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Arms and Equipment: Cleaning the Firelock, part 1.

guncleaning

The best and in-depth treatise on cleaning arms is the works put together by John U. Rees, published here: https://www.scribd.com/document/292985859/The-Care-and-Cleaning-of-Firelocks-in-the-18th-Century-A-Discussion-of-Period-Methods-and-Their-Present-Day-Applications

This will be beginning of a series on the blog, highlighting the practical application and use of period techniques for maintaining arms and equipment.  Today’s post focuses on having the essential tools you need to keep your firelock clean.

Turnscrew: of the “Y type” is the more commonly found tools, and provides two blades for different sized slots. Reproduction by Jymm Hoffman: http://www.hoffmansforge.com/

Worm: An essential tool, threaded to fit the threaded end of the ramrod, is the tool use to attach tow, or small bits of rag to clean the inside of the barrel.

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Hand-Vise, or Spring Vise: This particular example is a 19th century vise made for use various muskets and rifled muskets. Similar to others from earlier, though there may have been various types, this type is commonly reproduced. This tool is an extremely important device for “taking the lock to pieces”, an occasional, in depth cleaning of the lock. Trying to disassemble a lock without can result in cracked springs and other damaged parts.

Oil Bottle: A container turned from Horn by Erv Tschanz
(http://www.gennisheyotrading.com/), for holding sweet oil for oiling parts for lubrication and rust prevention.

Tin Bottles designed from originals are also available from http://www.hotdiptin.com/

Brick Dust: Stored in a small tin, are several chunks of 18th century bricks, from demolished buildings of Salem County, NJ. The tin makes using the brick dust very convenient and easy.

Scraps of Leather: Having a leather shop, I have quite a bit of scraps of various leathers. I like to have a small scrap of 2-3oz vegetable-tanned leather in my cartridge pouch at all times. Keeping one scrap as the “applicator pad” and the other as the “final polish” is another approach.  Many leather supply companies sell scrap bags.

Tow: Loose fibers before being further processed and spun into threads and woven. As simple as it gets, great for use with the worm and final wipe-down. Linen scraps/rags also work well for most purposes. https://woolery.com/flax-tow-1-lb.html

That’s it for this installment. Next time I’ll be discussing how to easily use these items to keep your firelock clean and ready for service in the field.

Andrew Kirk


biopic-andy

ANDREW KIRK
has been involved with American Revolutionary War living history since the age of 13. Taking an interest in material culture of the British Army has led to creating reproductions of artifacts for TV, Film and Museum Projects. Trained as a fine artist and educator at Maryland Institute College of Art and has been a secondary art teacher in Maryland for 7 years.

 

The Things We Carry: On the Strength of the Army

A couple weeks ago we had a member of the 17th Regiment of Infantry, Damian Niescior, write about all the things he carried during a weekend in the 18th century as a soldier in the British Army… this week we have a follow up post brought to you by Carrie Fellows, who has been working and recreating 18th century domestic arts for more than 25 years. A year or so ago Carrie did a symposium with Kimberly Boice’s: Historie Academie, which I happened to attend where she did a talk and workshop on how to pack for an event. So upon request it reminded me that she’d be the perfect fit to talk about what a follower of the army would bring with them.

Read Damian’s blog post here.

Mary S. an attached follower of the 17th Regiment of Infantry

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It can be difficult to explain to people what I do for fun. I combine my passion for history and the outdoors by interpreting the lives of women who, out of necessity, followed the Continental Army (and occasionally, the British army) during the American War for Independence.  I have portrayed a laundress, an officer’s servant, a refugee, and a soldier’s wife, but regardless of whom I portray, the things I carry with me may vary slightly according to season, but remain essentially the same. Over the years, I have refined and limited the number of objects I carry, lightening my load for travel on foot over long distances, rough terrain, and the occasional river ford.

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Records of what women carried are practically nonexistent, but one can find clues in runaway ads, military records, and the occasional primary source. Women attached to the army had only what they brought away with them, or acquired on the road.  Women “on the strength” of the army were entitled to a half-ration of food (children received a one-quarter ration.) I am always hungry, and as rations aren’t always available, carry enough food to get by.

Tied about my middle, under my gown, a pair of pockets (1) is suspended. These contain both modern items (pocket on right) and period ones (pocket on left). I often leave my phone in the car unless I need to take photos for a talk or article, or will be in the deep backcountry.*  My car keys (40) are pinned firmly to the inside bottom corner of my left pocket.  In my right pocket: a sewing kit (2) or “housewife” – a roll of cloth with pockets to hold sewing supplies and tiny items like sleeve buttons, also a linen handkerchief (3), pocket knife (4), linen or woolen mitts (5), period scrip and real cash in a reproduction pocketbook (6), lip balm in a tin container (7).

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I carry most of my gear in a wallet (8) – a rectangular cloth bag with a slit opening in the center. One places items in each end, then twists the entire thing at the center, closing the slit and forming a kind of narrow strap, then slung over the shoulder. I try to segregate the two ends into food/related items and clothing/personal items.  The food side holds a small bag of cornmeal or rice (9), cheese wrapped in 2 layers of linen (10 – the inner one dampened with vinegar); a cured sausage wrapped in brown paper (11), a small bag of walnuts (12), bread (13), tea (14), salt (15), seasonal vegetables (16), a spice bag, grater, candle ends and extra corks (17), paper packets of flour and pepper (18), and sometimes I even remember my fire kit: flint, steel, charcloth and tow in a tin box (42). Food-related items include a turned wooden bowl (19), which can serve as both drinking and eating vessel, an eating spoon (20), and a linen towel (21).

In the other end, I carry extra clothing items tied up together in a large kerchief (22): moccasins (23) and a man’s wool cap (24) for sleeping in, stockings (25), neck handkerchief (26), and a small paper notebook (27).  Some also carry a clean shift, but I do not, as I am rarely in a situation where there is privacy sufficient change it. Also: a tiny modern first aid kit in a red linen bag (28), personal toiletry items in another small drawstring bag: a tin box with soap and mirror (29), horn comb and bone toothbrush (30), handwoven wash towel (31), spectacles (32), allergy meds &, contact lens case (not pictured). Reenactor etiquette requires one to manage any non-historic personal care out of view as much as possible. Optional items, depending on the planned activity: a small bundle of mending patches and yarn (33), and a darning egg (34) to occupy time and to trade (mending skills have value), a large wooden cooking spoon (35), and a small axe (36). If there’s room, “luxury” items include a ceramic cup (37) and a big linen wallet that doubles as a straw tick (38).

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I usually carry just one blanket (with a wool petticoat and cloak inside) rolled up, tied together at the ends to form a “U”, and carried across my body. I put on the wallet first, then the canteen (39) – the wallet cushions the strap – then the rolled blanket over that. The blanket helps keep both wallet and canteen secure, close to my body, and quiet as I walk – or run.

The last thing I pick up is my small iron pot (41), with its sheet iron lid tied on so it doesn’t rattle or become lost. If I have eggs or fruit, I pack it in the pot. It goes to every event with me. I hadn’t thought about it before, but that little pot – representing security, hot food, comfort (and home?) connects me to the women I portray who carried what they most valued when they followed the army.

 

*Nothing ruins an accurate setting faster than when the smartphones come out and glow blue at night.


biopic-carrie.pngCARRIE FELLOWS
has been interpreting 18th century domestic arts for more than 25 years and is the Sergeant of Women for the progressive living history group, Augusta County Militia. She has held positions in history nonprofits and museums as a curator, educator, director, and board member, and is currently the Executive Director of the Hunterdon County (NJ) Cultural & Heritage Commission. She and her husband Mark are addicted to old houses.

The Malicious, Morose Malady and the Vindictive, Vagrant Vixen: A 17th Regiment Story, Part 2

In this week’s blog entry, we return to finish the tale of Private Thomas Mallady’s post-war adventures, initially chronicled this past May by guest author Don Hagist. While the documentary trail might not give us all the information we could hope for, there are some clear messages about the nature of marital disharmony in post-war New England that should give any would-be deserter food for thought. For more soldiers’ stories, check out Don’s blog: British Soldiers, American Revolution.

Click here for Part I

— Will Tatum


Part II

The next week’s issue of the Western Star, on 18 September, carried Thomas Mellalew’s response, this time datelined from Pittsfield:

“To the Publick.
Whenever the character of an individual is notoriously attacked, it is incumbent on him, if he has any regard for his reputation, or respect for the opinion of the world, to come forward in his own defence. The writer is sensible that a private controversy between a man and woman, is not a very pleasing subject for the attention of the community: His only excuse is, that he write in his own defence.

“In the Star of last week, was published a piece under the signature of Hannah Mellalew – a performance in which my character is represented as black as the pen wielded by the hand of falhood [sic] could possibly describe. A publication, signed by a woman, the blackness of whose character my modesty will not permit me to lay naked to the view of the world – a woman with whom had it have been possible for any man to have lived, would not have been under the necessity of strolling about after a second gulled companion, while the first was still living. Let any ingenuous mind read the performance to which I allude, and then say, if any but an abandoned prostitute could ever have come forward with such a publication in the face of the world. No, not a woman on earth, who is not totally devoid of every species of virtue, could have assumed the impudence to publish such brothel ideas of a man, whom she claims as her companion.

“The charges alledged against me in that piece, it is in my power, at any time to confute. But I do not conceive that a Newspaper is a proper place to produce affidavits to establish the character of any man.”

“Neither do I believe that the publick are so strongly inclined to believe any man a villain, as, without proof, without witnesses, or even the appearance of truth, to give credit to the aspersions of a malicious, vindictive, vagrant vixen. Thomas Mallady.
Pittsfield, Sept. 1792.”

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It didn’t end there. The next week’s issue of the Wester Star, dated 25 September, contained Hannah’s next volley, this one a barrage including statements from other individuals:

“To the Publick.
Thomas Mallady (or Mellalew) having asserted in the paper of last week, that the charges I have exhibited against him are not true, the following are submitted to the inspection of the publick. Hannah Mellalew.

“Middletown, February 18, 1778.
“These may certify that Thomas Mellalew and Hannah Andrews were married on the day of the date above, according to the form in the office for the solemnization of marriage, in the book of common prayer, by me, Abraham Jarvis, Minister of the Church of England.

Form of the Solemnization of Marriage
Excerpt from the Book of Common Prayer, 1662 edition

“These may certify whom it may concern, that Thomas Mellalew (or Mallady, as many persons called him) some years since lived in this town with his wife; and, while he lived in this town, he advertised his wife in the Springfield Newspaper, lest she should run him in debt when he was absent; and afterwards put in another advertisement, wherein he manifested his sorrow for the first, and said he had no foundation or just cause for publishing the first.

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Furthermore, while he lived in this town, he made an appointment to meet a Negro’s wife, at a certain place in the night time, in a certain barn; and the Negro’s wife informed Mrs. Mellalew of the appointment, who procured sundry persons, one of whom was dressed in a woman’s clothes, to meet at the time and place appointed, when and where Mellalew attended in the dark, and his conduct was such, as caused them to lead him home to his wife; and he did not deny his intent in going to the barn, and in the barn called the Negro’s wife by name several times, before the persons lying in wait discovered themselves. The substance of the above was sworn to before me, as nearly as I can recollect, by two of the persons who were in the barn, and one of them who was dressed in women’s apparel.

P. S. Mrs. Mellalew’s character in this town is good, for any thing that I know.

Samuel Mather, Justice of the Peace.
Westfield, August 17, 1792.”

The story certainly didn’t end there, but unfortunately our documentary trail does. Further research might reveal what became of this former soldier of the 17th and his estranged wife, and help us decide whether he was “malicious and morose,” or she was a “vindictive, vagrant vixen.”


biopic-donhDON HAGIST
is a life-long British Army researcher and founding member of the 22nd Regiment of Foot (recreated). His scholarly career includes preparing and publishing numerous editions of period primary sources and analytical articles for the living history community. Most recently, Hagist has written two major books.

The first, British Soldiers, American War examines the Revolutionary conflict through the eyes of British soldiers’ narratives. The second and more recent is The Revolution’s Last Men, an exploration of the last veterans of the War for Independence who were captured through early photography. Hagist runs his own blog and is a regular contributor at the Journal of the American Revolution

British Army Muster Rolls: A Readers Guide

In our last installment of the ‘Research Story’ series, we opened the door to the great cavalcade of eighteenth-century British Army demographic information known as the muster roll (found in the WO12 series in the British National Archives). Of course, even more demographic information is contained in the general review returns (WO27), but that is a story for a different time. For now, I’ll focus on how one “reads” a British muster roll, because they aren’t necessarily straightforward to people who haven’t internalized British military procedure as I have. Or so my friends keep telling me.

Here is a photograph (taken in 2011, pardon the quality) of the muster roll for Captain Robert Clayton’s Company of the 17th Regiment of Infantry, covering the period from December 1775-June 1776. As you can see, it is a multi-part document, following a standard format that you will find with any other regiment’s muster roll (with a tiny few exceptions). So even if you aren’t in love with the 17th, the following instruction is transferrable to other corps.

 

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Muster roll for Captain Robert Clayton’s Company, HM’s 17th Regiment of Foot, The National Archives of Great Britain (TNA) WO12/3406/2

Most folks raised in the western tradition will want to read these from the top-down rather than the bottom-up, despite the fact that your most important information for understanding when and where is down near the bottom. So we’re going to look at the bottom first, for the most important material. Then we’ll move back to the top. And then deal with the center portion, where everyone inevitably ends up.

IMG_2350 Clayton Dec 1775-June 1776 Detail 3

 

In this view of the document’s bottom half, we see several important pieces of information. First, there’s the location and date when the muster was taken—in this case, on Staten Island, July 13, 1776. Beneath that, you have a written synopsis of the information rendered above, which I’ll transcribe since the photo is blurry:

“Mustered present in His Majesty’s 17th Regiment of Foot Commanded by the Honble Colonel Robert Monckton Lieutenant General and in Captain Robert Claytons Company the Captain, Lieutenant with two Serjeants and Drummer and twenty five Effective private men.

Allowing the Ensign, with two Corporals Sick One Corporal recruiting, two men on Guard and five men Sick that are Absent to pass unrespited being Certified Effective on the back of this roll

Also allowing the Commission, non Commissiond Officers private Men & Casuals to be Effective for the intermediate times as set down against their Respective names above Mentioned being Certified on the back of this roll

This Muster is taken for 183 days from 25th December to 24th June 1776 both days inclusive”

This eighteenth-century military legalese is concerned with the prickly question of paying the army. Parliament passed an annual bill to fund the army, which was always subject to intense debate and scrutiny. From that point on, essentially every penny expending for military support had to be accounted for, since a scandal on misappropriation of funds or embezzlement could have dramatic negative effects on the army’s funding for the subsequent year. While plenty of period sources suggest that mustering was often accompany by significant bouts of corruption, with officer’s servants mustered to bring up the numbers of soldiers in a company to establishment strength, in general this process seems to have been taken fairly seriously by the Revolutionary War era. It is always important to note the date and location where the muster was taken and the dates the muster covers: in many regiments, several muster periods would be accounted for at one time, covering lengthy periods (sometimes extending to years) wherein the regiment could not be gathered and formally counted. A British regiment was expected to be mustered at six month intervals, so twice every year. Even if those musters couldn’t be made at the established intervals, the paperwork needed to be filled out at some juncture to satisfy officials in the Treasury Office.

Heading back to the top, we see the first of the detailed name information contained in this return:

 

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Beneath the unit identification and the colonel’s name, you see a list of the company’s officers: Captain Robert Clayton, Lieutenant Richard Norris, and Ensign Mervin Murray. Murray is listed on the recruiting service, meaning he is back in the British Isles with a serjeant and detachment of men attempting to drum up new recruit. Clayton and Norris were present with the company on the day of the muster— when you see notes on the return that explain a man’s absence, that is only the excuse given for him being absent that day. So Clayton could have been on command at headquarters, far away from his company, the preceding day. That was one way officers could, theoretically, cheat the system: by being absent every day save for the muster and hiring local men to stand in for soldiers for the muster. Not as easy to pull off in America, however.

Below the officers, you have the list of non-commissioned officers. These are the serjeants, corporals, and drummers. In most returns, they will be labeled as such, though not here. Looking at the information from the bottom of the return, we would expect to see two serjeants, three corporals, and one drummer listed, and so they are. As in that synopsis, Serjeants John Neaile and James Richardson are present, along with Drummer John Harrison. Corporal Daniel Webb and Corporal James Wilson were ill on the day of the muster, while Corporal Morris Rew was off on the recruiting service, probably with Ensign Murray.

Now moving to the center portion of the return, we see two primary sections. The two columns to the left list all of the men who were expected to be with the company on muster day, including the excuses for those men who were not physically present. The right-hand section lists all of the causalities for the period of the muster: that includes men who left for any significant reason.

 

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Focusing in on the casualty list, we see that it covers the same period as the rest of the muster and provides some interesting casualties beyond the men who died.

 

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Here’s another transcript for you:

 

“Sick                                                       William Walker

Guard                                                      John Wright

Died 29th Feby 76                                  Benjamin Haken

Died 22d May 76                                    Simon Rampley

Transfered 35th May 76                       Michal Kelley

Dischd 7th May 76                                  Stephen Bratt”

 

Walker and Wright both stand out as outliers—plenty of the soldiers listed to the left were either sick or on guard. Perhaps the muster master forgot to list them and thus stuck them under the Casualties? Maybe Walker was seriously ill and Wright had been sent to a long-term guard detachment? The return doesn’t indicate answers, hence we call these leads for further research.

Beneath Walker and Wright, one sees the standard list of men who died. It was highly unusual for a six month period to pass without deaths in the regiment. You’ll see both the soldiers killed in battle as well as those who succumbed to disease, wounds, or accidents listed in this area, usually without any further explanation other than their official date of death. We also have Private Kelley, who transferred out of this company, probably into another company of the 17th. Often, when a regiment is drafted, you’ll see notations made adjacent to soldiers’ names about when they left and which corps they joined. Similarly, when men are drafted into a regiment, you’ll see that noted, usually with the comment “Enter’d” followed by the date. The same style is used for new recruits, so sometimes things can be a bit confusing when you know that men are being drafted and recruited in, but the muster master didn’t make a note. That’s why we use a range of sources together to correct for the weaknesses in individual sources. This particular sheet is fairly routine, only have a mix of sick and guard duty listed.

So there you have your basic guide to reading a British regimental muster roll sheet: while they can be tiresome one at a time, taken collectively they open up grand new vistas on the busy internal life of the British Army. We are reliably informed that Don Hagist is working on a massive muster roll project, recording all of the surviving data on British regiments that served in America into an interactive digital spreadsheet. Can’t wait to see those results! For more 17th Regiment-specific data, keep your eyes out for future posts here.


biopicWILL TATUM
received his BA in History from the College of William & Mary in Virginia in 2003, and his MA and PhD from Brown University in Rhode Island in 2004 and 2016. His exploits in Revolutionary War Living History began with a chance encounter at Colonial Williamsburg’s Under the Redcoat event in 2000.

Over the subsequent years, he has traveled throughout the United States and Great Britain researching the eighteenth-century British Army and used the results of those labor to improve living history interpretations. The beginning of this journey in 2001 marked the start of the current recreated 17th Infantry.

The Things We Carry

First of all happy Wednesday! Before we get into today’s blog post I wanted to mention that we have a news letter that will be starting to send out every Monday in June! So if you haven’t yet signed up for the newsletter please feel free to do so. No spam, just 17th updates and a few short history lessons.

Now this week on the blog we have a Damian Niescior, most of you may know Damian from his work experience at Fort Ticonderoga in upstate New York, but now he serves as a Gallery Educator at the new Museum of the American Revolution in Old City, Philadelphia, PA, continuing to chat history to visitors. This blog post has been requested by some readers and is very informative in everything that Damian carries on his person to events has a purpose, can be easily stowed away in pockets, haversacks, and knapsacks, and nothing is there “just for looks”.  Enjoy the read!

Mary Sherlock – A follower attached to the 17th Regiment of Infantry


“They carried the sky. The whole atmosphere, they carried it, the humidity, the monsoons, the stink of fungus and decay, all of it, they carried gravity.”

― Tim O’BrienThe Things They Carried

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            Throughout my time as a historical interpreter, both amateur and professional, I have been asked a fair amount on what I carry and why I carry it. I find it’s important to represent the soldiers as best we can as individuals, which includes minute details that may not even have a chance to see. These items also allow me to be self-sufficient while at events, keeping myself from needing to return to a vehicle. These items are both small and large, but all carry some significance to the interpretation of soldier life on campaign.

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Each number on the image correlates to a number listed below.
  1. The very first thing put on is the bayonet belt. It carries the sidearm, the bayonet, a triangular shaped blade of about 18 inches long. It is supported by the scabbard which sits in the belt itself. The buff leather belt is based off of several surviving originals, and although it is a waist belt, it is worn across the shoulder as a field modification to improve comfort.
  2. The next item we put on is the cartridge pouch. This pouch is a soft leather bag sewn with a hard leather flap to protect the cartridges inside. The cartridges sit in a wooden block, nailed into place by a series of small iron tacks, and can hold 21 cartridges. The white shoulder strap is, like the bayonet belt, made from buff leather. This pouch is of an older style, originally designed and used during the 7 years’ war, but then with a wider strap and extra square buckle. The pouch was modified to conform to the Royal Clothing Warrant of 1768. The 17th, months before the start of the war in 1775, ordered new cartridge pouches in an effort to replace the older outdated ones they were still carrying. Through the orderly books, although they had ordered the new pouches, they did not arrive in time for the 17th’s voyage to America in mid-1775.

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    17th Regiment issued Recreated Cartridge Pouch
  3. Over the buff accoutrements, camp equipment is then placed, starting with the haversack. The haversack is a coarse linen bag, closed with two buttons on the side and suspended by a strap made from the same cloth. Its job is to hold the rations of each individual soldier. These rations were issued out once per every three days, which could include daily rations of one pound of flour or bread, one pound of beef or one half pound of pork, one quarter pint of peas, and one ounce of rice.
  4. Next is the canteen. The canteen is made from tinned iron, and suspended with a thin hemp rope. To help prevent rusting, beeswax is melted inside the canteen and shaken around to coat the interior. The canteen itself is made after an original, which had a tin cap for the spout as well. I, however, lost that cap a long time ago, and have since been replaced with a cork.
  5. The musket is the Short Land pattern, or second model, and also known as the Brown Bess. This musket is made from walnut, iron, steel, and brass. It features a 42 inch long barrel and its total weight is eight pounds. Completed with a buff leather sling to finish the look and assist with the carrying of the gun itself.

We have now reached the knapsack itself, which has many items inside it, each one I have carefully chosen to represent what a British soldier might carry in their pack.

  1. The knapsack itself is of a simple construction. It is primarily a hemp linen pack with two large pockets on each half. Each pocket is closed with two buttons made of pewter. The exterior of the knapsack is painted to repel rain and other weather. The knapsack is closed by three leather straps with conjoining buckles, and the pack itself is worn on the back with two shoulder straps made of leather as well. In the bottom half of the pack I keep tools and utensils, and clothing in the top half of the pack.
  2. An extra pair of shoes. At the height of the war, Britain was shipping nearly 40,000 pairs of shoes to supply its army with 2 pairs of shoes per man, per year. As I wear one pair of shoes on my feet, the others sit in my knapsack. There does seem to be some great relief when putting on dry shoes after walking in wet shoes all day.

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    Shoemaker at Work – Fort Ticonderoga, New York – Photo Drifting Focus Photography
  3. Shoe tools; a hammer, lasting pliers, a set of pincers, leather palm, and awls wrapped up in a leather apron. While I was an interpreter at Fort Ticonderoga, I was an apprentice shoemaker studying under Mr. Pekar. Under his tutelage I developed some skills as a shoemaker, including the ability to repair shoes that had needed new soles and heels. The British army of the 18th Century contained a great deal of tradesmen, and many of them were shoemakers. These shoemakers, although soldiers first, facilitated the repair of shoes in the army.
  4. Donation soles. These soles, bound together with a simple tie, were issued to each man for each pair of shoes. It is typical for the average soldier to wear through soles in 3 months, but with two pairs of shoes per year means that the average soldier will wear each pair for six months. In order to bridge this gap, the British Army provides enough replacement leather for new soles and new heels for each pair. This is not in the assumption that each man has the skills required to repair his own shoes, but in the assumption that, due to the prolific nature of the shoemaking trade, each man will know a shoemaker in their own mess group or company willing to do the work.
  5. In order to keep the shoes I carry both presentable and healthy, a black polishing agent known as blackball is kept with my other tools. Blackball is a combination of charcoal, tallow and beeswax. The substance itself, when properly applied, returns a black finish to shoes while also keeping the leather from becoming too dry. Each soldier was issued an amount of blackball to maintain the shoes and black leather pouch.
  6. A small folding knife. This small folding knife has assisted me in more ways than I can mention. It has been a tool in cutting leather, a cooking utensil, a screwdriver and several other useful applications throughout the years.
  7. A pocket watch. Watches are especially useful to the life of a soldier. Although 18th century watches are impossibly complicated and expensive today, in the 18th century they were commonplace.
  8. Extra cartridges carried in a small brown package. In order to keep myself self-sufficient as the British Army could be, in addition to the 21 cartridges I carry in my pouch, I also carry additional ammunition in my knapsack.
  9. Musket tool. This reproduction of a musket tool is based off an original, and is used to maintain the musket. The tool itself is the only device needed when disassembling a great majority of the gun itself.
  10. A wooden bowl and pewter spoon. For my own comfort, I carry my own eating utensils. Although individual soldiers did carry their own bowls, soldiers would also eat out of the same kettle, removing the need to carry a bowl while on campaign.
  11. A tin cup. This reproduction of a cup, found at a British army encampment in North America, is a useful item to have when in the field. It can serve as both a drinking vessel and as a small cooking utensil as well. While I’ll admit that some of the worst coffee I have ever had, has been made in that cup, it is also the best coffee I have ever had.
  12. Wallet and notebook. Two items I have found to help remove myself from the 21st century when I am in the field. The wallet holds any cash I might use to purchase goods while at events, and the notebook allows me to jot down any thoughts or any notes I can review later.
  13. A pair of dice and snuff tin. We can’t have a good soldier impression without some vices thrown in! The dice I carry allows me to partake in a very old game known as Hazard. This game was very popular with soldiers; it required only a pair of dice and an understanding of the game itself. The snuff tin carries a small measure of snuff tobacco. Snuff is powdered tobacco taken through the nasal passage in very small quantities. Due to its unique method of inhalation, often the public use of snuff can come with strange looks from visitors.
  14. Two pairs of stockings. Each British soldier, in order to keep feet dry and healthy, would carry a number of extra stockings. I carry two extra on top of the pair I would be wearing, in total three pairs. There is something to be said of the quality of dry socks.
  15. Neckstock, one linen kerchief, and one cotton kerchief. A British soldier of the period would have a few items of neckwear. The one worn while on parade or battle, would be the neckstock. This garment is made of black velvet and finished with a false white shirt collar. This garment provides the soldier with a clean, military look. When the neckstock was not worn, softer kerchiefs and rollers could be worn.
  16. Fatigue cap. In order to preserve and protect the cocked hat from unnecessary damage, a cap is worn instead. This cap is based off of description and a few pictorial representations in paintings of the period. It is kept in my knapsack when not in use.
  17. Two shirts. These two shirts, I carry based on orders issued to the 17th at various points during the war, consist of one white and one made of check cloth. Like the extra shoes and stockings, it allows me to change into dry undergarments. This is especially useful during the hot days which can leave a shirt drenched with sweat.
  18. Watchcoats are heavy wool overcoats which assist a soldier while posted on sentry or picket duty. The British army issued these to regiments as about one watchcoat per 6 men. These garments were shared, and made to fit most sizes. I can tell you from personal experience, that extra layer of wool is a boon when enduring difficult weather.
  19. Last but not least is the blanket. It is rolled up and attached with ties to the top of the pack. This allows the weight to be more manageable, and to keep the pack from becoming too bloated.

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Each item is packed away carefully into the knapsack. Shirts are rolled up and pressed into the pack as efficiently as possible. The ending result is a tight, but efficient pack which weighs 20 pounds when fully loaded up. While these items all serve a purpose, each one a carefully chosen representative of items British soldiers of the period would have carried, this is as close I can come to understanding of what those soldiers would have endured. Those soldiers, serving thousands of miles away from home, would have carried a lot more than just items throughout the cities and wilderness of North America.

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The Marching Out at the Endview Plantation, Newport News, Virginia 2016

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DAMIAN NIESCIOR
Currently serves as Gallery Educator at the Museum of the American Revolution in Old City, Philadelphia, PA after serving as an interpreter at Fort Ticonderoga in Ticonderoga, New York. He has been reenacting and interpreting British soldier’s life since 2009.

The Malicious, Morose Malady and the Vindictive, Vagrant Vixen: A 17th Regiment Story, Part 1

This week we welcome British Army researcher extraordinaire Don Hagist to the blog. Don has spent many years researching the interior lives of the common British soldier, tracing his experiences, thoughts, and feelings throughout the conflict and beyond. In this installment, we receive a rare window into the post-war experiences of one man who chose to stay in America and made questionable relationship choices that places him in hot water. This is part 1 of the article, so be sure to tune in for part 2 next month.

– Will Tatum


On February 18, 1778, a wedding took place in Middletown, Connecticut. Thomas Mellalew married Hannah Andrews at an Anglican church in the little town on a big bend in the Connecticut River. We have no details on Hannah’s background, but we wonder if her choice of a husband caused a stir in her family or community, for he was a British soldier. Or, at least, he had been, until he deserted from the 17th Regiment of Foot.

The surname is rendered on the regiment’s muster rolls as “Melody,” but as will be seen below, other spellings include Mallady, Mallalue, and similar phonetic variants. Nothing that we know about Thomas Mellalew’s military career suggests that he was prone to abscond from the army, but we have little to go on besides the muster rolls, and his desertion was not an ordinary case. From England or Scotland (the muster rolls tell us that he was “British” as opposed to Irish or “Foreign”), he joined the army some time before 1772, the earliest date for which rolls exist. He had been a weaver before enlisting, the most common trade among British soldiers. No detailed records survive to tell us about his discipline or performance as a soldier, except that he was trusted enough to be granted a furlough during the regiment’s peacetime years in Great Britain.

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Boston, Massachusetts, in 1775, (Courtesy of the Museum of the American Revolution)

Mellalew came to America with the regiment in late 1775, and endured the difficult winter in Boston, the voyage to Halifax and then to Staten Island in the first half of 1776, and the fast-moving campaign through New York and New Jersey in the second half of that year. At the beginning of 1777 he had at least five years of experience as a soldier, including one major campaign.

The battle of Princeton on 3 January 1777 was perhaps the 17th Regiment’s greatest trial of the war. In the face of overwhelming odds, the seven companies of the regiment engaged (the flank companies were detached, and it appears that one battalion company was some distance away as a baggage guard) acquitted themselves well. They did suffer a significant number of killed, wounded and captured. Among the latter was Thomas Mellalew. The Princeton prisoners were sent to Connecticut, where they were dispersed among several towns. Mellalew was sent to a small town in the northwestern part of the state called New Hartford. He didn’t stay. He may have obtained permission to work locally, as many British prisoners did, or he may have simply had enough of soldiering. One way or another, he deserted from captivity, the next we know of him is his marriage in Middletown a year later and some 25 miles southeast of New Hartford.

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The recreated 17th at Princeton Battlefield State Park, January 2017

Their specific activities over the next dozen years haven’t been determined. We know that he worked as a barber, a trade he may have learned in the army. In the 1780s they lived for time in Westfield, Massachusetts, just west of Springfield. He drank. He sought out other women. At some point he took an ad out in a Springfield newspaper. Soon after, he took out another ad rescinding the first one. We haven’t found the text of either ad, but the first one probably looked something like this one, that he placed in the autumn of 1791: “Whereas Hannah, my Wife, has forsaken my bed and board – this is therefore to forbid all persons trusting her on my account. Thomas Mallady. Richmond, October 14, 1791.”

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Map of Berkshire County, MA, 1844, Richmond is marked with a red dot

The ad, dated from the Massachusetts town of Richmond on the New York border, was placed in the 25 October edition of a newspaper called the Western Star that began publication in Stockbridge, Massachusetts in 1789. Ads like this were fairly common in period newspapers, and usually we can only wonder about the stories behind them. In this case, however, apparently after considerable fallout from ad and other events, Hannah Mellalew published a notice of her own in the 11 September 1792 edition of the same paper:

“Take Notice.
It is with reluctance that I am drove to the disagreeable necessity of publishing the subsequent lines for the consideration of the candid publick. I am sensible that publications of this kind often have a tendency to bring disgrace on the author; but all who have read the publication of Thomas Mellalew (or Mallady, as he calls himself) my Companion (who advertised me in the publick prints in the months of October last) will pardon me for being desirous that the publick should have a just statement of the facts. A statement of one half of the aggravated crimes that he was guilty of while we lived together would make a larger volume than I am able to get published, or any one have patience to read, and they would bring disgrace on me and all the human race; therefore, I shall only mention a few that are the least dishonourable. I can with prudence say, that they are such as these; taking property that was not his own; being with other women, of all characters but good, and all colours but white; he has once been detected in attempting to be with a Negroe’s wife in a barn: It will be needless to mention drunkenness, it being so trifling compared with his other failings. It is not my power to describe his malicious and morose temper, but it is such that I lived in great fear of being murdered by him. If any persons should dispute the truth of these facts, I shall be very happy if they would take the trouble to call on me, to convince them of the truth of these and many others, (if they will have patience to hear,) by the best authorities where he hath lived; and likewise that I have conducted with as much prudence as any person could under my circumstances. The said Mellalew (or Mallady) is a Weaver & Barber, about middling size, has a scar on his upper lip, which has the appearance of a hair lip, sewed up; has black curled hair, is a foreigner that deserted from the British army last war. Whoever will take up said Mellalew (or Mallady) and conceal him from the sight of man and beast, shall have my thanks, and will merit the applause of the publick. All persons are forbid harbouring or trusting him on my account. Hannah Mellalew. East Hampton, Sept. 1792.”

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A modern view of the distance between Richmond and East Hampton, courtesy Google Maps

Easthampton is a considerable distance from Richmond, so clearly the couple had separated by this point. But they were reading the same paper. In fact, they were supporting it with ad revenue from their competing notices. The next week’s issue, on 18 September, carried Thomas Mellalew’s response, this time datelined from Pittsfield:

“To the Publick.

Whenever the character of an individual is notoriously attacked, it is incumbent on him, if he has any regard for his reputation, or respect for the opinion of the world, to come forward in his own defence. The writer is sensible that a private controversy between a man and woman, is not a very pleasing subject for the attention of the community: His only excuse is, that he write in his own defence.

“In the Star of last week, was published a piece under the signature of Hannah Mellalew -a performance in which my character is represented as black as the pen wielded by the hand of falhood [sic] could possibly describe. A publication, signed by a woman, the blackness of whose character my modesty will not permit me to lay naked to the view of the world – a woman with whom had it have been possible for any man to have lived, would not have been under the necessity of strolling about after a second gulled companion, while the first was still living. Let any ingenuous mind read the performance to which I allude, and then say, if any but an abandoned prostitute could ever have come forward with such a publication in the face of the world. No, not a woman on earth, who is not totally devoid of every species of virtue, could have assumed the impudence to publish such brothel ideas of a man, whom she claims as her companion.

“The charges alledged against me in that piece, it is in my power, at any time to confute. But I do not conceive that a Newspaper is a proper place to produce affidavits to establish the character of any man.

“Neither do I believe that the publick are so strongly inclined to believe any man a villain, as, without proof, without witnesses, or even the appearance of truth, to give credit to the aspersions of a malicious, vindictive, vagrant vixen. Thomas Mallady.
“Pittsfield, Sept. 1792.”

It didn’t end there. The next week’s issue of the Wester Star, dated 25 September, contained Hannah’s next volley…[tune in for part 2 in a future installment!]


biopic-donhDON HAGIST
is a life-long British Army researcher and founding member of the 22nd Regiment of Foot (recreated). His scholarly career includes preparing and publishing numerous editions of period primary sources and analytical articles for the living history community. Most recently, Hagist has written two major books.

The first, British Soldiers, American War examines the Revolutionary conflict through the eyes of British soldiers’ narratives. The second and more recent is The Revolution’s Last Men, an exploration of the last veterans of the War for Independence who were captured through early photography. Hagist runs his own blog and is a regular contributor at the Journal of the American Revolution