Wednesday, March 2, 2011

1770s Va backcountry kit background

I suppose first we should set up some groundwork for the impression. A few favorite 18thc equipment lists have overlapping items, and those will be the items I concentrate on. I hope to create a fairly valid composite "commonplace" look by taking a few period references and compiling a "shopping list" for this impression.

First up, David Hastings' (Hastings?) inventory:

"Hastins" likely took part in the 1776 Cherokee expedition under Col. Wm Christian and died in that same year. His gear was sold off and (thankfully) itemized for our future scrutiny.

1 Hunting Shirt
1 P Shoes
1 P Leather Britches
1 Shott pouch and Powder Horn
1 Hoppis
1 Cuttoe knife
1 Wiper Top
1 P Bullett Moles
1 Cuttoe Knife More
1 P Buckles
1 Gun Case
1 Hatt

comparing that list with a few other references and patterns develop-

Executive journals of the Council of colonial Virginia

"He thinks every man should have a wallet of Oznabrigs to carry his provisions in when the leave their horses at the passes of the mountains, and two pair of mockasheens, that blankets would be wanted and clasp knives, thread for the linen and woolen bags for transporting the powder when taken from the waggons................... desires that a sufficient quantity of large goose shot may be sent, which is judged preferable to bullets-and proposes as encouragement to the people in Augusta Bedford and Halifax, who are esteemed the best woodsmen to engage as volunteers in the association, that two or three companies of the militia of some of the adjacent counties be sent to garrison the three forts in Augusta during the time the associaters shall be out on the expedition."

Letter of Judge Henderson to Propietors remaining in North Carolina
Boonsborough June 12, 1775

"But to return to our subject: no time was lost; we struck whilst the iron was hot, fixed Mr. Cocke off with a good Queen Ann's musket, plenty of ammunition, a tomahawk, a large cuttoe knife, a Dutch blanket, and no small quantity of jerked beef. Thus equipped, and mounted on a tolerably good horse, on the ___ day of April, Mr. Cocke started from Cumberland river, about 130 miles from this place, and carried with him, besides his own enormous load of fearful apprehensions, a considerable burden of my own uneasiness."

Henry's account (NB he was from Pa):

"The principal distinction between us, was in our dialects, our arms, and our dress. Each man of the three companies, bore a rifle-barreled gun, a tomehawk, or small axe, and a long knife, usually called a "scalping-knife," which served for all purposes, in the woods. His under-dress, by no means in a military style, was covered by a deep ash colored hunting-shirt, leggins and mockasins, if the latter could be procured. It was the silly fashion of those times, for riflemen to ape the manners of savages."

Smyth on Virginia backcountry militia c1774:,+dyed+yellow,+brown,+white+and+even+red%3B&hl=en&ei=UGBuTb6oC4WclgfG_r1y&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=4&ved=0CFAQ6AEwAw#v=onepage&q=They%20wore%20fringed%20hunting%20shirts%2C%20dyed%20yellow%2C%20brown%2C%20white%20and%20even%20red%3B&f=false

“They wore fringed hunting shirts, dyed yellow, brown, white and even red; quaintly carved shot-bags and powder-horns hung from their broad ornamented belts; they had fur caps or soft hats, moccasins, and coarse woolen leggings reaching half-way up to the thigh. Each carried his flintlock, his tomahawk, and scalping knife.”

Dunmore's War c1774 necessaries:'s%20war&pg=PP1#v=onepage&q&f=false

"Govr. The kettles and Tents were chiefly distributed before I came I could get but 16 or iy tin battered kettles for all Fincastle & but few Tents But I am
told oxen brigs [oznabrigs, or course linen] *3 enough for Tents will
be brought with the Pack horses to morrow If the major is not marched when you get this Intelligence I really think we ough[t] to send over that whole Country and try to buy beg or borrow kettles for to do withougt is very hard almost [im] possible It will presently make men sick to live on Roasted meat without broath."

"Dk. Colo.—I have got as fare as Mr. Branders with a handful of Men out of my own Company. I think our Number of private Men is thirty one; in what Manner our Company is to be compleated; you, I hope can best Determin. the Men I have, are fit for the business, but are badly fix'd, for want of Hunting shirts, and Blankets; but as I hear Mr. Branders Waggon, is on this side New River; I hope we shall get supply'd."

"He says also that there is Jents plenty and all goods necessary for the men such as Shirts Blankets Leggons."

and finally:

Thom. Jefferson to the
County Lts. of Virginia, 1-19-1781

"...every man who has or can procure a Gun have it instantly put intothe best order a Bayonet fitted to it, a Bayonet belt, Cartouche Box,Canteen with its strap, Tomahawk, Blanket and knapsack. Some of these
articles are necessary for his own safety and some for his Health &
Comfort. The constant exhausture of the Public Stock of these Articles
by calls from all Quarters renders it vain for the Militia to expect to
be supplied from thence when they come into the Field, and nothing is so
easy as for every man to have them prepared while quiet and at Home. The
cartouche box with a leathern Flap, a wooden canteen with its strap and
a knapsack of thick linen (the better if painted) are what may be had in
any man's family..."

This will likely be added to later, but the "necessaries" for backcountry survival and militia service become apparent when looked at as a group.