Forensic Fashion
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>Costume Studies
>>1835 Texian militiaman
Subject: settler militiaman
Culture: Texian / Anglo-Texan
Setting: Texas 1824-1845
Evolution1790 Anglo-American frontiersman > 1835 Texian militiaman

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

* O'Neal 2014 p9
"Early Texas was settled by pioneers who came mostly from states of the Old South.  These Southerners brought to Texas their music, cooking, home crafts, and the institution of slavery.  Southern men also brought a proclivity for violence, form eye-gouging, knife-wielding brawls to blood feuds and formal duels.  The rough-and-tumble Texas society embraced knife-fighting and pistol duels and blood feuds.  The popularity of Sam Houston among Texans was enhanced by an 1827 duel in which he shot and nearly killed his opponent and by an 1832 brawl in Washington, DC, in which he thrashed a congressman who pulled a pistol on him."

* Williams 2013 p57-58
"Stephen F. Austin's colony in central Texas, established in 1822, enjoyed a short period of goodwill from the Indians but ultimately was saved by its militia.  When the goodwill from the Indians ran out in 1823, Austin found it necessary to form a militia from his colonists to protect from Indian attacks.  This was done with the approval of the Mexican government in Bexar.  The Mexican government in for the colony, but this was just after Mexico's long war with independence from Spain, from 1810 to 1821.  Mexico was in shambles and had only about 250 troops in all of  Texas.  So Austin's colony was on its own, and its survival in the first several years was precarious.  Austin's colony was saved by its own motivated and its leadership.
    "[...] The settlers were basically farmers with no military experience, and not everyone owned a gun.  They had not come to Texas expecting to have to fight, and they served only reluctantly in the militia and for short campaigns.  In this, the early militia acted more like a posse.  The men were usually mounted on their farm horses or mules but fought from the ground since they were not horsemen.  In the early years of Austin's colony, their numbers were meager, and they avoided confrontation in favor of treaty with the Indians.
​   "[...] By 1826, there were 1,600 people in Austin's colony.  Manpower was not the problem -- guns were.  The total strength of the militia reached 565 men, but there were only 345 weapons (muskets plus pistols).  So the militia lacked 200 weapons for each person to be armed.  Still, 1826 was an active year for battles between the militia and the Tonkawa and Karankawa.  By the end of the year, the increasing strength of the militia and Austin's successful strategy for dealing with the Indians had overcome the immediate threat of extinction for the colony.  The colony's militia was no killing machine, with inexperienced members and insufficient armament, but under Austin's leadership, it made the difference for the survival of the colony." 

* Alonzo 1998 p88
"After the Texas Revolt, Anglos saw the Río Grande frontier as a no-man's-land and Mexicans as their bitter enemy.  In the 1830s and 1840s, they openly raided ranchero herds on both sides of the river.  More than the Indians, Anglo raiders dealt a severe blow to the livestock herds owned by the rancheros in the Trans-Nueces region from about 1836 to 1860.  Beginning in the 1830s, Anglo Texan 'cowboys' systematically stole livestock from the ranches of the Mexicans who lived in the vicinity of the Arroyo Colorado, the Nueces and the San Antonio rivers, sometimes penetrating across the Río Grande into Mexico.  Seeking retaliation against the hated Mexicans, the cowboys justified their actions on the grounds that retreating Mexicans had taken property from Texans during the Texas Revolution.  In 1839, Dr. James Starr reported that he saw twelve miles from La Grange, Texas, 'a Company of Texas Cowboys' who had stolen hundreds of horses, mules, and cattle from the inhabitants of Chihuahua (Dr. Starr probably meant Tamaulipas).  In addition, Texan army commanders often sent detachments south of the Nueces to gather cattle needed to feed their troops.  After the fighting ended, veterans of the Texas Revolt not only stole from the 'enemy,' but also from peaceful settlers."


* Doughty 1983 p27
"Noah Smithwick (1808-99), Austin Colony pioneer, remarked that the unlikely assortment of farmers, woodsmen, and others who comprised the Revolutionary Army in October, 1835, wore 'buckskin breeches [which] were the nearest approach to uniform.'  Some garments were a soft, new yellow; others were black and hard 'from long familiarity with rain and grease.'  One of the finest examples of fashionable buckskin in frontier days was the suit worn by Indian scout Robert Hall, who sported a fringed and beaded suit of trousers, coat, and vest, topped by a coonskin cap.  A powder horn, leather canteen, and bowie knife completed his attire so that he cut a dashing figure.  His outfit, which reportedly belonged to Lafitte, was presented to Sam Houston, who then gave it to Hall.  'General Sam' was noted for an attachment to buckskin.  In a state procession as late as 1841, Houston paraded in buckskin shirt; earlier, Stephen F. Austin had donned buckskin, and Smithwick caught the eye of his future bride when he dressed in 'a brand new buckskin suit, consisting of hunting shirt, pantaloons and moccasins, all elaborately fringed.'
    "Apparel made up from other pelts was fashionable.  Moses Evans, the 'Wild Man of the Woods,' wore a vest made from snakeskin to a wedding at Washington-on-the-Brazos, where he lived in the late 1830s. ...  Black bearskins also proved useful ...."

* Todish 1998 p158
"Most of the Alamo defenders wore typical civilian clothing of the period.  Some who had prior military service may have worn parts of their old uniforms and used pieces of their old equipment.  Even volunteers with no prior service may have had military clothing and equipment, because the United States government occasionally sold surplus goods at public auction.  Undoubtedly, there was a liberal mixture of civilian clothing and gear.  Some Texians may have worn buckskin clothing, as popularized by Hollywood movies, but most would have been dressed in garments of manmade fabrics such as wool, linen, and cotton.  The Tejanos, of course, would have worn clothing typical of their Mexican heritage."

* Texas Hall of State
​"TEXIAN VOLUNTEER  The Texian Revolutionary Army consisted more of a volunteer militia than a regular organized military. Most men had to supply their own materials and weapons. As such civilian clothing and muskets of all types were quite common." ...


* Thorp 1969 p21
"The great Texas excitement was on, and men of every type took the trail.  All were heavily armed, since in that time and place law-abiding and cut-throat alike relied chiefly upon the knife, whether for offense or defense."

* Williams 2013 p66
"The Texians would ... have armed themselves for hand-to-hand fighting with Bowie and other long knives and tomahawks."

* Myers 1962 p102
"Due to the national fame acquired by the wielder of the prototype, the Westerners of whatever section had begun at some uncertain point to refer to the large knives they all carried as bowies. By the onset of the 1830's, the term had gained a sure footing in the English language, where it stood for a particular use for border cutlery. Although originally designed for hunting purposes, 'bowie knife' suggested a weapon to let human blood with. In cities or in other well-settled portions of the country, men might fire at each other from prescribed distances with single-shot pistols; but on the frontier, before the development of the revolver, the favorite dueling tool was the blade designed by Rezin Bowie, who gave it to Jim."

* O'Neal 2014 p11
"Brothers James and Rezin Bowie developed a large fighting knife, and the combative James was never without his weapon, even when fashionably dressed.  The big, heavy blade often had a clip point on top, which held a cutting edge for backstrokes.  When David Crockett first saw Bowie's famous weapon, he is said to have remarked that you could tickle a man's ribs a long time before drawing a laugh.  In various models, the 'bowie knife' became immediately popular in Texas.  Other dangerous Texas knife-fighters include Henry Strickland, 'The Bully of the Tenaha,' who was slain during the Regulator-Moderator War."

* Todish 1998 p165
"Bowie knives were made famous by James Bowie long before the Siege of the Alamo.  Large and heavy, 'Bowie'-style knives were more suited for fighting than for regular chores.  Blacksmith Rezin Bowie, James' brother, made the one that James carried during the Siege of the Alamo.  More than likely it was taken as a trophy by a Mexican soldier after the battle, and its current whereabouts is unknown.  Several knives that could possibly be Bowie's have surfaced over the years, but none have been positively authenticated."

Guns (Rifle, Pistol)

* Moore 2009 p125-126
"The Texas frontiersmen of the late 1830s relied heavily upon their Kentucky and Tennessee rifles for distance shooting.  Many of the Indians' opponents carried belt pistols -- or horse pistols -- of many calibers, including .54 and .65, although their effective range of perhaps 40 yards made them essentially useless unless fighting was engaged under extremely close quarters.  The first of Sam Colt's newly patented revolving five shot belt pistols manufactured in 1836 were models of .28  to .36 caliber, but few of them had made their way into Texas by 1839."

* Williams 2013 p65-66
"The arms used by both sides at the siege of the Alamo in 1836 were mostly of British manufacture.  Contrary to popular opinion, there were probably only a few Kentucky long rifles in the hands of the Texians.  The most common gun arming both the Texians and Mexicans was the British East India pattern musket.  Mexico had purchased a great number of these muskets in the 1820s as surplus from England and made them the standard weapon for the Mexican army.  These were not rifles but rather smoothbore muskets.  The Texians captured a store of five hundred of these muskets at the fall of Bexar in December 1835 when General Cos surrendered.  In any case, this British army musket had had been in America since early 1700s.  It was the main weapon used by both sides in the American Revolution in 1776, although a small number of  Kentucky long rifles were also used in that conflict.  But the British musket, nicknamed the 'Brown Bess,' was the weapon used by England in its period of colonial expansion.  It was very reliable and easy to load and was used by the British infantry until 1838.  Thereafter, the Brown Bess was used around the world into the 1880s.
    "[...] The Kentucky long rifle was a more accurate but was slower to load, producing only about .36 to .45 caliber, and were all handmade.  Since there was no standard bore size, the rifleman had to carry his own lead balls.  These characteristics were not a problem in their early use since they were developed for hunting deer in the woods of the Northeast.  The long rifle had an effective range out to three hundred years.  But with a barrel length of forty-eight inches or more, the long rifle was rather cumbersome for the western frontier.
    "The long rifle was developed in America in the early 1700s by German immigrants in Pennsylvania and was initially called the Pennsylvania rifle.  The German immigrants were familiar with the rifling process used for the German Jaeger rifle, but the long barrel was an American adaptation.  Davy Crockett was one of the Alamo defenders who knew how to use the long rifle effectively.  They were especially useful at picking off officers, scouts and artillery gun crews at long distances.  This would have had a great demoralizing effect on the attackers, but its slower rate of fire would have been a disadvantage against charging attackers."

* Taylor 2015-03 online
"The 'rifels' the rebels used were Pennsylvania long rifles, described by colonist and frontier blacksmith Noah Smithwick as 'long, single-barreled, muzzle-loading flintlock rifles, the same that our fathers won their independence with and that the famous Kentucky brigade used with such telling effect at the battle of New Orleans.' Pennsylvania gunsmiths, mostly Germans, made these rifles from about 1725 to the early 1800’s. Their octagonal barrels were 40 to 48 inches long, and they fired .35- to .60-caliber balls. Their stocks were walnut or maple and were often heavily ornamented in brass, with boxes set into them that contained the patches used for loading. In the hands of a skilled marksman, they were accurate at more than two hundred yards."


* Moore p156 (describing the aftermath of the Battle of the Neches, 1839)
"In its September 1, 1841, issue, the Telegraph and Texas Register reported that 'some rude chaps scalped the poor chief [Bowles] after his death.'  Others were seen to cut away pieces of Bowles' body for souvenirs or personal charms."

* Moore p160 (describing the aftermath of the Battle of the Neches, 1839)
"Walter Lane of Colonel Landrum's regiment noted one 'festive cuss' from the new arrivals who had taken the liberty to cut a strip of skin from the back of Chief Bowles.  The man told Lane that he planned to use the dried flesh for a razor strap and a good luck charm."