Thursday, October 13, 2011

Virginia's "Best Rifle Counties" ca. 1781

Link to Western Va county maps showing the evolution of counties from 1738 on:

Thomas Jefferson to Lafayette May 29th, 1781 (Lafayette in the American Revolution Vol IV page 143)

"I am sorry it has not been in your power to send me the County Returns of Militia. I assure you returns weekley are indispensably necessary to enable the Executive to keep Militia in the Field. I did however on receiving Information from Colo. Walker that the Enemy were reinforced call for one Fourth of the Militia of Washington, Montgomery, Botetourt, Rockbridges Augusta Rockingham and Amherst, which (the last excepted) are our best rifle Counties. They will rendezvous at Charlottesville and there expect your orders..."

An article titled Henry County. From Its Formation in 1776 to the End of the Eighteenth Century (The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography Vol. 9, No. 4, Oct 1902) contains some very interesting extracts detailing the prices of arms for the use of that county during the American Revolution. In all, Henry county impressed 10 smooth bored guns/shot guns and 8 Rifle Guns for the militia of the county from 1776 to 1781.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Fun link: the "Mayo Island" Powder horn

From Colonial Williamsburg's excellent online Emuseum¤tpage=1&page=search&browsepagesize=6&searchtype=basic&profile=objects&wandering=no&term=mayo&basicterm=mayo&pagetotal=9&pagestart=1&pageend=6

Mayo Island powder horn
May 20, 1774
Maker: George Deval
Origin: America, Virginia, Richmond area
OL: 14" OW: 3 1/8"
Cow horn, wood, ink & brass
Museum Purchase

Acc. No. 2011-4
Engraved powder horn with faceted & carved spout, embellished with a reinforcing ring set slightly back from the tip. The whole of the horn goes from a dark cream color to a darker greenish color as it nears the spout. Its rounded soft wood base plug is retained by 5 cast brass tacks (one of which is missing) and has a rectangular patched repair, with a tiny brass wire loop, is inlet into the center of the plug. Engraving shallowly executed, a problem compounded by subsequent wear.
Inscription(s): "George Deval His Powder Horn Come From Isld. Mayo May 20, 1774"
By the French and Indian War, engraved powder horns were extremely popular in the American Colonies, and were carried hunting and during military duty alike.
This horn was created either by or for a George Deval of Mayo Island in the spring of 1774. Since the only locatable Mayo Island is in the James River at Richmond, this piece is an extremely rare example of a pre-Revolutionary War Virginia powder horn.
Engraved on the horn is a scene of large masted ships and manned rowing craft filling the waterway around a hilly town, likely representing Richmond. Other decorative engravings include geometric designs, trees and a bird. In a band spanning the lower portion of the horn is the inscription "George Deval His Powder Horn Come From Isld. Mayo May 20, 1774."

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Morgan Morgan, Indian Spy and travelling man....

Morgan Morgan, son of Nathanial Morgan (a fellow who just wasn't always very creative in naming his children) served in quite a few places during the revolutionary war, in addition to being a customer at McCorkle's store in New Dublin Va (see he served as a "spy" against Indians and Tories, was with Wm. Preston of Smithfield plantation in North Carolina, marched against the Cherokees and was part of the guard at Fort Chiswell.

Morgan's pension application from 1833 details his service:

Morgan's father ran this ad in the Va Gazette in 1775 (NB the sideplate may have been marked MM for Morgan Morgan):

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

For more information about the family:

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

reproducing the Hunting shirt- the quick and dirty version


this image to the left is *NOT* a hunting shirt- and is fit for wear over clothes while on the dung heap or a waggon. It is made of the same materials, and has some of the same shapes, but seriously, no matter how much folks want it to be, it just plain doesn't fit the period descriptions and images (most solidly being caped, fringed and "open before"). The origins of this early American garment are murky at best, and definitive documentation on that front is elusive. If you do an F&I impression, there are likely FAR better choices than this garment (like a coat/matchcoat/jacket and etc), or for that matter a shabby undocumented attempt at "backdating" it by omitting the capes/fringe or any of the other elements that make a hunting shirt unique. Instead of making something up, why not copy and actual garment that fits with period descriptions and images?!? Although possible, there doesn't seem to be any concrete evidence of a pull over "hunting shirt" in the 18th century, so smart money goes with something that is split down the front.

Trumbull on the topic:

You expressed an apprehension, that the rifle-dress of General Morgan may be mistaken hereafter for a wagoner's frock, which he, perhaps, wore when on the expedition with General Braddock; there is no more resemblance between the two dresses, than between a cloak and a coat; the wagoner's frock was intended, as the present cartman's, to cover and protect their other clothes, and is merely a long coarse shirt reaching below the knee; the dress of the Virginia rifle-men who came to Cambridge in 1775, (among whom was Morgan,) was an elegant loose dress reaching to the middle of the thigh, ornamented with fringes in various parts, and meeting the pantaloons of the same material and color, fringed and ornamented in a corresponding style. The officers wore the usual crimson sash over this, and around the waist, the straps, belts, &c., were black, forming, in my opinion, a very picturesque and elegant, as well as useful dress. It cost a trifle; the soldier could wash it at any brook he passed; and however worn and ragged and dirty his other clothing might be, when this was thrown over it, he was in elegant uniform.

I remember to have seen in Connecticut a regiment of militia drawn up for review, of which the battalion companies had adopted this rifle-dress of white linen with black straps and hats. A grenadier company had been selected of the tallest and finest men, and dressed at considerable expense in a handsome uniform of blue coats and scarlet under-dress. I first saw the regiment at the distance of half a mile; the grenadiers appeared small, and the rest of the regiment seemed grenadiers; the cause is obvious - the rifle-dress is loose, and the sleeves above the elbow loose like the ladies’ dresses of the present day, and the figure of course appears larger than if dressed in a coat with tight sleeves and body; besides which, opticians teach us that white objects always seem larger than objects of the same size, but of any other color.
J. T.” p. 18.

Longacre, James B., and Herring, James; “The National Portrait Gallery of Distinguished Americans.” Volume III. Henry Perkins, Philadelphia. 1836. [Google Books.]

By 1768, ads in the Va Gazette indicate that Virginians knew what a "hunting shirt" was, although correspondence in the Washington papers makes a strong case for this apparently Virginia born garment being fairly unknown outside of areas north of Pennsylvania. Incidentally, Pennsylvania broadsides from 1775 proclaim that "The Virginian back Woods Men have a very good Reason for their hunting shirts, for as they wear no Breeches, Decency requires that their upper Dress should be of this Form "

As with anything else, step #1 is to do your homework first to ensure that such is the *right* (or appropriate) garment for your who/what/when/why- for our purposes (Western Va ca 1768-1783) we have that nailed down as a fairly common garment (the image is Blodgett in Rifle Dress by Trumball, at the VMFA).

For a legit RevWar period hunting shirt pattern in a low priced book see Sketchbook '76 by Robert L. Klinger (also patterned in Katcher's excellent Uniforms of the Continental army):

Further info on this particular shirt can be found here:

Numerous vendors sell both unbleached/natural linen (aka osnabrigs aka BROWN LINEN) and white linen (aka what three of the four surviving shirts are made of)- this seems to be a common material for these things in the period. Manufactured pre fab 'fringe' that matches the originals is hard to come by, for many applications, unraveling a two inch or so strip of the same fabric used for the body is a good way to go for fringe.

A few quotes on the subject can be found here:

and some references to colors here (don't be afraid to use WHITE or natural undyed linen):

Get three or four yards and wash and iron it first.

These folks usually stock a good selection of appropriate linen:

incidentally, I hear these folks will be offering a *new* hunting shirt pattern this fall based on another original hunting shirt. Period descriptions and surviving garments show a few variations existed- amount, construction and location of fringe, some had pockets, wrist closures (buttons and loops vs sleeve buttons and etc) and some appear to have had ties in the front or were closed with a belt.

If you are a total hand sewing neophyte, you might want to go through Gilgun's Tidings from the 18th century.

after that, read this:

Speaking very broadly, you need to make a normal 18th c style body shirt that is split down the front, caped and fringed (some of the original shirts do exhibit subtle nuances that differ).  Original shirts were sometimes folded over at the shoulder line or in some cases folded at the sides.  Most shirts would have been made of a fairly narrow linen (26-32 inches or so wide).  Additionally, you might want to pleat the forearms and cover that transition line with fringe after stitching them down, as seen in the picture below.

 The sleeve pleating can be applied either before or after the wrist band (cuff) has been finished, but the majority of surviving shirts appear to have had this applied after the cuff was completed.

As with a lot of this stuff, DIY is cheaper, and you are learning a period hands on activity- or you can do what I did when I first started and spend hard earned money on something that is quick and easy and not right at all.  Another option (likely the BEST way to go as he has examined more originals than anyone I know of ) would be to take one of the great detail heavy workshops Neal Hurst offers:

Thursday, June 9, 2011

The Self sufficiency myth...or what was in a frontier store?

A frequent topic amongst those obsessed with backcountry history is the availability or lack thereof of European manufactured material goods. A lot of 19th and quite a few 20th century authors placed a heavy emphasis on the romantic image of the stalwart frontiersman (and woman) in buckskin clothing head to toe, weaving coarse linsey woolsey by their fires at night and producing all of their family's necessaries (I assume folks could weave, farm and hunt much more rapidly in the 18thc century as those are time consuming ventures!). Although in some cases families did weave and produce limited amounts of textiles for their own consumption and at times barter or sale, taking a hard look at probate inventories, store accounts and primary documents quickly deflates the notion that frontier Americans were not a part of the global economy and consumers of large quantities of imported goods (even those engaged in the deer skin trade or those living in far flung areas).

One of my favorite recent books on the subject is a discussion of John Hook's store in New London (Bedford) Virginia is Martin's Buying into the World of Goods. Although many Virginia stores in the back country trafficked heavily in rum and coarse osnaburg linen many also carried items that were purely luxury goods. Conway Smith's Book The Land That Is Pulaski County features a lengthy description of the goods available ca. 1774-1777 at McCorkle's store in New Dublin Virginia.

colored baize, silk ferret, gingham, muslin,
frieze, cambleteen, white and green Persian, tammy cloth, silk cloth, "oznabrig", Irish linen, holland, stroud; cambric, calico, queens net, "forrest" cloth, flowered lawn, dimity, broadcloth, callimanco, flannel, blue and green "durant", shalloon, buckram, gauze, permentum, brown and white sheeting, plush "for making shot pouches", apron lawn, saddle cloth, cloth for "leggons" (leggings), coating material, fringed housing, deer skins and otter skins. There were also white and colored threads, needles, thimbles, scissors, papers of pins, a variety of buttons, hanks of silk, tapes, ribbons, lace-and for dyeing cloth, indigo and copperas.

As far as clothing and accessories:

[locally manufactured] raccoon hats, felt hats, gloves, fine and plain shoes, coat strops, shirts, stocking breeches, stockings, garters, shoe buckles, shoe brushes, razors, pocket looking glasses, and watch chains. For the ladies there were silk bonnets, calico gowns, stockings, garters, necklaces, fans, silk gauze handkerchiefs, linen and spotted lawn handkerchiefs, printed and check handkerchiefs, shoes, gloves ,looking glasses...hunting shirts ,leggings,children's shoes and hats.

Hardware included:

pewter tableware, queen china plates, knives and forks, pewter spoons, toddy ladles, toddy spoons, teaspoons, teakettles, brass kettles, skillets, iron pots, brass pots, tin pans, tin kettles, frying pans, butcher .knives, irons, combs and brushes, rugs, trunks, Dutch blankets, pewter candle molds and candle snuffers, guns, gun flints, lead, powder, shot, shot pouches, knives, lead bars, pig iron, chest locks, cupboard locks, padlocks, grindstones, shears, reaping hooks, carpenter's rules, carpenter's compasses, claw hammers, hinges, nails, screws, cuttoes, drawing knives, handsaws, whipsaws, rasps, files, chisels, gimlets, rope, catgut, scales, money weights, salt bags, sacking, alum, soap, tallow, hemp, Dutch quills, penknives, inkholders, ink powder, paper by the quire and sealing wax....

Foodstuffs included:

Venison hams, salt, pepper, white and brown sugar, butter, all­spice, nutmegs, coffee, rum, tea and chocolate.

Smith concludes:

"The year of 1774 found settlers in the land that is now Pulaski County living better than we had imagined."

Similar goods were available in the Matthews store (both available by contacting the Greenbrier Historical Society):

The Mathews Trading Post", published in The Journal of the Greenbrier Historical Society: Volume 1, Number 1 (Lewisburg, West Virginia: Greenbrier Historical Society, August 1963).

Frances Alderson Swope, comp., "The Matthews Trading Post Ledger, 1771-1779,"
Journal of the Greenbrier Historical Society 4 (1984), 20.

Happy shopping and research!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Moccasins and Shoe packs

"Their Shoes,when they wear any are made of an entire piece of Buck-Skin;except when they sow a piece to the bottom, to thicken the Soal. They are fasten'd on with running Strings ,the Skin being drawn together like a Purse on top of the Foot,and tyed round the Ankle. The Indian name of this kind of Shoe is Moccasin"

"The History and Present State of Virginia,in Four Parts:
By Robert Beverly, 1705, Pages 163-164

Two views from here and here of the Ligonier moccasin with a reproduction 

Beverly's description includes the use of an applied sole, something many descriptions and extant 18th century moccasins lack. The dug moccasin from Fort Ligonier (illustrated in Sketchbook '76 and shown above) has that feature, although many argue this is a working life repair. Evidence exists that such repairs were being done in the period.  Intrepid researcher Steve Rayner recently uncovered and shared the following:

17th [February 1766] I got a pair of Mogoseens that David Moor mended for me he soled and heel tapd them and I found the thread he charged 11s/Bay old Tenr. 

p 165 (Diary of Matthew Patten of Bedford, NH from 1754-1788, Rumford Printing company, Concord, NH 1903).

In addition, a March 19th, 1776 dated account (courtesy Nathan Barlow) lists the following line item among other footwear repairs.

To Soleing one pair of Mongesons & mending Shoes -/2/6

Although the expenses are listed for "Captain Jonathan Clark", the inclusion of the name John Hoy points this towards being Clark's company of the 8th Virginia Regiment as both men's names are mentioned in this 8th Virginia pension application and this muster roll.

 "Shoe packs" or "shoepacks" seem to have been an Anglo adaptation of Native Moccasins.

19th century writer Rev. James B. Finley defined them as "shoe-packs, or a kind of half shoe and half moccasin.",%20or%20a%20kind%20of%20half%20shoe%20and%20half%20moccasin.%E2%80%9D&f=false

Joseph Doddridge on shoe packs:

"Almost every family contained its own tailors and shoemakers. Those who could not make shoes, could make shoepacks. Those, like mocassons, were made of a single piece of leather with the exception of a tongue piece on the top of the foot. This was about two inches broad and circular at the lower end. To this the main piece of leather was sewed, with a gathering stitch. The seam behind was like that of a moccason . To the shoepack a sole was sometimes added."

June 23, 1768
The Pennsylvania Gazette Augusta County, in Virginia, June 6, 1768.
RUN away from the Subscriber, living near Stanton, the first Day of May last, a Convict Servant Man, named Michael Ferral, about 28 Years of Age, of a fair Complexion, has pale curled Hair, is about 5 Feet 9 or 10 Inches high, thick lipped, round shouldered, and small legged; He had on, and took with him when he went away, a brown Coat, and Jacket, bound round with Worsted Ferriting, Buckskin Breeches, and a Fur Hat, all about half worn, two Pair of Worsted Stockings, one Pair black, the other blue, and a Pair of Shoe packs on his Feet. Said Servant pretends to be a Doctor, and a Weaver; he has with him a Bank Note, upon the Bank in London…

October 22, 1778 The Pennsylvania Packet

RAN AWAY from Mossy Creek Iron Works, Augusta county, Virginia, on the 30th of September last, an English convict servant man named THOMAS ORTON, about thirty years of age, near six feet high, slender made, marked with the smallpox, speaks thick and a little through the nose, has a down look, and in common very dirty; had on when he went away, a tow shirt and trowsers, a short jacket made without skirts, of light colour, lined with linen, a straw hat looped with blue wool, a
pair of shoe packs, and is supposed to have a pass of good hand writing. Whoever taken up the said servant, and either brings him home or secures him in any gaol so that his master may get him again, shall have the above Reward and reasonable charges, paid by HENRY MILLER.

Although not a great choice in wet weather (save those pennies for an additional pair of handmade 18thc European style shoes!), Moccasins or shoe packs were at times worn on the frontier out of necessity for lack of European style shoes:

Doctor Thomas Walker's Journal
(6 Mar 1749/50 - 13 Jul 1750)

April 16th. Rai(n). I made a pair of Indian Shoes, those I brought out being bad.

May 10th. We staid on the River and dressed an Elk skin to make Indian Shoes--ours being quite worn out.

11th. We left the River, found the Mountains very bad, and got to a Rock by the side of a Creek Sufficient to shelter 200 men from Rain. Finding it so convenient, we concluded to stay and put our Elk skin in order for shoes and make them.

14th. When our Elk's skin was prepared we had lost every awl that we brought out, and I made one with the shank of an old Fishing hook, the other People made two of Horse Shoe Nails, and with these we made our Shoes or Moccosons.

July 7. We kept up the Creek, and about Noon 5 men overtook us and inform'd that we were only 8 miles from the inhabitants on a Branch of James River called Jackson's River. We exchanged some Tallow for Metal and Parted. We camped on a Creek nigh the Top of the Alleghaney Ridge, which we named Ragged Creek.

8th. Having Shaved, Shifted and made New shoes we left our useless raggs at ye camp and got to Walker Johnston's about Noon. We moved over to Robert Armstrong's and staid there all night. The People here are very Hospitable and would be better able to support Travellers was it not for the great number of Indian Warriers that frequently take what they want from them, much to their prejudice.

Pension Application of Philip Harless: R4613

Boutetourt, VA
That in the spring of 1779 he volunteered under the command of Captain John Lucas
[pension application W5468] and served from the 1st of April untill the first of October That he took the Oath of fidelity as an Indian Spy to be engaged against the Indians and was stationed in a garrison situated on Sinking Creek a tributary stream of New river in that part of Bottetourt County that is now Giles…….. That he recollects of a party of Indians commiting murder on some of the Inhabitants and that a part of the men from the garrison where he was stationed persued after the Indians to rescue a prisoner and persued on untill some of them become bear footed and was compelled to make Mocquinsans out of raw Deerskins
Sometimes moccasins may have been used for concealment of the wearer's identity:

Adam Stephen to George Washington, September 27, 1755, Report on Fort Cumberland, Maryland

FT CUMBERLAND Sept 27th. 1755

A party of Volunteers were ordered out, under command of Capt. Savage to reconnoitre the Bottom of Will's Creek. They Rous'd three Indians and fired at them but Soon lost Sight of them. We Continue Alert, and want men much. The Indians discover our Parties by the Track of their Shoes. It would be a good thing to have Shoe-packs or Moccosons for the Scouts. --

Cresswell had them made for him:

The journal of Nicholas Cresswell, 1774--1777

Saturday, August 19th, 1775. Waiting for Mr. Anderson. Employed an Indian Woman to make me a pair of Mockeysons and Leggings.

Tuesday, September 5th, 1775. At Kanaughtonhead.
Went to the meeting where Divine service was performed in Dutch and English with great solemnity. This Chapel is much neater than that at Wale-hack-tap-poke. Adorned with basket work in various colours all round, with a spinet made by Mr. Smith the parson, and played by an Indian. Drank Tea with Captn. White-Eyes and Captn. Wingenund at an Indian house in Town. This Tea is made of the tops of Ginsing, and I think it very much like Bohea Tea. The leaves are put into a tin canister made water tight and boiled till it is dry, by this means the juices do not evaporate. N. did not choose to go into the town, but employed herself in making me a pair of Mockesons.

Fort Pitt--Thursday, September 14th, 1775. Got to Fort Pitt about noon. Left our Girls amongst the Indians that are coming to the Treaty. Great numbers of people in Town come to the Treaty. Terrible news from the Northward, but so confused I hoped there is little truth in it. Friday, September 15th, 1775. Very few of the Indians come in yet, the commissioners have been waiting for them a week. Shall be obliged to stay here some time to see the Treaty. Saturday, September 36th, 1775. Got acquainted with Mr. Ephraim Douglas, an Indian trader. Found him sensible and an agreeable companion. N. finished my Leggings and Mockeysons, very neat ones.

Virginia Gazette(Purdie), Williamsburg ,September 20, 1776.

RUN away from the subscriber in Alexandria, the 12th of August last, ANDREW KELLY, an Irish servant man about 5 feet 8 inches high, by trade a brick-maker, of a fair complexion, has short brown hair, very talkative when in liquor, which he is fond of, and is inclined to be fat; had on, when he went away, short brown cloth coat and waistcoat, old brown linen shirt and trousers, and buckskin mockasons. Possibly he may offer to enlist in the land or sea service, or attempt again to go to the British troops. Whoever secures him in any jail, so as I get him again, shall have SIX DOLLARS reward.JAMES PARSONS.


DESERTED from my company of continental regulars raised in Washington county, Virginia , the following soldiers, viz. Thomas Price , of a fair complexion, about 5 feet 10 inches high, had on when he went away a striped cotton fly coat and waistcoat, linen drawers and leggings; he was born in South Carolina , on the waters of Broad river. John Chambers , born in England , has lost one of his great toes, and has a large scar on the back of his neck, occasioned by the wound of a ball; he is about 5 feet 9 inches high, and had on when he went away a white hunting shirt and leather leggings and mockasons. ... Whoever secures the above deserters, so as I may have them again, or delivers them to any of the officers of col. Charles Lewis 's battalion, shall have the above reward, or five pounds for each.

Another possibility is “The Virginia moccasin is made of one piece of skin gathered by means of a seam along the upper side of the foot and another along the heel. A part of the skin formed a loose flap on each side, reaching a few inches up on the leg and fastened around the ankle by means of strings, or the moccasin was drawn together like a purse around the ankle. [1] ...”

[1] “W. R. Gerard, ‘Virginia Indian Contributions to English.’ /American Anthropologist/ (N. S.) vol. 9, p. 97.” p. 153.

My first attempt at Moccasin making (based on the Sketchbook '76 drawing) went very poorly. I hope to give it a whirl again later and will post the results if I have a better time of it than my first trial. Further discussion from more successful folks on making moccasins can be found here:

A really good online tutorial can be found here:

A pattern here:

And an instructional DVD:

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Dutch blankets

"But to return to our subject: no time was lost; we struck whilst the iron was hot, fixed Mr. Cocke off with a good Queen Ann's musket, plenty of ammunition, a tomahawk, a large cuttoe knife, a Dutch blanket, and no small quantity of jerked beef. Thus equipped, and mounted on a tolerably good horse, on the ___ day of April, Mr. Cocke started from Cumberland river, about 130 miles from this place, and carried with him, besides his own enormous load of fearful apprehensions, a considerable burden of my own uneasiness.

Letter of Judge Henderson to Proprietors remaining in North Carolina
Boonsborough June 12, 1775

Dutch blankets appear in great quantities in 18th century documents from Virginia. They were used by Soldiers (the most common type of blanket specified in the accounts from the Va Public Store for Va Continental use), Indians, Slaves and civilians alike and seem to have been VERY common.

Pennsylvania Packet, 13 May 1778

DESERTED from Capt. Nathaniel Fox's company of the 6th Virginia,
James Anderson, a black soldier, six feet high, about forty years of age, rather spare made, and fond of liquor; had on when he went away, a light grey cloth coat and waistcoat: the coat faced with green, a pair of oznabrig overalls, and a small round hat with a piece of bear-skin on it: He took with him a pair of leather breeches which he had to clean, and also his firelock, cartridge-box, and new Dutch blanket. He is a ditcher by trade, and it is probable will endeavor to get employment in this State. Whoever apprehends said deserter and delivers him to some officer of the regiment, or secures him so that he may be brought to his regiment again, shall receive TWENTY DOLLARS reward.
John Gibson, Col. 6th Virginia Reg.

Governor Dinwiddie to Colonel George Washington.
“June 24th, 1757...
Col. Stephen is highly blameable to take any of the Regimental supplies for the Indians... If any of the Dutch Blankets rem’n, and not wanted for the Indians, I’ve no objection to their being replaced in the room of those made use of.” p. 654.

Virginia Gazette
(Purdie & Co.), Williamsburg ,
May 2, 1766.

RUN away from the subscriber, the 16th of February last, two Virginia born Negro men slaves, of a yellow complexion, about 5 feet 8 or 9 inches high; had on when they went away Negro cotton waistcoat and breeches, shoes and stockings, and osnabrugs shirt, and took with them several other clothes, and five Dutch Blankets. One named CHARLES, is a sawyer and shoemaker by trade, carried with him a set of shoemaker tools, is about 28 years of age, speaks slow, can read, and may probably procure a pass and get on board some vessel. The other named GEORGE, about the same age, is round shouldered, which causes him to stoop when he walks; they are both outlawed. Whoever brings, or safely conveys, the said slaves to me, in the upper end of Charles City county, shall have 5 l. reward for each, if taken in this colony, if out thereof 10 l.

“27. Clough Overton. May 20, 1783. Dutch blanket, £3:9:0; 1 pr billiard balls, 5:10; Otter skin 6:0; shoe buckles, knee buckles, a cabin in Harrodsburg, etc., £103:10:10.” p. 133.

“Records of Lincoln County (Concluded).” In “The Register of the Kentucky State Historical Society, Frankfort, Kentucky.” Vol. 12, No. 34. The State Journal Company, Frankfort, Kentucky, 1914.

So- what did these "Dutch" blankets look like and where did they come from? Sadly, there is a dearth of information in the second and third quarters of the eighteenth century but we do have a few hints:

Hd. Qrs., Newburgh, May 15, 1783.

The Blankets which I used to Import for my Negros came under the description of Dutch Blankets, abt. 15 in a piece, striped large and of the best quality, such I now want. In case of a purchase, I would have them sent to my House upon Potomack River consigned to Mr. Lund Washington at Mr. Vernon abt. 10 Miles below Alexa.

[William Lee] to Richard Henry Lee.
“Paris, 12 September, 1778.
My dear Brother:...
I have sent from Holland 2,000 Dutch blankets and 3,000 pr woolen stockings, on acct of the Secret Committee.” p. 480.

Ford, Worthington Chauncey, ed.; “Letters of William Lee, Sheriff and Alderman of London; Commercial Agent of the Continental congress in France, and Minister to the Courts of Vienna and Berlin. 1766 - 1783.” Volume II. Historical Printing Club, Brooklyn, New York. 1891.

Expanding the search through the mid 19th century adds a few more clues:
 The Kentucky Gazette, 17 June 1797
Ten Dollars Reward. Ran away from the subscriber, on the 13th instant, SAM, a likely Negro man, five feet ten or eleven inches high, rather slim, but straight and well made, with long hollow feet, of a dark complexion, about twenty two years old, he took with him a blue
cloth coat, a short country fulled lead coloured ditto, a thin home made ditto, a pair of black breeches, a black half worn wool hat, and a twilled Dutch blanket, with sundry other clothing. I will give the above reward for said Negro if delivered to me, in Fayette county, on Steele _____, or Five Dollars if secured in any jail so that I get him. MOSES HICKS.

The Tennessee Gazette And Mero-District Advertiser; Date: January 31st, 1807

Lost or Stolen...A New Saddle, with plated piece of metal over the pummel and Cantel.  It had no saddle cloth except a Dutch blanket with red stripes, fastened to the Saddle together with a Valise pad attached thereto..." 

Thomas Jefferson December 27, 1812
"Dutch or striped blankets..."

Vollständiges Lexikon der Warenkunde in allen ihren Zweigen AD. 1839

["Comprehensive Lexicon of merchandise knowledge in all its chapters" - thanks to Gottfried P. for the translation help!]

"Dutch Blankets-Are white, woolen, both sides twilled blankets with colorful stripes at the edges and colorful flowers at the corners, 4 ½ to  6 feet long, 4 feet wide, which mostly are shipped to America...Rose Blankets, white, woolen, un-twilled, of various sizes with worked-into flowers or figurines in colorful wool on the corners, are from Kilkenny and other production centers of Ireland..."

In addition to the above sometimes confusing notes from the historical record, we have surviving fragments of striped twilled blankets from Native sites like Burr's hill in Rhode Island. The Burr's hill site roughly dates from the latter end of 17th to the beginning of the 18th century. Fragments of these blankets can be seen in the Burr's Hill dig report and are also shown in color in Montgomery's excellent Textiles in America:

Similar blankets can be seen in numerous 17th and 18th century paintings by the Le Nain Brothers, Jan Steen and etc, although one of my favorites is the dock scene at the top of the page (by Dutch painter Abraham Jansz Begeyn c1662)- these are likely what 18th century Americans called "Dutch" blankets.

A 1714 letter from James Logan to Edward Hackett describes similar blankets in the Indian trade" ... 3rdly. Striped Blankets that are white like other Blankets only towards the ends they have generally four broad Stripes as each 2 red and 2 blue or black ... they are sold by ye piece containing 15 blankets for about 3 lbs 10/." (See Montgomery's Textiles...  James Logan Papers in the Historical Society of Pennsylvania,  Logan's letter book, 1712-15)"

Below are a couple reproduction "Burr's Hill" blanket variations based on period images and the extant fragments (Right is by Robert Stone hand weaver):


Hopefully more information on this once commonplace item will come to light. I am indebted to the assistance of many others with this topic, especially Mike G., Steve R. and Robt S. who have shared a wealth of great info and leads on this front- thanks guys!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

A pocket compass

One of the pieces of gear that shows up with some frequency in the Virginia back country is the pocket compass (even fairly frequently with those who aren't surveyors). From what I can gather, two basic types were used in the 18th century (and thanks to Steve R and others for their help with some of these quotes!).

The first variety is of brass:'s%20house%20starbuck&pg=PA39#v=onepage&q=compass&f=false

and the second featured a wooden case. Examples from the period can be seen here:

sometimes surveyor George Washington 1770:

"In coming from our last encampment up the Kenawa, I endeavored to take the courses and distances of the river by a pocket compass, and by guessing.

The Journal of William Calk, Kentucky Pioneer
Lewis H. Kilpatrick
The Mississippi Valley Historical Review, Vol. 7, No. 4. (Mar., 1921), pp. 363-377

Satrd 25 "....Eanock ABram & I got lost tuesday night & it asnowing & Should a lain in the mountains had not I had a pocket Compas By which I Got in a littel in the night and fired guns and they heard them and caim in By the Repoart..."

Virginia Gazette
(Purdie), Williamsburg ,
June 30, 1775. Supplement
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 NATHANIEL MORGAN.

A List of Effects Lost of Sundry Soldiers of Captain William Formans Company of Hampshire County Volunteers appraised by Lieutenant Anthony Miller & Ensign David Wilson officers of s<^ : Company Being duely Qualify*^ for that Purpose

1 Captain William Forman a Rifle Gun . . in" s"
Shotpoutch & horn 10/ pocket Compas 5/ . . 00" 15"

Westward Into Kentucky: The Narrative of Daniel Trabue

"He got to beleave he could make his escape. He communicated this to some of the prisoners and 7 of them agred to embark in the Venture. he told these 7 Men to make ready, that the first Dark rainey night they would start, and try if posible to procure a Gunsa nd ammunition, etc. They generally Drawed several Days' provision at a time and they saved and laid by such as they thought would Do for their Jurney...he looked at some of their very best superfine broad Cloath....He also took up 2 fine lineng shirts, breeches, and stockings, and Cravets, also trimmings. Had them all tyed up in a large handkercheif and took them to his logging....They had flints and spunk...When Morning came they then started, one man to steer the way and where ever he put his foot they all was to go in teh same track. The man that was behind had a turkey's foor and a Deer's foot. If the least sighn was made this hindmost man was to either make a Deer's track of turkey's track...They knew they would be followed and they must be very carefull so that they could not be tracked...James Trabue went a head. He had a pockit compas.


“The third day, myself and six more separated from the rest of the company, in order to kill something to eat, and try if we could not find a better and nearer way home. We turned off from the river; we all had pocket compasses to steer by..."

As for reproductions, brass ones of varying quality abound, and the Ames instrument company has offered wooden cased ones:

So now you can get yourself lost, and found in a period fashion!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

" 1 Hoppis" David "Hesten's" tumpline

One of the most difficult items from the Hastens/Hastings inventory ( ) to document and replicate has been his "Hoppis" (evidently the Delaware word for a tumpline).

John Heckewelder (1788)

"It is very common to see a hunter come in with a whole deer on his back, fastened with a hoppis, a kind of band with which they carry heavy loads. It rests against the breast, that which the women rest against the forehead.",+a+kind+of+band&hl=en&ei=FLWtTYvUEsSCgAer-P3w

from David Zeisberger's History of North American Indians:

"...who carry everything by means of a carrying girth fixed to the forehead, whence the whole burden and (a hundred weight is not considered heavy) is suspended down the back. The men carry everything hung to a carrying girth fixed across the chest. A deer weighing from a hundred to a hundred and thirty pounds they will carry the entire way home before allowing themselves to rest. These carrying girths are made of wild hemp which is first spun. That part of these girths which passes across the breast and over the shoulders is three fingers broad and decorated with various figures. From it depend long plaited, durable bands, to which the burden is bound.",+durable+bands&hl=en&ei=BcGtTbuVFIfLgQeS18jsCw&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=1&ved=0CDoQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=plaited%2C%20durable%20bands&f=false

One of my favorite images from the 18th century that depicts a tumpline and encampment is the 1764 "Bouquet" Map by Hutchins (see lower left):

For further info on the Native end of things (and links to some original tumplines), I recommend checking out these links:

Native style burden straps or tumplines were sometimes adopted and used by Anglo soldiers and militiamen in the 18th century, but this practice seems to have been more common North of our focal point of Virginia.

Gary S. Zaboly's article "The Use of Tumplines in the French and Indian Wars" (Military Collector Historian &, vol. XLVI, No.3 Summer 1994, pp. 109-113) covers this aspect nicely and has quite a few great references in it. Besides the Hastens/Hastings inventory, a few other references can be found in the south, this one specific to the Cherokee campaign of 1761:

"They threw away those articles which hung by Tomplines over thier Shoulders & some of them even cast off their Bayonets as soon as the Indians began to Fire upon the Line "

The Papers of Henry Laurens: January 1, 1759-August 31, 1763 2nd March 1763 A LETTER SIGNED PHILOLETHES

Having established what this particular piece of equipment was, the next challenge was interpreting how Hastens/Hastings (or whoever) manufactured it. As far as I know, there are no extant tumplines with a Virginia military or militia provenance. Native manufactured tumplines seem to have been generally woven of local plant fibers (basswood, Indian hemp and etc) but the few scattered references I can find from Virginia and other colonial sources seemed to point towards hemp or leather.

Although far north of Virginia, Captain John Knox's Journal (1759 page 352 V1) mentions that British soldiers using webbing during the French and Indian War:

"His knapsack is carried very high between his shoulders, and is fastened with a strap of web over his shoulder, as the Indians carry their pack."

This practice continued to be used to some extent in the British army during the Revolutionary war (thanks to Jay Callaham for sharing this info on the RevWar Progressive list), although sometimes the term "blanket sling" was used:

"Brigade (of Guards) Orders 11 March 1777

"The Waistbelts to Carry the Bayonet & to be wore across the Shoulder. The Captains are desired to provide Webbing for Carrying the Mens Blankets according to a pattern to be Seen at the Cantonment of Lt. Colo. Sr. J. Wrottesleys Company. The Serjeants to Observe how they are Sewed. The Officers to Mount Guard with their Fuzees."

(1st Guards Orderly Book)"

1st Battn (Brigade of Guards) Orders 9 September 1779

"The Men lately Joind having received their Field Blankets, the Serjts. are Ordered, to see that they are Mark'd with the Initial Letters of each Mans Name. The Men are to be provided with proper Straps for Carrying them & Shewn how to Roll them up."

Some of these blanket slings were being made of "Diaper webbing"

THE ROYAL GAZETTE. 04/04/1778  "Sharwin, Sadler at the coffee House Bridge, has imported from London...Diaper web for officers tents, chair bottoms, and blanket slings for soldiers" 

In addition, some British units were using tumplines or blanket slings in conjunction with wallets:

From the 40th Regiment Order Book [as per James Kochan trans.]:

"......They are to parade with their Necessarys and blanketts neatly packd.
up" [egimental]:O[rders] 14th May 1777

"Each Compy. will immediately receive from the Qr. Mr. Serjt. 26 Slings & Wallets to put the quantity of Necesareys Intendd. to be Carrid. to the field Viz 2 shirts 1 pr. of shoes & soles 1 pr. of stockings 1 pr. of socks shoe Brushes, black ball &c Exclusive of the Necessareys they may have on (the[y] must be packd. in the Aranged manner & the Blankts. done neatly round very little longer than the Wallets) to be Tyed. very close with the slings and near the end -- the men that are not provided. with A blankett of their own may make use of one [of] the Cleanest Barrick Blanketts for tomorrow "

British army images show these blankets being worn both straight across the back (in the style generally seen in depictions of Natives) and also at times diagonally with the strap over the right shoulder and under the left arm.

After Regl. Orders [40th Regt] 7 at Night [18 May 1777]¦

"The Regt: to parade to morrow Morning at 11 oClock with Arms,
Accoutrements & Necessarys in order to be inspected by their
Officers â€" The Necessarys to be carried in their Wallet and slung over the Right Shoulder"

A leather "Hoppess strap" 1780 Virginia:

“Colonel Crockett has made application to me for an order on the Commissary of Hides for as much leather as will make each of his men a shot Pouch and a Hoppess strap. As the Tan Yard is carried on at Continental expense, I don’t think myself at liberty to do it without your Excellency’s direction, Colonel Crockett’s being a State Battalion...

21st July, 1780.” p. 185. Winchester, Virginia And Its Beginnings, 1743-1814 By Katherine Glass Greene - 2007.

In addition to this leather Hoppess strap reference, a soldier in Colonel Miles' Pennsylvania Rifle Regiment, known only as "Sergeant R", mentioned his
"...pack, which was made fast by leather strings, was shot from my back and with it went all the little clothing I had. It was replaced by one which had belonged to a British officer, and was well furnished... It was mine not long, for it was stolen shortly afterwards." (The day is ours!: an inside view of the battles of Trenton and Princeton ...
By William M. Dwyer)!&hl=en&ei=wY-1TY6gAcro0QHDwom2CQ&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=1&ved=0CCkQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=made%20fast%20by%20leather%20strings&f=false

Another reference to the same Virginia unit that requested a leather Hoppess strap "Joseph Crockett's Western Battalion, Virginia State Troops, 1780-1782" Copeland, Peter F. and Marko Zlatich MCH, 17 (Fall 1965), pp. 82-83. MUIA Plate 262 includes information that they were issued:

"10 hanks sail twine, 8 coils deep sealine"

and raises the possibility of rope being used for this (or potentially some other unspecified) use. Combined with this reference from 1783 (modern West Virginia):

“I was with my father at the rope works making cords to make a hoppose. He was preparing to go in the Revolutionary Army and had got ready ..."

I elected to go with plain hemp webbing and hemp rope for my conjectural reconstruction (NB: this is indeed NOT based on an extant artifact and is at best a guesstimate!). If further research on Crockett's battalion show they actually received leather tumplines, I will put one of those together too, as that is another period material.

Broadly basing my very conjectural "repro" on basic dimensions from some Native tumplines, I chose a 2 foot section of 2.5 inch hemp webbing with a 1" webbing stitched to that, and several feet of hemp rope attached leading from both ends of the smaller webbing.


For info on one way to tie up the bundle check here:


Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Tenting Tonight

One of the documented shelters folks traveling in the Va Backcountry used was the tent (improvised shelters will be covered in a later installment). Sadly, the majority of tents available on the commercial market are generally machine sewn and made of cotton canvas vs the linen fabrics of the 18th century (not to mention the fasteners and other details that are way off). But do not despair, this is certainly a DIY project if you have the time and materials!


A reproduction linen tent in the field.

Byrd's History of the Dividing Line Betwixt Virginia and North Carolina

While the surveyors were thus painfully employed, the commissioners discharged the long score they had with Mr. Wilson, for the men and horses which had been quartered upon him during our expedition to Coratuck. From thence we marched in good order along the east side of the Dismal, and passed the long bridge that lies over the south branch of Elizabeth river. At the end of 18 miles we reached Timothy Ivy's plantation, where we pitched our tent for the first time, and were furnished with every thing the place afforded.

Thomas Walker's Journal (1750)

4th. I blazed several trees four ways on the outside of the low Grounds by a Buffaloe Road, and marked my name on Several Beech Trees. Also I marked some by the River side just below a mossing place with an Island in it. We left the River about ten O'clock & got to Falling Creek, and went up it till 5 in the afternoon, when a very Black Cloud appearing we turn'd out our horses got tent Poles up and were just stretching a Tent, when it began to rain and hail and was succeeded by a violent Wind which blew down our Tent & a great many Trees about it, several large ones within 30 yds. of the Tent. we all left the place in confusion and ran different ways for shelter. After the Storm was over, we met at the Tent, and found that all was safe.

Dunmore's War Va militia tent use c1774:

Nourse KY ca 1775 (along with our buddy Creswell):

For a compilation of 18th century tent info check out this link (and let me say again, thanks to all who pitched in on this!):

Fabricating a reproduction common tent that is much better than the machine sewn cotton canvas jobs commonly sold is easy enough with this info and a bit of patience. Happy tent making!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Gun Sacks and Gun Cases

An early 19th century image showing a cloth gun case from:

As we go down the list of items for our DIY Va backcountry kit build, we come to a fairly difficult to document item, the gun sack or gun case (perhaps a useful thing on horseback and foul weather?).

From the David Hastings' (Hastings) inventory:

"1 Gun Case"

from the Militia Roster of Capt. Shelby:

"1 gun sack"

and from The Papers of Archibald D. Murphey: we get to mounted use of a "boot" (thanks to Steve R for this quote and some of the image leads!)

As soon as Genl. Davidson was advised of the British army again advancing, he ordered out the next detachment which was detailed for duty from the counties1 under his command to rendezvous between Charlotte and the Catawba River. On the 19th, he received information of Tarlton's defeat at Cowpens. On the 21st a party of twenty Whigs who lived in the country South-East of the Cowpens (but had not been in the fight) brought into our camp twenty-eight prisoners, British stragglers, whom they had taken, most of whom were wounded—they were sent on eastwardly the same day. Genl. Davidson being advised of the rapid advance of the British army, and the Troops joining him, being all infantry, and Genl. Greene having appointed Col. Davie to superintend the commissariat department, directed Adjutant Graham, who had now recovered of his wounds received in advance of Charlotte on the 26th September to raise a company of Cavalry, promising that those who furnished their own horses and equipments and served six weeks, should be considered as having served a tour of three months, the term of duty, required by law. In a few days he succeeded in raising a company of fifty-six, mostly enterprising young men, who had seen service, but found it difficult to procure arms. Only fortyfive swords could be produced, and one half of them were made by the country Blacksmiths. Only fifteen had pistols, but they all had rifles. They carried the muzzle in a small boot, fastened beside the right stirrup leather, and the butt ran through the shot bag belt, so that the lock came directly under the right arm. Those who had a pistol, carried it, swung by a strap, about the size, of a bridle rein, on the left side, over the sword,

This boot likely looked something like the one from this image of the 10th Light Dragoons by Stubbs:

As for the conjectural repros- we have a few period images to review:

Diderot's Trunk maker (see top left, likely leather):


Zoffany provides us with another look (likely a textile) c1765:

From the Henry Laurens Papers: "a fowling piece under a Woolen cover"

(p584 Laurens to William Penn letter dated 2d June 1769).

Further info can be found in an article entitled PRIMARY SOURCE DOCUMENTATION FOR MUSKET AND RIFLE CASES Compiled by Joseph Ruckman that is in the files section of Rev List, which includes further citations on leather and woolen cases (includes French and English citations both before and after our target date of the third quarter of the 18th century).


For my conjectural reconstruction, I chose a case of wool sized for my gun (I'd suggest sticking with the very common white, blue or red wool barring documentation to the contrary)- basically a long rectangle with one end left open that could be tied shut with a bit of tape or string. I back stitched the cloth with linen thread, turned that inside out and then secured the openings for the string with a coarse button hole stitch.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Making a Shot Bag or Pouch part 2 of 2

The next step is to wet and turn the bag right side out:


after some drying time, a punch is used to create a slot for the buckle tongue on both straps:


A thin leather "keeper" is cut for the strap:


the keeper is basted together:


and the whole works are shoved into the strap:


A line of stitching is needed to hold this in place:


and two more will be run up to the edge of the buckle:


as seen on this original shot belt:


After that, the two straps can be joined:


and we are basically done:


For this pouch, I decided to simply oil the bag down a bit to achieve a tone similar to some 18thc sporting images- basically I rubbed a bit of neatfoot oil on with a rag and dried it in the sun:


Hopefully this makes sense. Happy shot pouch building!

Making a Shot Bag or Pouch Part 1 of 2

Next on our DIY Va backcountry kit list is a shot pouch (also sometimes called a shot bag).

These bags were used for carrying ammunition and a few necessaries like extra flints.

Some were imported ready made, others were made and then sold in America, Saddler Henry Fleming of Norfolk advertised that he made and sold "Shot Belts and Bags" (Va Gazette 12/10/1772):

Others were made at home, or in Army encampments. Most of these bags were made of leather, although some were made of cloth:

The 2d Virginia Regiment October 12, 1775:

“… Each Company is to draw a sufficient Quantity of Dutch or Russia Drilling to provide Each Soldier with a Shott Pouch with a partition in division in the middle to keep buckshot and bullets separate. Each Soldier to make his own sack and Shot Pouch as near one General Size Pattern as possible…”

Virginia Gazette
(Purdie), Williamsburg ,
August 16, 1776. Supplement.
RUN away from the subscriber living on the levels of Green brier, two convict servant men.
One named WILLIAM ROW, 18 or 19 years old, about 5 feet 8 inches high, of a fair complexion,has dark hair, is an artful fellow, and may forge a pass, as he writes a tolerable good hand; had on, when he went away, shirt, drawers, and leggins, of coarse country linen, and took with him a coat and waistcoat of cotton and linen almost white, also a smooth bore gun of the best sort, double breached, which had part of the stock broke off before, a shot bag and powder horn, very much carved, the strap of the powder horn made of striped girting, and the shot bag of blue plush. The other named ISAAC SINGER, 5 feet 4 or 5 inches high, about 25 years old, thin visaged, small made, of a dark complexion, and has very thin whitish hair; had on, when he went away, old leather breeches, a coarse shirt, brown leggins, and old shoes. They are both Englishmen, and took with them a fur hat, besides other things too tedious to mention. Whoever apprehends the said servants, and secures them so as they may be had again, shall have 40s. reward for each, if taken in the county; if out thereof 4 l. or each, paid by ARCHER MATTHEWS.

Some were worn on the belt vs. on a shoulder strap, although this seems to have been more prevalent in the first half of the 18th century. Capt. Knox's description of ranger worn bags on the belt:

"a bullock's horn full of powder hangs under their right arm, by a belt from the left shoulder; and a leathern, or seal's skin bag, buckled round their waist, which hangs down before, contains bullets, and a smaller shot, of the size of full-grown peas : six or seven of which, with a ball, they generally load; and their Officers usually carry a small compass fixed in the bottoms of their powder-horns, by which to direct them, when the happen to lose themselves in the woods. " p84 (1757)

This shot bag was likely on a shoulder strap:

"on Wed. Evening Nicolas Canute being out a hunting as he sat on a tree to Listen for his Dogs was Shot at by 5 dift: pieces on Starting up he saw an Indn: running up to him wt. a Tomhawk & another run a Cross to head him. he took to a tree & his pursuers soon Concealed themselves behind others he fired his Rifle at the head of one & going to Load he missed his Shot Bag which had been Carried away by one of the Shots another wounded his Side he then took to his heals & reaced Armstrongs in a Miles distance where I had a Corporal Command ever since the first Alarm..."

Peter Hog to George Washington, May 14, 1756 GW papers

Given the dearth of surviving bags,a lot of folks seem to base their repros on 19th century bags instead of period images and descriptions of these things, but we will tackle this from another angle. After squinting at a few period images and the Lyman bag (on view in Clash of Empires and pictured in the excellent exhibit catalog) a few trends seem to spring out. Most of these bags seem to be fairly small, around 7-8 inches or so, and generally are of shapes that can be easily drafted with a compass and straight edge. Straps are generally fairly narrow, and they are usually depicted being worn fairly high on the hip. Running with a shot pouch that features a LONG strap will demonstrate why shorter ones were favored by some. Our repro will be based on a pouch shown in the frontispiece to the 1767 edition of the sporting poem "Pteryplegia" (thanks to James R for pointing this one out- really cool image!):

Since we don't have the actual pouch, I am filling in the blanks with details from the Lyman bag pictured in this excellent exhibition catalog:

and similar pouches along with period descriptions. To start, find yourself a period image of a pouch that you like or is documented to the area you portray. For this exercise, I scaled up the linked image and made a paper pattern around 7 inches wide. I then gathered some 3/4 oz veg tan cowhide and a good iron repro buckle such as these (don't use a 20th century looking tandy buckle!!!):

That form is REALLY common at 18th century sites, and is a dead ringer for the buckle on an extant shot belt (c1770-1820) in a private collection. From period descriptions and images, some pouches featured buckles straps and others omitted this feature. For my personal shot pouches, I skip them, but included one here for maximum "bells and whistles".

The leather body is cut along the pattern (if you want to dye the leather vs the oiled finish shown here, do that prior to cutting!):


straps are cut (a little under 1"):


flap is wet and burnished down in place:


The assembled parts (this bag features an inner divider - something I prefer for these):


the straps are stitched down to the back panel (slightly canted out):


then all three panels are marked and the stitching holes are punched:


After that, the three panels are stitched together (outer edges face to face):


the assembled bag:


Wednesday, March 9, 2011


One of the easiest to make and well documented bits of gear for the DIY/Low budget Virginia back country kit is the wallet, sometimes called a "market wallet". Basically a rectangular linen bag with a slit in the middle, wallets were used for carrying a multitude of things in the period and were usually made of stout, coarse linen.

Quite a few references can be found in the Virginia Gazette:

William Byrd (1674-1744)
Containing the History of the Dividing Line Betwixt Virginia and North Carolina;
A Journey to the Land of Eden, A. D. 1733
; and A Progress to the Mines.
Written from 1728 to 1736, and Now First Published:


12th. Before we marched this morning, every man took care to pack up some buffalo steaks in his wallet, besides what he crammed into his belly.

Executive journals of the Council of colonial Virginia 1757

"...every man should have a wallet of Oznabrigs to carry his provisions in when the leave their horses at the passes of the mountains, and two pair of mockasheens, that blankets would be wanted and clasp knives, thread for the linen and woolen bags for transporting the powder when taken from the waggons..."

NC Gazette via Va Gazette Newburn, May 24, 1771

Carolina "Regulator" baggage: "consisting of hunting shirts, wallets of dumplings, jackets, breeches, powder-horns, shot-bags, & c. were taken with a number of horses..."

The Journal of William Calk, Kentucky Pioneer
Lewis H. Kilpatrick
The Mississippi Valley Historical Review, Vol. 7, No. 4. (Mar., 1921), pp. 363-377.

thursd 30 we Set out again & went down to Elk gardin and there Suplid our Selves With Seed Corn & irish tators then we went on alittle way I turnd my hors to drive afore me & he got Scard Ran away threw Down the Saddel Bags & Broke three of our powder goards & ABrams flask Burst open a walet of corn...

A good intro and pattern info can be found here:

Another similar wallet in the Cumberland County (PA) Historical Society collection is described by Tandy & Charles Hersch in Cloth & Costume as of bleached linen, plain woven 34 warp 32 weft 15.5 x39 inches with a 16.5 inch opening and flat felled seams. From written descriptions it seems that sizes varied greatly in the period. For this repro, I picked up some off white plain woven stout linen from Burnley and Trowbridge a while back.


After washing, the linen was cut to size, and I pinned down the long seam (remember to leave the opening open!).


Sew that together with a running or back stitch, fold over the edges and flat fell. I suggest a rolling hem or flat felling the opening slit.


Then the ends are pinned together (remember the slit/seam goes in the middle of the rectangle, which for me was somewhat counter intuitive.


Sew them together, then fell the seam as before, repeat on the other end.


Once there, the wallet is finished!