Friday, December 28, 2012

A Whiggish Dictionary of Politicks

Virtual Represenation:  Legal Thievery[1]

      A whig satire of 1795, hostile to the Crown and Government, friendly to America and the French Republic.  Some things never change...

A Political Dictionary


explaining the
illustrated and exemplified in the
of the following
among many others.

The King, Queen, Prince of Wales, Duke of York, Pope Pius VI. Emperor, King of Prussia, The Tigress of Russia, Dukes of Brunswick, Portland, Richmond, Newcastle, London. Earls Chatham, Fitzwilliam, Darlington, Spencer, Mowe, Chesterfield. Lords Grenville, Mornington, Moira, Mountmorris, Mulgrave, Fitzgerald, Harvey. Judges Kenyon and Loughborough. Hon. Frank North. Sirs George Saville, Gilbert Elliot, Francis Molyneux, Watkin Lewes, Roger Curtis, Sydney Smythe, Francis Sykes, Richard Hill. Landgrave of Hesse Cassel, Madam Schwellenbergen. Messrs. Pitt, Fox, Burke, Dumourier, Warren Hastings, Wyndham, Powis, Dundas, Thornton, Wilberforce, Reeves, Arthur Young, George Hanger, Charles Jenkinson, Colonel Tarleton, Brook Watson. Aldermen Curtis, An­derson, Le Mesurier, Sanderson. Bishops and Clergy. Charles I. and Louis XVI.

by the late
author of the Jockey Clubs, &c.
London; printed for D. I. Eaten, No. 74. Newgate-Street.

A voluptuary (The Regent) under the horrors of digestion
Js. Gy. design et fecit.[2]


—Mr. Pitts’s surplus fund, his Majestey’s civil list, and the combination of kings, to restore priesthood, aristocracy, and monarchy in France.


—new taxes; an increase of influence to the Crown, and of misery to the Poor.


—a jewel that dazzles he eye of the vol­gar by its extrinsic splendor; the gewgaw and pa­geantry which it displays, reconciles the nation to a bauble which costs a million annually to support, drained from the virtue of industry, and the sweat of labour. Partial splendour, public calamity.


.—Messrs. Pitt and Dundas, when so intoxicated with liquor, as not to be able to articulate their words, engaging a vast majority in the House of Commons to precipitate their country into a war with France; the festivities of Brighton, Holwood, Wimbledon, Gordon House, Downing­street; the Duke of Norfolk drinking common gin with the Royal Sovereign, at her lodgings in Strand­lane.

A Response to the Suspension of Habeus Corpus, Newton [3]


—in the Alarmist vocabulary, signifies every thing morally and physically impossible; equal wisdom, equal strength, equal wealth, &c. &c. but equality truly signifies, both in France and England, as well as every where else, equal rights;” a right of every citizen, not disqualified by nature or crime, to the protection and benefits of society; a right of voting for the election of those who are to make laws by which he himself is to be bound; by which, his liberty, his property, and his life are affected, and an equal right of exerting to advantage the genius and talents which he may possess--the equal rights of nature.

Favourite (Royal)

—Weak and arbitrary princes, from the first establishment of monarchy, down to the present day, have always had their favourites, their Minions, there Knights of the Back Stairs; many of who have eventually fallen just sacrifices to the vengeance of a people who could no longer endure their outrages and enormities. A wise Prince has no other favourites than the people. He can have no right to squander superfluities on favourites,—to keep up prodigal establishments for them, while the nation is crushed by a weight of taxes, and a majority of it reduced almost to a want of necessaries: but, as nothing an be more capricious than a monarch’s fancy, the situation of these gentry is not the most enviable or secure; and the examples yielded by history are rather a drawback on their tranquillity. They may be compared to sun-dials, which, while the sun shines upon them, all the world are eager to consult, but are at once forsaken, and left to their fate, as soon as he has withdrawn his rays.


—a term of reproach never to be forgiven, if applied to a lady of fashion.

Habeas Corpus

—hitherto considered as the palladium of British liberty, but now, by an act of Parliament, suspended. On account of this suspension, Messrs. John Horne Tooke, Hardy, Thelwall, Joyce, Richter, and others, have for many months languished in prison, without any specific charge, and without, as their first commitment, any prospect of being brought to trial. If Britons can thus be treated by ministers, what is liberty? what is despotism?

[1]  Virtual Representation, 1775.  Pub. Unk. 1 Apr 1775.  Lord Bute aims a blunderbuss at America, with an MP giving Government the use of Amerca's property., accessed 28 Dec 2012.
[2]    H. Humphrey, 1792 July 2d, London, accessed 28 Dec 12.  Prince of Wales, George IV.

[3], accessed 28 Dec 12.  John Bull breaks wind at a broadside of King George, in response to Pitt's intention to suspend Habeas Corpus.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Virginia's Frontier Spies, 1781

Joseph Martin to Arthur Campbell Washington
                                        Long Island, Virginia the 22d April 1781


     I Returnd to this place on friday last after a Tour of 19 Days.  It happend very fortunate our going out at the Time we Did as there was a large Body of Indians Collected in powel's Valley which we should most certainly have fallen in with if Majr. Lewis had not alarm'd them.  I was at one Camp wheare there could not be less than a hundred.  Several other trails of Smaller parties all making towards the mouth of powels River only one partie which Seemd the fresehest which We followed about thirty miles below Cumberland Gap Came up with htem Incampt Surrounded them undiscovered But the Camp being so close we Could not Discover them before they run out.  We fired about thirty Guns on them.  Seveeral of the Seem'd to be Badly wounded.  The Cain was so thick they Could not be presued on horseback  We got five guns Blankets shot pouches &c.  On  one of their horses was wrote in full John Brown.  They said Brown was killd in Cumberland Gap which induced me to believe it is the party that always watches that place. 
      By such a body as was Collecting it appears that they Either Intended to attack the Stations or strike a heavy Blow on our frontiers.  I made no stay at the Camp but pushed on as fast possible for about seventy miles further being still on fresh sign when the men stopt and refused to go any further Saying I was taking them to Chickamogga that we was To weak their provisions near out and their horse Tyerd.  I Did Everything in my power to prevail on then to Go about ten miles further but Could not.  I am Convinced we was withint a few miles of Some Town as I saw whear they took in meat on horseback the blood not dry on the bushes.  They have Taken a number of horses that way this Spring.  Should write more particular but Mr. Price will deliver this to you who will Give you a particular account of the whole.  In the mean time I Beg leave to onform you that I an very Desirous of going to the End of the path we left if men and provision Can be had at any rate as our frontiers must Expect Great Distress from that quarter if they are not Broke up.
      Mr. Price Says if he Meets with your approbation he Can Raise 50 men at any time.  He has behaved very well on this Tour being on of the Spies.  Our whole stock of provision of seting out from the Cove was 2 1/2 of [lbs?] Bacon and a half Bushel of Corn pr. man.  Our Strenght 65 men Including officers.
      I am Sr. with Great Regard your most obd Sert,
                                                                                 JOS MARTIN

P  S  The Body of Indians Broke on our approach as we saw sign of several small parties makeing home.  I Cant hear whether Colo. Savier [Sevier] went to mee the Messenger was sent to the nation or not.  I am Told these was a woman and Child Killd on lick Creek last week.  Should any news arrive from the nation shall send you Imediately.  I am very Desireous of hearing the news from Cornwallace.  Beg you will write me by the first Opertunity.    JM.[1]

[1] Papers of Thomas Jefferson, Vol. 5, Julian P. Boyd, ed.,  Princeton Univ. Press, Princeton, NJ, 1952. (534-5).

A Rum Cove and a Shabby Doxy...

Fronticepiece of my spoof-chapbook, 50 odd-pages
of shameless behaviour and affrontery

I recently stumbled across a site with some excellent references for 18th and early 19th century English "cant" or slang, while writing a farsical chapbook based upon the ficticious life of the younger brother of one of our Serjeants in the First Virginia Regiment.  Captain Hannibal Plourde is the Master of the FANNY, a privateer Brig named after a "Shabby Doxy" who is employed by a certain Mr. Elias Wandringhands at the Crowing Cock (a ficticious alehouse in Yorktown). This all started as several spoofs of the Virginia Gazette published for living history events-in which we most recently find the author of the chapbook, one Captain Hannibal Plourde, is currently being sued by Edmund Pendleton and General Woodford for defamation.  The site,  Words from Old Books, is instrumental in not only decrypting some of the language in O'Brien's Aubrey/Maturin series and Tristram Shandy, but also in adding to the realism of period language for the lower and middling classes. I've been sifting through it to improve-or rather, debase-my impression as private soldier.  But, I wonder, as in our time, was street language incorporated into gentlemens' speech, in an attempt to be shocking or fashionable? 

From  A Collection of the Canting Words and Terms, both ancient and modern, used by Beggars, Gypsies, Cheats, House-Breakers, Shop-Lifters, Foot-Pads, Highway-Men, &c;
Taken from The Universal Etymological English Dictionary, by N. Bailey, London, 1737, Vol. II, and transcrib'd into XML Most Diligently by Liam Quin.

A BLIND ALE-HOUSE:  one fit to conceal a pursued or hunted Villain.

RAKE:  Rake-hell, Rake shame, a lewd Spark or Debauchee.

SHABBEROON:  A Raggamuffin, which is to say a tatterdemallion.

RUM-COVE:  A great rogue.

SCOTCH WARMING-PAN:  A Wench; or to break wind in bed

SHABBY DOXY:  A down-on-her luck wench or trollop

Ironically these are all part of plot and character-development for Captain Plourde.

Capt Plourde is the contemporary of such famous men as the Baron d'Botetourt, Lord Dunmore (The old Scotch -ss), Patrick Henry, Edmund Pendleton, Thomas (Tom) and Randolph (Randy) Jefferson, General Woodford, and of course Miss Sally Hemings.  He is also associated with the less than famous Silas Chumbottom, Erasmus St. Withold O'Brien, Goosens Van Der Poot, and Elias Wandringhands and the now-infamous Fanny, Fat Bess and Patty Chumbottom.

In his book, Captain Plourde explains the truth surrounding smuggling in Virginia, the Gunpowder Affair, Patrick Henry's resignation from the army, and Tom and Randy's competitions for Sally Hemings.  Although this started as an inside joke for a few friends in the First Virginia-should I post this in serial format?

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Prickett's Fort

Prickett's Fort was built in 1774, by Jacob Prickett, during Dunmore's war as a private fort where families from the Monongehela Valley could "fort up" in times of Indian Attack.  During the revolution militia under Colonel William Haymond operated from its walls.  Today, its a West Virginia State Park, and this weekend (Dec 7-9), the non-profit Memorial Foundation associated with the fort is holding their market fair... which I wish I could get out there this year...maybe next year.


Photo by Jacob Turner

Monday, December 3, 2012

Christmas at Carlyle House, 1777.

        After leaving the walls of Fort Mifflin and the return of its rifle companies from the victories at Saratoga in 1777, the First Virginia settled down for the winter at Valley Forge.  A few fortunate souls returned to Virginia on recruiting duty, to fill the vacant ranks.
        On December 1st, we made our way to Carlyle Historical Park in Alexandria Virginia.  Carlyle House was the home of John Carlyle, second son of a Scottish Baron.  Carlyle established his import business just prior to the Seven Years War near what was a tobacco warehouse in a village that would become the colonial seaport of Alexandria, Virginia.  Carlyle married Sarah Fairfax, securing his place in the Virginia aristocracy.  He was also the particular friend of George Washington and served as commissary general to the Virginia Forces in both the Seven Years War and the American Revolution.

Preparing the fire for some liberated chickens.
Alas, the chickens sentenced.

Loafing...we seem to do quite a bit of this,

Captain Dean, of the artillery,  haranguing the crowd,
as he is often wont to do

Roast chicken, skeletonized.

Mrs. Sarah Fairfax Carlyle at her embroidery

Take one fiddler, add a handful of soldiers and one punchbowl of lemon shrub:
instant party.
The local chirgeon.
             Old Saw-Bones, lurking in the Carlyle's cellar.  I believe I'll return to the fiddler and the lemon shrub. I've a better chance of keeping all my limbs.

Firing the Christmastide Guns

        Then off to Gadsby's Tavern for an evening of yuletide merriment, "fathoming a bowl" of lemon shrub, ale, &c, &c.  Our annual "mess night" gave us an opportunity to pour over the latest copy of the Virginia Gazette, enjoy each other's company, recall the follies and misfortune as 1777 winds down, and attempt a few songs, to the melodies of Mr. Hall's English guitar.

A memento of our Mischianza.

Mr. Hall regaling the party with his loquatious wit.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Revolutionary Physick?

Hugh Mercer's Apothecary Shop, Fredericksburg, Virginia, ca. 1775.

                    Fredericksburg, Virginia was once the sight of a major Continental Army hospital at the intersection of Caroline and William Street. BGen Hugh Mercer practiced medicine in Fredericksburg before the war, but was killed in the New Jersey Campaign before the establishment of the hospital. Mercer’s Caroline Street office and apothecary shop is a now historic site, currently managed by Preservation Virginia, and many of the "medecines" found there were used at the military hospital. From Jefferson’s papers we find a list of medicines used in the hospital in that day. Several thoughts are born of this list, 1. Continental doctors thought that copious bowel movements and/or vomiting were the best treatment for just about every ill, based on the amount of emetics, cathartics, and laxatives that were kept in the medicine chest, 2. There was a lot of syphilis in the Continental Army…or at least in the Virginia and Maryland line. I suppose that playing cards, hazards, or the occasional Game of Goose were not the only recreation in the army.

                                                                                                                            December 28 1780
               I am persuaded your Excellency and the Honble. Council will pardon the liberty of this address, as It’s intended to relieve the Distress of the Soldiery that may occasionally be in the Hospital here.
               Doctor Rickman in September last wrote me to take Charge of the Hospital at this place and at present to find Medicine for them, Which should be repaid. I did so, and until this time attended, and found Medicine for a great many of the Virginia and Maryland Line that were ordered by the officers to be taken care of. This I carefully attended to, and sent them all away to their respective Corps except three that shall shortly be sent forward.
               As It’s not in my Power to find Medicine much longer out of my private stock for Practice, I take liberty of sending an Invoice of such as may be absolutely necessary for the Sick and wounded, to request that they may be ordered to this place, and they shall be Carefully kept for that particular purpose. As I have purchased Medicine at a very dear Rate for 12 months past, and never received any Payment or Emolument for Services done, I hope your Excellency will direct me and order payment in that Line, as I am unacquainted with the mode of application. 

I am with profound Respect, Your most Obt Hble St.

                                                                                                                            Chs. Mortimer


Jallap              Tartar Emetic         Mercurial Ointment
Ipeccachuan    Glauber Salts          Quicksilver
Rhubarb          Calomel                  Cream Tartar
Salt Peter        Oil Turpentine        Gum Arabick
Bark                Plasters                  Gum Guiacum
Salt Tartar      Olive Oil                Camphire
Spermacoeti   Spanish flies           Aloes
Laudanum       Elixir Paregoric      Tow
Opium            Bals Traumatick      Splints
Basilicon       Volatiles
Paper and Whatever the Director general may think Proper

                                                                             Chs. Mortimer
                                                                             Fredericksburg Dcr. 28th 1780[1]

Dr. Mercer's pharmacoepia, apparently similar to that of Dr. Mortimer...
many of the labels are the same as in the letter above.  Evacuation and vomiting!

Jallap: A cathartic drug derived from the roots of the plant ipoemia purga, found in the mountains of central Mexico.
Tartar Emetic: Also known as Antimony. Used to induce vomiting by dissolving in wine.
Mercurial Ointment: Topical disinfectant (similar to modern mercurochrome).
Ipeccachuan: Emetic made from the root of the South American Ipegakwai plant. Also used to induce sweating, treat dysentery, and bronchitis.
Glauber Salts: Hydrate of Sodium sulfate. General purpose laxatives.
Quicksilver: Mercury. Used to treat syphilis, constipation.
Rhubarb: Roots and stems used as a powerful cathartic and laxative.
Calomel: Mercury chloride. Used as a diuretic or laxative and to treat syphylis.
Cream Tartar: Potassium bitartrate. An emulsifier used to make creams, ointments, etc.
Salt Peter: Potassium nitrite. Used to treat asthma, overactive libido, and high blood pressure
Oil Turpentine: Oleoresin, perhaps unrefined turpentine. Topically used to treat lice infestation, wound cleanser (anti-septic) or expectorant.
Gum Arabick: Sap from the Acacia tree. Used as an emulsifier for various medicinal compounds.
Bark: Jesuits or Peruvian Bark. Bark from the cinchona tree, used to treat malaria.
Plasters: Used to immobilize limbs. Used topically to treat rashes.
Gum Guiacum: Extract from the heartwood of the Guiacum plant. Used to treat syphilis, chronic gout, and rheumatism.
Salt Tartar: Used as an emulsifier in preparing medicinal compounds, ointments, etc.
Olive Oil: Used to treat a cough and as a laxative.
Camphire: Camphor. Used as a local anesthetic or to treat rashes, and as an aromatic to treat “mania”.
Sperma coeti: Used as an excipient or suspension for medicines, ointments.
Spanish flies: Secretions from the Green Spanish Fly (blistering agent) used as a topical treatment for warts.
Aloes: Used as a mild laxative, or digestive aid, and a topical ointment.
Laudanum: Alcoholic Tincture- Analgesic used as a painkiller and cough suppressant.
Elixer Paragoric: Camphorated Tincture of Opium-anti-diarrheal, expectorant.
Tow: Used for bandages, cleaning wounds, etc.
Opium: Anesthetic.
Bals Traumatick: ?
Splints: Used to set limbs.
Basilicon: Ointment containing pitch, rosin, oil, etc. Used to aid in the discharge of pus.
Volatiles:  Ammonium carbonate. Also known by Sal Volatiles or Salt of Hartshorn. An ingredient of smelling salts, also ingested as an emetic.


[1] Boyd, J.P. ed., Papers of Tho. Jefferson, Vol 4., Princeton, NJ, Princeton University Press, 1951. (242-243).

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Pandours, Irregular troops were not all "Rangers"

Bannalist and Pandour, Freikorps Trenck.  By Morier, 1743.
    The Pandour.  What has he got to do with anything?  I believe we don't know enough about them.  They started off as Croatian and Hungarian Irregulars, fighting against the Turks in the 17th century and were absorbed into the Austrian Imperial Forces as Freikorps.  By the mid 18th c, France had incorporated the Freikorps Pandour-style light infantry into the army under Marshal de Saxe.  Writes, BGen Henri Bouquet (victor of the 1764 Battle of Bushy Run),

              "Marshal de Saxe, finding the French Army harrassed by the Hussars and other Austrian light troops formed also several corps of them of different kinds, and the king of Prussia, in his first war, introduced them into his army, and has augmented and employed them ever since with success.  We ourselves made use of them in the two last wars in Europe..." [2]

     Wait a minute...  The British had no idea how to fight in an irregular manner.  The Americans and Native Americans had to show them, right?  I mean, Braddock's Defeat, right?  Wrong.  The following work, also by Morier, was consigned by the Duke of Cumberland,

119th Prince's Own Light Infantry, after Morier (1763) [2]
     Note the similarities in this British Light infantry uniform to that of the Pandour by the same artist:  Hungarian Boots, Hungarian overalls, and what I believe is a hooded talma rolled over the shoulder-all practically identical to their Balkan/Magyar counterparts.  So I suspect that the 119th may have been at least one of the units Bouquet referred to.  Bouquet goes on to say that while the Pandour and the freikorps (an independent legion operating behind enemy lines) gives an idea of warfare in the Americas, the requirements in equipment and training were different for combatting the American Indian.

     I think this is significant.  Marshal de Saxe saw something in the need for these irregular units in Europe, in a time of massive linear engagements with sections locked in three ranks.  Bouquet used these irregulars as a point of reference for his audience:  British Officers who had not fought in the Americas.  For further reading on irregular warfare and light infantry tactics in Europe, I would recommend "The Science of Military Posts" by the French Officer La Cointe, written in 1758 and translated into english in 1761.  La Cointe's text (available for purchase at King's Press and Bindery) describes in detail the detached duties of a light infantry unit in Europe-exactly the sort of things the Pandours and freikorps excelled.  "Dirty deeds and they're done dirt cheap."  A good read.

    What I think is most compelling, is that after the Siege of Prague, a Captain Friederich Von Steuben transferred from the Lestwitz Regiment to the Prussian Freibattalion No. 2 (Von Mayr), serving as its adjutant [4].  The freibattalions, were not line infantry, but similar to their Austrian counterparts, were used as light infantry; scouting, patrolling, reconniassance, ambushing and intercepting isolated enemy formations and lines of communications.  This is the same Von Steuben that turned the Continental Army into the professional force that drove the British Army from New Jersey at Monmouth.  More to follow on the good ol' Baron, as he fought a successful "Small War" against Benedict Arnold in Tidewater Virginia in 1779-80.

    We may need to look more closely into the European irregulars and freibattalions if we are to understand the metamorphosis of Anglo-American and even French-Canadian light infantry in the 18th c.  It was a narrative that involved more than Robert Rodgers or the Iroquois.


[1]  Morier, D.  (1743),  Bannalist and Pandour. Oil on Canvas.  Royal Collection. Retrieved from

[2]  Bouquet, H. (1765).  An Historical account of the expeditions against the Ohio indians in the year 1764.  London, Bradford.

[3] Morier, D.  (1763), 119th (Prince of Wales' Own) Light Infantry, Royal Collection,  Retrieved from 

[4] Lockhart, P.  (2008).  The Drillmaster of Valley Forge.  NY, NY.  Harper Collins. 16-17.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Voice of the Shuttle

Weavers.  Diderot's Encyclopedia.

      Voice of the Shuttle is a search tool on the open internet similar to those that universities have to search archives not readily available to the general public (i.e. JSTOR).  It searches what is called the "hidden web"-archives, statistical data, and regular websites that aren't normally going to show up on your Google or Bing Search.

     You can find it here:  Voice of the Shuttle

I did a search on Jefferson, in order to find an e-collection of his papers.  I am trying to find certain letters from Von Steuben and Greene in 1780-81.

This is what I found:  Revolutionary America to 1791

Enjoy browsing.  I found an excellent site with primary sources from the Mohawk and Cherry Valley,  Drums Along the Mohawk,  describing the 1779 fight to hold the New York Frontier.  Good reading.


Wednesday, October 3, 2012

18th Century Knitted Caps

Any fool can be uncomfortable, 'tis a wise man what wears a knitted cap...
Captain Roger Gary and Lieutenant Michael "Caracticus" Hussey
laud the virtues of the knitted cap during a spring scout.
The knitted cap...not just for sailors and French Milice.  In supplying the unsuccessful 1776 Canadian expedition, Congress procured 688 caps and pairs of mittens [1].

           Virginia shipped a quantity to the Continental Forces, presumably received by Muhlenberg's Brigade (1st, 5th, 13th Va Regt, Continental Line and the 1st and 2d Virginia State Regiments, and the German Regiment), according to Washington's General Orders and a letter to to the Brigadier.

Excellent examples of extant knitted caps and reproductions can be found here:

His very cool Voyageur living history blog by the same gentleman can be found here:

...and my favorite,

From Diderot's Plates,


Only Figures 14 and 15 appear to show knitted caps.


[1] Journals of the Continental Congress 1774-1789, Vol IV, 1776.  46.

[2] Washington Papers.

[3] Hogarth, W (1747)  The Idle Prentice, London.,_the_idle_prentice.aspx

[4] Wallet and Purse Maker." The Encyclopedia of Diderot & d'Alembert Collaborative Translation Project. Ann Arbor: MPublishing, University of Michigan Library, 2010. <>. Trans. of "Boursier," Encyclopédie ou Dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers, vol. 2 (plates). Paris, 1763.


Monday, October 1, 2012

Mount Vernon Colonial Faire, 2012

Continental Dragoon and First Virginia private soldiers

                 The Mount Vernon Colonial Faire was a great event again this year and much cooler.
One of the many potters
     The event hosted several potters, joiners, tin smiths, musicians, weavers, and tailors.  I wish I had taken more photos and picked up business cards.  Too busy with our camplife and tactical demonstrations.

Portable Joiner's Bench:  Need to make one of these...
    I did spend a lot of time talking to the joiners and woodworkers.  It is amazing what can be accomplished with hand tools.  I've tried my hand at this and little by little am forging my replicas.  Hard to find 18th c hand tools at the antique shops.

Shaving Horse:  Need one of these too...

Serving the battalion gun
Mending equipment in camp

The Serjeant and the Quartermaster's Tent

Private Soldiers' tents

Private O'Brien constructing gabions for 2013 Battle of Gloucester Point
This WAS NOT our first attempt.


Saturday, September 29, 2012

An Interpretation of Hunting Shirts

Early War Hunting Shirt
                             GENERAL ORDERS Head Quarters, New York, July 24, 1776.
                                                   Parole Virginia. Countersign Wales.

     "...The General being sensible of the dificulty, and expence of providing Cloaths, of almost any kind, for the Troops, feels an unwillingness to recommend, much more to order, any kind of Uniform, but as it is absolutely necessary that men should have Cloaths and appear decent and tight, he earnestly encourages the use of Hunting Shirts, with long Breeches, made of the same Cloth, Gaiter fashion about the Legs, to all those yet unprovided. No Dress can be had cheaper, nor more convenient, as the Wearer may be cool in warm weather, and warm in cool weather by putting on under Cloaths which will not change the outward dress, Winter or Summer -- Besides which it is a dress justly supposed to carry no small terror to the enemy, who think every such person a complete Marksman."[1]

          Based on some feedback from the article I wanted to post some examples of my interpretations of the primary sources in the previous post.  Washington was a proponent of the humble hunting shirt throughout the war, which hearkened back to his days as Colonel of the First Virginia where he had his men clothed in "Indian Walking Dress" (presumably trade shirt, leggings, breechclout, and matchcoat). The photo above depicts my interpretation of the shirt Washington was recommending in 1776, based off the evidence of Virginia orderly books and deserter notices.  Split front, square cut, and sparsely fringed.

Captain Samuel Blodget in Rifle Dress, ca. 1786, John Trumbull [2]
        The above Trumbull painting of Captain Blodget (ten years' service in New Hampshire Militia) closely follows the dress recommended by Washington.  Trumbull, you will recall, had also painted Morgan in similar dress in "The Surrender of Burgoyne" a later work of the early 19th c, and was present during the campaigns of 1775-6.

         Even though the only extant shirts of the previous are EXTENSIVELY fringed, I believe, based on the time it takes to make the fringe for the collar (and I have made several), that the shirts would have been lightly fringed (in accordance with the information provided in the 2d and 6th Virginia orderly books of 1775, 76).

Collar detail, button closure, and neck gusset.
Button tab
        On extant shirts, you cannot see the collar closure, so the above photo is conjecture-my best guess.  It is the same tow-linen as the shirt fashioned into a tape by means of a straight stitch.  It is then fashioned into a loop and sewn to the inside of the shirt, behind the point that the cape joins the body of the shirt.  A simple shell button is used as well.  I have also seen a loop of linen or hemp cord used in place of the cloth loop at the collar as well as the cuffs on reproduction shirts.
Arm gusset.

Cuff, button hole, and shell button.
         A brief word on hand stitching and button-holes.  It does take practice, it does take time, but in my humble opinion...
Detail of finished hem and seam.
...its worth it-both inside and out.

         The following photos are of my son's early-war musician's hunting shirt.  This would have been worn by the Musick of the First Virginia until such time as regimentals were procured (quartermasters receipts suggest as early as 1777).

Drummer's Shirt and Accoutrements,  circa 1775-76
      This placket front shirt has broadcloth added to the collar and cuffs, in this case to identify the wearer as a musician.  The 1st and the 6th Virginia both may have added cloth.  The 1st to designate companies (no facing, Green, Blue, or Red) and the 6th Red, with white or other colors to designate rank on the cuffs [3].  My humble preference is to go without the colored tabs as I can only find three references from late 1775-76 that suggest this:  A receipt from the Virginia Public Store, the Dixon and Hunter deserter advertisements, and the 6th Virga  Orderly book.  I think the plain shirt is simply more generic.
Cape with company/section color
Placket Front
        Note on this shirt that the front opening terminates at a placket with reinforcement straight stitched to the reverse.  This vice the split front goes back to the argument of the definition of "shirt".

Cuff with facing
     The following photographs are of a simple, square cut body-shirt.  We do know that multiple shirts were worn for warmth or to cover the small clothes while working.  This is what I believe Washington spoke of when he referred to "Indian Walking Dress", what Patrick Henry's "Shirtmen" probably wore on their march from Hanover Court House during the 1775 Gunpowder Affair-again merely conjecture, and quite possible also the Culpeper Minute Battalion "dyed the colour of leaves" [4].
A simple body shirt and hunting accoutrements.
Rectangular gusseted collar, button-hole closure.

Horn button, gusseted shirt tails, and finished hems.

      Washington is absolutely correct about this being a very practical form of dress for all seasons.  I have worn this as an overshirt with a wool sleeved weskit, a wool weskit, and body-shirt underneath.  Wool breeches, leather leggings, and blanket-lined moccasins on my feet, monmouth cap on my head.  My first attempt was in California's San Gorgonio Mountains in February, with snow on the ground.  It was cold, but...tolerable, both on the move and at night with the addition of a thick wool matchcoat (blanket).


[1] General Orders, Washington Papers.

[2] Captain Samuel Blodget in Rifle Dress, ca. 1786, John Trumbull, (British American, 1756 - 1843), oil on canvas, 21 3/16 x 17 1/8 in. (53.8 x 43.5 cm.). The J. Harwood and Louise B. Cochrane Fund for American Art 2001.2

[3] Lewis, Andrew. The orderly book of that portion of the American army stationed at or near Williamsburg, Va., under the command of General Andrew Lewis, from March 18th, 1776, to August 28th, 1776, Yale Press 1860., pp13-14, accessed 24 Feb12.

[4] Travers, Raleigh, Ed., Journal of Captain Slaughter, as quoted in Notes on Culpeper County, Virginia; "Embracing a Revised and Enlarged Edition of Dr. Philip Slaughter's History of Saint Mark's Parish".  Compiled and Published, Culpeper Va, 13.