Fort Pitt

Fort Pitt
Center of the ohio country universe

Friday, March 25, 2011

rained all day stayed in camp....

New knife I traded from Joseph Privott of Toqua trading....nice thin sharp blade...the boy can smith.....Yes I like knives not made in shefield as well.

Pocket compass and other pocket "trash" traders lisc., Pocket book, misers purse (travis crowder) Lead pencil and notebook. Compass, Pencil and notebook I use to map out game trails

First stage of my half faced camp....

So spring is here…I love spring. The actual reason I love spring is the grayness and constant rain. Wow I guess my blackness is pretty obvious in this picture. If you look at period narratives this is also one of the times of year you see my favorite period quotes “rained all day stayed in camp”. To me this is the idea we should really focus on. Any hunter knows the majority of the time you hunt you’re simply watching around you and a big part of that is based on the weather. I think the “long” hunter idea is based just as much on the amount of time you spent in the woods as much as how far you rode to hunt.
The idea of hunting is romantic but the idea of hanging out at the camp near the bateau isn’t. This was the place ypu find people fleshing hides, dressing them for mocs, pressing hides into bales. All the things that would have been your usual day.
Another aspect of your social day would have been gambling. Betting on who could flesh the most hides, dog fights, fist fights, cards and shooting matches. This was all part of your normal worldview. So one thing I have been trying to get into my skull has been the rules to the card game whist. Gerry Barker first turned me onto this game a number of years ago and the social aspects of gaming in the period (check out Gerry’s articles in muzzleloader and his small book on spies…..I’ve known Gerry for years now and he is a great source of information and an awesome guy) Whist was a common Card game and one the majority of us would have known. So here is a link to site that can help you learn this game as well as sources for period cards.

period cards (as well as nice nice tools and other items)

Part of staying in camp is also…well having a camp. A few years ago The folks from the ACM spent a few days working on a cabin crib at my hunting camp. The idea was to build a “hogpen” cabin to hang out in. I have to admit I was against the idea of the cabin from the get go. All I simply wanted was a substantial half faced shelter. Sorry but I try to be nothing more than the idle hunter. I hate farm work, I have no trade but I can hunt. So after doing some work off and on I decided to simply turn the crib into a half faced shelter. So over the past few weeks I notched out logs (yes Chris it will stay up and the logs are notched) used a buck saw to cut out an opening (not gonna lie I also brought out a chainsaw for some tweaking)
So I’m now at the point I need to gather some bark to cover it while I get all the stuff together to rive out some clapboards to cover it. I plan on finishing it with a bench/bunk inside as well as a table. I’ve already made a fleshing beam and a small shelter to smoke hind quarters in. I’ll post pics aas I progress on the project. The other “rainy day” projects I’ve started has been gathering some “burl” to make myself a “canoe cup”. I figured with friends like Mike Galban and Ward Oles who really have nailed down burl work I should pick their brains to try and make myself a backcountry cup as nicely as possible.
SO as not to make this a simple “I did this” blog I’d post some info on a piece of gear I carry. A year ago I picked up a nice Repro compass from Jim Mullins. Since the purpose of this blog is to document all the gear I carry I figured this would be a perfect time to..well get back on track.
Below are 2 “hunters” working for BW&M in the late 1760’s. Both men pick up pocket compasses. I find it really interesting that they buy them so close together. I wonder if a hunting partner came in with a story of being lost. I also find it interesting that Dunnan buys 2 butcher knives at once. Anyone who has skinned out a number of deer at once knows how nice it is to have a back up knife. SO I can imagine guys hunting deer and Buffalo would find this just as useful.

To throw a little gas on the proverbial fire to me this is also a point for the non giant file knife crowd. If your job is skinning animals wouldn’t you go for the right tool for the job? I still need to find a way to skin a buffalo with a thin blade trade knife and a large file knife….god do I have weird daydreams.

Simon McCormack June 5 1768
To 1 small pocket compass 5 “_

Jacob Dunnan June 6 1768
To 2 butcher knives @ 3.10….7”_
1 pocket compass 7.10…7”10

Here is a 1770’s Virginia runaway carrying a compass with well a pretty nice sounding kit to head west:
FINCASTLE, May 21, 1775. RUN away from the subscriber, living on Neck creek, near Mr.Thopson's mill, an Irish servant man named THOMAS BENSON, about 5 feet 9 inches high, wears his own long black hair tied, and has lost the half of his left hand little finger; had on a home made flax linen shirt, a pair of tow linen trousers, and carried with him a blue home made cloth coat, a red and yellow silk and cotton waistcoat, buckskin breeches, a rackoon hat, a brass mounted long smooth-bore gun, marked on the side-plate MM 1769, and on the barrel W. MORGAN, a shot-bag and powder-horn, a canister with 2 lbs. of powder, a falling axe, a pocket compass, &c. &c. He likewise stole his indentures, and, being a very good scholar, it is probable he may make an assignment on them. He is supposed to be with Samuel Ingram's servant man, as they both went off about the same time. Whoever secures the said servant, so that I get him again, shall have 5 l. reward, and, if out of the county, reasonable charges, paid by

I’d love to know what that “rackoon” hat looked like. Also Pay attention to the use of breeches and trousers together. Trousers are the 18th century coveralls guys and honestly they are way nicer to wear in the summer then leggings (and documented all over the backcountry).

Well I should be weaving and sewing for the long hunter school next weekend. It looks like the Traders crew will have a nice showing and I’m looking forward to seeing a few of the guys from the 2nd Company . What happens when brown and stroud hang out? Bad things man ,bad things. Or..horror...We'll all get along and talk history from different points of view.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Fort Pitt likes Purple....

I've seen Mike Burke do this same thing...

Mckee's leggings....

This weekend was a pretty nice change up before the “season” starts for me. The Honorable Guild of Horner’s had their meeting just over the hill from my place at Fort Roberdeau outside of Altoona, Pa. Mike Burke and Joseph Privott came up and we made the trek over to the fort for the weekend. Besides being overwhelmed by powder horns the biggest thing I noticed about the guild meeting was the attitude….an overwhelming positive attitude and a desire to share info you rarely see among craftspeople in this little world (thought I was going to go negative there didnt ya).
I am neither a powder horn maker nor maker of well anything except horn shavings and destroyed cow horns. However after hanging out at the meeting for the weekend I have to say I’m a little more inclined to pick up a cow horn or two and get to a lathe. Demonstrations on horn pressing, turning, carving…you name it you could get tips on how to do it as well as get hands on time with some skilled folks. I can’t say enough good things about the people I met and the overall attitude of this organization.
So for most folks the winter season is fading and the spring season is starting to kick off. Did you get all your new projects finished? Well I didn’t either. One project I started this past winter was knocking out leggings, matchcoats, and breechclouts based off period descriptions or in Images. The idea was to both have some of these items for sale and to have some premade items for my ever growing trade goods display.
I’ve found a number of examples of wool/ribbon color combinations in the Bayton, Wharton and Morgan Fort Pitt Day book. I’ve found ribbon/leggings being purchased by traders, natives, hunters and soldiers. Some items with ribbon were sold premade by many trading posts. In the 1750’s this practiced was noted quite humorously by a native complaining about trade goods. He commented that his ribbon clout he had purchased from a trader “barley covered his c*ck” and he but a small one (I’ll provide the whole citation later sorry to toss out an unbacked quote like that)
However Nicholas cresswell talks in his journal of having leggings made for him by a native woman outside Fort Pitt in the 1770’s. Does this mean she put on the ribbon and beads or just beaded a pair of premade leggings is open to debate? Also if you look at Jacob Stevens comments on the battle of Blue licks:
“on the top of the hill, I fell in with a man who had red leggings on, and I was told only the company from Lexington had on such leggings.”
To me this supports the purchase of premade leggings in the Kentucky region during the 1770’s. This isn’t to say ALL leggings were premade/stroe bought items but I feel that this was such a common item in the trade purchasing new leggings was as common as purchasing powder and lead. Also I’ve said it a million times (everyone repeat this with me) There was no White section and Native section of the trading post. Phillip the Indian hunter bought the same type of Leggings you would have seen on John Jameson.

Premade leggings also pop up in French sources. Ike Walters sent me this info from the Montreal Traders records:
Montreal Merchants Records regarding leggings sent to Green Bay Post (LaBaie)


30 ells of violet and blue molton employed to make 30 pairs leggings, garnished
29 ¾ ells of red molton (unused)
32 1/3 ells of violet molton (unused)
52 ells of white molton 20 ells of which employed to make 20 pairs of leggings
Employed to trim and braid the above… [this included “fancy Capots”]
2- 7/8 marcs of piping
1 – ½ marc wide galon
4 pieces silk edging (partly employed)
also mentioned is gartering
Sewing cost for leggings on this list is about 2s 6d /pr
a 1741 list to LaBaie mentions the trimmings as well with the silk edging being the only one specific to leggings
a 1747 LaBaie shipment from Montreal included “212 pairs of large leggings made of molton”
(Thanx Ike )

So for one pair of my “trade leggings” I opted to go with a pair purchased by Alexander Mckee at fort Pitt in the 1760’s:
1 pair Purple half thick leggings
6 yards green & yellow ribbon @ 2 ..12..
2 skeins green silk @ 1/6

And yes the color combination is one reason I really wanted to make these. Purple Leggings turn up all over the place in period documents. At Fort Pitt I have found Red, white, green, blue and Purple turning up as colors for leggings. From experience I can tell ya…white leggings don’t stay white for very long especially in the spring. However I’m not gonna lie…..these things hurt my eyes
So after mapping out the amount of ribbon per legging to my mind the best bet was go with a documented ribbon scheme. If you look at the few original ribbon covered leggings in existence (The messiter example, the Russian pair pictured in the “clash of empires” catalog, the New Brunswick pair) you see that the ribbon was done with two rows of ribbon running the length of the front and rear flaps. I’ve found that on many period accounts of natives buying/receiving ribbon with leggings the math works out to this same 2 row configuration.
If you’re looking for a source for Silk ribbon for leggings or any project check out the folks at The Brandenburg store house. They carry a wide selection of colors and are great to deal with.

Well I should be weaving and working on like a million other projects. On a side note I was able to get out again yesterday in between rain storms and shoot the G and get some practice moving and loading. I also spent a few hours working on my half faced shelter and collecting Burl and tinder fungus. It was a nice break from the usual modern world weirdness. So to get into my first self help column on here Try it yourself folks…walk away from the msg boards few a few hours … it’s spring , read a new book, take a walk in the woods, work on that project covered with dust in your basement. The boards will still be there when ya get back.
Happy Saint Patrick’s Day….mmmm guiness ...I've posted some of my favorite 18th century "irish" images enjoy.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

"chewed bullets flying" and otter skin bags

Von reck image with otter skin bag
File and "chewed" musket ball

Otter skin pouch and some contents

Otter turban...not southeastern but i had to make it

"The leader, on each side, immediately blows the small whistle he carries for the occasion, in imitation of the ancient trumpet, as the last signal of engagement. Now hot work begins -- The guns are firing; the chewed bullets flying; the strong hiccory bows a twanging; the dangerous barbed arrows whizzing as they fly" James Adair

The snow really took a beating here this week. It’s starting to look a lot like spring and that means turkeys and events. Thank god if I heard about one more flame war on a msg board I think I was going to start collecting star wars figures. So one flame war I touched off a few weeks ago (my bad) was about the patching of smooth bore rounds.
I spent a lot of mornings this past week digging thru narratives and Thanx to a tip by Mike Galban this has now become a full bore research topic for me. The ultimate “doer vs. Librarian” Smack down. I’ve been looking over narratives/pension applications/journals/newspaper accounts for any references to natives shooting a gun (rifle or smoothbore) or any references to loading practices/mention of gun equipment for ANYONE. I have to say it’s been enlightening to just how much shooting lore in the hobbie is probably myth.
SO one thing I’ve heard mentioned a number of time was the practice of natives shooting “chewed balls” in fact the title of this blog (which would be an awesome title for an article or book) is from a mention from James Adair of south eastern natives at war. The physics behind this is that the dimples in the ball help it act like a golf ball and fly straighter. Get rid of the “knuckle ball” effect you see in a smooth ball.
So Last Wednesday I was able to head to my camp and spend a few hours shooting. I prepared 15 “chewed” rounds ahead of time by rolling the ball on a rasp to get the dimple effect (I chewed one and I like my teeth too much to do all 15. You can call farb if ya want) My plan was to take 15 shots with an unpatched round ball (14 from the bench one off hand) and the same with the “chewed” rounds. I was also going to clean my barrel in between the two groups to avoid any help the extra fouling may help the second group.
I was shooting 50 yards with 65 grains and a .60 ball in my .62 type G So the first 14 were s off the bench and they shot 3 inches low and slightly to the right off dead center (I kept a pretty nice grouping) and the off hand shot was 3 inches low from dead center. The chewed rounds really did surprise me. The 14 were an inch higher and dead center low. My off hand shot was like 5 inches low and to the left ( I don’t know what happened there I was a little mad at myself).
SO there was an improvement in the chewed ball. I think the dimples had an effect and the ball seemed tighter in the barrel due to the small raises. I spoke with John Getz for a few minutes this week and mentioned this to him and he mentioned that he would often rough up a round ball when shooting in smoothbore matches because of this reason. SO for me this is pretty kewl here we have the accounts and the actual practice lining up (crazy how that works).
A few other accounts I came across also pointed towards native shooting practices and gun equipment carried by natives. Heres is a few quick accounts:
William Clinkenbeard “you could always tell an Indian gun. Never were so heavily loaded, nor sounded so loud, cracked flatter.”
To me this one is something that makes a lot of sense. If you’re constantly looking to resupply your powder from a foreign resource you’re going to be a little stingy with your shooting. Also this could also account for why you also see natives being mentioned chewing their musket balls and using buck and ball loads. Anything you can do to raise your level of kill efficiency. This is also something to think about for those that like to burn powder in public battles. Maybe you should tune the level of powder you put in your cartridges back a little. Do ya really need 100 grains in your tulle?
Another quote that may support the use of half loads:
James Wade “The Bullet passed through 9 folds of the blanket he had rolled up and strapped on his shoulders, and then stopped made flat as a 9d. The force of the blow knocked him down again, but did not get through the blanket to the skin”

So here is some neat info I gleamed from a quick look for Gun equipment being carried by natives:
“ A very Nice Indian cap and a gun stick were found where they camped. The cap was made of two pieces of white colored cloth with two red tassles hanging down, one on each side of the head, at the corners that stuck up” June 1790’s in Kentucky James Wade

To me this cool on two fronts this is possibly a mention of a “wiping stick” or separate stick from a ramrod. I’ve seen these turn up a lot in info on later fur trade folks in the west but never on a native in the east. And second the use of a eared cap (happy birthday crowder now start sewing your cap…when my jacket is finished) in the south.

John Rankins “The Indian came down to the lick; seen where our horses had been along, raised his charger and gave a whistle,4 other Indians immediately came up. “

I’ve seen this practice a few times in narratives. If you blow across the top of a measure you can use it like a whistle. Guys in my crew have used this as a signal quite a few times and you’d be surprised at how far that sound carries in the woods.

“we take sight and have them at a shot and so do the French they do not only shoot with a bullet but with big swan shot. They say the French load with a bullet and six swan shot” Christian Frederick Post page 169 Causes of the alienation of the [Delaware and Shawanese Indians], from the British interest
This shows once again the use of buck and ball by the french and natives. having shot quite a few buck and ball loads as of late I gotta tell ya it tears the hell out of a target backstop (gotta replace one at my camp now…too much fun shooting)

And here is some info I dug up on white guys shooting equipment. This info is mostly from Dale Payne’s book Frontier Memories 3 (buy his BOOKS!!!!! …I get nothing from Dale for plugging his books every blog but I swear to you if you buy his books and take a week off the message boards reading about boxwood, antler knives, 27 inch straps and blind elephants you will thank me.)

William Moseby (talking about a man shooting a bear) “…He then took his gun wiper and shot him in the side…” Page 127 FM3
James Wade (point Pleasant campaign) “ Many had to draw their guns because they were so out of order and several came to our camp to get the bullet screws for that purpose.”
“Bullet Drawers was a piece stuck on like they did to make a wiping stick, only the screw closer and much stronger. Sometimes broke them or if the powder was wet, it was very tedious getting a bullet out. We had several drawers in our camp, don’t know whose they were.”
“Esq George crooks tells of one Abraham Hornback that covered his bullets very neatly with buckskin in starting to go out in the late war & and that he killed an Indian with one of them. He only went out for 5 or 6 weeks to be in one battle”
Ben Guthri “He had shot a buffalo and had put in powder and ball without wadding to finish the killing”

Leather patched ball, unwadded shot, shooting wipers…great info from the folks there. Something’s I’ve noticed from looking for specific gun equipment these folks carry Less then you’d think….I’m really surprised at how little these guys carry (or mention they have) on them for their seemingly most important tool. Wipers, gun worms, bullet puller, shot, ball a few extra flints maybe a bullet mold seem to really be it. Which if you look at the size of the few documented shot pouches out there seems to work out.
So onto the stuff I’ve been working on….Well my fingers are bleeding from making stroud cloth (a mixture of tiger blood and blue dye…winning!) and I’ve been weaving like a mad man but I did take some time to knock out a few pieces of gear for myself. I’ve had a great otter hide since 2000 and have been kicking around the idea of making a quilled pouch out of it but….I’ve also wanted an otter turban since…well the first time I saw the Demming painting of Braddock’s defeat when I was in 2nd grade. SO thanx to a lead by Mike Galban and some info from Ike Walters I was able to knock out my latest fur cap.
Well since the otter hide was pretty big I also had to jump on the latest trend and make myself a south eastern otter skin shot pouch. These pouches were described by James Adair:
"On a Christmas-day, at the trading house of that harmless, brave, but unfortunate man, I took the foot of a guinea-deer out of his shotpouch -- and another from my own partner, which they had very safely sewed in the corner of each of their otter-skin-pouches, to enable them, according to the Indian creed, to kill deer, bear, buffaloe, beaver, and other wild beasts, in plenty..."
"As on a level place, all the savages sit cross-legged, so my visitors did, and held their guns on their knee, or kept them very near, with their otter-skin shot pouch over one of their shoulders, as is usual in time of danger. "
After looking at Takes on this by Jim Apple (canebreak mafia!) and Jason Melius I opted to go for the flap pouch over an open top bag. I also opted for a plain leather strap rather than weaving one (I wish I knew someone that fingerwove….for himself). You can see southern native shot bags in the Von reck image of native hunters and in the Commission given to Ostenaco by the French. So I tried and shoot for the middle of these two images.
The bag measures 6 by 6 and I took out shooting the other day and it worked out pretty well. I have it set up with loose shot and ball in the bottom, a French folding knife (back of blade acts as a turnscrew for the gun) made by Ken Hamilton, a small bag with flints in it and a cane whistle (made by Joseph privott) The horn I carried is a “millice” horn made for me by Mike Burke. Its based off some extant Canadian horns and scaled to hold one French pound of powder. Attached to the horn I carried a tin charger and brass pick (joseph privott) I recently picked up a pair of chargers made by hot dip tin but I haven’t had a chance to put those on a shooting rig yet. BUT they look pretty good and are based off an original example.
For the folks I promised info to this week here ya go a few examples of Tin Kettles at Fort Pitt

Fort Pitt Aug 7th 1765
John Cambell For 1 large tin kettle “7”6

Fort Pitt may 1767
James Kelly Batteauman
2 ½ yds Russia duck…@ 3/6…8..9
2 coarse shirts 20/ 2 skeins thread 6….1..0..6
1 small tin kettle .3..6
3 quarts of rum at diff times….9…
To Hutchinson Taylor……..3
(sounds like he’s getting trousers made to me)

Well I should be sewing but on the self promotion front Myself and few friends (Mike Burke and Joeseph privott) will be at the Horner’s Guild meeting at Fort Roberdeau this coming weekend. So stop by and say hi. Also I’ve been asked to do another talk at the Longhunter school on period shooting equipment (this is what happens when ya open your big mouth) so if you’re coming bring your shooting rig and We’ll be talking about what we carry, why we carry it and if THEY would have carried it.