Friday, November 27, 2009

Hunting Frocks and Hatchet Cases

I see them quite regularly at events. The caped, fringed frocks worn by riflemen and militia during the War. They were fairly prevalent, easy to make, durable and effective as an outer garment.

What's the problem you ask?

We didn't have them on this end of the frontier... Other than the rifle companies that journeyed North to fight under Washington and some Continental units that used them as impromptu regimentals, you shouldn't be wearing one if you re-enact a unit of the NY Frontier. Yet I see "milita" wearing them all over the place. Why? For the same reasons they were popular in the period. Except now you can add "it's close enough" to the list.

"...he has a rough case for his tomahawk with a button, and it hangs in a leathern sling down his side like a hanger, between his coat and waistcoat..."

I've been "working on" a case for my hatchet for months now. I finally got it done tonight. It's a light, efficient and comfortable way to carry my "Mohawk belt Ax". I got the idea from the above F&I era quote, fortified by a Mark Baker article and then was provided this pic of A. Henry's tomahawk case, ca. 1786:


I just greased it lightly with some deer tallow/beeswax and am letting it dry. Perhaps I will do a little incise decoration on it later on.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Provisioning at events

Camp detail from Mike G.

Recently on RevList, a discussion has taken place over food at events. One side basically proclaiming that they'd die of food poisoning by Saturday afternoon if they didn't have modern coolers in camp. The other saying that if you stay period, you don't NEED coolers.

The basic diet of a soldier on campaign consisted of bread and meat. The daily breakdown for a British soldier was:

1 pound bread
1 pound of beef (or a little less of pork)
1 oz +/- of rice
7 oz of peas
1 oz =/- of butter

Of these, only meat would require refrigeration and ONLY if it was fresh. By boiling the meat in a mix of water, salt and apple cider vinegar, you'd easily get hrugh a couple of days without a cooler. More if the pork was a brined/smoked product.

So why don't we eat this way? Because some of us see the events as a party and don't want to "suffer" under a period diet. They eat better at events than many of us do at home. At Saratoga in 2007, one Rebel militia unit had lobster for Saturday supper!

As a raiding party, those of us in Brant's or other NY Loyalist units do have some options. Raiding parties foraged as they traveled. Produce from Rebel farm fields was easy pickings (no pun intended) and sympathetic farmers helped as much as they could. So add in things like sauerkraut, fresh corn, potatoes, etc according to season and you're still within period bounds and you're eating pretty well.

Alcoholic beverages were also discussed. Warm beer!?!?!?! Oh heavens no! Well, if you drink something other than light American-style beers, room temp is just fine. And don't forget rum and Madeira don't need refrigeration.

A little research and creativity will prevent ou from having to "suffer" under a period diet...

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

What should we look like?

Mark Baker has used the term "frontier trash" in his writings to describe the type of folks he and his friends portray. When asked about Brant's men, I sometimes use the same term.

I've likened them to the men that Mel Gibson and Tcheky Karyo recruit from the tavern in The Patriot. The rough, backwoods guys that Heath Ledger looks down on in the movie.

Only 2 of Brant's men, Richard Dingman and George Barnhart, were men of property. The rest were of lower financial station and some downright poor. All were farmers. They came from the western Catskill Mountains, the valleys of the Susquehannah and Delaware rivers. Rough country breeds rough men.

Our camps need to be minimal. Not only for reasons previously explained, but because these guys were BROKE. Everything they had was taken from them. This is likely half the reason they dressed as Indians (the other half being disguise). Indian dress was cheap and the men were destitute:

" doubt he will bring those white people who have been fighting with him all this summer. We are told they are naked..."

Taylor & Duffin to Daniel Claus, 26 Oct. 1778

"Last sunday also came to this place eleven men who served last year under Brant as volunteers and for want of clothing and ammunition were dismissed by him until spring..."

Daniel Claus to Gen. Haldimand, 9 December 1779

"(Brant) entreats me much to remind your Excellency about the clothing for white men that are with him, as they are quite naked and could not be expected to go on Service without covering."

Daniel Claus to Gen. Haldimand, 17 May 1779

Haldimand wrote back saying he was sending:

"100 suits of clothing, leggings & blankets."

20 May 1779

We have at least one primary source of documentation showing they did dress as Indians:

"Dear General; I have the honour to Informe you that this Morning a Scout of mine Came in who have been Peace Down the Suscohanna taking their rout round by the Butternuts and Returnd by the way of one Tunecliffts who they have, with fourteen or fifteen other Torrys, Brought In Likewise two of Brant's party, who ware Collecting Cattel at the Butternuts for Brant. Ware Clothed and painted Like Indians..."

Colonel Alden's Report To General, Stark.
Head Quarters, Cherry Valley Aug'st 12th 1778.

So what should we look like?
We should NOT look very uniform. Some of us in white man's clothing, some in Indian dress.
We should wear our clothing in (NOT artificially) so that we look like we've been around.
We shouldn't buy new shirts, leggings, etc all that often.
We should patch our clothing and gear (knapsacks, etc) rather than replace it.
We should take care of our firelocks, but NOT polish them like Regulars.
We should use Runaway ads to show us what lower class people wore.

In short, we should look like crap...