Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Colonial Settlers Travel.

Colonial Settlers Travel.

In this following series of articles I will cover the travel & settlement of early settlers in the New World. Those of you who follow this blog for survival information may think on a modern scenario that may mirror this colonial account. “Bugging out” in this present century would have many similarities to this colonial scenario.

The settlers journey started when they left their own country to travel across the sea. This trip by all accounts was not a pleasant one, & many a passenger was probably so glad to reach land at last that the travels on land held little hardships for them compared to travel by ship. However, there were considerable hardships for many, plus the danger of being discovered by Indians along the trail. Travel was accomplished by boat, horse or by foot; there was no other transport available that could traverse the narrow forest pathways. Some wagons however did manage to get through on wider tracts of land, but these were few in the early days of settlement.

On account of contrary winds it takes the ships sometimes 2, 3 and 4 weeks
to make the trip from Holland to Kaupp [Cowes] in England. But when the wind is
good, they get there in 8 days or even sooner. Everything is examined there and the
custom-duties paid, whence it comes that the ships ride there 8, lo to 14 days and
even longer at anchor, till they have taken in their full cargoes. During that time
every one is compelled to spend his last remaining money and to consume his little
stock of provisions which had been reserved for the sea; so that most passengers,
finding them selves on the ocean where they would be in greater need of them, must
greatly suffer from hunger and want. Many suffer want already on the water between
Holland and Old England.
When the ships have for the last time weighed their anchors near the city of
Kaupp [Cowes] in Old England, the real misery begins with the long voyage. For
from there the ships, unless they have good wind, must often sail 8, 9, 10 to 12
weeks before they reach Philadelphia. But even with the best wind the voyage lasts 7 weeks.
But during the voyage there is on board these ships terrible misery, stench, fumes,
horror, vomiting, many kinds of sea-sickness, fever, dysentery, headache, heat,
constipation, boils, scurvy, cancer, mouth-rot, and the like, all of which come from
old and sharply salted food and meat, also from very bad and foul water, so that
many die miserably.
Add to this want of provisions, hunger, thirst, frost, heat, dampness, anxiety,
want, afflictions and lamentations, together with other trouble, as c. v. the lice
abound so frightfully, especially on sick people, that they can be scraped off the
body. The misery reaches the climax when a gale rages for 2 or 3 nights and days,
so that every one believes that the ship will go to the bottom with all human beings
on board. In such a visitation the people cry and pray most piteously.
Gottlieb Mittelberger’s Journey to Pennsylvania in the year 1750 and Return
to Germany in the year 1754.

"I noticed particularly, one family of about 12 in number. The man carried an axe and a gun on his shoulders. The Wife, the rim of a spinning wheel in one hand, and a loaf of bread in the other. Several little boys and girls, each with a bundle, according to their size Two poor horses, each heavily loaded with some poor necessities. On the top of the baggage of one, was an infant rocked to sleep in a kind of wicker cage, lashed securely to the horse. A cow formed one of the company ,and she was destined to bear her proportion of service - a bed cord was wound around her horns and a bag of meal on her back. They were not only patient, but cheerful and pleased with themselves with the expectation of seeing happy days beyond the mountains" Diary of Presbyterian Rev. David McClure. 18th century.

“We then started to get some provisions, which the old
woman, where we slept, had cheerfully given us; but we took nothing,
except two half loaves of rye bread, and some apples in our travelling
Journal of Jasper Danckaerts, 1679-1680. Gutenberg Files.

By Andrew Knez Jnr.
Settlers had to carry just the basic tools they would need to start their new life in the wilderness. It is possible that some may have carried only the metal heads of hoes, picks, mattocks, etc intending to make the stailes & helves for these implements once they reached their destination. Felling axes may be needed along the trail, in which case they would have fitted helves. Other necessities would include kettles, knives, axes or tomahawks, guns, tinderboxes for making fire, sewing needles & thread, whet stones for sharpening blades along with metal files. No doubt some would have carried spare parts for their guns & the necessary tools to repair those guns.

The more skills these travellers had the easier it was going to be to get to where they were heading, & to survive once they got there. The women were no doubt the cooks, seamstresses, nurses & doctors, as well as carrying out many of the same chores as the men. One would think that these women must have been protected at all costs along the trail. Hunting was probably not high on the list of skills these people had, as they were often forbidden to hunt in there country of birth. Some may have poached though & therefore would have some skill at trapping.

Travelling through these ancient forests these settlers were very much at the mercy of the environment & the Indians if they were discovered. Larger groups were safer & a good deterrent to any would be attackers. Smaller groups would probably not think of using guards on their flanks & rear as the Rogers Rangers rules stipulate, & unless any of them had served in a militia, they would have no experience in the security needed in such travel conditions.

Rogers Rangers Rules 1759.

1. “All Rangers are to be subject to the rules and articles of war; to appear at roll-call every evening, on their own parade, equipped, each with a firelock, sixty rounds of powder and ball, and a hatchet, at which time an officer from each company is to inspect the same, to see they are in order, so as to be ready on any emergency to march at a minute's warning; and before they are dismissed, the necessary guards are to be draughted, and scouts for the next day appointed.

2. Whenever you are ordered out to the enemies forts or frontiers for discoveries, if your number be small, march in a single file, keeping at such a distance from each other as to prevent one shot from killing two men, sending one man, or more, forward, and the like on each side, at the distance of twenty yards from the main body, if the ground you march over will admit of it, to give the signal to the officer of the approach of an enemy, and of their number, &c.

3. If you march over marshes or soft ground, change your position, and march abreast of each other to prevent the enemy from tracking you (as they would do if you marched in a single file) till you get over such ground, and then resume your former order, and march till it is quite dark before you encamp, which do, if possible, on a piece of ground which that may afford your sentries the advantage of seeing or hearing the enemy some considerable distance, keeping one half of your whole party awake alternately through the night.

4. Some time before you come to the place you would reconnoitre, make a stand, and send one or two men in whom you can confide, to look out the best ground for making your observations.

5. If you have the good fortune to take any prisoners, keep them separate, till they are examined, and in your return take a different route from that in which you went out, that you may the better discover any party in your rear, and have an opportunity, if their strength be superior to yours, to alter your course, or disperse, as circumstances may require.

6. If you march in a large body of three or four hundred, with a design to attack the enemy, divide your party into three columns, each headed by a proper officer, and let those columns march in single files, the columns to the right and left keeping at twenty yards distance or more from that of the center, if the ground will admit, and let proper guards be kept in the front and rear, and suitable flanking parties at a due distance as before directed, with orders to halt on all eminences, to take a view of the surrounding ground, to prevent your being ambuscaded, and to notify the approach or retreat of the enemy, that proper dispositions may be made for attacking, defending, &c. And if the enemy approach in your front on level ground, form a front of your three columns or main body with the advanced guard, keeping out your flanking parties, as if you were marching under the command of trusty officers, to prevent the enemy from pressing hard on either of your wings, or surrounding you, which is the usual method of the savages, if their number will admit of it, and be careful likewise to support and strengthen your rear-guard.

7. If you are obliged to receive the enemy's fire, fall, or squat down, till it is over; then rise and discharge at them. If their main body is equal to yours, extend yourselves occasionally; but if superior, be careful to support and strengthen your flanking parties, to make them equal to theirs, that if possible you may repulse them to their main body, in which case push upon them with the greatest resolution with equal force in each flank and in the center, observing to keep at a due distance from each other, and advance from tree to tree, with one half of the party before the other ten or twelve yards. If the enemy push upon you, let your front fire and fall down, and then let your rear advance thro' them and do the like, by which time those who before were in front will be ready to discharge again, and repeat the same alternately, as occasion shall require; by this means you will keep up such a constant fire, that the enemy will not be able easily to break your order, or gain your ground.

8. If you oblige the enemy to retreat, be careful, in your pursuit of them, to keep out your flanking parties, and prevent them from gaining eminences, or rising grounds, in which case they would perhaps be able to rally and repulse you in their turn.

9. If you are obliged to retreat, let the front of your whole party fire and fall back, till the rear hath done the same, making for the best ground you can; by this means you will oblige the enemy to pursue you, if they do it at all, in the face of a constant fire.

10. If the enemy is so superior that you are in danger of being surrounded by them, let the whole body disperse, and every one take a different road to the place of rendezvous appointed for that evening, which must every morning be altered and fixed for the evening ensuing, in order to bring the whole party, or as many of them as possible, together, after any separation that may happen in the day; but if you should happen to be actually surrounded, form yourselves into a square, or if in the woods, a circle is best, and, if possible, make a stand till the darkness of the night favours your escape.

11. If your rear is attacked, the main body and flankers must face about to the right or left, as occasion shall require, and form themselves to oppose the enemy, as before directed; and the same method must be observed, if attacked in either of your flanks, by which means you will always make a rear of one of your flank-guards.

12. If you determine to rally after a retreat, in order to make a fresh stand against the enemy, by all means endeavour to do it on the most rising ground you come at, which will give you greatly the advantage in point of situation, and enable you to repulse superior numbers.

13. In general, when pushed upon by the enemy, reserve your fire till they approach very near, which will then put them into the greatest surprise and consternation, and give you an opportunity of rushing upon them with your hatchets and cutlasses to the better advantage.

14. When you encamp at night, fix your sentries in such a manner as not to be relieved from the main body till morning, profound secrecy and silence being often of the last importance in these cases. Each sentry therefore should consist of six men, two of whom must be constantly alert, and when relieved by their fellows, it should be done without noise; and in case those on duty see or hear any thing, which alarms them, they are not to speak, but one of them is silently to retreat, and acquaint the commanding officer thereof, that proper dispositions may be made; and all occasional sentries should be fixed in like manner.

15. At the first dawn of day, awake your whole detachment; that being the time when the savages choose to fall upon their enemies, you should by all means be in readiness to receive them.

16. If the enemy should be discovered by your detachments in the morning, and their numbers are superior to yours, and a victory doubtful, you should not attack them till the evening, as then they will not know your numbers, and if you are repulsed, your retreat will be favoured by the darkness of the night.

17. Before you leave your encampment, send out small parties to scout round it, to see if there be any appearance or track of an enemy that might have been near you during the night.

18. When you stop for refreshment, choose some spring or rivulet if you can, and dispose your party so as not to be surprised, posting proper guards and sentries at a due distance, and let a small party waylay the path you came in, lest the enemy should be pursuing.

19. If, in your return, you have to cross rivers, avoid the usual fords as much as possible, lest the enemy should have discovered, and be there expecting you.

20. If you have to pass by lakes, keep at some distance from the edge of the water, lest, in case of an ambuscade or an attack from the enemy, when in that situation, your retreat should be cut off.

21. If the enemy pursue your rear, take a circle till you come to your own tracks, and there form an ambush to receive them, and give them the first fire.

22. When you return from a scout, and come near our forts, avoid the usual roads, and avenues thereto, lest the enemy should have headed you, and lay in ambush to receive you, when almost exhausted with fatigues.

23. When you pursue any party that has been near our forts or encampments, follow not directly in their tracks, lest they should be discovered by their rear guards, who, at such a time, would be most alert; but endeavour, by a different route, to head and meet them in some narrow pass, or lay in ambush to receive them when and where they least expect it.

24. If you are to embark in canoes, battoes, or otherwise, by water, choose the evening for the time of your embarkation, as you will then have the whole night before you, to pass undiscovered by any parties of the enemy, on hills, or other places, which command a prospect of the lake or river you are upon.

25. In paddling or rowing, give orders that the boat or canoe next the sternmost, wait for her, and the third for the second, and the fourth for the third, and so on, to prevent separation, and that you may be ready to assist each other on any emergency.

26. Appoint one man in each boat to look out for fires, on the adjacent shores, from the numbers and size of which you may form some judgment of the number that kindled them, and whether you are able to attack them or not.

27. If you find the enemy encamped near the banks of a river or lake, which you imagine they will attempt to cross for their security upon being attacked, leave a detachment of your party on the opposite shore to receive them, while, with the remainder, you surprise them, having them between you and the lake or river.

28. If you cannot satisfy yourself as to the enemy's number and strength, from their fire, &c. conceal your boats at some distance, and ascertain their number by a reconnoitering party, when they embark, or march, in the morning, marking the course they steer, &c. when you may pursue, ambush, and attack them, or let them pass, as prudence shall direct you. In general, however, that you may not be discovered by the enemy upon the lakes and rivers at a great distance, it is safest to lay by, with your boats and party concealed all day, without noise or shew; and to pursue your intended route by night; and whether you go by land or water, give out parole and countersigns, in order to know one another in the dark, and likewise appoint a station every man to repair to, in case of any accident that may separate you”.

Much of the weight these travellers carried would have been in water & food. Remember, these people are relatively new to this environment & would only know such plants as grew in the old country. Meat could be hunted along the way so long as they were as quiet as possible & not spook the game. If there was an experienced woodsman guiding them then they would learn skills along the way. This woodsman would be scouting ahead & leaving sign for the settlers to follow. It would fall to him to hunt for meat. From this woodsman they would learn how to skin & butcher game, & how to follow the wound channel to extract the round ball so it could be remoulded at the camp fire that following night. With any luck these people may have been advised by such a knowledgeable woodsman on what tools & other equipment to carry with them before they started out on their quest for land & freedom.

Woodsman By John Buxton.

By Doug Hall.


Murphyfish said...

An interesting piece Keith, tis easy for us to forget the hardships faced when breaking new ground all those years ago, but it still must have been a most excellent time for those with the skills and knowledge to make the most of the new lands.

Le Loup said...

It was all about the freedom John, freedom & a chance of a better life. In many ways I still miss England & Wales, & it was a hard slog for me when I first came over here. But it was & is worth it for the freedom I have & the land I own. There have been some scary times since I left the old country, & I have made & lost some good friends along the way, but I would do it all over again if I had to.

Regards, Keith.

Back Creek Bushcraft said...

A very very interesting piece!! I live in an area where the settlers and Indians "interacted" during the 18th century and it's amazing the skills and knowledge that both sides had to have to live their daily life.


Le Loup said...

Thanks for the feedback Bob, appreciated. Keith.