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).

Monday, June 23, 2014

Blanket coat notes


A Canadian in a hooded "Capote" made from a point blanket (Von Germann ca. 1777)

Blanket coats are an interesting "make do" garment, (or perhaps better yet blankets were a make do source of coating) that were seen on both the frontier and in the more well established areas of 18th century America from Canada to Florida and west to New Orleans.

In a letter to John Forbes dated January 24, 1759 (Fauqier papers) Governor Fauquier writes:

"As Coll. Washington’s Regiment were so much exposed to the Hardships of the
Weather for want of Cloaths, I have ordered each of them a Blanket to be made up in to a
to guard them from the Inclemency of the Season, which is the utmost, if not more
than, I have a power to do till the Assembly meet in February…"

There is some evidence that members of the Virginia provincials had them a bit earlier and that their utilitarian nature favored them to some officers:

DESERTED from the Virginia Regiment, June 19, 1756, from the Mouth of Patterson's Creek, the following persons, viz.

William Pane, aged 30 years, 5 feet 6 inches high, has dark brown hair, sandy complexion, blind of the left eye, Virginia born, but off in his regimentals, late Captain John Mercer Company.

Francis Glascock, Capt. Harrison's company, aged about 21 years, 5 feet 10 inches high, fair hair, ruddy complexion, Virginia born: Had on when he went away, a blanket coat , a pair of buckskin breeches, and had with him two ozenbrigs shirts, and a fine one.

Adam Stephen to George Washington, September 13, 1758

Letters to Washington and Accompanying Papers. Published by the Society of the Colonial Dames of American. Edited by Stanislaus Murray Hamilton.

CAMP ON LOYAL HANNON Sepr. 13th 1758


We have fortifyd this place; & taken post ten miles to the westward on Kishiminatos,1 about forty miles from Fort du Quesne. In obedience to Col Bouquets Commands I wrote you by Sergt. Boynes to send up the mens Cloathing, but humbly Conceive, that Blanket Coats would suit Better than any that can be got for your Regiment. -- You will be so good as to excuse me for not being particular about our Situation & designs; as I cannot depend on your getting Letters that I write -- Some of great importance wrote by others; have fallen into the hands of the Enemy I offer my Compliments to the Gentlemen with you and am with respect,

... Sir, Your most Obt. hbe St

Christopher Hardwick to George Washington, December 12, 1758

Letters to Washington and Accompanying Papers. Published by the Society of the Colonial Dames of American. Edited by Stanislaus Murray Hamilton.

Decr. 12th. 1758

One Marke & Tent Table (Iron Screw to Do Missing) 4 Camp Stools Bedstead, 2 Mattrases, 4 Blankets, 6 Pack Saddles (one of Which Miles Carrys with him) 2 Oyl Cloths, 2 Candle Sticks 1 Pr. Snuffers, 1 Pr. Curtins, 1 Bottle Oyl 5 Cups & Six Saucers (some of which have peaces broke out of them) 2 Tumblers, 1 Do. Broke, 3 Table Cloths, 2 Pr. Sheets, 1 Box of Candles, 1 Curry Comb & Brush, 1 Pr. Saddle Bags, 3 horse Beels (one of Which is at Winchester) 1 Cag of Wine, 13 Plates 1 Bason, 1 Blanket Coat, 4 Wanteys, Hors Shoes & Nails, 2 Boxes, 2 Pr. Legings 1 Copper kettle (the Cover missing Miles says it is at Winchest. 1 Tin Quart Mug, 1 Tea Kettle, 1 Small Tent 1 Tomehock 2 Delph Bowls 7 Knives 9 Forks -- Part of a Bottle of Musterd -- some Spices, 2 Pewter much bent Dishes, 7 Table Spoons, 3 Tea Do. 2 Pieses of Supe [soap] 3 Neats Tongs --

... Decr. 12th. 1758 I have Recd. the before Mentiond things (except such as is excepted in the Memorandom) I say Recd. Pr. Me... CHRISTOPHE HARD WICK

Although useful, they may have been causing some issues with Identification of friends vs. foes on the Forbes expedition: 

Barton Forbes Exp diary

Wednesday Sept 20th 1758 P 203

"Orders are issued that no Officer for the future shall appear in a Blanket coat."

A ca. 1780 view of Canadians showing variations in blanket coat cut and trim.
 (Royal Ontario Museum © ROM. 969.37.2)

 In addition to soldiers and Canadians, references survive for blanket coats and jackets being worn by Indians, Slaves and Indentured Servants.

"To JOHN STEPHENSON, Pensacola "New Orleans, April 22, 1769
I hope are [ere] this comes to hand you have recivd. The things I sent you By Savon, and Should this not overtake you at pensacola hope it will find you safe arrivd in England, which Shall be always glad to hear; the Spanish Frigate Saild for the havana 3 days ago We are Still in Suspence About the Result of the Rupture between the French & Spaniards but is the General oppion of the people here that it will fall to the Spaniards if so Cash will Circulate in this place, and the Articels you was kind Enough to promise to send me will Answer extream Well, I omitted to Mention Blankets in the Memorandum, which if you think proper to send please to let them be good Blankets proper for making Blankett Coats with Either black or Blue Strips only [.] I am afraid Mr. Monsanto Will Shortly be pushed very hard for money he owes at Mobile to Messrs. McGillivray & Struthers for Negroes Bought of them a long time Ago[.] I have nothing more at present worth your notice but should this Reach you at pensacola refer you to Mr. McNamara who no[w] goes there[.] I am with due Esteem…P.S. Youl please to send me the Universal History will bound with proper Cutts and Maps tho they should Cost 6d or a Shilling More a Volume. …" (The Merchant of Manchac: The Letterbooks of John Fitzpatrick 1768-1790 ed. Margaret Fisher Dalrymple Baton Rouge: LSU Press, 1978, 46.)

Virginia Gazette(Dixon & Hunter), Williamsburg ,November 25, 1775.

   WARWICK, November 15, 1775. RUN away from the Subscriber's Plantation in Prince Edward County, on Saturday the 11th Instant, four Negro Fellows, viz. PRINCE, CATO, CHARLES or TRASH,
and BILLY BURTON.----Prince is a very large Fellow, is an African, and speaks badly, and is very drunken and quarrelsome, he is notable for being an excellent Swimmer and Diver. ----
Cato, a thick well Made Fellow about 5 Feet 6 or 7 Inches high, is also an African, and speaks very broken English, and is a tolerably sober well behaved Fellow.
----Charles or Trash, for he will answer to either Name, is a Native of Jamaica, a small slim Made Fellow, about 5 Feet 4 or 5 Inches high, and about 25 Years of Age.----
Billy Burton, a Mulatto, a stout young Lad, about 19 or 20 Years of Age, was raised at this Place, and is a very well behaved Fellow.
All of them but Trash were clothed this Fall in Dutch Blanket Coats and Breeches, Trash had Clothes such as Water Negroes generally wear, though he and all the others had other Clothes with them,
so that it is probable they will change their Dress.


Virginia Gazette(Dixon & Hunter), Williamsburg ,April 4, 1777.

    FORTY SHILLINGS REWARD. RUN away from the Subscriber, the 29th of November, a likely young Negro Fellow named JOE,
about 5 Feet 10 Inches high, had on, when he went away, Jacket and Breeches made of dark coloured Kersey, with white Metal Buttons,
a short Coat made of a Dutch Blanket, with white Metal Buttons, Virginia knit Stockings, and plain Shoes. As he was brought up in Williamsburg,
I expect he is lurking about there. Whoever takes up the said Slave, and commits him to Gaol, or brings him to me in James City County,
shall receive the above Reward


sometimes blankets were used to fashion jackets as well:

- Maryland Gazette, 23 June 1757
 "Deserted from Francis Ware’s Company, the 14th of this instant June, on his march to Fort-Frederick, Patrick Grame, a Scotchman, aged 25 years,
 5 feet 4 ½ inches high, of a brown complexion, has dark eyes, and black hair, middling long, has a down look, and is mark’d with the small-pox; had on when he went away, a jacket made of a Dutch blanket, grey country-made stockings, and shoes about half worn.
Whoever takes up the said deserter, and delivers him to any of the Recruiting-Officers in this Province, or contrives him to Fort-Frederick, shall have two pistoles reward paid by Francis Ware "

 Virginia Gazette(Purdie & Dixon), Williamsburg ,December 10, 1767. 
  RUN away from the subscriber, about the 3d of last month, in Prince William county, near Dumfries, a Scotch servant man, named ROBERT CRAIG, about 5 feet 5 inches high, by trade a weaver, of a dark complexion, wears his own black short hair, and talks the Scotch dialect very broad; had on when he went away a drab coloured cloth great coat much patched, a jacket made out of an old Dutch blanket, an old felt hat welted round the brim with coloured thread, an old pair of osnabrug breeches, and a pair of ribbed yarn hose. Any person taking up the said servant, and conveying him to me, shall receive a reward of Three Pounds Virginia currency, besides what the law allows.
WILLIAM BRIGGS. N.B. The above servant, I am informed, has wrote himself a discharge.

Virginia Gazette(Purdie & Dixon), Williamsburg ,September 28, 1769.

    NORTH CAROLINA, Sept. 3, 1769. COMMITTED to the publick jail for the district of Halifax an outlandish Negro man who calls himself HARRY, about 25 years old, 5 feet 6 inches high, and his fore teeth very much decayed; has on an old jacket made of a Dutch blanket, Negro cotton breeches, and an old brown linen shirt. He says he belongs to William Hunter, but cannot tell in what province his master lives. The owner may have him on proving his property, and paying charges.

A conjectural reconstruction of a blanket coat I put together using a striped "duffel" blanket 
with stripes similar to the ones shown in the Von Reck images.

The parallel garment among French Canadians was called a Capote, and was sometimes made with cloth, but at others of blankets, and frequently featured a hood and tied closure (see the image at the top of this page).

A British soldier in a blanket coat/capote made from a Point blanket (Von Germann ca. 1777)

 A great discussion of Blanket coats/Capotes in service with the British Army during the revolution can be found here .  Nathan K has blogged on capotes/cappo coats here at the Buffalo trace blog

Various methods of fastening and finishing were used in the period:

"a striped Blanket Coat, with flat Pewter Buttons..." NY Gazette 2/2/1767

"a blanket coat with yellow binding..." NY Gazette 5/8/1769

"new blanket coat, tyed with brown yard strings" PA Gazette 8/10/1769

"a short Coat made of a Dutch Blanket, with white Metal Buttons" VA Gazette 4/1/1777

"a homespun blanket coat lappelled and bound with blue ferret..." PA Packet 3/21/1782

 All in all, a blanket coat, whether a hooded overcoat in the Canadian fashion or simply a coat or jacket using a blanket for cloth is another garment to consider when gearing up for winter.