Monday, September 28, 2009

Skulking Way of War, by Patrick Malone

Every summer I visited my family's cabin in the Adirondack mountains. I would spend several weeks there, walking through dense forest trails, and canoeing/boating on mountain lakes. The woods also bordered my house in Pennsylvania. My friends and I would often wander along paths and streams, surrounded by birds, rabbits, and often deer. Perhaps this partly explain why I have a fascination for the people who lived there before the arrival of Europeans. My dad is a big FIW / AWI history buff, so that is certainly the other root of my interest in the woodland Indians.

Skulking Way of War review

The Skulking Way of War: Technology and Tactics among the New England Indians came to my attention shortly after the paperback was published in 2000. I paged through it quickly and set it down again. I was reading on the French and Indian War, but 17th century New England held no interest for me. I should have kept reading! I got the book on Friday, and just finished reading in jut a few days. Although focused on King Phillip's War, this scholarly and approachable text can also aid in the study of woodland Indian military actions of the 18th century: French and Indian War, Pontiac's Rebellion, and the American War of Independence. As the author puts it: "In studying the tribes of southern New England, a scholar must sometimes draw inferences from known practices of other tribes."

For a general history of King Phillips War, one must look elsewhere. Much like the content of one of Osprey Publishing's Men at Arms* titles, Malone's book is concerned with details of the Indians' and Puritan's respective military systems, logistics, tactics and weapons technology. Attention is paid to the fusion of these two traditions: the Indians were very quick to employ European's latest weapons and the European's will to completely destroy the enemy. The English, on the other hand, were very reluctant to apply Indian fighting methods and long suffered for it. In the end, the American colonists acquired a great appreciation for the Indians' "skulking way" of forest warfare. Their use of high mobility, stealth, surprise, and individual marksmanship would serve them well in their future wars against other Indian tribes, the French, and the British.

I. The Aboriginal Military system
II. The Arrival of the White Man
III. The Arming of the Indians
IV. Proficiency with Firearms: A Cultural Comparison
V. Technology, Tactics, and Total Warfare

*I should note that the text does not include full color illustrations like an Osprey Book. My comparison applies only to the detailed subject and the concise, well-organized writing. The book does feature many charming contemporary engravings.

For a book on the 17th century colonist's side of the conflict, see my review for A Rabble in Arms, by Kyle Zelner.

Check out other book reviews and painted miniatures for King Philip's War.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

New project: King Philip's War

With a fresh interest in the French and Indian War I have been browsing various mini manufacturers, planing my purchase of some 28mm Roger's Rangers, French, and woodland Indians. A few days ago on TMP someone asked for 28mm AWI Indian model suggestions. To my surprise I saw a reply describing native minis for 17th century America. The King Philip's War miniatures were released by Brigade Games in '08. I had no idea that they existed!

These brilliant sculpts have inspired me to delve into this unfamiliar conflict and time period. To better aquaint myself I have already started reading Kyle Zelner's book, A Rabble in Arms: Massachusetts Towns and Militiamen during King Philip’s War on Google Books. My library should be able to get me a copy through interlibrary loan. I have long been interested in The Skulking Way of War: Technology and Tactics Among the New England Indians, by Patrick Malone. So, I went ahead and ordered a copy off amazon. I'm sure I'll read more, but these two books seem like a good introduction to both sides of this conflict.

This evening I just bought their first four packs plus King Philip using my birthday funds. With only 11 Indians and 10 English Militia, I should have no problem painting them all in a reasonable amount of time (once I'm through being swamped with work). With fall approaching and thoughts stretching to Thanksgiving (you know... Puritans and Indians) it seems an appropriate time to get into this new genre.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

David Zeisberger's History of the Northern American Indians

As I mentioned earlier, in August I visited my parents in upstate NY. My dad is a big history buff. His main interest is 18th century America. I enjoyed looking through the many history books on his shelves. He picks them up from the gift shops at historic sites in New York and Pennsylvania. Among them is a the History of the Northern American Indians, by David Zeisberger. His copy is a paperback reprint published by Wennawoods Publishers. When I got home I requested the book through interlibrary loan, and received an old 1910 edition.

A Moravian missionary, Zeisberger lived in the Western Pennsylvania and Ohio wilderness with the Delaware Indians between 1766 and 1781. His journal describes their day to day life. He discusses their landscape, the many plants and animals, hunting, societal roles, customs, language, economy, clothing, sex, methods of war, religion, politics, and their relations with other Indian nations and with the Europeans (colonists). The English translation (he wrote in German) is engaging and easy to follow.

Zeisberger was highly regarded by the Delaware themselves. I'm sure this was in part to the Moravian method of evangelism—leading by good example, rather than confronting and condemning others. I should note that the term, "Delaware" is a European name applied to the tribes that originally lived along the Delaware river, but were pushed west by encroaching settlers.

The whole account was fascinating, but I found several points to be especially enlightening.

1. Trading buckskins was the primary method of dealing for European (and local American) goods. Zeisberger explained that the coat of a deer changes with the seasons."The best time for the chase is in the fall when the game is fat and the hides are good. Hense, they commonly in September and October go hunting with their families, remaining afield until the New Year or longer, though after that the skins can not be used."

2. I enjoyed his three-page description for preparing maple syrup and maple sugar.

3. In the Delaware language there were no swear words: "If women or men would berate each other... they direct words and speeches at one another which would not not be considered terrible by other people but are very seriously taken by the Indians."

4. The conduct of their war. Zeisberger explains their use of small war parties, the preparation for the raid, the vast distances traveled, the importance of prisoner-taking (to replace tribe members lost in previous battles), and the forced march home.

David Zeisberger's journal is considered by many to be the best description of 18th century life of the Northeastern Native Americans. Naturally his perspective was skewed to that of a Christian white man. However, his first person account of the Indians is as accurate and objective as you will ever find for this period.