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.

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