Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Details of Material Culture from Grosse Ile, 1817

It's useful for a living history enthusiast to pay attention to the small details of material culture. For the War of 1812, one such detail is that of the blankets issued by the government to regular soldiers as well as given in trade or as gifts to Indians.

Michigan Pioneer and Historical Collections vol. 35 (1906-7) describes the gifts sent to Indians near Grosse Isle, Detroit in 1817:

Among the articles provided them were beautiful white blankets manufactured expressly for the purpose in England. Across the ends were colored stripes called "points." One point for a child or young person, two point blankets for a squaw and three points for a "brave."
These kind of blankets were the "Hudson Bay Company" type.  Similar 2 1/2 and 3 point blankets were being shipped from Pittsburgh to US Regulars in the Northwest during the War of 1812, along with different styles referred to as "rose" and "duffil." Since a blanket was often all the shelter he had, they were one of the most important pieces of equipment for a soldier or an Indian warrior of the era.

The article also mentions trade guns:
 Other articles were guns. There were two kinds, one called "squaw" were inferior, but the other called "brave pieces" were fine. Mr. Rucker, when a boy, owned one bought of the Indians, of which he was very proud...