Tuesday, May 11, 2021

In the New World

Fort Carillon¹
(Source)

THREE HUNDRED YEARS ago, before the authors of the Declaration of Independence were even born, the American frontier was not out west but much closer to the Atlantic coast, in places like western Massachusetts and what is now Maine and New Hampshire.

At the time, this was a harsh, unsettled land full of Indians, who, along with their French Canadian allies, aggressively contested– often preemptively–any hint of westward expansion by English colonists.

For their protection, many colonial villages formed militias. But settlements along New England's frontier required more than your average able-bodied men. They needed especially strong, fierce men who could muster quickly and take the fight to the enemy.

This need for elite forces spawned the creation of small units that became known as "snowshoe men." They patrolled the frontier, protecting settlements from attacks. They operated in all types of weather and conditions. This included winter campaigns, which were conducted on snowshoes, and the name stuck.

The snowshoe men were the nation's first commandos. They were rangers decades before Rogers' Rangers gained fame during the French and Indian War.

They were minutemen long before the colonial Minutemen reaped renown early into the Revolutionary War. (Source)


I am a New Englander, born and bred. I grew up on tales of the French and Indian War and the Revolutionary War. Many of the events from those wars took place within a day's travel of where I grew up.

King Philip's War, which preceded both of those wars, mostly took place within an hour's travel of where I live now. I drive to work on a road named for the leader of the Wampanoag who fought against the colonists. (Metacom Avenue, Metacom was King Philip's Wampanoag name.)

A comment from Comrade Misfit the other day sent me down an interesting path, that excerpt above about the Snowshoe Men. That article also taught me that one of the oldest units in the United States Army traces their lineage to those very men - 

The 181st Infantry Regiment was organized 13 December 1636 in the Massachusetts Militia from existing train bands (i.e. local militia companies) as the North Regiment. Redesignated 7 September 1643 as the Middlesex Regiment. Expanded 13 October 1680 to form the 1st (or Lower) Middlesex Regiment and the 2nd (or Upper) Middlesex Regiment (consisting of companies from Concord, Bedford, Sudbury, Marlborough, Chelmsford, Billerica, Groton, Acton, Lancaster, and Dunstable) (1st Middlesex Regiment – hereafter separate lineage (182nd Infantry Regiment). (Source)

Long story short, the next book will cover the period stretching roughly from the Pequot War to the American Revolution. I started this tale, some time ago, here's an excerpt:

The Beginning...

Just audible over the burbling of the small brook there was a cry. Not the sort of noise made by a four legged animal. It was a human sound. A cry of terror.

And of pain.

Weeish looked at me for a moment, eyebrow cocked.

A quick nod from me and we headed towards the sound.

Cautiously.

A musket shot, another scream, we were close.

Staying under cover we drew near, in time to see the last of the whites fall to the ground, his musket still in his hand, the long arrow protruding from his chest signifying that his hair would be decorating a lodge pole before nightfall.

Weeish and I stayed under cover, there was nothing we could do for the small party of men who even now were being plundered of whatever useful items their conquerors might make use of.

The Onandowagas moved off, exultant as they headed back for their village. They now had muskets and powder. Fine knives of steel and heavy wool clothing to cover themselves in winter. It was a good kill. (You can read the whole thing here.)

I covered some of that war (with a wee bit of fiction as well) in this post. It's a fascinating period of history, but I want to go back further, when the Indian nations were more powerful and the contest for North America was a bit more even.

While researching this topic I learned other things which I hadn't known before. I'll try to convey this in my latest endeavor. Not sure when I'm going to start but I'm thinking soon. It seems that I've been bitten by the writing bug and I can't stop now.

Hopefully this is a good thing...



¹ Carillon is the original French name of the fort. The British renamed it Ticonderoga. I've been there a few times, need to go back. One very bloody battle was fought there in the French and Indian War.

66 comments:

  1. I guess your muse has plans for you! Good to hear. As for the WWII story, any plans for putting it down on paper and having an editor take a look?

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    1. I still need to patch the whole thing together, there is a master copy (not on the blog) which I need to read through to make sure it all flows from one episode to the next. But the goal is to be published.

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  2. Well, it is said "A writer writes."
    Looking forward to being led along this new journey by you, and to experience it with everyone who frequents this place.
    Disclaimer: I have a fondness for small axes "tomahawks" (hey, Viking). Also a strange desire to take the scalp of a less-worthy opponent, I believe I'd let a worthy fellow warrior keep his hair.(Please, don't judge) Haven't acted on it, but the times they are a'changin'.

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    1. It's addicting, as I've discovered.

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    2. I still can't believe you don't want to start writing stuff about your morning coffee, the angry neighbors, local politics, or other blog-fodder. You know, phoning it in! haha. Just kidding. Looking fwd to the new stuff.

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  3. Exxxceeellent! (Monty Burns steepling of fingers) Looking forward to learning more about places and a time that we here in the Northland don't have much experience with, good luck Sarge.

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    1. It's something I grew up with, I often wonder if the kids in the area still get taught this. I rather doubt it...

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    2. One of my earliest disillusionments with the school system occurred in 1949-50 in the fourth grade when I looked in the history book index for "King Philip's War" and the only reference to King Philip was some guy in Spain. Old Guns

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    3. Considering where we live, that is very depressing!

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  4. Yes sir, I'm strapping in for another ride. This part of history is a bit foggy to me. I never took a deep dive into it.

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    1. It should be educational and entertaining, or I'm not doing my job!

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  5. You have a gift that we all want you to exploit! I read that short story (I have your "other" fiction bookmarked).

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    1. Awesome!

      We'll see how it goes, it's going to take a few days to actually get things up and running as the research gets done. It's also tax season and I need to get those done. So...

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  6. Yay! History!

    If you have not read it (and are looking for references), Francis Parkham's book Montcalm and Wolfe: The French and Indian War is a splendid single volume history (although, to be fair, largely through 1759, at which point of course the narrative shifted to Europe). One wonders what the different path might had been if France and not England was victorious.

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  7. Born (upstate) New Yorker here, very much looking forward to your next. For a while, my folks lived near the Finger Lakes (a sorta-connection to 'Drums Along the Mohawk'); then in the Tri-States corner with PA and NJ, which saw some bloody activities prior to the Revolution and during the war. My in-laws lived just down the mountain from the site of the Battle of Minisink. In the Sixties, there was little popular attention to the period you'll be covering, so this will be educational as well as entertaining.

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    1. I'm not sure if there has ever been a lot of attention paid to those early conflicts. Overshadowed by the Revolution for the most part, thing is, it was the cost of those wars which caused the taxes which led to the Revolution.

      An extremely important piece of history in my estimation.

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    2. You know it seems the garrison towns were the major cities on the east coast rather than the smaller towns further inland but then that was the nature of the place and the times. I have read some of the history of the area and each summer we find more about the early interactions between the English and the natives. Think how bad it must have been that they kept arriving and settling in spite of the every so often massacre. Good wishes for your new endeavor!

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  8. Today's quick mental image was a group of people holding their book readers and each person had their nose pressed against the glass of a store bearing the sign, "Sarge's Bookstore."
    Every face had a big smile of anticipation.

    I'm ready and thank you.

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    1. I like that mental image. You've given me a nice morale boost on a day which really requires one!

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    2. I wish I had the talent to turn what I see in my head into a real image.
      Glad to help out. 😃

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  9. Hey Old AFSarge;

    I read a lot of the frontier life and the wars before the revolution, was a fascinating time. I always laugh when I hear of people talk about "How peaceful the New World was before the white man came". They had no idea except for some propaganda they got from the university. For some reason the Iroquois missed the memo, LOL. The Indians attached each other and the white settlers. For the Whites and the Indians it was a plenty life and a hard life if you know what I mean. If you haven't seen it, the 90's version of "Last of the Mohicans" explains a lot of the backstory that the older movies gloss over. I rather enjoyed it. Keep rocking the Muse.

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    1. That's one of my favorite movies. Great story, great cinematography, incredible musical score. The books and that movie made me want to write about that period.

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    2. @OAFS, above/

      AGREED!!! (but not about the ritin' part.. :) )

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    3. Yes... Our Native American brethren were so peaceful and ecologically sound... Yeah...

      That movie really did a good job of showing how nice things were. And how pleasant frontier life wasn't.

      Not saying that Europeans weren't at fault, but fault falls on both sides.

      Angus McThag, in doing research for a potential novel on the American West post The Great Unpleasantness has had some good posts on some of the facts and fictions of the First Nations Peoples. Of course, being Angus, his book is European magic vs Native magic vs something completely different. And as he's such a stickler for detail like you, his cavalry equipment and language seems pert near authentic.

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    4. The one thing most of the la-la-land crowd forgets is that the one defining characteristic of any culture is that we're all the same species, homo sapiens. Bad behavior seems to be built in.

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    5. That is indeed one of the finest movies made about the period (actually, I would rate it as one of my favorites, period).

      (It is also one of those that is actually more enjoyable that the original book).

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  10. Excellent. First, you are a gifted writer. Second, it keeps you busy and out............. (we'll let the Misses Herself fill in the blank)

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  11. Great news!
    I eagerly look forward to learning and understanding more history.
    John Blackshoe

    Following resource on early militia and arms technology was posted on the Lexican site by Jim T., but really should be added here for readers to find in the future:

    The Higgins Armory Collection at the Worcester Art Museum does live presentations every other week, the Salem militia pike & shot. They were more worried about the French, Dutch, and Swedes than about the locals. https://www.facebook.com/higginsarmory/videos/957188165089893

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    1. Thanks JB and thanks for sharing that link.

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  12. When you get to writing about that time period you could become the modern Kenneth Roberts.
    Northwest Passage was the first historical novel I ever read, as a twelve year old.
    I've lost count of how many since.
    The subject matter is important, but how it's written is even more important because it is what determines how the reader becomes involved.
    I was slogging along with the troops from Normandy onward... nice job.
    I'm fairly certain that Buck would be proud.

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    1. High praise indeed! Kenneth Roberts and The Northwest Passage. Great stuff!

      Thanks Skip.

      (I think of Buck often and how much I miss his comments and his wit.)

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  13. This is really exciting news! Thanks for including us in your thoughts about the subject of your next tome. I'm a total West Coast boy (Father Serra, Apaches, Sacagawea). I have always embraced the idea of learning more about the "other native Americans" who had so much more to do with our country's history. Go for it! We'll keep you clear. D4

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    1. I know what you mean, many people, when you say the word "Indian" or "Native America" picture the Plains peoples or those in the Southwest (Navaho, Apache, Hopi, etc.). The Indians I grew up with were Uncas, Magua, and Chingachgook, the people of the long houses, the people of the forests and the lakes. Only later did I learn about the others. Also, one of the family historians claims that one long ago ancestor was a lady of the Seneca. So it's a period I have a lot of interest in.

      Knowing y'all have my six is comforting.

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  14. Good. That era wasn't the bright and shiny time period so often portrayed by teachers and the eneMedia. The settlers had to fear the new wilderness, full of all sorts of things they've never encountered before (like tornadoes... and really lousy soil (in comparison to Europe.)) All the while having to worry about European politics following them to the New World, their own side's politics, the occasional crazed European nut case (serial and spree killers just didn't suddenly appear in the late 1800's, they've been around for a long time, probably as long as Man has.) And just, well, skullduggery of one's fellow Man. Toss in the very complicated and almost alien cultures as represented by the Indians/Native Americans/First Nations, who basically have been involved in a continent-wide 'World War' of their own as the climate of the New World shifted and adjusted from various mini-ice ages to droughts to overly rainy to...

    It was a far more complicated and vicious time, for all.

    Concepts of old-school slavery, bride-wars, just hating and feuding, lack of caring about others' property rights while squalling about ones own property rights...

    Gonna be fun. I can smell the leaf-mold and dirt right now. Along with the blood, guts, overall stench of death and burnt wood that too often pervaded the North East.

    Having some ancestors from America's First Communist Party!!!!, that pre-Revolutionary War period has always interested me.

    Like... Some New England farms, faced with huge (for European values) trees that they cut and removed to make farmland (and thus finding the most productive thing ever in NE soil... rocks, lots of rocks...) also used the roots of the trees, once pulled out of the ground, as fences long before enough rocks were collected, found, cursed at, and removed to make stone walls.

    And then there are the strange things, like European style walls that have been found in areas where Europeans weren't supposed to be, and even the local natives didn't know about (often because the local tribe at that time were relative new-comers to the land - see above comments about natives killing natives for a long time.) Makes you wonder? Aztec/Incan/Mayans? Or pre-1500s Europeans? Or post-1500 Europeans who got wiped out before the next wave of Europeans? Weird speculations to make. And not enough real research done in modern times (but way too much done in Victorian/Gilded Era times, and those 'historians' make the 'Ancient Aliens' people actually seem learned and sane...)

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    1. All good points.

      (Man, I love your comments!)

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    2. For 100% Vikings have been exploring those coasts between 1000 and 1400s, probably even making permanent settlements, until little ice age that doomed their Greenland colonies put a pause to European exploration of the area.
      BTW, I can absolutely recommend japanese animated series Vinland Saga. It does not concern the Vinland colonization itself, but is magnificent picture of 1000s Viking warfare in Britain and neighbourhood...

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    3. There is some evidence, mostly poo-pooed by 'mainstream' historians, that Norskers and other 'Viking' peoples made it into the Great Lakes, probably portageeing past Niagara Falls, and into lands west and south of Lake Superior.

      And... during the warming period during the 'Viking' age they may have made it through the Northwest passage onto the west coast. But any evidence has been ruthlessly suppressed as much as Chinese ships landing during their 'exploratory period' before the Mandarins took over and they went all insular.

      What would History be without being suppressed and rewritten? (Gazes at Shakespeare's version of Richard III vs the real Richard... And, yes, I know Shakespeare wrote propaganda for the Tudors. Really good propaganda. That future generations took as truth...)

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    4. I can't imagine the Vikings not exploring the upper reaches of the St. Lawrence and making it to the Great Lakes. Really out of character!

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    5. The Vikings in the Great Lakes? What a story that would be!

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    6. Hhmm...

      Now there's a thought.

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    7. There is also strong evidence that Basque fisherman knew of the rich cod fishing grounds off New England by the 1000's. Have a read of 'Cod' by Mark Kurlansky. Salt cod was prized throughout medieval and early modern Europe and the Basque fishermen were not encountered off Iceland and other European cod fishing grounds but nevertheless seemed to have access to ample supplies. To salt and dry cod you had to land and one of the earlier 'official ' explorers reported encountering hundreds of Basque fishing boats off Newfoundland/New England. It's not beyond the realms of possibility that some of these fishermen stayed or were abandoned and made their way inland, accounting for European style wall structures.
      Retired

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    8. I've read in a few sources of European fishermen visiting these shores, including the Basque. I never knew that before I started doing the research for the next book. Absolutely fascinating.

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    9. There was an account by another historian who mentioned the early ( C14th) explorers encountering native Americans and being able to converse with them in Spanish/Portuguese. No one ever thought to wonder why they could converse in a European language. I suspect our forbears got about quite a lot. They were a tough lot.
      Retired

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    10. Now that is interesting and it is a wonder why those early explorers didn't pick up on that.

      "Hhmm, I wonder where that bloke learned Spanish?"

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    11. The only way something like that could be 'proven' would be DNA testing...

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  15. https://youtu.be/UUCF8BzuxBI some soundtrack to your next epic!
    Ssriously, though this is one area of US history that has been criminally neglected, because, well, it was not US yet.
    US historians tend to look at US doing Athena escaping head of Zeus fully grown in Revolutionary War.
    French historians look at colonization of America as footnote to great wars of 17th and 18th century waged on contnent itself
    Native historians, well not really survived in most cases, and have no written sources mostly to work with.
    So, we are really unaware of many aspects of those savage wars of the borderlands.
    One thing that fascinated me is that from indigenous viewpoint this is story of runaway immigration crisis by boat people fleeing continent rent by civil , religious warfare and domestic terrorism. (Cue, English Civil War, 30 years War, and Guy Fawkes...). Europe nowadays would do well to learn the story.
    Another , is that for much of the storyline, it was story of as much native infighting as Europeans intervening, retalaiting or defending.
    Third thing is how much things could have been different if natives were not decimated by smallpox, thus drastically shifting demographics.
    Fourth thing is how some small events made ripples way beyond initial effects - like when Samuel de Champlain did fire his musket once to help his Huron guides fend off Iroquis and thus earned French eternalk Iroquis enmity becsuse it was apparently first tiem Iroquis fled the battle...
    Fifth thing is abundance of what-ifs... for example if Iroquis joined the 13 colonies in 1770s, could they have become 14th, native state, with all repercussions down the history... Or if French managed to hold onto Canada, with Montcalm defeating Redcoats, what would be effect on the Colonies drive to independence?

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    1. The perfect soundtrack, I love that music.

      The reasons you state are exactly why I want to write a book based in this time period.

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    2. Besides being descended from America's First Communists!!!! I am also descended from France's attempt at establishing a new principality and feudalism, well, until the English came and said "Submit or Git!" and thus my dad's side left Arcadia and went to France's other lands, until the Frenchies sold it out to trumped-up English separationists.

      Thenk there's the German who left the rather rough and tumble politics surrounding German unification...

      And some Irish on me mother's side... back when they were Norman Irish, or Irish Normans. None of that Noveau Irishee stuff...

      We long-term American interlopers are a colorful bunch, aren't we?

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    3. "Grrr-wuff!" says the mutt.... Yeah, me three.

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  16. OAFS/ Re: Speculation by Beans, Pawel K, Retired, et al about Vikings in the Great Lakes, Basques in NewFoundland//New Jersey in 1500s and the possibilities of the "Ancient Aliens" crowd as "learned sane historins, " I'll just say that, as a Charter member/subscriber of GALAXY Sci-fi Magazine, I'm up for ANY & ALL possibilities.. :)

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  17. The west was New York city, about 200 years ago.
    But it kept on moving westward with a long, long way to go.
    The west moved west headed for Chicago but it never ever settled down,
    it kept on moving westward toward the land of the big sun down.
    Across the wide Missouri, across the mountains high, the west moved west 'til it came to rest 'neath the blue Pacific sky.

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Just be polite... that's all I ask. (For Buck)
Can't be nice, go somewhere else...

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