Monday, March 13, 2017

1777 Dunmore County Volunteers equipment appraisals

In the fall of 1777, volunteer companies from several Virginia counties formed and elected their officers in preparation for a relief mission to Fort Pitt.  An appraisal of personal arms and equipment from Captain Thomas Buck's Dunmore (later renamed Shenandoah) county company survives, ostensibly to aide in repayment should those arms be lost or damaged while on the campaign.

Thomas Buck's headstone

 Although not a complete account for the entire 44 man company (the remainder may have been using public arms), several interesting things jump out, such as the ratio of rifles (6) to smooth bores (8) and the extreme high cost of rifled arms in comparison (£11-8 vs £2.5) to the smooth bores.  For the most part the listings are typical for militia "accouteraments" and contain guns, shot bags and horns, although a few men have a "belt" appraised as well, possibly a belt or sling for a "tomehawk" as the belts are only listed with tomahawks. Sadly the knives are not specifically described. Many of the men also bring blankets, although Jacob Stover has "one quilted blanket" appraised at 10 shillings.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

George Washington buys mail order Assault weapons in 1774 without a background check

As tensions mounted between the citizens of Virginia and Royal Governor Dunmore, the Governor dissolved the House of Burgesses which in turn allowed the standing Militia law authorization to lapse.  In the wake of this, several volunteer "Independent companies" of extralegal uniformed militia were formed in various Virginia Counties.  As one of Virginia's most experienced military leaders,  Colonel George Washington led the Fairfax Independent company  and was involved in procuring military style arms and accouterments for that and other Independent companies including that of Prince William County.  In correspondence to Washington dated December 27, 1774 William Grayson requested that Washington
"... write to Philada. for forty muskets with bayonets, Cartouch boxes, or Pouches, and slings, to be made in such a manner, as you shall think proper to direct..."
In a previous letter to Washington dated November 29, 1774, William Milnor writes:
"...I have Applyed to two Gunsmiths, One palmer tells me he Can make one hundred by May next, And Nicholson says he can make the like Number by March, they both agree in the priece at £3.15. this Currcy.4 Palmer says Mr Cadvalder had agreed With him for 100 at that price, a Jersy Musquet was brought to palmer for a patern, Mr Shreive Hatter of Allexandira has one of that sort, which you may see..."
The "Jersey Musquet" was most likely a New Jersey purchased Commercial Wilson musket of the type imported during the French and Indian War.

A Wilson commercial musket

A light musket with striking similarities to the Wilson muskets survives, signed by Thomas Palmer in the collections of the Museum of the American Revolution.  

Pennsylvania Gazette Ad for Palmer ca. 1773

This Palmer marked musket has a convex side plate and distinctive "Wilson" style trigger guard, but differs from the Wilson pattern by mounting a flat commercial lock, and is cut for a bayonet.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

18th Century Dog names

I enjoy Eighteenth-century  hunting treatises, and as a dog lover I was very excited when I stumbled across
"A Catalogue of some general Names of HOUNDS and BEAGLES." from The Gentlemen's Recreation (1721 edition).  If anyone is ever in need of a name for a new pooch, inspiration can surely be found here.

Long standing favorites Lady and Rover are in the mix, as are a few less familiar names such as Sweetlips,  and Mopsie that George Washington utilized. 

The Lightfoot dog buttons at Colonial Williamsburg give us an insight into some other hound names used in Virginia in the period:

"Loiterer, Noisey, Ringwood, Rainger, Juno, Tinkerer, Tanner, Caesar, Blossom, Rover,  Piper... and two Trumpiters..."

At the very least you will likely be the only one calling  for Bluecap, Jolly boy, Spanker, or Soundwel at the dog park.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

In memoriam

"...Why, Sir, when death stares one of her sons or daughters in the face, how sweet, how comforting at that moment will be the thought that the jump from Virginia to heaven will be a short one." 
-Edward Virginius Valentine (1838-1930)

After a long, courageous fight with cancer, my wife and dear friend Barbara suffers no more.  In addition to being a devoted mother, she was an optimistic, humorous and kind woman, who loved travel, history, dance, costuming and knew few strangers.  

I am sharing  her Pinterest boards in the hope that some of her research will be of assistance and an inspiration to anyone with similar interests.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

New Book review: transcription of the Virginia Public Store 1775-76

I am excited to review of a transcription of the Journal of the Public Store at Williamsburg 1775-1776 by Greg Sandor.  This self published transcription contains a wealth of nuts and bolts material culture information for Virginia's army from the first year of the Revolution in Virginia, which is a welcome addition to the exciting but not complete extracts put together in the 1960s by Goodwin for Colonial Williamsburg. Sandor's work includes the 180 page transcription, as well as a handy index of people, goods, places, and individual military units.  In between the expected thousands of yards of osnabrigs, kettles and canteens are a few surprises like tea pots for the hospital, dowlas rifle patches, stamped linen and rose blankets.  The transcription is easy to read, professionally bound and well done.  My only suggestion would be that I'd love to see the actual original page image beside the translation as was done in this excellent store letter book transcription.   This work will answer many questions for anyone trying to track down the who, what and where (or ahem, pardon the pun, wear) for early War Virginia units.

Copies can be ordered here.

or here
It is also for sale at the Greenhow Store in Colonial Williamsburg and at Fort Pitt.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Choosing a RevWar militia gun

Choosing a musket for a Revolutionary War militia impression.

One of the more costly (and thus difficult) choices to make when equipping for a Revolutionary war militia (or early war Continental soldier) impression is firearm choice.  Like many modern conflicts, the early battles of the Revolutionary war were frequently fought with the leftovers from the last war; the French and Indian or Seven Years war.  In choosing a plausible firelock for this impression, it is a good idea to nail down what actually existed and was common in the area being represented.  Sadly, great lists like this one from Hyde County NC are rare items, but it does a great job of showing the diversity in arms that some militia companies fielded. Luckily, three main front runners have been identified for "common" muskets from the prior conflict that were imported for provincial use and were very widespread in the colonies.  This list is in no way all inclusive, many other varieties can be documented in almost every colony (for instance, small amounts of captured Spanish muskets in Massachusetts and Pennsylvania, as well as local restocks and etc), but these three main options offer "safe" choices via documented usage in large numbers in the colonies below (the majority of them are found through primary documents but some via excavated parts, feel free to inquire about any specifics that are omitted here). If the impression doesn't require a bayonet, English import fowling pieces with walnut stocks and 4 foot barrels should be considered as they were likely the most common gun in British America during this period.

Muskets of the King's pattern:

Pattern 1742 muskets were the workhorses of the French and Indian War, half of all imported muskets from the Tower were of this type (well over 10,000 stands).  In addition, some earlier guns (Pattern 1730s, Queen Anne era muskets) can be documented in some places. The best reproduction option that is currently available is from the Rifle Shoppe or parts from Track of the Wolf, although some have had success reworking Pedersoli short land muskets, however they will be 4 inches too short in the barrel.  As an aside, before buying or building anything I recommend you do yourself a favor and compare any reproduction muskets with the illustrations in Goldstein and Mowbray's The Brown Bess; An Identification Guide and Illustrated Study of Britain's Most Famous Musket.

Dutch Muskets: 

Dutch Muskets were the second most commonly imported guns from Ordnance stores during the F&I era for use here.  The best reproduction option that is currently available is from the Rifle Shoppe (Dutch type II series 693 without barrel bands).

Wilson commercial military style muskets:

Wilson commercial military style muskets saw wide spread use in various configurations, generally following the lines of King's Pattern guns with lighter and cheaper furniture. The best reproduction option that is currently available for these is from the Rifle Shoppe (Series 671), although some have had success reworking Pedersoli short land muskets (furniture swap, remarking), they will be about 4 inches too short in the barrel for most of the earlier applications (A surviving NY  Wilson musket has been shortened to 42 inches and there are surviving military style fusees that appear to have been that length from the start).  Another kit that might work towards a Wilson or other commercial musket/fusil model after swapping some furniture some of those shorter non musket bore variations is the Chamber's Fusil Kit -in addition Caywood stocks a Wilson marked lock, although the bulk of the Wilson military guns were simply marked under the pan without the additional engraving.


Thursday, December 11, 2014

Bearded People: Dunkards in the New River Valley

One of the more interesting groups of 18th century settlers in back country South West Virginia were the Dunkards, a protestant non conformist religious sect with some peculiar traits as described in 1750 by Dr. Thomas Walker

"6th March. We kept up the Staunton (7) to William Englishes. (8) He lives on a small Branch, and was not much hurt by the Fresh. He has a mill, which is the furtherest back except one lately built by the Sect of People who call themselves of the Brotherhood of Euphrates, and are commonly called the Duncards, who are the upper Inhabitants of the New River, which is about 400 yards wide at this place. They live on the west side, and we were obliged to swim our horses over.(9)The Duncards are an odd set of people, who make it a matter of Religion not to Shave their Beards, ly on beds, or eat flesh, though at present,in the last, they transgress, being constrained to it, they say, by the want of a sufficiency of Grain and Roots, they have not long been seated here. I doubt the plenty and deliciousness of the Venison and Turkeys has contributed not a little to this. The unmarried have no Property but live on a common Stock. They don't baptize either Young or Old, they keep their Sabbath on Saturday, and hold that all men shall be happy hereafter, but first must pass through punishment according to their Sins. They are very hospitable. "

Portrait of the the eccentric Quaker Benjamin Lay of Pennsylvania.

another primary account from a Moravian account read:

"Oct 31. ....Towards evening we met an old man whom Br. [Brother] Nathanael engaged in conversation, and as we passed near hes fence we asked him to sell us some turnips, but he was so good as to make us a present of a nice quantity, and gave an invitation that any of our people passing this way should visit him. He had heard perhaps a hundred lies about the Brethren, - that we were "bearded people," that we enjoined celibacy, etc. - and now learning the truth the old man rejoiced, and took a friendly leave of us. ..." (
Travels in the American Colonies, Diary of a Journey of Moravians from Bethlehem, Pennyslvania, to Bethabara in Wachovia, North Carolina, 1753)

A brief but interesting paper on them and their settlement at "Dunkard's Bottom" (portions of that land was eventually purchased by William Christian and is now under Claytor Lake ) that was commissioned by Appalachian Power titled Dunkards Bottom: Memories on the Virginia Landscape 1745 - 1940 can be found here.

  20th century image showing the ruins of the Dunkard cabin chimneys and foundations with the 19th century Cloyd house at far left and the 1770s home of William Christian at right. From Roger E.Sappington's  The Brethren in Virginia: The History of the Church of the Brethern in Virginia. (The Committee for Brethren History in Virginia, Harrisonburg, VA. 1973).