Thursday, March 17, 2016

Militia Knapsack Construction: American War of Independence

Militia knapsack on a Virginia Militiaman in 1781. 
The extant pack is actually of Penna or New England origin...ah well.

This is my second attempt at this knapsack and I finally got the paint consistency correct.  The previous examples I constructed used pure modern oil paints, which are not the same consistency as 18th c oil paint and have enamel hardeners, apparently.  Out of the gate, my original packs were too stiff and eventually the paint cracked after a few years of use (which is a shame as they were made from vintage Irish linen canvas from Royal Navy hammock mattress covers).

Ready for assembly.  I used a heavy weight natural linen.
Acceptable for a pack, but too light for a tent.
For this run, I am mixing red and brown oil paint to get the ubiquitous "Spanish Brown" color. Linseed oil and turpentine were added to maintain flexibility an thin the paint.  I also added Japan drier and Tung Oil to speed the curing process (which took only two days).

Sewn inside out and turned.  As I begin making these for sale, I will use two
needles and a saddle stitch as it will make the seam stronger.

For the construction, I used hemp cord to sew the body (with a backstitch) and affix the straps (whipstitch).  I would recommend a saddle stitch in the future.

Close up of the backstitch.  I would finish off the corner by backing up the stitch for two inches.
I did the same at the opening of the bag as these two areas would see the most stress.

Placement of shoulder strap.  I used a whipstitch to close the seam as one would
when recreating the Uhl Knapsack.

The button holes and top stitching were completed with Burnley and Trowbridge's heaviest weight linen thread.  The pack was comfortable and I wore it for several hours during the reenactments of the Green Spring and Guilford Courthouse fights last week. One would think that the small straps (5/8 in) would cut into the shoulders, but as it is small, it doesn't hold so much that it is uncomfortable.  but the only addition I would make is tying a sternum strap across the front to keep the pack centered on the back.  If you carry a blanket, I would tie it with thongs to the straps at the top of the pack.

The completed knapsack
For more on period knapsack construction, I highly recommend the collections at Old Sturbridge Village, which are a bit after our time, but still relevant, files and notes on the Rev War Reenactors Facebook Page, and the article, "Cost of a Knapsack, Complete" by the incomparable John U. Rees.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

240th Anniversary of the Battle of Moore's Creek, NC

Tory recruit and drummer from Cross Creek, enroute to Wilmington.
(I bought the knitted bonnets in Spain...go figure).

    Its been a busy, few weeks...well year for that matter.  So its no surprise that I'm writing about Moore's Creek (A great National Park, with a great staff) two weeks after the fact.  This was our first event on the Crown side and we fell in as Tories on their way from Cross Creek (Fayetteville) to Wilmington, NC.  These transplants from Scotland (veterans and sons of veterans of the rebellion of 1745) were being recruited to rendezvous with the Royal Navy and be transported north to Nova Scotia to be outfitted as a provincial regiment.  By the time they had reached the bridge at Moore's Creek, they had already marched over 90 miles, had few weapons (most who died in the battle were armed with the broadsword and pistols).

Moore's Bridge.  Prior to the battle, the Whigs tore up the boards on the bridge
and greased the stringers.  The Highlanders who actually made it across met with a hail
of cannon fire from a small earthen fort, recently thrown up by the Whig force.

   The battled ended in a Whig victory, but had two important results: Firstly, Wilmington did not fall into Crown hands and the future highland regiment was significantly depleted.  Negatively, the lopsided victory caused North Carolina to rely on militia levies for defense for the remainder of the war, never filling its Continental quota.  Once the war returned to the south, North Carolina was absolutely unprepared.

       While there was no battle recreation at the National Park, the NPS under the guidance of Ranger Matt Woods put on a great event.  The weekend kicked off with wreathlayings at the Scottish Tory and Whig monuments, attended by local Scottish Clan associations and the DAR.

         The rest of the weekend was filled with military demonstrations and colonial folkways-these were the best.  Moore's Creek staff has done a phenomenal job turning the field into an outdoor class room.

The last firing of the gun before its retirement to the museum.

At the outdoor kitchen, demonstrators talked about Colonial
foodways, while demonstrating 18thc baking and cooking techniques.

William Carter and Rick Sheets, horners, were very engaging and had beautiful work.

We were able to observe the making of lantern panes and well as picking
up some valuable trade-secrets.

A few sutlers even made it out for the event.

Moore's Creek has a fully functional forge and a robust
blacksmith apprenticeship program...its all taken off in the last few years.

Add to this an 18th c soldier's garden and this really is a great site for an event, field trip
or home school day.

Non-period marshmellow roasting in sub-freezing temperatures.

 We had a wonderful time here, met some great people in the 71st and 84th Highlanders, with whom we fell in, and will certainly be back next year.  Perhaps with a little more kit that just a blew bonnet!

On our way to Wilmington LOL  #Godsavekinggeorge #Downwiththewhigs