Fort Pitt

Fort Pitt
Center of the ohio country universe

Friday, August 30, 2013

what I did on my summer vacation....



                                             Some of the Cabin Program crew

                                          The Byerly's and capt Krause chilling next to my trade goods

                                          Display of trade goods at Fort Fred...need a blanket?

Ok so it’s been awhile since I posted anything (and believe me I’ve heard about it)I had a few posts started but a child + a glass of water + a laptop = lost research. So let me recap my summer….I spent a lot of time in the woods, I didn’t do many events and I got Married. After 8 years I finally tied the knot. So THAT took up a lot of my time.
      I did make it to two events that rocked. One was the Bushy Run 250th. Members of the Augusta County Militia portrayed life around "Bushy Run Station"  before the outbreak of the war in western Pa. Duane Schrecangaust (I always spell his name wrong ) Portrayed Andrew Byerly  and did a great job setting up our little home away from home. The other was the Fort Frederick F&I event. I set up With Tom Apple and the "trading party" crew and we explained the role of the Indian Dept. in aiding the southern Natives brought north to fight the French.  yeah we had a lot of stuff to show...

                So I thought I’d take the chance to add some more info from a Northern Perspective to a blog posted by my friend Jason Melius about natives in coats  . One of the standard “I needs” for folks doing Native impressions is a British military coat.  The “trophy coat” has become a sort of standard piece of gear in many camps (I blame Buxton…but then again I blame him for everything. Steelers didn’t go to the superbowl…Buxton did it) Most folks will dig out or quasi cite the James Smith account of the trophies being brought back in to Fort Duquesne as the basis for this (while also ignoring the canteens on the list, weird…) Many folks will then go to shoot/stab said coat because “he didn’t need it anymore”. I’ve even seen folks bead the “bullet hole” to extenuate  it and make it more “native”. Ok let me join in the “Friends don’t let friends wear trophy coats” chorus.

                Ok So I’ve already posted a lot of info on blanket coats/cappa coats/capots. Super common trade items, pop up in a lot of accounts, kinda hard to screw up. Now I’ll post a little info on the common “coat” on natives.

 In the suffering Traders papers coats seemed to have been a common item carried by Traders in Western Pa/Va  before the F&I

Goods sent to twightwee town with Andrew McBryer 1752:

28 coats @20/       28..0..0

Goods sent up River Kentucky under care of David Hendricks (1753)

30 Made coats @20/

Account of their losses of George Croghan and William Trent, June 14,1756 

60 coats @20

                Coats also seem to make to their way into the descriptions captives give of Ohio country natives:

John Mcullough 1756:  We met an old indian whose dress made him appear very terrifying to us ; he had a brown coat on him, no shirt,his breast bare, a breech-clout, a pair of leggings and moccasons—his face and breast painted rudely with vermillion and verdigrease…

                Around the same time Mcullough was running to into scary fellows near Fort Duquesne  A fellow near Bethlehem, PA describes intelligence he received on a Lenape coming back from Fort Niagara:

TIMOTHY HORSEFIELD TO SIR CHARLES HARDY  Bethlehem  July 21,1756 :They (the French) gave Tatteneskund a fine dark brown Coat, very much laced with Gold, which he now < wears. >

                The practice of wearing coats by “French” natives was noted by Peter Kalm earlier in the decade:

The confederates of the French, had already begun to dress like the French: the same kind of jacket and vest, while on journey’s they wore the same red cap or hat.

                And sometimes the mention of a coat on a native is buried in the details like this little tid bit from John Knox:

 Anselm’s was made of wood (crucifix) and hung by a leathern string from a button hole of his coat


                Mentions of coats for Natives in the Sir William Johnson papers give some nice detailed info on the color/cloth of coats worn by natives:

Sir William Johnson  Expense book July 3, 1756

To a Gold Locket to the Chief  Onondaga Sachem 24/. & a Coat

To a Scarlet Coat well Lined to " an Indn : Chief & a Spear .

Feb 1756

1 Scarlet Coat to  Ottrowana Chief

1 black D°: to Abraham Hendks  Brother

 I blue Camblet D° to N i c k u s of Canajoharee ....

 1 Silk Grogram D°: with Gold Buttons to the Chief Onondaga.

2 Ratteen D° with Cord & silver Buttons

                AT Fort Pitt in the 1760’s ready made coats are a common  trade item.  On an inventory for “gifts” to be given out at Fort pitt in 1761 is a note:

                Made up clothing, such as laced coats, laced jackets, and embroidery, which may be purchased at second hand, well cleaned

                So aside from tailors making coats out of the tons of cloth/buttons/mohair etc being shipped to the fort. It seems ready mad clothes were also on hand for the Trade. Listiings such as “boy’s green jackets” or “penniston coats”  pop up through out the ledgers.

                For example in 1765 John Gibson (Logan’s Best friend and Mike Burke Lookalike) purchased July 6, 1765 

   John Gibson   6 bards lead 

  1 yellow Finely laced coat to Capt Jacobs “15”

 1 tin Kettle 

This entry is kewl not only because of what old Horsehead purchases but the fact it shows how often some native names are reused.  Another Capt Jacobs was killed at the attack on Kittanning or Gibson bought a coat for a zombie. Either way it’s sweet.

                Now another part of this “coat” equation That Jason nails down in his posting is the LACK of info out there on natives wearing waistcoats. Generally when you see a waistcoat on a trade list it’s given WITH a coat. For some reason the waistcoat by itself has become another go to item for native reenactors. I chalk this up to the general fear in the hobby by folks to wear sleeves (I once saw a guy wearing a sleeveless hunting shirt…it was weird)  This may also harken back to our collective memories of all natives in westerns attacking forts wearing leather vests  or the paper bag vests we all had to make in school at Thanksgiving. My point? Just don’t do it. Buy a coat, make a blanket coat  Dare to be common ppl!!!!

                So shameless plug time I was able to make it out to Fort Pitt a few weeks ago to check out the New Exhibit on “Unconquered”  for a film/history geek like me It was killer. Come on Boris Karloff pictures next to an original quilled knife sheath how can you beat that! If you make it out to Pittsburgh be sure to check out the exhibit It’s worth the trip. Also I’ll be set up in October at the  Fort Roberdeau Market fair and Rifle Frolic. Sinking Valley in October is a great place to be (  website )  I’ve also started volunteering at the Fort again. The site has a new director/staff  and it’s looking to become more reenactor friendly. I may be doing a Moccasin workshop there this Fall so if your interested drop me an email. OR just get to the Fort!!!!


Jason blog An awesome site for research on all things southern

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