Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Skirmishing with Light Arms 2

I have yet to see discussion of this type of situation in your typical list of "Best Weapons for Survival" that one see posted frequently.

from: Indian Warfare, Household Competency, and the Settlement of the Western Virginia Frontier, 1749 to 1794 by John M. Boback link

The settlers in the Greenbrier Valley [now in West Virginia] suffered a particularly devastating blow in the summer of 1763 when a war party of sixty Shawnees infiltrated the settlements. Under the leadership of Chief Cornstalk, the warriors used a tactic whereby they approached a cabin, feigned friendship, and then attacked by surprise. First turning their attention to the settlers living along Muddy Creek, the Shawnees killed Frederick See and Felty Yocum along with their families. In addition, they took “many others” captive. According to Withers in his Chronicles of Border Warfare, the Shawnees had divided into smaller bands and “visited” the various cabins simultaneously. Doing so would have limited the chances of word getting out that an attack was underway.

Cornstalk’s warriors then turned their attention toward the settlements at the “Big Levels” located at present Lewisburg. Upon discovering that most if not all of the one hundred or so settlers in the area had assembled for a feast at the home of Archibald Clendenin, the Shawnees apparently approached the cabin as a single large body. Again feigning friendship, the warriors joined in the festivities that included feasting on three elk that Clendenin had just recently killed. Quite possibly, these Shawnees had chanced upon some sort of communal work activity such as a cabin raising. Regardless, the Shawnees eventually ended their charade by killing or capturing all but one of the settlers. The sole escapee, Conrad Yocum, apparently suspecting treachery had left the gathering under the pretense of needing to hobble his horse. Once out of sight, he preserved his life by fleeing eastward across the mountains.
In your typical TEOTWAWKI book, the good guys sit in some carefully laid out fortification and get to blast the bad in one big penultimate battle.  The reality is a little different.  The series of "wars" gets confusing, but it is to be remembered that the settlers were driven out of their settlements back over the Alleganies a number of time (3 total I believe) and some of these wars went on for twenty years.  In most of these situation, people would pack up and head back over the mountains in panic.  But not everyone:

Those settlers who remained in the back country defended themselves through a combination of county militias and constructing refuge forts to be used as places of respite during times of danger. Naturally, it was to the settlers’ advantage if they could discover ahead of time when a war party was about to enter their vicinity. To provide this advanced warning, militia scouts, also known as “Indian spies,” constantly patrolled the forest looking for signs of enemy activity. Upon discovering footprints or other evidence, the scouts tried to ascertain the size of the party, their tribal affiliation, their most probable route, and whether they had hostile intentions.

If the situation warranted it, the scouts sent news of the incursion to the nearest militia commander. In hopes of averting disaster, scouts “would fly from Fort to Fort and give the alarm” warning nearby settlers of impending danger. One man who grew up on the western frontier recalled how his family was “sometimes waked up in the dead of night” by runners telling everyone to fort up. His father would immediately grab his gun and powder horn while the rest of the family got dressed. Everyone tried to be as quiet as possible and took the “greatest care . . . not to awaken the youngest child.” Without lighting a candle, the family grabbed what “articles of clothing and provision” they could. Oftentimes, they had no choice but to walk to the fort “for there was no possibility of getting a horse in the night.” By sunrise, all of his neighbors had also arrived at the fort. Then over the course of the day, armed parties of men visited each homestead to pick up additional food, clothing, valuables, and other supplies that might be needed at the fort.

How long a family remained at a refuge fort could vary. While some families stayed for only short periods before returning home, others remained there for months. Noise, crowded living conditions, disease, and concerns over unguarded homesteads could make forting an unpleasant experience.
The Indian Wars of the East and Alleghenies are not as well known today as the Western Wars because, with the exception of a brief "Daniel Boone" period, they were not as heavily represented in Hollywood or television depictions.  However,  they were often relatively successful

The recent massacres in Rwanda utilizing swords made of sheet metal (reportedly from car fenders) actually share some similar characteristics.  The killing is fast, and with the assailant so close at hand escape is difficult.

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