanwix:

“We ware just now informed by and Onyda Indian, that yesterday an Onondago Indian arrives at their castle from one of the Branches of the Susquehana called the Tioga that he was present at a great Meeting of Indians and Tories at that place and their Result was to attack Charevally and that Young Butler was to head the Tories.

“I sent you this information that you may be on your guard.”
(Letter of Intelligence to Col Alden, November 6, 1778. GMP, IV, NYPL. As quoted in Graymont, pg 185-186)

Alden’s superior (Gen. Hand) suggested that the inhabitants move into the fort. Alden ignored him.

Brant had joined with Walter Butler. A captain in his fathers Corps of Rangers, he had been given overall command of the Cherry Valley operation. It seems that during the march, Butler (jealous of Joseph’s band of white Loyalists) threatened to either cut off provision and/or arrest them unless they joined his father’s corps. About 90 of the Volunteers left the expedition.

On the morning of November 11, 1778, the Loyalist force of Butler’s Rangers, the 8th Regiment of Foot, Indians and at least a few Volunteers attacked Cherry Valley. Col. Alden was caught completely off guard, lodging at a house in the settlement. He did not make it to the fort in the village (which was incidentally, named after him). The rest of the day was spent putting the whole town to the torch.

While the big news of 1779 was the Clinton-Sullivan Expedition, for Brant’s men it was business as usual. While the Continental Army ravaged the Indian Country, Brant continued his raids. Most notably, on 20 July, the settlement at Minisink (outside present-day Goshen, NY) was raided. By the time they reached the settlement, the cattle they were seeking had been turned out into the woods.

With the help of a local Tory, they sought out Major Johannes Decker, a leading Rebel in the area. They wounded him but did not capture him, instead burning his home as they laid waste to the entire settlement. Brant was pursued the next day by local militia, who overtook some of the Indians and killed a few. They were to pay for it. After some maneuvering, the Indians swarmed the militia and took over 40 scalps.

On their way back, Brant found out about the C-S Campaign and hurried back to Indian Country. Unfortunately, the Continental juggernaut couldn’t be stopped. It devastated the crops that the warriors depended on and forced hundreds of Indians to move to Niagara and depend on the British for their subsistence.

The campaign succeeded in its short term goals, but revenge was on everyone’s mind.
On 7 April 1780, Brant’s men, on their way to Schoharie, come across a sugaring party of 14 men (in present-day Harpersfield, NY) led by Capt. Alexander Harper. Killing 3 and taking the rest prisoner, they abandon their attack on Schoharie upon learning the strength of the garrison.

On July 11, Brant sets out from Niagara with 300 Indian warriors, 12 Volunteers, and a party of Onondagas, Oneida and Tuscarora warriors under Lt. Joseph Clement of the ID. Their mission is to put Rebel Oneida villages to the torch.

Joseph was also to accompany Sir John’s mega-raid of the fall. The idea being to sweep north up the Schoharie valley and then west along the Mohawk valley, destroying crops and picking up recruits along the way. Sir John had led a similar raid on the north side of the Mohawk Valley that spring and it was fairly successful.

The expedition, numbering around 1000 men, would be timed to attack after the local harvest was in, in order to have the greatest effect. By October 16th, they were poised to strike. While they didn’t take all the forts, the Schoharie Valley was devastated. Speed was of the utmost importance.

On 18 October, Brant was detached with his men and Capt. Thompson of Butler’s Rangers to destroy the settlement around Fort Hunter and then continue eastward with the expedition. The Volunteers fought valiantly at Stone Arabia, and at Klock’s Farm during the withdrawal back to friendly territory.

There are thousands of details about raids and battles I haven’t mentioned, but I think this has shown a sufficient amount of the Volunteers’ service.

To be continued...

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Linen-skinners vs. Librarians or "Death to Old Tymey"

Hello all. I realize it’s been a while. Life happens and really gets in the way of important stuff, like research and blogs…

An interesting battle line has been drawn in the sand of cyber-space. On one side, people who research their portrayals diligently, spend hours poring over period images, journals and such, make sure that every article they carry can be documented and is made with period materials and techniques.

On the other side, those who believe that going out and hunting, trapping, etc (even in modern clothes) is more important than researching their portrayal and doing things exactly the way the 18th century person would have done them.

The former have been christened “Librarians” by the latter because they believe the Librarians do nothing but read. The former has christened the latter as “Linen-skinners”, a throwback to the Buck-skinners of 1970s rondezvous who use all sorts of non-period gear, using the justification of “if they had it, they would have used it”.

The Linen-skinners accuse the Librarians of never going into the field (other than the re-enacting field) or shooting their firelocks with live ammunition, or hunting or any of the things that “real” people do if they want to experience the 18th century. Odd folks, they are. Some of them speak of having 18th century experiences while hunting with a late 19th century Sharps rifle. That hunting in period clothes means nothing. They can hunt with a Traditions Kentucksylvania Rifle in modern Gore-Tex and figure out how it was for the 1760s frontiersman, they say.

The funny part is, many (if not most) of the so-called Librarians, hunt fish, trap, shoot, etc. and in period clothing with period gear But the Linen-skinners refuse to acknowledge this. Not possible. Librarians don’t “do” stuff. They just re-enact battles and count how many stitches per inch the new guy has on his coat while sitting in front of the altar to Kochan-Phillips wool broadcloth.

I read, so apparently, I am a Librarian. I also shoot (much to the amazement of the folks who attend the June event at Fort De Chartres I might add), although not as much as I used to.

I don’t know why the Linen-skinners have such an issue. At first I thought it was a North/South thing. Couldn’t be it, one of the most prominent Librarians is from the South. Then perhaps I though, it’s “city vs. country.” Nope. Many Librarians either live in the country, were born out in the country, or are descended from country folks. Could it be an educational thing? Bingo.

Most of the Linen-skinner set seems to be folks who never went to college, or went much later in life. The opposite is true with the Librarians. The grand majority have gotten some kind of post-HS degree of some kind by age 25. I also think this ties into a class thing. The Librarians, being more educated, are seen as snooty by the less educated ‘skinners.

Kinda sad and really annoying. 2 sets of people trying to enjoy the same hobby, and one just doesn’t understand why people bother to read instead of “do”.

Well, I think I’m going off to the range (should I take the Type G or the fusil de chasse?) and when I come back, I shall read some more of Kalm’s Journals.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Gone Indian...part 2


Yup. That's me this past weekend. Had our spring event at the Herkimer Home and this was my first time out with the new persona. I have to say, even though I have a few things to work on, I really liked it. Let's face it, scaring little kids is FUN!

Friday, March 12, 2010

'tis the season...


I get like this a few times a year. I'm looking for work (unsuccessfully so far), working on my 1770s Mohawk persona (carpal tunnel issue is preventing me from making my mocassins, etc) and just feeling a bit down. Then...

I realize how much I miss Alaska. Lived there for almost 8 years. Lived in small cities like Fairbanks and tiny Bush villages like Pedro Bay (pop. 12). Met/lived around Athabaskan, Yu'Pik and Inupiaq (and 1 full-blood Pawnee that moved up from Nebraska...). The folks I knew were living like the ones I'm studying now. Out on the land. Hunting, fishing, trapping, trading.

And here I am. In freakin' NY.

I got to meet so many interesting people.

The Rev. David Salmon, for instance. He was the first non-white Episcopal priest ordained in Alaska. When he was a boy, his village (Chalkytsik) was hit by a TB epidemic. His father took to the Bush with the family. Young David and his family lived in the Bush of interior Alaska for almost 2 years without returning to a village. He was one of the Elders sought out for a UoA video because he could still make bark canoes.

Or the old Inupiaq man that told me hunting stories. Or Lester, who at 83 still used a dog team to check his trapline.

There was one person I never got to talk to. The great grandmother of one of my employees. The old gal made it to 104, possibly 110 because of the way records were kept back in the day. She didn't taste sugar until she was in her 40s, didn't ride in a car until she was almost 70, went to fish camp and moose camp with the men until she broke her hip at 97!!!!!!! Lived in the Bush until the day she died in Tetlin, AK.

And here I am. In freakin' NY.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Warning: RANT AHEAD!!!!

So I happen across a thread in a forum I frequent. Person asks how to attach a sling to their fowler.

One member tells him how to do it, and advises him that it wasn't very common to do so historically. Also points out that it may hurt retail value of said firelock if he decides to sell it in the future. Apparently the guy posing the questions feels this is "soapbox BS."

I wonder if he also walks around with a coyote skin hat and chrome leather pants screaming "I ARE A MOUNTAIN MAN!!!!"

This kinda shit pisses me off. Someone gives you a little advice (that they probably learned because they made the same mistake and don't want you to lose money too) and they are being elitist, snobby, etc.

You want to drill holes in your $1200 gun, go ahead, but don't get bent out of shape when you want to go to an event or join a group that says it's not up to their standards.