Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Morgan's Rifle Company: Deerlick Scout

     "...through hardships and dangers that would have appalled the stoutest follower of Xenophon...in the heart of the enemy's country, in the midst of a northern winter, where nothing was seen but ice and snow, with raw recruits, half clad, half fed, and scarcely half covered from the storms of wind and snow-the Expedition to Canada may fairly be placed on a parallel with any of the boasted achievements of Greece or Rome..." [1]

 "Nov. 28.—Capt. Goodrich with 2 subalterns, 4 Sergeants and
64 men, were detach'd to meet Gen. Montgomery's advanced
guard with necessary stores, &c., and to watch the Vessels ;
also Capt. Morgan with a like number of men, to go before
Quebec to watch their motions."

"We retraced the route from Quebec. A snow had fallen during the night, and
continued falling. To march on this snow was a most fatiguing business. By this
time we had generally furnished ourselves with seal-skin moccasins, which are
large, and according to the usage of the country, stuffed with hay or leaves, to
keep the feet dry and warm. Every step taken in the dry snow, the moccasin
having no raised heel to support the position of the foot, it slipped back, and
thus produced great weariness..." [3]

"...our people are Supply'd with provisions at Several places By the way,
but being in Great Hurry, and having but Little time to provide, necessaries,
our men were but Very poorly supply'd in General..." [4]

"...Nothing extraordinary or remarkable to-day, the weather is attended
with Snow Squalls..."

"...a Great Number of them being Barefoot, and the Weather
Cold and Snowy, many of our men died within the last three days..."

Survivors of the Deerlick Scout, Quebec Campaign
"Each man of the three companies bore a rifle barreled gun, a tomahawk, 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 mocassins,
if the latter could be procured..." [7]

Morgan's Riflemen are a group of living historians in Southern California.  I had the honor to scout with this most estimable, yet filthy, bedraggled, and friendly passal of polecats for a few years.  They do an amazing amount of events-for an 18th c organization on the West Coast:  Pacific Primitive Rendezvous, Fort Mac Days, Deerlick (San Bernardino Mountains), Hart Canyon, Holcomb Valley, Chino Military Through the Ages, to name a few.  They also host a colonial faire and rifle frolic in the the San Gorgonio Mountains (scouts, gaming, rifle matches, you name it.)

If you get lost heading to Kaskaskia or Vincennes, keep heading west until you hit another ocean (the South Seas).  They're somewhere around there above the snow line.


       "The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD:  and he delighteth in his way.  Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down:  for the LORD upholdeth him with His hand.

                                                             -Psalm 37:  23-24  

[1] Stone, Edward M., Invasion of Quebec, 1775:  Journal of Captain Simeon Thayer,  Knowles & Arthur, Providence., 1867. (xxiii)., University of Pittsburgh Library, http://archive.org/details/invasionofcanada00thay, accessed 29 Jan 13.

[2] ibid, 23.

[3] ibid, 23-24.

[4] Dearborn, Henry., Journal of Captain Henry Dearborn in the Quebec Expedition: 1775. J. Wlison & Son, Cambridge, MA., 1886. (12)., Library of Congress, http://archive.org/details/journalofcaptain00dear, accessed 29 Jan 13.

[5] ibid, 12.

[6] ibid, 12.

[7] Stone, 28.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Waistcoat of LtCol Stephens, 1st Virginia Regiment, c. 1756.

Waistcoat attributed to LtCol Andrew Stephens, second-in-command to Col Washington,
1st Virginia Regiment (c. 1750-60) [1]

Washington in the uniform of a British Provincial Colonel,
 by Peale (1772), Washington and Lee Univ. 
The Stephens waistcoat is almost identical.

Note the raw edge of the fabric on the arm hole detail.

[1] Smithsonian online collection, The Price of Freedom: Americans at War, http://amhistory.si.edu/militaryhistory/exhibition/flash.html?path=1.5.r_446, accessed 26 Jan 12.

Clothing the Virginia Brigades, Winter of 1778-79.

There would have been a significant improvement in the clothing of the
Continental soldier in the winter of 1778-79 from that which was seen
at Valley Forge.

  Head Quarters, Fredericksburgh, October 28, 1778.

            Dear Sir: Part of the Cloathing has already arrived from Springfield and I imagine a sufficiency for the Troops in this quarter will be here in a day or two. I therefore desire you will immediately send up proper Officers from each of the Virginia Regiments and from the Delaware Regt. to draw their proportions. The Officers are to call at Head Quarters where they will receive orders upon the Deputy Cloathier for their uniforms compleat and for a proportion of Hatts and Blanketts. Be pleased to give notice to the commanding Officer of Genl. Woodfords Brigade.

                            -Ltr of Genl. Washington to Genl. Muhlenberg.[1]

        In 1778, the Virginia Brigades, Muhlenberg's Brigade (1st, 5th, 9th, and 13th Virginia and the German Regiment) Weedon's (2d, 6th, 10th, and 14th Virginia and Stewart's Penna State Regt) received a number of uniform coats manufactured in France.  This was very probably the best equipped these troops would be for the entirety of the conflict.  Twelve wagonloads of these coats arrived from ports in New England, whereafter, commonly referred to as French Bounty or Lottery coats, they were distributed based on the results of two lotteries held on October 28th.  In the first lottery, Virginia and Delaware troops (Lot 2) drew brown faced red, in the second, blue faced red, there being a greater quantity of that color.[2]

       On the same day, several wagon loads of clothes also came from Williamsburg and the public stores of Virginia.  They contained, among numerous bales of linen, 1903 green cloth breeches, 291 red serge breeches, 784 red flannel waistcoats, 435 red cloth (wool) waistcoats, and 492 red serge waist coats.[4]  It is possible that these state supplied bales of linen were made into overalls at the recommendation of Washington and in concordance with the January 1778 Congressional clothing warrant.[5]

Dug buttons from a Virginia Brigade camp in the New Jersey Highlands[3] 
Given the time period associated with these encampments, these may
have been from the 1778 French Lottery coats and Public Store shipments.
      Unlike the states of Massachussetts and Connecticut, for which we have several extant examples, no button is known to exist that correlates specifically to the Virginia state clothing issue.   It is possible that locally made buttons were struck, however, it is more likely (given the lack of evidence from known Virginia encampments) that these coats and small clothes had civilian or U.S.A. buttons.  Archaologic sites generally show that the numbered French buttons were associated with numbered Continental Regiments, not necessarily State units accepted into Continental service.
    According to Calver,

    "...the most common type of Continental button is the one which bears the letters 'U.S.A.'  Although we do not know exactly when this type was introduced, we can reasonably say-considering the locations at which it has been found and the probable date of the first use of the initials 'U.S.A.'-that it did not make its appearance before 1777.   The frequency with which this button is found, however, would indicate that its issue was very general after that date..." [6]

French two piece buttons, from the same dig.  Possibly from a lottery coat?
       Calver's research and the recent finding of the U.S.A. buttons at a known Virginia encampment from the winter of 1778-1779, further improves our picture of the Virginia Brigades in 1778.
       While the fifteen Virginia regiments were consolidated into eleven by the time of the clothing issue, and there still remained 3,808 officers and other ranks in active service, only 1,753 of these were present and fit for duty [7].  It is therefore my impression that the Virginia Brigades were, at this point, the most uniform, well-clothed and well-equipped than at any point of the war.


[1] Letter of General Washington to General Muhlenberg, 28 October 1778., George Washington Papers., Vol. 13, John C. Fitzpatrick, Ed., Government Printing Office, Wash D.C., 1936., 173.

[2] Letter from Washington to Deputy Clothier General Mease, 28 October 1778., George Washington Papers., Vol.13, John C. Fitzpatrick, Ed., Government Printing Office, Wash D.C., 1936., 172.

[4] Invoice of October 29, 1778, George Washington Papers.

[5] Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774-79., vol. X, Worthington Chauncey Ford, Ed., Government Printing Office, Wash D.C., 1908, 7.

[6] Calver, William L. "Researches into the American Army Button of the Revolutionary War", The Journal of American Military History Foundation, Vol. 1, No. 4 (Winter 1937-38), 156.

[7] Return of Virga. Troops on Continental Service, 30 September 1778, Papers of Thomas Jefferson, Vol. 2, 1777 to 18 Jun 1779, Julian P. Boyd, Ed., Princeton Univ. Press, Princeton, New Jersey, 1950., (213-214).

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Period methods for cleaning your firelock...

A Corporal, doing what is expected, without being told...
an unfortunate rarity.
              The following is from "The Private Soldier's and Militia Mens Friend", (pp.18-20) published in 1785 by a retired British Sergeant Major.  It is chock full of excellent information, applicable to Bloodybacks and Yankee Doodles alike...

              "FIRST you must provide yourself with a hand-vice, screwdrivers, rubbing sticks, and leather free from grease, oil, emery, crocus martis[1] &c.  The rubbing sticks for the arms should be made of deal wood of different sizes, with leather glued on them in the following manner:-Make the rubbing sticks very smooth and on one side of it lay the hot glue, and on this side your leather and press it down; then lay some glue on the leather and on that lay some emery, and press it a little into the glue, let them be well dried; with this use oil and an emery, brick dust[2], &c.; if you apply them properly by rubbing the arms well, they will  give your arms a smooth surface: you are next to proceed to polish them; take crocus martis, and clean dry leather, rub the part which you want to polish until it is warm, when it will acquire a very fine dark gloss.

Brick Dust:  Use old (pre-1930's)bricks.  Newer bricks are harder and more abrasive.
Bricks must be free of mortar and crushed to a fine powder. 
Remove any large, non-uniform pieces.

                "The next thing I would advise you in to keep them clean when they are so, which you may easily do by paying proper attention to them in wet or damp weather; when you have done using them, take care to rub them dry by the fireside if possible.  Take a quarter of an ounce of camphor[3], two ounces of hogs lard, melt them together; then add as much black lead as will turn it an iron colour.  This composition laid on the iron parts for four and twenty hours, and then rubbed off, will prevent any iron from rusting for six months together.

Care and feeding:  (l-r) crocus martis, hand vise, rubbing sticks, cartridge form,
oil flask, bee's wax, turn-screw, worm, pick/whisk, rosin, brick dust, tow and rags.

                                                        To clean the brass of your arms

                 "Take a  little whiting or rotten stone[4], mix it with some spirits, lay it on the part you want to clean while wet, and with a piece of soft leather rub until the brasses are warm, and you will find it will give them a fine gloss.  The buttons of your clothes should be cleaned with the same, only use a brush instead of leather.

                  "You ought to be very careful of the stock of your firelock to keep it from injury; and as the beauty of your stock very much assists the appearance of the barrel, the scratches, dents, holes, &c. should be filled up with bees-wax, and the part or whole stock when covered with bees-wax, should be varnished with black rosin[5], this will give it a fine dark gloss, and likewise preserve the wood."

[1] An abrasive similar to jeweler's rouge.

[2] Use old bricks (18thc) as modern bricks don't seem to reduce to the fine abrasive powder required.

[3] Mothballs-Camphor was and is a solid, formed from turpentine oils.

[4] Pipeclay, chalk?  I find that plaster or chalk works well as a polish Similar to the chalky properties of modern brass cleaners or auto/metal rubbing or polishing compounds.

[5] Black rosin is available in cakes at music stores (for stringed instruments), and is pricey-or you can make your own by collecting rosin from pines and cooking it down-an experiment for another day!