Friday, 28 October 2016

My new sword - a French epee du soldat

When l lived in Japan, l was unable to purchase any replica Scottish weapons , such as firearms, swords etc. But when I decided to return home to be closer to sick family members here in New Zealand. I did start window shopping for jacobite period swords , even though I did not have the extra funds to purchase anything at the time. While the Scottish basket hilt swords are the most popular among reenactors. That is not your only choice. If you wanted to portray a lower class of jacobite , there is nothing wrong with only having a locharbour axe !. After receiving some fantastic advice from my good friend Henrik who is an expert on jacobite period weapons he also mentioned the French epee du soldat sword which was brought over in great numbers from France to arm the jacobite groups. The Scottish basket hilts were only carried by 25 percent of the troups as they were very expensive. The rest were armed with older swords, French swords such as the one mentioned above or British infantry hangers that were captured from enemy troops. I had already decided that as l am trying to portray middle-class rank and file jacobite that the French sword would suit me best. So imagine my surprise to be given one by my good friend clansman Maclean on my birthday. I was almost lost for words - those who know me well would tell you that is quite a rare thing. So l would like to save a big thanks David, for presenting me with my 1st ever sword !. Looking forward to making a nice leather baldrick for it when I get time.  Posted below is a photo of my new sword.

Wednesday, 26 October 2016

The return of domhnall

I have just returned to my home country of new Zealand to be closer to family that are unwell. On the 25th of October l had a fantastic 18th century jacobite theme birthday party. One fantastic thing about living here in oamaru is there are other like minded people who are interested in jacobite reenactment. The attached photos were taken at my birthday party.

Tuesday, 4 October 2016

My Jacobite Impression

Since I first got started in this hobby , I have been a Jacobite of one here in Niigata city , Japan. But from next week that is about to change with my move back to New Zealand where I will settle down in the coastal town of Oamaru , famous for its wealth of Victorian architecture and now Steampunk !. Anyhow there was a Jacobite reenactment movement many years ago in Oamaru , but it has since slipped by the wayside although I hope to reform it and gather some other like minded souls who are keen on non public campaign style reenacting.

I have learnt a lot from a fantastic Facebook group that I belong to called Jacobite Rising Reenactors, check them out as its well worth joining if you are serious about putting together an authentic impression  and have also read a lot of history books as well. The fun part of this hobby is you are continually learning new things all the time.

So lets take a look at my own impression that I am still working on , pictured below are some photos of my current kit. And some of my early mistakes

First lets take a look at the above photo, while I like the color combination , I purchased a cheap wool Rev war waistcoat from Jas Townsend and Son in the USA in navy blue. And while it is comfortable it is totally wrong for the period having the split front as it should be longer and straight across the front bottom edge instead. I also bought cheap Fugawee straight lasted shoes and while correct for the period I wasted money on buying buckles when actually lace up shoes were far more common, period portraits hardy show anyone wearing buckled shoes at all !. The sporran which is nice is suspended from a separate belt when in fact it should hang directly from the main wide leather belt , to top off my mistakes I have footless tartan hose instead of full bag hose . Shirt is cotton - should be linen but at least the bonnet which is knitted and felted and linen haversack are correct. 

The above photo shows a few improvements from the first photo , namely a custom made wool waist coat of a better cut with replica period pewter buttons and a Harris Tweed drawstring kilt that I made, also the strap on linen haversack has been shortened , The blue bonnet I made myself is felted and great for hotter weather . 

The above photo shows my hand stitched Jacobite period Harris tweed waistcoat with fabric buttons and a replica sporran that hangs directly from my main kilt belt. In this photo you can see that my impression is improving , even though Harris tweed is expensive it is well worth the money - so if you are wanting to put together an authentic impression Harris tweed in muted colors is really the best choice. 

The above photos show the matching highland short coat also in Harris tweed, both the waistcoat and the coat were made by my friend and historical tailor Hunter Cogle from the USA , he is an expert and a Jacobite reenactor himself and can easily help you obtain the correct look for the 45 that is not only made well, but is authentic as well.  As you can see I have converted a pair of Fugawee straight lasted shoes into lace ups , which are more authentic than buckles, but still need to make some tartan bag hose instead of my footless moggans which are totally wrong. 

So there you have it my progress so far from zero beginner to getting a more authentic look. All this takes time and money like every other hobby, but if you do a lot of research at first you will not only save money and time. As for weapons I am still deciding what I might like and what class of Jacobite I would like to portray - at present I am leaning towards a rank & file soldier who would have most likely been employed as a farmer , cattle drover etc.   


Monday, 3 October 2016

Your 1740’s Highland Impression By Brian T. Carpenter

The purpose of this article is to detail the various “classes” of Highlander as they would appear in the field during the `45, to assist hobbyists in assembling a more authentic impression, based upon their own economic desires and/or limitations. Bear in mind that there is a bit of simplification involved here, as there would be some blending across “class” lines, but that it is useful to divide the clan force into three distinct types of fighting man.

Type 1: Clan Gentlemen

This group was comprised of the chieftain’s close relations and primary tenants, or “tacksmen”, and thus formed the gentry or “upper-crust” of the clan society as it turned out to fight. These were also known as “front rank men” as they would take up that position in the clan battle line. Not a numerous contingent, this class only accounted for about ¼ of the clan’s fighting force.

Clothing. (Fig.1a & b) These people tended to be somewhat in the strutting peacock mode, and prided themselves on a fine display of their distinctive Highland garb. Short coats (jackets), waistcoats, plaids, and hose would feature different tartan setts of lively colors, often derived from the more expensive imported dyestuffs. Period portraiture shows that tartans based upon a rich red background were popular with this class. Philabegs (“little kilts”) and tartan trews would be in evidence. Shirts would be made of finer and whiter linen and perhaps display ruffles. White or black linen neckcloths would be worn. Hard-soled shoes with bright buckles would appear in this group, though many would also wear traditional “currans” or brogues in the field.

Weapons. Within this group we would see the complete outlay of Highland weaponry. Fine basket-hilted broadswords and backswords would be carried suspended from tooled baldrics with brass or silver buckles and trim. The ubiquitous dirk would display intricate knotwork carving on the haft, and might include a side-knife and fork in its sheath. The leather covered targe, or shield, would feature elaborate tooling and patterns of brass studs and bosses. 

During peacetime, firearm ownership was pretty much limited to this class, and these men would bring their own guns to war with them. Long arms generally consisted of hunting-type fusils and fowlers, many of them quite fine and of Continental origin, generally Dutch and French. The distinctive “heron butt” Scottish long guns with snaphaunce locks might still be seen in very small numbers. British, French, or Spanish military muskets left over from earlier Risings might also appear in the hands of these men. The unique all-metal Scottish pistols would be owned by many members of this class, often in pairs. Flat powder horns with beautiful and intricate knotwork or geometric engraving would be utilized. General. These men would be more “fashion conscious” and would wear their hair long and dressed in a queue or “pigtail”, or cut quite short and a wig worn. They would be clean-shaven during this time period. They might own a set of normal “long” clothes for trips down to the cities, but generally wore their Highland dress on campaign.

They were the “shock troops” of the clan regiment, forming the front rank and charging fiercely upon their enemies with sword and targe, after delivering a volley from their firelocks. They did not believe in engaging in firefights, and did not usually have the ammunition to do so.

Type 2: Rank & File

To use a modern phrase, these men were from the “middle class” of clan society, and thus were the most numerous group. They comprised better than ½ of the total of fighting men fielded by the clan. There were gradations within this grouping; what we would call “upper middle class” on down to “lower middle class”, but certain generalizations apply. They were smallholders and tenants of the clan gentry; the working class: the cattle drovers, the boatmen, the farmers, and so forth. During normal times, under the leadership of one of the “gentry”, they would make up the cattle-raiding parties or punitive expeditions that were a part of the constant “interaction” between the clans. During war, they would form the middle ranks of the theoretical four-rank regimental battle line.

Clothing. (Fig.2) These men would present a plainer appearance than their “betters” amongst the gentry. Over their natural colored linen or woolen shirts they would belt on their tartan plaids. Tartans of this class would be of softer or muted colors derived from local dyestuffs, and perhaps less intricate in terms of sett. Jackets or waistcoats - sometimes both - were worn, sometimes of tartan fabric, but very often of plain, solid colored wool. Blue, green and brown are described as having been popular. A knotted neckerchief might be worn in lieu of the gent’s cravat. Short hose could be of tartan or solid-colored material. Hide “currans” generally covered the feet, or occasionally plain shoes. The knitted blue bonnet was universal to all classes.

Weapons. As a rule, this class of men did not own personal firearms, not because they were prevented but rather because they couldn’t afford one. A tiny number possessed very old or beat up guns, including 17th C. matchlocks or worn out pieces with broken locks and cracked stocks. During the `45, however, practically all of these men would be issued military muskets that had been captured, or shipped in from the Continent. The two main types would be the British Long Land Pattern (sometimes called the 1st Model “Brown Bess”) and especially the French Fusils D’Infanterie models of 1717 or 1728. Issued as a “stand of arms”, a bayonet and cartridge box would most often have been included with the musket.

Most of these men would have carried some type of sword. In the Highlands, a sword was equated with the fighting man. But also, all European infantrymen carried swords as side arms during this period, so one would expect the Highland soldier to follow suit. One would not encounter elaborate “top-of-the-line” basket hilts within this group, but numbers of older, simpler types of basket hilt swords, including knocked-about veterans of the last century. Many, however, would be armed with one of a variety of non-basket hilted blades, including hangers or “cuttoes” with simple guards, and British or French infantry swords. These latter types would be issued with the appropriate musket as part of a “stand of arms.”

All would have their dirks, but only a few would possess a targe.

General. In battle, these rank-and-file men would deliver musketry along with the front rank gentry, but like them would not have the ammunition nor training to prevail in any sort of firefight. They would go into the Highland Charge with either the sword, or with fixed bayonets.

Less concerned with fashion than their “betters”, an altogether plainer appearance would be manifest. Facial hair would be more apparent here than amongst the more stylishly clean-shaven gentlemen. Without the benefit of “ghillies” to carry their baggage, these men would be encumbered with haversacks, canteens, and the like.

Type 3: Rear Rankers

Forming the rear of the clan formation would be the lowliest members of the clan economic structure, and the most ill-armed. They would account for the remaining ¼ of the total force. Made up of the serving class (ghillies), the landless, and “broken” or clan-less men, these were not truly fighting men at all, but were there at their masters’ beck, or from having been “press ganged” into the army. Their function, besides waiting upon their betters, was simply to add depth to the clan battle line, and the weight of additional bodies to the Charge.

Clothing. (Fig.3) Pretty much limited to the basic items of dress: the bonnet, linen or woolen shirt, and belted plaid. Shirts might be old and ragged, with two often worn layered to offer some degree of warmth. Plaids would be less voluminous than those of the well-off, and some might be constructed of unmatching pieces of fabric, with patches and raggedness apparent. Tartan patterns could consist of simple striping or checks, and the plaid might even be of an undyed or solid color. Cast off knee breeches and tattered waistcoats would be seen in small numbers. Plain hose, knit stockings or none at all, would be worn. Footwear would be confined to the rawhide currans, and bare feet would not be uncommon.

Weapons. Personally owned weaponry would consist merely of an unadorned dirk or hunting knife. There is some debate as to the number of imported or captured muskets available for issue to these men. It is realistic to assume that firearms were in short supply and that the rear-rankers had few if any available for their use. Polearms such as Lochaber axes and “half-pikes” - eight-foot spears - would be handed out to some of these men. Others would be armed with improvised weapons such as scythes attached to poles, or would be possessed of only a stave or bludgeon. If a sword made an extremely rare appearance, it would be some old, rusty, or broken bit.

General. This group of unwilling warriors served little real use in battle, and was unreliable as a fighting force. The best they could hope for would be to hack down a fleeing foe, or to loot the fallen. Many would simply run away or hide.

Their appearance would reflect the abysmal poverty of the people who occupied the lowest socio-economic level of 18th C. Highland clan society. Dirty, ragged, unkempt and ill-equipped are the norms for this class.