Saturday, December 23, 2017

Battles on Snowshoes?

January 15, 1757. Agreeable to orders from the commanding officer at Fort Edward, I this day marched with my own Lieutenant Mr. Stark, Ensign Page of Captain Richard Roger's company, and fifty privates of said companies, to Fort William Henry, where we were employed in providing provisions, snow-shoes, &c, till the 17th, when being joined by Captain Spikeman, Lieutenant Kennedy and Ensign Brewer of his company, and fourteen of their men, together with Ensign James Rogers and fourteen men of Captain Hobbs's company, .....  we began our march on the ice down Lake George, and at night encamped on the east-side of the First Narrows ... The 19th we marched three miles from our encampment further down the lake, and then took the land, and, upon snow-shoes, travelled northwest about eight miles from our landing, and three from the lake, where we encamped.

-Excerpts from the Journals of Major Robert Rogers.

Our soldiers make great progress in walking on snow-shoes, but men, not accustomed to them, find them very fatiguing. These inventions are made of hoops of hickery, or other tough wood, bended to a particular form, round before ; and the two extremities of the hoop terminate in a point behind, secured well together with strong twine ; the inward space is worked, like close netting, with cat-gut, or the dried entrails of other animals. Each racket is from three quarters to one yard in length. At the broadest part, which is about the center, where it is fastened by thongs and straps to the person's foot, it is about fourteen, fifteen, or sixteen inches ; a light lively man does not: require them so large as he who is more corpulent and less active ; the hard-soled shoe is not at all suitable to them ; they must be used under mogosans, as well, for the sake of the wearer's feet, to keep them warm and preserve them from the snow, as that they will not bind on so well, nor be so soon worn out. The uncouth attitude, in which men are obliged to walk, is what renders them laborious the body must incline forward, the knees bend, ancles and instep remain stiff as if the joints in those parts were completely ossified, and the feet at a great distance asunder; by this description, which is the best I can give, the reader may form to himself a lively idea of the snow-ssioes, or snow-rackets, so fre quently mentioned in the course of this Journal...

- John Knox, December 1759, A Historical Journal of the Campaigns in North America, vol 2

"RACKET is also a kind of snow shoe, or machine, which the savages of Canada bind to their feet, to enable them to walk more commodiously on the snow; made much in the manner of a tennis-racket. Its figure is a lozenge, of which the two obtuse angles are turned off. It is bound about with very fine thongs of leather, the mashes of which are much smaller and closer than those of our rackets. In the middle is fitted a kind of shoe lined with wool or hair, to be tied on to the ancle [sic]."

- A New and Complete Dictionary of Arts and Sciences; Comprehending All the Branches of Useful Knowledge", 2nd Edition, Volume IV, A Society of Gentlemen, 1764

After struggling thro' the snow some hours, we were obliged to halt to make snow shoes, as Mr. and the guide had left theirs at arriving upon the ice. Here we remained all night, without any blankets, no coat, and but a single waistcoat each, for I gave one of mine to Mr. , who had laid aside his green jacket in the field, as I did likewise my furred cap, which became a mark to the enemy, and probably was the cause of a slight round in my face ; so that I had but a silk handkerchief on my head, and our fire could not be large, as we had nothing to cut wood with. Before morning we contrived, with forked sticks and strings of leather, a sort of snow shoes to prevent sinking entirely; and on the 15th, followed our guide west all day,....

- Excerpt from the Henry Pringle Letter describing his ordeal.   Journals of Major Robert Rogers, Hough Edition 1883.

Snowshoes, along with ice skates and ice creepers were indispensable equipment for northern ranging during the 18th C.    For more information, see this 18th Century Material Culture Resource Center link , or this interesting article on Snowshoes in New France.      The above image is The March of Roger's Rangers by Frederick Remington (1896).

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Exercise in Scout marches & Bush fiteing...

About this time Lord Loudoun sent the following volunteers in the regular troops, to be trained to the ranging, or wood-service, under my command and inspection; with particular orders to me to instruct them to the utmost of my power in the ranging discipline, our methods of marching, retreating, ambushing, fighting, &c. that they might be the better qualified for any future services against the enemy we had to contend with, desiring me to take particular notice of each one's behavior, and to recommmend them according to their several deserts, viz.

                            -Rogers' Journal, 1757

17th pleasant Day for this Climat Major Rogers this Day exercised his men in Bush fiteing which drew a great Number out of y‘ Camp, to view them.

The Rangers exercise in Scout marches & Bush fighting which made a very pritty figure.

                           - The Journal of Dr Caleb Rea. 1758

A third of your garrision is to be trained to go into the woods when necessary...

                            -The Thomas Gage Papers.  1759

Register today to Join our immersive event.  Garrison historic Fort Frederick and train for the woods-service.  Actually exercise in Scout marches & Bush fighting that you might be better qualified in the ranging discipline.

For event details click here.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Featured Sponsor: De Messenmaker

Our next featured sponsor is De Messenmaker, the Traverse City, Michigan based knife maker that specializes in 17th and 18th C cutlery.

De Messenmaker has generously donated a Samois style folder for our charity auction. These folders were common French trade good items throughout the century, and became so popular they were eventually imported by British traders and copied by manufacturers in England.

An excellent overview of this style knife can be found in the article "French Knives in North America: Part 2" by Kevin Gladysz and Ken Hamilton,  in the Oct / Nov 2011 issue of Journal of the Early Americas.

The De Messenmaker Folder will be the Fifth prize drawn.   To contact De Messenmaker or to view more of their work, visit thier Facebook page:

Prize Raffle rules and details can be found at the "Prize Raffle" link above.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Old Sines, Skouts & the Role of Tracking Part II.

The Indians discover our parties by the track of their shoes. It would be a good thing to have shoe-packs or moccasins for the scouts.

-COL Adam Stephen to COL Washington, 27 September 1755

We came now upon the tracks of Mohgasaons, and also of some horses, which it was evident, by the snow or sleet - that had fallen this morning, were quite new; whereupon we quickened our pace...

- Knox.  December 7, 1957

...On going over mossy or soft ground, we change our position & march abreast of each other to prevent an Enemy from tracking us, as they would do, if we kept in a Single File, till we get over it, and then resume our former Order of travelling till it’s quite dark before we encamp; 

-excerpt of Rogers original letter to Loudoun in 1757 detailing his Ranging Method

A Scouting Party of my Militia consisting of a Lieutt & 12 excellent Woodsmen, all disquised like Indians, went out last Monday in quest of Kickiuskum & three or four others of his Gang, and return’d yesterday, but were not So fortunate as the time before; they upwards of 40 miles from this, but could discover no Indians, tho’ they went to their Cabbins, & tracked them to the Place where they had made their Canoes & embarked. 

- Ourry to Amherst: Fort Bedford, June 10, 1763.  Bouquet, Vol. IV.

Tracking was the critical skill rangers used to detect and subsequently ambush or avoid the French & allied Natives during their primary mission tasking as independent raid or reconnoitering parties.  Tracking was also critical to the success of their secondary roles as advance or security elements for larger regular forces transiting the North American Forest.

Sources such as Rogers, Knox, Bouquet, and many others document the systemic use of tracking as an integral component to scouting missions. Collectively these accounts demonstrate the regular use of sign detection, interpretation and aging by scouts, as well as the sophisticated tactical application of tracking among many ranging parties.

Join us as we examine the role of tracking in 18th C irregular warfare, and its relationship to other skills in the ranging process.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Old Sines, Skouts & the Role of Tracking Part I

we traveld 12 milds up pemichewashet River and found old sines of indens and we sent out skouts that night and found one new track and we lay that night by the river and made new camps. The Land that lys by this river is vere rich and good and the upland vere full of hils and mountains, very bad traveling.

-Journal of Capt John White, April 1725

15th we lay still & sent out scouts. 16th, we travelled 6 miles, & came upon the tracks of Indians, & we left 16 men with our packs, & the rest pursued the tracks till dark that night, and staid there all night, and on the 17th we followed their tracks till about 8 o clock, & then we found where the Indians had lain twenty-four hours be fore, & we having no victuals, returned again to the 16 men we had left our packs with, & refreshed ourselves, & then we all pursued the remaining part of that day, & the night ensuing, 6 miles.Feb. 18th, we travelled 20 miles & encamped at a great pond upon Saco River. 19th, we travelled 22 miles & encamped at a pond.  20th, we travelled about 5 miles, & came upon a wigwam that the Indians had lately gone from, & then we pursued their tracks 2 miles further, & discovered their smokes, and there tarried till about 2 o clock in the morning, & then came upon their wigwams & killed ten .Indian men, which were all that there were there, & not one escaped alive.

- Journal of Captain Lovewell.   February 1724.

When they fear being discover'd, or follow'd by an Enemy in their Marches; they, every Morning, having first agreed where they shall rendezvouz at Night, disperse themselves into the Woods, and each takes a several Way, that so, the Grass or Leaves being but singly prest, may rise again, and not betray them. For the Indians are very artful in following a Track, even where the Impressions are not visible to other People, especially if they have any Advantage from the Looseness of the Earth, from the Stiffness of the Grass, or the stirring of the Leaves, which in the Winter Season lye very thick upon the Ground; and likewise afterwards, if they do not happen to be burned.

- The History of Virginia in Four Parts (1722)

Late 17th and early 18th C sources document the use of tracking in the cycle of limited, retaliatory skirmishes that commonly occurred in North America prior to the French & Indian War. Though not a standardized discipline, souces such as Church, Lovewell, White and others provide enough detail to discern the tactical application of the skill set among the Natives and the colonial woodsmen tasked with tracking them down.  

Part II will touch upon the further militarization of tracking and it's role in reconoitering during the F&I War.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Featured Sponsor: Judy DeJonge

The fourth sponsor we are pleased to feature is Judy DeJonge.  Judy has generously donated a made-to-order custom bonnet again for 2018.

Judy DeJonge's bonnets are known for thier durability, weather tightness and comfort.  This will be the fourth prize drawn.

The winner will be contacted by Judy shortly after the event to coordinate bonnet details, including color and size, and will receive the bonnet by mail upon completion.

Pictured at top is Rick Seidemann wearing the bonnet he won in the 2017 SOTR raffle. Below is Mike DeJonge wearing a bonnet with a contrasting red band.

For information & pricing, or to order one, send inquiries to:

For prize raffle details or to enter click here.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

A Band of Rugged Foresters...

Captain Rogers, possessing a bold and adventurous spirit, soon mustered a band of rugged foresters, every man of whom, as a hunter, could hit the size of a dollar at a hundred yards distance; could follow the trail of man or beast; endure the fatigues of long marches, the pangs of hunger, and the colds of winter nights, often passed without fire, shelter, or covering, other than their common clothing, a blanket, perhaps a bearskin, and the boughs of the pine or hemlock.
         -Memoir and Official Correspondence of General John Stark.


A Scouting Party of my Militia consisting of a Lieutt & 12 excellent Woodsmen, all disquised like Indians….
       - Ourry to Amherst: Fort Bedford, June 10, 1763.  Bouquet, Vol. IV. 

My orders were to inlist none but such as were used to travelling and hunting...
...nor any but what are able-bodied, well acquainted with the woods, used to hunting, and every way qualified for the Rangeing service...
         - Excerpts from different sets of recruiting instructions recorded in Rogers' Journal

Winchester Advertisement, 22 April, 1756

I do promise and engage to all good Woodsmen, &c. who will enter into the Service of their Country now, for a month or longer; if they will subject themselves to Military discipline, for the time they engage and undertake to do Soldiers Duty, and obey my Orders; That they shall receive Soldiers' pay, ammunition and Provision; and be discharged at the time agreed on. 


Woodsmanship was the foundational skill set of ranging, but tactics and techniques had to be developed to counter an equally skilled adversary.  School of the Ranger participants will explore this adapatation of woodsmanship into partisan tactics & techniques through a guided analysis of numerous period sources online, and via immersive training excercise during the event.  For more information select the Event tab above. 

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Cloaths talkt of for Rangers

Manuscripts and Archives Division, The New York Public Library. "[Rogers, Robert]. To Captain Robert Rogers"The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 1755.

Primary sources indicate ranger clothing & equipment of the F&I period varied greatly between ranging companies, and often within a single company over time. Generally speaking, personally supplied civilian clothing & equipment (including hunting coats) were more prevelent at the onset of the conflict, transitioning to military issued items as the war progressed. Context is critical for a representative ranger interpretation as this transition was implemented erratically between units.  Drastic differentiation in issue and resupply are documented and regional availability, cost constraints and logistical considerations were significant limiting factors to true uniformity during this era.  With that being said, evidence indicates certain items necessary for winter woodland service saw widespread adoption and use.

A January 1759 order in the Thomas Gage Papers instructs “Commanders at Several posts along the Hudson River” that  "A third of your garrison is to be trained to go into the Woods when necessary, on which account snowshoes, leggins, moccasins, socks, waistcoats, woolen gloves and caps will be sent them.”  (1)

A stellar overview of these ranging adaptations can be found in the critical material culture study by Artist / Historian Gary Zaboly entitled, Rogers' Rangers and Their Uniforms: Fact to Legend, Legend to Misconceptions in the book, The Annottated and Illustrated Journals of Major Robert Rogers by Timothy J.Todish.  Among the significant variety of collated sources, Mr. Zaboly highlights the correspondece and private notes of Lord Loudoun and other military leaders reagrding "Cloaths talkt of for Rangers," a preliminary list dated November 23, 1757 which includes, "a Match coat Different color from those the French get, Woolen Wastcoat, Britches, Shirt & Roller, Stockings, Shoes, Indian Stockings, For Accoutremnets; Horn & Bag for Bullets, Tomahock and Blanket"  (2)

Lord Loudoun's list was based on input from officers experienced in North American wooded terrain in several theatres between Nova Scotia and Virginia.  Most prominently reccomended indian stockings (woolen leggings) and matchcoats while additional sources often added winter moccasins, woolen caps & mitts or gloves.  Mr. Zaboly's comparative analysis clearly supports the prevelence of these items and the transition to the capot among those British engaged in Woods Service, and illuatrates the vagueness of terms concerning matchcoats, blanketcoats and watchcoats (3).  

Not mentioned by Loudoun but prominent in many ranging sources are tumplines.  These items and others will be examined in greater detail in future posts.

To access the clothing & equipment guidelines for the event click here.

(1). Thomas Gage Papers, William L. Clements Library, The University of Michigan. Series III: Letter Books and Account Books. Box 1 Volume 1 Letter #2

(2).  Todish, Timothy J.  The Annotated and Illustrated Journals of Major Robert Rogers.  Purple Mountain Press, Fleischmanns. New York, 2002. pp 302

(3).    pp  297 - 302

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Featured Sponsor: Matt Wulff

Author / Historian Matt Wulff has generously donated autographed copies of his three volume Ranger series, Robert Rogers' Rules for the Ranging Service, and Ranger North American Frontier Soldier volumes 1 & 2, as well as his newest book, Henry Bouquet's Destiny. 

The four books will constitute one prize and be the third item drawn during the raffle.

For information about the raffle; how to enter, or the nonprofit it is supporting, click here.  Tickets are available now.

To follow Matt Wulff, visit the Cumberland County Ranging Company Facebook Group here.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Featured Sponsor: Lawrence Fiorillo; Black Powder Pouches

The second sponsor we are pleased to feature is Lawrence Fiorillo of Black Powder Pouches .

Lawrence describes his donation as a " Backwoods, no-frills hunting pouch, very tightly saddle stitched, fully welted with a 1 1/4" gusset and a small inside flint pocket.  The pouch measures 6.5" wide by 8.5 deep, is considerably aged and conditioned with Catskill Mountain bear grease."

 To see more photos of this bag or other examples of Lawrence's awesome work, please visit his Facebook page at:  Black Powder Pouches
This hunting pouch will be the second prize drawn in the Prize Raffle.  For More details or to enter the raffle, click here:

2018 Prize Raffle


Fort Edward June 20, 1757

The Allowance for one Person for Seven Days Going on a Scout In Lieu of ye three Pintes of Pees 6 oz. of Butter for ye 1/2 lb of Rice they are to Have 1 lb 3 oz of Pork, which Makes their Weeks allowance to be 7 lb of Bread 5 lb 3oz of Pork.

- General Orders of 1757 issued by the Earl of Loudoun & Phineas Lyman in the Campaign Against the French.   

They, as well as the Indians, go out every now & then about six men together, upon a scout to shoot men,... ...& carry their provisions & blankets upon their backs."

- Captain Henry Pringle, 1757.

Contemporary sources indicate 18th C scouting parties were typically issued provisions or rations and alotted time to prepare them prior to heading out.  Reconnoitering parties deployed with foodstuffs "already dressed " to minimize signs of their presence while scouting.

During the pre-event Participant Forum, participants will have the opportunity to review and discuss a broad selection of F&I "scouting-provisions" related Orderly Book, Account Book, & Journal entries from various campaigns to gain a familiarity with the normative practices of the period.

At the Event, participants will be issued an allowance of provisions by mess groups, that they will prepare in period fashion for consumption indoors and while on scouts. Participants are required to furnish thier own rudimentary cookware and will cook in the barracks fireplaces as seen in the photograph above.

For more information, select "the Event" in the drop down menu above.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Featured Sponsor: Leather from the Past

The first sponsor we are pleased to feature is craftsman Darrel Lang's Leather from the Past. 

Darrel generously donated a beautiful Lemual Lyman style shot-pouch for the 2018 prize raffle.  This style of belt worn shot pouch was popular in the first half of the century and is generally appropriate for many early F&I civilian, militia, Provincial & ranger impressions.

To see more detailed photos of the shot-pouch or some of Darrel's other work, visit the Leather from the Past website: Here

This shot pouch will be the first prize drawn.  More information about the prize raffle can be found under the raffle tab above.

Monday, July 31, 2017

2017 SOTR  Participants:  B.Shatzer, A. Newman,
R Schmelzlen & R. Seidemann.  Second Row: N. Kalenich
The 2018 School of the Ranger will be held January 26th - 28th at Fort Frederick, MD.

New for the 2018 weekend is a fully immersive format designed to build 18th C reconnoitering acumen through the step by step practice of historically accurate fieldcraft skills & patrolling techniques, culminating in student led tactical exercises.

In addition to the individual & small unit field work, participants will bunk in the historic barracks with only fireplace heat, candlelight, and issued rations they must prepare for the weekend, and will be assigned sentry and work-party details integral to the curriculum.  A stringent prohibition on "anachronistic crutches" has been adopted to enhance the experience and ensure the participants fully field test their 18th C skills and equipment.

The second significant change is that the academic portions of the military science and history curriculum will be delivered to the registered participants via a dedicated online 2018 SOTR Participant Forum.  The online group will launch in October allowing adequate time for a robust examination of the subjects and source material, as driven by participant engagement levels. The SOTR Participant Forum will serve to assist with pre-event coordination, equipment issues, and administrative matters necessary to support a full immersion event.

Details regarding the Event Schedule, the Registration Fee, Recommended Items, Site Rules & Restrictions will be posted shortly.