Monday, August 20, 2018

Captain Matthew Arbuckle's Company, Fort Randolph, 12th Virginia Regiment


Library of Congress, The United States of North America, with the British & Spanish territories according to the treaty (by William Faden, 1783) showing Pittsburgh, Ohio and the "Canoway" rivers.


In order to secure the strategic mouth of the Kanawha river where it meets the Ohio (also known as Point Pleasant), Virginia raised a 100 man company under Botetourt militia officer Matthew Arbuckle, a veteran of Dunmore's war and the namesake of Arbuckle's fort on Muddy Creek in what is now Greenbrier county, West Virginia. Arbuckle's company that was organized as regular state troops (not subject to serving outside of Virginia without their consent) under the provisions of the Convention meeting in Williamsburg in July 1775.  "An Ordinance for Raising and Embodying a Sufficient Force for the Defence and Protection of this Colony...One other company, consisting of one captain, three lieutenants, one ensign, four sergents, two drummers, and two fifers, and one hundred privates to be raised in the county of Botetourt, and stationed at Point Pleasant, at the mouth of the great Kanawah...under the direction of, and subject to, such orders as they may from time receive from the commanding officers at Fort Pitt." (Captain Matthew Arbuckle:a documentary biography by Joseph C. Jefferds p43). The initial enlistment appears to have been for one year, and a second 100 man company was subsequently added to complement the garrison under Captain McKee, with a two year enlistment and bounty for the original company to continue on service (May 6, 1776 Captain Matthew Arbuckle by Jefferds p47).

McKee later testified that:

I do hereby certify that Matthew Arbuckle deceased was appointed a Captain in the Committee of Bottetout [sic: Botetourt] County (of which Committee I  was a member) in September 1775 agreeable to an Ordinance or Convention raising troops for the defence of the Western Frontiers for one year and was continued a Captain two years longer in a subsequent ordinance or convention; which time he serv’d in the capacity of a Captain being together with all the troops stationed on the Ohio [River] incorporated into the 12th Virginia regt. on Continental Establishment in an Act of Assembly passed October 1778[?]. the term of service ending October 1778 and the pay being from Continental paymasters at the [two undeciphered words] mentioned except the [undeciphered] two Mo’s pay [undeciphered word] above which [undeciphered word] of Colo. [undeciphered] Harrisson [sic: Benjamin Harrison, Jr.] who was Commissary and Paymaster for the State of Virginia in that Department. Given under my hand this 13th day Sept. 1784. (Signed) Wm McKee [William McKee] Capt. 12th Virg’a Reg’t. Department of War/ Accountant’s Office/ January 12th 1799

Arbuckle's company mobilized and left Fort Pitt by May of 1776. George Morgan (Of the famous merchant firm of Baynton, Wharton & Morgan and by that time acting as Indian Agent for the middle department) wrote Lewis Morris on May 16, 1776, that "Captain Arbuckle, with a company of Virginia Forces, departed from hence yesterday for the mouth of the Great Kenhawa where they are to rebuild the fort and to remain until further orders from the Convention. I thought it necessary to send an Indian with them, and a proper message on the occasion to the Delawares and Shawnees, accompanied by one of his officers, which I am sure will have a good effect." (Captain Matthew Arbuckle by Jefferds p44).  The Dunmore's war era fort at Point Pleasant, Fort Blair, had been abandoned and subsequently burned by Indians.  Arbuckle's company arrived and built a new fortification, Fort Randolph, named for Peyton Randolph of Virginia. By October of 1776, Arbuckle's company was reorganized on paper as the 5th company of the 12th Virginia Regiment (Captain Matthew Arbuckle by Jefferds p44). 



Clothing and Equipment of Arbuckle's company

 Detail of a Map Cartouche from the October 1775 Issue of The Pennsylvania Magazine 
(The Ann S.K. Brown Collection, Brown University)


The men enlisted in Arbuckle's command appear to have provided their own arms (apparently all rifles) and clothing. Arbuckle wrote to General Edward Hand on October 6, 1777 that he had "...no country arms. Every man a good rifle his own property in good order; scarecely 200 flints in the garrison." (Captain Matthew Arbuckle by Jefferds p87). John Entsminger's pension application states that "...in the same month of October at the same Keeney’s Fort, he inlisted  under Lieut. James Gilmore & was enrolled in Capt. William McKee’s company for the term of two years, attached to what was called the Western troops and was marched to Fort Randolph at the mouth of the Great Kanhawa River [Great Kanawha River] where Capt. Matthew Arbuckle commanded two companies, he being the senior captain, and continued at that station for two years, & was then honorably discharged in October he believes in 1778 having for this time furnished his own rifle & clothing for which he has never received any compensation during which time he was engaged in several sharp skirmishes in one of which his Lieutenant William Moor was killed at his side."   


 Rifle Trigger Guard Fragment Excavated at the Market House site [Williamsburg, Virginia],
 artifact #00022-12AE-00067-AG
Photo by Jim Mullins with permission of The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation

Three men of the garrison lost rifles and clothing in a boat accident as they were transporting provisions down the Ohio from Fort Pitt, two of which seem to have been distinctive as they had brass boxes [N.B. having viewed scans of the original document as shown below the linked transcription by Mr. Harris is in error and the rifles had brass boxes NOT brass barrels].  This potentially implies the majority of the rifles in the garrison may have been less expensive wooden boxed rifles.
 
 William Grills lost a "Brass Box Rifle, an Exceeding Good One..."

Men of the garrison who later consented to joining the other companies of the 12th Virginia with the main (Continental) army outside of the state of Virginia successfully petitioned for the value of their rifles as they had been entitled to an allowance of 20 shillings per year under the terms of the original enlistment as a state regular battalion.

To the Honourable Board of War
Geo Lyne Majr 12th Virginia Regiment
in behalf of fourteen soldiers of Capt. Michael Bowyers Company of the said Regiment,
begs leave to Petition that their Rifles, Powder Horns &c. may be recd. by the Commissary General of Military Stores & that they are receive for them a reasonable Price. The matter Stands this: by an Ordinance of our Convention this Company amongst others was raised for the purpose
of Defending our Frontiers & not to be drawn from thence without their consent, and each man that furnished himself with a Rifle was to receive for the use thereof 20S Per Annum, since which these men have been taken into the Continental Service & marched with their consent from the Monongahalia to this place that they had neither an opportunity of selling them, or lodging them at their homes: No Man's Goal in support of the common cause oughtto operate to his prejudice, that I trust they will receive the value of their Rifles & refer to the Capt's list inclosed.
May 19, 1777 George Lynne Maj.

Petition of Geo Lyne
Maj 12 Virg Bat
read 20 May 1777
prayer granted



Deserter descriptions from the Pennsylvania packet show clothing worn by some of the men who likely left the garrison for service with the main army and point to the general use of hunting shirts with trousers.



An additional 12th Virginia deserter description from the 13 August 1777 issue of the Pennsylvania Gazette as quoted on page 177 of Phillip Katcher's Uniforms of the Continental Army mentions "Four deserters wearing hunting shirts...Three also wore leather breeches, while the fourth wore trousers or overalls." I have not yet been able to acquire a scan of this particular ad and it may yield further context as to which portion of the 12th Virginia is in question among other details. Knapsacks seem to have been in use by the garrison, in addition to the above deserter description for James Halstead that mentions a knapsack, the pension application of William Pryor mentions the use of them at the Fort in the course of describing the near mutiny caused by General Hand's order reducing the garrison's provisions and pay.

Officers, or at the very least Captain Arbuckle, seemed to have been dressed in "regimentals" as they are referenced in and 1851 deposition of Nancy Edgar (Captain Matthew Arbuckle by Jefferds p102). Captain Arbuckle was killed in 1781 by a falling tree in a storm (the same tree struck Nancy Edgar's father), and his probate inventory (Captain Matthew Arbuckle by Jefferds p97-99) contains several items worth noting:

"Coat Jackett & britches shoes stockings...hat & stock with gloves...1 Beeded Hoppis...One riffle gunn & shot bag...One silver stock buckles knee buckles & sword buckles...1 large silver handled butcher knife..."

Friday, August 17, 2018

South Union Mills 18th century clasp/cuttoe folding knives Guest Product Review


Blog Guest Contributor Justin Meinert has graciously sent in a product review of an exciting new reproduction folding knife available from South Union Mills


"Justin Meinert has been an avid reader of "Of Sort for Provincials" since 2010 and has yet to get his book signed. Readers are most likely to see him standing at the Forks of the Ohio, or on a red clay hill-top in Iredell County N.C.. He is always searching to make the hobby affordable and enjoyable for folks from Pittsburgh. He enjoys "gasback buttons" and chicken served in a cup. "

Justin's comments and images are below.





"For any reenactor that has opened an archeological dig from any 18th century site a particular style of clasp knife is sure to be seen. This regularity of such a common item should lead every reenactor to have such an item as “Pocket Trash”.  Further google searches for this clasp knife has hopefully lead you to “Cutteau Knives Revealed” a now five year old article that the authors spell out the details to lead you to buy the perfect  18th century clasp knife.






Knives from Archaeological Investigation of Fort Ligonier, 1960-1965 by Jacob L. Grimm 

However in those past five years, truly the only source for what was a common cheap knife was from custom makers with a price tag usually in excess of $200. For the purist among us these knives do not disappoint. Like a coat from Henry Cooke, these are true reproductions. However a coat has never fallen out of my pocket and traveled to a different dimension where items like socks from the dryer can never be recovered.



So like many when the email came from SouthUnion Mills, advertising for an 18th century reproduction knife I spent the money ($18 for the small, $33 for the large). But how does it compare with an original of similar size?









First the Good.

  1. Low Price  - Reenactors are cheap….even the so called (progressives) or (librarians)
  2. Steel Bolsters - Most cheaper overseas produced knives for some reason have brass bolsters
  3. One Foot Rule- At this distance these match most details found on originals. I.e. no nail nick in the blade.




The Bad

  1. Bolsters are two piece Overseas manufacturing making it easier to construct….this generally makes the knives thicker.
  2. Spring does not taper….Saving steel in the 18th century see’s tangs and springs taper..these do not again leading to a “thicker” knife.
  3. Blades, although I haven't used it yet these overseas produced knives generally do not hold an edge very well. 



-Overall length opened 9.86 SUM repro vs 9.75" original
[N.B. original has had some blade tip losses as can be seen above]




-Blade length 4.40"s SUM repro vs 4.2 [N.B. original has had some blade tip losses as can be seen above]




-Thickness at ends of bolster 0.46"s SUM repro vs 0.32 original




-Middle thickness 0.61"s SUM repro vs 0.50 original

 South Union Mills repro knife bolsters

Note how thin the original bolsters are and the taper.


  In general….For the price and availability I will continue to recommend these to folks, for the purist among us of course there is nothing that can replace the thinner, more accurate (and significantly more expensive) copies by artisans such as Scott Summerville.