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Peter Jensen




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PostPosted: Sun 06 Jul, 2008 9:22 am    Post subject: Jamestown 1624-5 Muster         Reply with quote

What is the Missing Firearm Type in the Jamestown 1624-5 Muster?

In my brief research, I have found it surprisingly difficult to get a clear picture of the firearms technology in the early years of the Virginia colony. My main source has been the wonderful Muster of 1624-1625, which provides some detail on the firearms technology held by the various Citties of the Jamestown colony.

About this time, the matchlock was the dominant English firearm. At the colony's founding, I gather that any gun other than a matchlock would have been quite rare. Yet some historians proclaim with finality that by 1624, the matchlock was quite rare, since only about 50 of the 1000 firearms mentioned in the Muster are of that type.

What they don’t mention is that very few firearms in the muster are mentioned as being of any other type. In my analysis of the data, 51 were counted as “matchcockes”, 49 as “snaphances”, 61 as “pistols” ... and 677 simply as “pieces” (and 33 as “pieces serviceable”). So we have lock type on some of the weapons, size on a few of them, and no information at all on the bulk! (It doesn’t help that, according to Peterson, in the 17th Century "snaphance" could be used loosely, to mean any type of flint arm.) This shouldn't be a surprise, of course, since they didn't design their record-keeping systems for me, but the challenge is obvious.

I feel we can’t safely assume that the latter 710 are all snaphances, since that would leave unexplained why 49 were counted that way separately. So how can we be sure some of the 710 were not matchlocks? It’s been pointed out that the matchlock’s disadvantages would be magnified by the guerilla-style fighting of North America, and that more modern weapons would be desired, but I still see little evidence that modern weapons would be easy for the Virginians to obtain, at a time when Europeans still used the matchlock in great numbers.

At first glance, I assumed that the 710 were obviously of intermediate technology, since the people making the count would only take note of the highest (snaphance) and lowest (matchlock) technology, but on closer inspection this fell apart. Intermediate technology would be either the wheellock, an expensive and uncommon item even at its peak, or the snaplock. Recently I have noted that the snaplock was invented in Scandinavia [Edit: this is not actually true, as pointed out by Daniel Staberg below; it was simply adopted in great numbers by the Swedes and is associated with them for that reason] and was not introduced to North America at the time (Arms and Armor in Colonial America, 1526-1783). So I think I can rule this theory out, since it would be very odd for a region to have wheellocks for the majority of its weapons without anyone noting it.

The other idea is that some of those counted as Pieces or Pieces Serviceable were of newer design than the snaphance. Perhaps the technology was unfamiliar to the "census-takers" (I don't know the contemporary word), or perhaps they just didn't have a word for the type. The first example is the English lock. One site says “It is believed that the English lock quickly superseded the snaphaunce and that most of the locks found in the New World up to approximately 1625 are of this variety.” Intriguing! But another says “The first form [of the English lock] uses a horizontally acting sear that protrudes through the lockplate to secure the cock and is thought to have developed during the 1630s.” So perhaps the English lock is not the answer.

Another possibility is the English dog lock, which this site says was available as early as 1615, but other another site says it comes after the English lock mentioned above:
“The dog lock appears to have succeeded the English lock from 1625 to approximately 1675 and the flintlock supplanted the dog lock after 1675 (Peterson 2000:32).”

My final thought is perhaps some of the 710 were Spanish-style Miquelet weapons, but few of these have been found at Jamestown and I have no evidence of large-scale importation of Spanish technology to Virginia, so I am half-ruling this out for the same reasons as the wheellock above.

Is it clear what I am missing here? Is Peterson really correct in assuming that all the weapons not identified in the muster as "matchcockes" were definitely wheel- or flint-based systems? Could a hodge-podge of brand-new English locks, expensive wheellocks, and exotic Miquelets have accounted for over 700 out of a thousand guns in Jamestown?


Last edited by Peter Jensen on Sun 06 Jul, 2008 1:17 pm; edited 1 time in total
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GG Osborne





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PostPosted: Sun 06 Jul, 2008 10:18 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Take into account that after the massacre of 1622, the colonist were resupplied with all of the military junk that the Tower of London could afford, including 900 'Brown Bills' and thousands of bow and arrows. The bows and arrows were declined as it was thought captured items could provide a 'technology' boost to the indigenous natives. Also, as good as Peterson's book is in many respects, much of the material concerning Jamestown was construed as a result of the NPS excavations in the 1950s which were principally confined to NPS land as the good ladies of the APVA (Assoc. for the Preservation of VA Antiquities) who own the actual early site of the now rediscovered fort, etc. would not allow much to be done on their land. Peterson opined, for example, that closed helmets (which he illustrates copiously in AACA) were not used in colonial America. Of course, since then, two have been recovered at Martin's Hundred and several at the site of James Fort. Peterson relied on what he saw at Jamestown and extrapolated a general theory of what was and was not available or used. Archeology has disproved much of that by providing examples that greatly expand our knowledge. Personally, one of the things that fascinates me is the relatively high degree of Scottish-style artifacts: dirks, targes, basket hilts, a beautiful pistol similar to one of the very earliest known, and even more significantly a very interested basket hilt of which a virtually identical model is described in The Swords and the Sorrows as being one of only 3-4 known to exist!

So, if I may offer an opinion, I believe the early James River settlers came with two levels of gear: that of men who could afford their own and munitions grade cast-offs. Most colonial enterprises have done the same. The Spanish, for instance sent inexpensive Catalonian stocked light escopetas abroad while keeping the French-influenced muskets at home. State of the art is never sent to the netherlands and I believe it stands to reason that the number of technically out-dated weapons found at James Fort and Jamestown were not truly indicative of what was needed or may have been available and actually used. There is a reason, after all, that they were mostly found in wells and in basements!

"Those who live by the sword...will usually die with a huge, unpaid credit card balance!"
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Sean Manning




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PostPosted: Sun 06 Jul, 2008 10:58 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Interesting thread about an ugly area of military history I don't know much about.

GG Osborne wrote:
Take into account that after the massacre of 1622, the colonist were resupplied with all of the military junk that the Tower of London could afford, including 900 'Brown Bills' and thousands of bow and arrows. The bows and arrows were declined as it was thought captured items could provide a 'technology' boost to the indigenous natives.

Really? I thought that the peoples of the East Coast used longbows too, only tending to use hickory not yew? I would have guessed that by 1622 a more serious problem was that hardly any English could draw a warbow ...
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Daniel Staberg




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PostPosted: Sun 06 Jul, 2008 11:06 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The snaplock was invented in Germany, not in Scandinavia although it became quite popular there ,particularly in Sweden were several versions of it and the later snphaunce was manufactured localy.
Snaplocks & snaphaunces saw a lot more usage than many sources allow for, particlarly on civilian firearms as they did away with the expensive and at times hard to get match. They were quite popular with the armies around the Baltic were flint was cheap and easily found compared to match which had to imported by the less well developed countries.

The Swedish army alone bought snaplocks/snphaunces by the thousand and most of them were not made locallly but imported from Germany. At much of Europe got their arms&armour from the huge arms manifacuting centres in Germany, AFAIK the english also imported a considerable amount of firearms from Germany by way of the Netherlands. So it would nto have been hard for the English to get hold of Snaplocks or Snaphaunces.

One should keep in midn that the matchlock was the best lock for purely military firearms, it was soldier-proof and efficient compared to the snaplock which was more fragiel and less efficient. Contemporary military writers with experience of both types such as Wallhausen always argued in favour of the matchlock. The great military reformer Gustavus Adolphus took over an army which to a large part was armed with snaplock/snaphaunce muskets & calivers and proceded to get rid of them in favour of matchlocks as soon as possible.

In wasn't not until the invention of the French style flintlock that a solution which was better than the matchlock was found.
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David Evans




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PostPosted: Sun 06 Jul, 2008 12:21 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

GG Osborne wrote:
Take into account that after the massacre of 1622, the colonist were resupplied with all of the military junk that the Tower of London could afford, including 900 'Brown Bills' and thousands of bow and arrows. The bows and arrows were declined as it was thought captured items could provide a 'technology' boost to the indigenous natives. Also, as good as Peterson's book is in many respects, much of the material concerning Jamestown was construed as a result of the NPS excavations in the 1950s which were principally confined to NPS land as the good ladies of the APVA (Assoc. for the Preservation of VA Antiquities) who own the actual early site of the now rediscovered fort, etc. would not allow much to be done on their land. Peterson opined, for example, that closed helmets (which he illustrates copiously in AACA) were not used in colonial America. Of course, since then, two have been recovered at Martin's Hundred and several at the site of James Fort. Peterson relied on what he saw at Jamestown and extrapolated a general theory of what was and was not available or used. Archeology has disproved much of that by providing examples that greatly expand our knowledge. Personally, one of the things that fascinates me is the relatively high degree of Scottish-style artifacts: dirks, targes, basket hilts, a beautiful pistol similar to one of the very earliest known, and even more significantly a very interested basket hilt of which a virtually identical model is described in The Swords and the Sorrows as being one of only 3-4 known to exist!
So, if I may offer an opinion, I believe the early James River settlers came with two levels of gear: that of men who could afford their own and munitions grade cast-offs. Most colonial enterprises have done the same. The Spanish, for instance sent inexpensive Catalonian stocked light escopetas abroad while keeping the French-influenced muskets at home. State of the art is never sent to the netherlands and I believe it stands to reason that the number of technically out-dated weapons found at James Fort and Jamestown were not truly indicative of what was needed or may have been available and actually used. There is a reason, after all, that they were mostly found in wells and in basements!



I'd be very careful about ascribing certain items as "Scottish" straight off. The basket hilt and targe are as much a part of English culture as later Scottish culture. The basket hilted sword pops up England from the early 16th century and carries in in various form still the late 17th Century. The targe/target is being used for war from the mid/late 16th Centry iand into the very early 17th Century. I'm also not convinced that many Scots would travel to settle in the colony of what was still regarded as a foreign power!
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Peter Jensen




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PostPosted: Sun 06 Jul, 2008 1:20 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thanks for all your replies! Good stuff. Question: did I post this in Off-topic Talk by accident or was it moved here? I thought it was on-topic to Historical Arms Talk so I planned to post it there.
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GG Osborne





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PostPosted: Sun 06 Jul, 2008 4:03 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Dear David:

I didn't say that the settlers were Scots; as a matter of fact is is pretty definite that they weren't. However, the types of weapons I mentioned were found in abundance at James Fort and Towne and were of common Scots derivation. The parts of targes found, bosses, etc., were typically Scots, not the common English steel target. At least one blade is obviously a dirk (the majority were quillioned daggers of a fairly common pattern) and other than rapier hilts, the basket hilt predominates. Using any basic typology, the hilts were not common English styles, they were styles associated historically and archaeologically with Scotland. Why? I have no idea. But the findings are indisputable.

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Jean Thibodeau




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PostPosted: Sun 06 Jul, 2008 4:23 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Since a lot of the stuff is defined as " Old junk " from the Tower of London the firearms could include one's without locks at all like very old handgonnes or hackbutts as well as some wall pieces and small artillery.

An old archebuse with a missing lock could still be used with a hand held match ? Not saying that all of the above was the case but just mentioning it as another possibility that no one else mentioned.

Oh, these old " obsolete " firearms might not be very useful in the field but might add a lot of firepower when preloaded for use and lined up on a stockade parapet ? Shoot one, discard, pick up the next, shoot until all of them are used up before taking the time to shoot and reload the " modern " ( Modern for the time ) stuff. Wink Laughing Out Loud

Every man on the wall could have numerous preloaded weapons and this would give even a small defensive force a better chance at repelling an attack ? As good as having multishot repeating firearms intially at least.

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Sean Flynt
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PostPosted: Mon 07 Jul, 2008 7:56 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I ran into these problems while researching this article:

http://www.myArmoury.com/feature_virgina.html

My focus was on swords but it's hard not to notice the great number of firearms and the inconsistency of terminology. I still don't fully understand what a "piece fixed" is--I read somewhere that it may have been a matchlock converted to flint.

Read Beverly Straube's introduction to the reprint of Peterson's book. She specifically mentions that Peterson overestimated the prevalence of wheel lock firearms. That leaves match and flint, but that doesn't resolve the problem.

It's possible to get some idea of lock types by looking at the other stores listed in the muster. The category for "match" is of special interest, but it's not a definitive way to ID a given household's firearms. I ran into a few instances in which a household reported multiple firearms but no match. I assumed that must mean those firearms had some other ignition system--makes sense, for all the reasons cited elsewhere. But then I saw another possible explanation for the absence of match. The colonists were not thrilled with the quality of firearms and supplies provided by the Virginia Company. In 1624 the Virginia Assembly complained that, “we knowe not at any time that we exceeded in armes, powder and munitions, yet that in qualitie almost altogether uselesse”. It's possible that, on the afternoon the Crown's man came calling, a household might report multiple matchlock firearms and no match.

I suspect that colonists, in their unique environment, recognized the superiority of some ignition systems over others and invested in them accordingly. The muster lacks the detail needed to determine which was the case in individual households. The APVA, judging from actual artifacts, seems to have determined that flint was the system of choice by the time of the muster. That's good enough for me.

By the way, I contacted Beverly Straube (of the Jamestown Rediscovery Project) during research for my article. I wanted to know if the arms and armour described in the muster represented everything the colonists had, or if these were supplemental to common stores (of typical military arms of the period, perhaps). She said there's nothing to suggest that the colonists had anything like an armoury. The muster seems to be showing us every firearm the colonists had access to for hunting and defense, whether purchased privately or supplied by the company. Of course, we don't know how accurate and thorough the census was. Eek!

-Sean

"Everywhere I have searched for peace and nowhere found it, except in a corner with a book"- Thomas a Kempis (d. 1471)
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David Evans




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PostPosted: Mon 07 Jul, 2008 2:01 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

GG Osborne wrote:
Dear David:

I didn't say that the settlers were Scots; as a matter of fact is is pretty definite that they weren't. However, the types of weapons I mentioned were found in abundance at James Fort and Towne and were of common Scots derivation. The parts of targes found, bosses, etc., were typically Scots, not the common English steel target. At least one blade is obviously a dirk (the majority were quillioned daggers of a fairly common pattern) and other than rapier hilts, the basket hilt predominates. Using any basic typology, the hilts were not common English styles, they were styles associated historically and archaeologically with Scotland. Why? I have no idea. But the findings are indisputable.


What Mazansky typolopgy did these hilts fall in ? Apart from that ,what layer dating evidence is presented to show the time frame the hilts were "lost" in.

There are references to Wooden targes in English service in the 1590's, I'd have to hunt for the source but there is a reference to 100 men impressed for service in Ireland of whom 6 were to be armed with sword and wooden targe. Having asked around there is nothing beyond to say what these targes like. Apart from very small images on engravings of the fighting in the Neatherlands and the image here http://www.myArmoury.com/view.html?features/pic_virgina_d.jpg Which I love to know the date for printing and the source!

I'm just curicous as to why finds in the US, at an English Colonay, are are ascribed to a Scots source.
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Peter Jensen




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PostPosted: Mon 07 Jul, 2008 4:38 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thanks for joining in, Sean Flynt. Your article is why I am here, actually. Jamestown was originally no more or less interesting to me than its contemporary colonies, but your fine article just hit a bunch of the keywords I searched on.

As to wheellocks, I was wondering about them myself. It would be deceptively easy to say that all the pieces not identified by type "must have been" wheellocks, not likely given how expensive they're said to have been. Then again, I'm not sure if wheellocks are actually more expensive than flint-based weapons, or if those types are comparable and simply dwarf the cheap matchlock. Perhaps cast-off wheellocks could have been sold cheaply to the colonists, making them a significant minority among the unidentified pieces.

I also like the theory of weapons missing locks being used with a match. This would make them ... what? I gather that pre-matchlock weapons (handgonnes) were almost never aimed as such, rather being held with tiller at foot. But it seems like with a musket-like weapon held between shoulder and weak hand, your strong hand could reach above to use the match, and your aim wouldn't be too bad.

One of the intriguing things I've heard is of 950 (!) brown bills being sent to the colony in the early 1620s. That's more than the total population, I think, or at least more than the number of men. I know nothing of polearm tactics in this country ... maybe they were copying European tactics but I have no idea if that would work against tomahawk-wielding foes. Also, it seems like the number of pistols in Jamestown would be quite small, which makes me wonder if a man equipped with a bill would be expected to carry a firearm at all. I've never seen a picture of a man carrying a long gun with a sling.

My overall project, if you haven't guessed, is just to get a slightly more detailed picture of what a typical soldier might be like on a foray into the Virginia woods in, say, 1625. Coat of mail, bill, hatchet. Crusty old wheellock caliver. Shiny snaphaunce pistol, partizans, and more complete armor for the officers. Halberds and muskets back at the stockade. ...That's what I'm picturing now.
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PostPosted: Mon 07 Jul, 2008 9:01 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Peter Jensen wrote:

One of the intriguing things I've heard is of 950 (!) brown bills being sent to the colony in the early 1620s. That's more than the total population, I think, or at least more than the number of men. I know nothing of polearm tactics in this country ... maybe they were copying European tactics but I have no idea if that would work against tomahawk-wielding foes.


Skulking in deep woods the brown bill might have been more a hindrance than anything else, but in a nice open field and a standup fight force who was skilled with the bill, and with some armour, should have overmatched very lightly equipped unarmoured warriors. I'm assuming that the " Europeans " would be " skilled " in the use of arms for this to be true: A force of untrained and unskilled farmers against skilled native warriors might not really have any advantage even with better weapons. ( The qualities of the fighters being more important that the details of what they use, within reasonable limits ).

With shield and spear the advantages of the bill would be less than if only short tomahawks or warclub were available to the locals. Good armour would lessen the effectiveness of the native archery also.

Supporting the bills with muskets would the obvious thing to include in a small but combined arms force.

I don't think that crossbows would still have been used in this period, but they would have been useful if they where, as well as traditional English longbows, but some things " theoretically " useful where no longer in fashion.

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Sean Flynt
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PostPosted: Fri 11 Jul, 2008 6:50 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I doubt you'd see much or any mail in use by the time of the muster. Probably jacks and breastplates, with emphasis on fabric defenses. Mail would be useless against clubs and not as useful as fabric against arrows. If you don't already have it, get this Osprey book:

Colonial American Troops: 1610-1774 (1)

NOTE: There are several books with this title; you want the first one. It has good info on lots of subjects and includes an illustration of Va. militia of this period. They wear a mix of plate and fabric armour--most notably the quilted "bases" that cover the upper legs sort of like tassets. Burgonets, cabassets, targets, pistols, etc.

For more clues about how the colonists armed themselves, you could do worse than look at how the 16th c. Border Reivers armed themselves. They had similar concerns about weight, mobility and economy. There's evidence that the colonists even chopped up plate armour to revive the jacks of plate once common in the borders region. The colonist Thomas Flynt, at least, apparently was from that area (Berwick.) He and other Borders colonists would have had a pretty good idea how to arm and equip men who needed to be ready to fight quickly, move stealthily, etc.

As for bills--A bill wouldn't be as cumbersome as a musket in dense forest, and it would be much better suited to sudden combat at close quarters. I'd certainly rather have a bill against a native club. If you miss with the musket, which seems likely, you're now armed with a club inferior to the native analog. But with the bill you outrange the native club and have a variety of offensive options. I have no idea how much use the bill saw in the colonial context, but it seems like it would be an excellent weapon.

I think the main argument against the wheel lock is its complexity. What was it called? The "clockmaker's delight" or something.... It might be the most difficult lock to repair. As for economics...I suspect that folks on the colonial frontier invested in their arms because they knew how important they were. The musket was the most expensive item on their shopping list, IIRC, so they were already willing to make that weapon their spending priority. I can see more wheel lock pistols than longarms, though. Gentlemen/officers armed with the latest technology.

-Sean

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Joel Minturn





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PostPosted: Fri 11 Jul, 2008 10:44 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Just a theory. So if there was no centralized armoury and the census was just some guy asking what people had, may be they have the firearms listed as "pieces" (or "pieces servicable") because the person asked just said that they had a Piece and didn't specify what type they had.
Unless they had a reason to care about there gun, either it was a status piece or they cared about gun. they might have just said something to the effect " Yeah I have a gun. I don't know the details but the same type that everyone else has."

Just my theory because if you asked people what type of gun they have most people would just say "a shotgun" or "a deer gun" they wouldn't be able to say what type or any real details about the gun.
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Peter Jensen




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PostPosted: Wed 16 Jul, 2008 5:43 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Sean Flynt writes:
Quote:
I doubt you'd see much or any mail in use by the time of the muster. Probably jacks and breastplates, with emphasis on fabric defenses. Mail would be useless against clubs and not as useful as fabric against arrows.
I'd have thought so too, but the numbers I crunched from the muster seem to indicate that mail (chainmail?) was fairly common. I found:
312 Armor
13 Armor Complete
201 Coat of Mail
20 Coat of Steel
1 Coat of Plate
2 Buff Coat
18 Quilted Coat
6 Coat
36 Head Piece
7 Jack
13 Corslet
1 Target

I suppose "Head Piece" means helmet (sallet, morion, burgonet, cabasset, etc.)?
Armor is, like Piece, obviously very general. I suppose it may be fair to interpret it as including fabric armors; I'm not sure where the people of the time would draw the line between clothing and armor.
Armor Complete conjures an image of a full 15/16th Century-style knight's armor, though I doubt that is likely in 17th Century Virginia. Perhaps it means corslet with gorget, tassets, helmet, and something for the hands/forearms?
I have no idea the difference between coats, buff coats, quilted coats, jacks, and jackets.

I gather a coat of mail would be cooler to wear than most fabric armor. I hadn't thought of it as being useless against clubs but I know little about the subject. It's conceivable that these items may have been possessed but rarely used, since I can't imagine what someone would convert a coat of mail into if he thought it was useless.

Interesting that not a single bow or crossbow was mentioned, and only a single shield! I know they were becoming rare at the time ... perhaps they were considered too obsolete (or difficult to train neophytes with) to take up space on a ship.

It is also interesting that polearms were apparently not counted, making me wonder if they were considered common rather than personal property. (I'm not surprised that knives and hatchets weren't counted, even though they undoubtedly made effective weapons.)

Thanks for the Osprey recommendation ... I hadn't heard of that title.
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Sean Flynt
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PostPosted: Thu 17 Jul, 2008 7:59 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Peter Jensen wrote:
Sean Flynt writes:
Quote:
I doubt you'd see much or any mail in use by the time of the muster. Probably jacks and breastplates, with emphasis on fabric defenses. Mail would be useless against clubs and not as useful as fabric against arrows.
I'd have thought so too, but the numbers I crunched from the muster seem to indicate that mail (chainmail?) was fairly common. I found:
312 Armor
13 Armor Complete
201 Coat of Mail
20 Coat of Steel
1 Coat of Plate
2 Buff Coat
18 Quilted Coat
6 Coat
36 Head Piece
7 Jack
13 Corslet
1 Target

I suppose "Head Piece" means helmet (sallet, morion, burgonet, cabasset, etc.)?
Armor is, like Piece, obviously very general. I suppose it may be fair to interpret it as including fabric armors; I'm not sure where the people of the time would draw the line between clothing and armor.
Armor Complete conjures an image of a full 15/16th Century-style knight's armor, though I doubt that is likely in 17th Century Virginia. Perhaps it means corslet with gorget, tassets, helmet, and something for the hands/forearms?
I have no idea the difference between coats, buff coats, quilted coats, jacks, and jackets.

I gather a coat of mail would be cooler to wear than most fabric armor. I hadn't thought of it as being useless against clubs but I know little about the subject. It's conceivable that these items may have been possessed but rarely used, since I can't imagine what someone would convert a coat of mail into if he thought it was useless.

"Armor complete" might mean only a head-to-toe harness, as favored by John Smith, or it might mean any harness with all of its multiple parts--a half or three-quarter armour, for example. Maybe other documents shed light on the term.

Interesting that not a single bow or crossbow was mentioned, and only a single shield! I know they were becoming rare at the time ... perhaps they were considered too obsolete (or difficult to train neophytes with) to take up space on a ship.

It is also interesting that polearms were apparently not counted, making me wonder if they were considered common rather than personal property. (I'm not surprised that knives and hatchets weren't counted, even though they undoubtedly made effective weapons.)

Thanks for the Osprey recommendation ... I hadn't heard of that title.


I'd forgotten about the mail stores! But, as you point out, having it isn't the same as using it. Judging from the quantity, I suspect these were among the outdated Tower stores sent to the colony after the native uprising of 1622. They may have been distributed and never used. Since mail would normally be worn with a jack or coat, it wouldn't necessarily feel cooler. I'd love to see somebody interpret how a colonist might have worn mail. Maybe the late 16th c. Irish Gallowglass would be a good reference?

As for the coats, etc.: The quilted coats would be just thick, quilted fabric coats, maybe longer than what we associate with jacks. Peterson discussed quilted fabric "bases", which may refer to something like tassets. The Osprey book depicts a colonist in long quilted coat and breast. When I see that I think "aketon" and the distinctively long English jacks of the late 15th c. The muster's jacks, since they are distinguished from coats, may have been more like doublets, of quilted fabric or leather, with or without iron plates sewn into them. A buff coat is a long coat of very thick leather, with or without sleeves. Jack and jacket may be used interchangeably here.

I'm very surprised that only one target is reported. Targeteers would seem to have a logical role to play in this kind of warfare. There were lots of bows in the shipment of Tower arms but the colonists declined them out of fear that the natives would acquire some of them and refine their own technology. And you're right-- it's not likely that a half-starved colonist who had never used a warbow could learn to be an effective military archer. One would have to be very strong and raised in the bow to be of much use with a 100lb+ longbow.

-Sean

"Everywhere I have searched for peace and nowhere found it, except in a corner with a book"- Thomas a Kempis (d. 1471)


Last edited by Sean Flynt on Thu 17 Jul, 2008 8:25 am; edited 1 time in total
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Sean Flynt
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PostPosted: Thu 17 Jul, 2008 8:25 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

One example of how and when the English used mail coats just prior to this period (ca. 1580). If the muster coats were part of the Tower surplus, they may even have been from this era. The image is from the Irish wars, by the way, analogous to what the colonists faced in Virginia.


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-Sean

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Jean Thibodeau




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PostPosted: Thu 17 Jul, 2008 9:12 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Maille might not be very useful against blunt impact but it will still be useful against arrows, knives, small axes, spears to a degree and like all armour it doesn't make one invulnerable to everything but it prevents or reduces the damage from 80% of glancing blows, 100% of draw cuts making what would have been killing/seriously wounding blows or cuts ineffective.

The popularity of maille may have been low but this may just be our impressions based on not reading much about armour use in the Americas. Oh, we rarely see this armour in current or old historical films and this has conditioned us to visualize colonial Americans all wearing buckskins, using tomahawks, knives and Kentucky rifles. This is mostly if we (i) have not made a point of reading about the period and our only images are from " Hollywood ". ( Raised on Disney's Daniel Boone and Davie Crocket. Razz Laughing Out Loud ).

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Sean Flynt
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PostPosted: Thu 17 Jul, 2008 9:31 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Jean Thibodeau wrote:
Maille might not be very useful against blunt impact but it will still be useful against arrows, knives, small axes, spears to a degree and like all armour it doesn't make one invulnerable to everything but it prevents or reduces the damage from 80% of glancing blows, 100% of draw cuts making what would have been killing/seriously wounding blows or cuts ineffective."


All true, but leather and fabric armour might have been as effective against stone and wooden weapons (although by this time trade had given the natives many steel weapons). No matter, though, because metal armour of all kinds was soon out of the colonial American picture. I don't know when European plate or mail body armour was last used in the English colonies, but I would guess it was not too much later than this. Maybe by the 1660s or 1670s? Anybody know?

Here's a glimpse of English troops ca. 1581. Note the different levels of metal armour--from none on the musketeers to at least three-quarter on some of the horsemen. Looks like half armour for the pikemen.

http://www.lib.ed.ac.uk/about/bgallery/Galler...60_jpg.htm

-Sean

"Everywhere I have searched for peace and nowhere found it, except in a corner with a book"- Thomas a Kempis (d. 1471)
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PostPosted: Thu 17 Jul, 2008 9:55 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

This tableau, in the Royal Armouries collection at the Frazier International History Museum (Louisville, Ky.), seems like a very authentic interpretation. I assume it was created by or under the guidance of the RA, so would be based on the best available info. Seems like the figure in the foreground represents the average of what we see in the muster. Notice that the colonist barely visible in the background wears no armour at all, and is armed with simple double-edged sword and a dagger. Notice, also, that our friend in the foreground wishes he had tassets or quilted bases.


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"Everywhere I have searched for peace and nowhere found it, except in a corner with a book"- Thomas a Kempis (d. 1471)
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