Forensic Fashion
(c) 2006-present R. Macaraeg


>Costume Studies
>>1607 English militia 
Subjectcolonist militiaman
Culture: Stuart English
Setting: colonial warfare, eastern North America late 16-17thc

Context (Event Photos, Primary Sources, Secondary Sources, Field Notes)



* Peterson 1956 p138-140
"The pattern of armor use in America in the 17th century may be traced through a brief survey of some of the more important references to it in the various colonies.  The settlers who arrived at Jamestown in 1607 were well equipped with armor.  There were both leather and steel targets for the gargetiers, and there were jacks, helmets, and plate armor in ample quantity: In fact, when John Smith left the colony in 1609, he reported that there were more helmets and cuirasses than there were men.
​   "The appearance of the Virginia settler when he sallied forth completely armed is excellently described in the Matrial Lawes of 1611:
   "Hee [the Governor] shall not suffer in his Garrison any Souldier to enter into Guard, or to bee drawne out into the field without being armed according to the Marshals order, which is, that every shot [musketeer] shall either be furnished with a quilted coate of Canuas, a headpiece, and a sword, or else with a light Armor, and Bases quilted, with which hee shall be furnished: and every Targiteer with his Bases to the small of his legge, and his headpeece, sword and pistoll or Scuppet provided for that end.  And likewise every Officer armed as before, with a firelocke, or Snaphause [sic], headpeece, and a Target, onely the Serieant in Garrison shall vse his Halbert, and in field his Snaphaunse and Target.
    "The Gouernor shall have a Principall care, that he vse his Garrison to the dayly wearing of these Armors, least in the field, the souldier do finde them the more uncouth strange and troublesome."


* Tisdale 2000 p96
"Guns were the most important weapons that the English possessed when they arrived in Virginia.  Accordingly, every attempt was made to import the latest and most modern firearms available in Europe.  As a result the colonial militia enjoyed a technological advantage that would not be experienced by their military counterparts in England until the beginning of the eighteenth century.  The muster of 1620 lists 686 'Snaphaunces & Matchlocks besides pistols.'  Unfortunately, no one bothered to go on and tell us just how many pistols there were within the colony.  In the census of 1625 just over 1000 firearms are recorded, revealing five distinct classes, though on some occasions, it appears the census takers used terms webbed in ambiguity.  Such is the case where the term 'peece' is employed.  Six-hundred and ninety-nine weapons of this description are listed, and it is likely that it was simply an ambiguous term used by some of the officials for all types of firearms, including matchlocks, wheellocks, snaphaunces, and possibly flintlocks, though the latter would probably have stood out in the minds of the officials due to their novelty."


* Tisdale 2000 p 102-104 
"Despite improvements in  firearms technology in the sixteenth century the sword was still to be ranked as a soldier's most valuable weapon, for it never fouled, ran short of powder or ammunition, or had its match put out by rain.  Every colonist that initially came to Virginia either owned a sword or had one provided for him.  This did not always hold true after private ventures were allowed in 1618, when many settlers arrived unprepared.  But throughout the whole of the century the sword was consistently held as a requirement for military service.  ...
   "The military sword at the beginning of the seventeenth century was designed for both cutting and thrusting.  It had a blade which tapered to a sharp point, yet retained enough width to allow for cuts to be made.  The hilt was simple, with straight or recurved quillons, anneau [sic], side rings, and knuckle guard.  A related form known as the swept-hilt had a guard which offered more protection because it almost completely encased the hand in a cage of 'swept' bars.
   "In the middle of the sixteenth century appeared the basket-hilt, the final form of the encompassing guard.  Although often claimed to have appeared in England during the Civil War, basket-hilted sword of the form recovered in Virginia were known in England as early as the third quarter of the sixteenth century.  These swords were often referred to as having an 'Irish Hilt', the term 'Irish' being one of contemporary use describing any person or thing of supposed Gaelic origin, and may testify to a Scottish origin of the basket-hilt.  [....]
   "A late form of basket-hilt for use by horsemen also saw service in the colony.  This was known as the backsword, which differed from the broadsword in that it had a single-edged blade.  ...  
   "Although wholly unsuited to the barbarous task of fighting Indians, the light-bladed rapier is consistently mentioned in documents dating from 1625 to 1701.  Historical sites have also yielded many fragmentary and several complete specimens.  Some of these appear to have been discarded in perfectly good condition, leading to the conclusion that a heavier cutting weapon was preferred when fighting Indians.
   "The cutlass was another sword to see widespread use within the colony.  The earliest reference to this type of sword comes from John Smith's 1609 account of his fight with the Werowance of the Paspahegh[.] ...
    "In this Smith notes that he carried a falchion (''faucheon').  Although not truly a cutlass, this heavy-bladed sword was its direct ancestor.  The falchion had not changed much from its medieval form by the seventeenth century, still retaining its cleaver-like blade and simple hilt of recurved quillions.  But it was beginning to carry a blade of lesser breadth and weight and to be equipped with a hilt bearing a solid plate on the outside to protect the hand, known as a shell-guard, or else a basket-hilt. ..."

* Coe/Connolly/Harding/Harris/Larocca/Richardson/North/Spring/Wilkinson 1993 p74 (Anthony North, "Seventeenth-century Europe" p72-83)
"Basket hilts continued to be used during the seventeenth century, especially in England and Scotland -- some of the colonists who settled in Jamestown, Virginia, possessed basket hilts.  Flat bars set with plates formed the guard, which was sometimes fitted with long recurved quillons.  Hilts from the early part of the century have very elaborate baskets formed of flat ribbon-shaped bars and are usually fitted with broad double-edged blades.  In contemporary inventories these are referred to as 'Irish hilts.'  Plain military weapons as well as expensive costume swords survive, some of the latter heavily encrusted with silver and gold."


* Tisdale 2000 p 105
"The pike was brought to Virginia in great quantities for it was thought that the Spanish would attack the colony.  At the time, the pikeman accounted for at least one-third of European armies.  Had the Spanish attacked Virginia, the weapon would have been a necessity.  As it happened, the colonists are thought to have drilled in pike warfare during the early years of the colony, but the weapon was never used against the Indians."