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Rustic Warriors

Rustic Warriors: Warfare and the Provincial Soldier on the New England Frontier, 1689-1748

Steven C. Eames
Copyright Date: 2011
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 320
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  • Book Info
    Rustic Warriors
    Book Description:

    The early French Wars (1689-1748) in North America saw provincial soldiers, or British white settlers, in Massachusetts and New Hampshire fight against New France and her Native American allies with minimal involvement from England. Most British officers and government officials viewed the colonial soldiers as ill-disciplined, unprofessional, and incompetent: General John Forbes called them a gathering from the scum of the worst people. Taking issue with historians who have criticized provincial soldiers' battlefield style, strategy, and conduct, Steven Eames demonstrates that what developed in early New England was in fact a unique way of war that selectively blended elements of European military strategy, frontier fighting, and native American warfare. This new form of warfare responded to and influenced the particular challenges, terrain, and demography of early New England. Drawing upon a wealth of primary materials on King William's War, Queen Anne's War, Dummer's War, and King George's War, Eames offers a bottom-up view of how war was conducted and how war was experienced in this particular period and place. Throughout Rustic Warriors, he uses early New England culture as a staging ground from which to better understand the ways in which New Englanders waged war, as well as to provide a fuller picture of the differences between provincial, French, and Native American approaches to war.

    eISBN: 978-0-8147-2271-8
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Maps
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Preface and Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xiii)
  5. Introduction: The New England Provincial Soldier: A Problem of Perception
    (pp. 1-18)

    Scattered around northern New England are a few garrison houses that have withstood the attack of age and the elements. Altered by their various owners and hemmed in by modern construction, they nevertheless remind us of a time when Native-Americans and Europeans sought to destroy each other, when it was worth a life to harvest a crop or walk to a neighbor’s house. Such remnants of the French and Indian wars run through the texture of New England like a fine linen thread. Appellations like Ambush Rock, Fort Hill, or Garrison Street dot the regional geography, and even the names...


    • 1 The Initiation of War and the New England Military System
      (pp. 21-34)

      On the evening of Tuesday, September 29, 1691, Henry Dow, a member of the Committee of Militia for the town of Hampton, New Hampshire, wrote a few hasty lines to Major Robert Pike, the commander of the militia for the county of Norfolk, to inform him that war, with its death and destruction, had descended again upon the coastal communities of New Hampshire. At approximately noon that same day a force of about forty Indians attacked homes on the outskirts of Sandy Beach, burned one or two buildings, and killed or carried away at least sixteen people belonging to the...

    • 2 Garrisons: The First Line of Defense
      (pp. 35-50)

      In the 1760s Thomas Hutchinson, reviewing the recent history of the Indian wars in New England, concluded that “the settlement of a new country could never be effected, if the inhabitants should confine themselves to cities or walled towns. A frontier there must be, and nothing less than making every house a fort, and furnishing every traveller with a strong guard, could have been an effectual security against an enemy, as greedy after their prey as a wolf, and to whom the woods were equally natural and familiar.”¹ As it was impossible to turn every house into a fort and...

    • 3 Provincial Forts: The Magnet
      (pp. 51-68)

      Although garrisons provided a sanctuary and a modicum of protection for the inhabitants and the soldiers, forts symbolized a permanent military presence on the northern frontier. They not only provided a strong defensive structure, but also served as headquarters for the provincial forces in the area and as barracks for scouting parties. To the Eastern Indians the forts embodied the power and the presence of the English government by providing a site for the negotiation and signing of treaties, and, when built on their major invasion routes, by disrupting their normal operations in time of war. Both the symbolic and...

    • 4 Scouts: Patrols, Probes, and Raids
      (pp. 69-90)

      Provincial forces did not remain stationary in garrison houses and behind fort walls. Units of provincial soldiers performed defensive patrols, intelligence-gathering probes, and offensive raids. The governments of northern New England referred to any armed force moving beyond the frontier line as a “scout.”¹ Although the title “ranger” has been prevalent since the Seven Years’ War, especially with the fame of Rogers Rangers (the British military apparently promoted the use of that term during that last French war). There are a few scattered references to provincial soldiers “ranging” the woods, but in all official documents the term “scout” is used...

    • 5 Expeditions: The Anglo-American Partnership
      (pp. 91-109)

      To critics of the New England provincial soldiers, nothing illustrates the chasm between the soldiers’ ineffectiveness and the superiority of the French more than the inability of the English to emulate their enemy and assault French communities. “They had no body of men,” wrote W. J. Eccles, “capable of traveling through hundreds of miles of trackless wilderness . . . to attack New France.”¹ Jeremy Belknap observed that “the [French] kept out small parties continually engaged in killing, scalping and taking prisoners . . . on the other hand, the English attended only to the defence of the frontiers; and...

    • 6 Stores of War: The Logistical Nightmare
      (pp. 110-128)

      In order to wage war effectively, to fight battles and conduct sieges, soldiers not only require the basic human needs of food, shelter, and clothing, but they must also be provided with weapons and ammunition, the tools that define their profession and announce their intention. Throughout history the difficulties associated with keeping soldiers supplied (“logistics”) have increased as the technology of war has become more complicated. By 1700, miles of supply wagons carrying the basics of food, shelter, clothing, weapons, and munitions followed European armies in order for them to fulfill their ultimate purpose.¹ In provincial New England many of...


    • 7 Recruiting: Gone for a Soldier
      (pp. 131-152)

      As in almost all military systems throughout history, the provincial governments of Massachusetts and New Hampshire employed both a carrot and a stick in their efforts to find soldiers for active duty. They attempted to encourage or entice volunteers with wages and special incentives tied to the type of service involved, such as scalp money for scouting and plunder for expeditions. Underscored by a foundation of propaganda appealing to various tastes and inclinations, these “encouragements” did produce numerous volunteers, but not always in the numbers needed to get the job done. The colonial governments prepared for such shortages by providing...

    • 8 Officers: Chosen to Lead
      (pp. 153-171)

      The ability of the provincial governments of northern New England to recruit soldiers and undertake military operations depended mainly on their officers. Despite the incentives, the propaganda, and the press, the soldier’s decision to serve often centered on who the soldier would serve under, and, once constituted, the probability of any provincial force accomplishing the objectives set forth by the government rested on the competency and skill of the officers involved. Therefore, the historical impression of inconsistency and ineptitude of New England soldiers has been frequently connected with a lack of experience and proficiency on the part of provincial military...

    • 9 Battle Drill and Fighting Spirit
      (pp. 172-197)

      The military historian Richard Holmes wrote that military training “has two clearly identifiable functions. Its most obvious task is to instill exactly what its name suggests: an adequate level of training in such things as weapon handling and minor tactics. Its second, though by no means less important, function is to inculcate the military ethos in recruits.”¹ The soldier must undergo training to learn the tactics and techniques that will enable him to function under fire, to use his weapons properly, and to understand and obey orders, often referred to as “battle drill.” The soldier must also learn to overcome...

    • 10 Battle Experience: Facing the Enemy
      (pp. 198-216)

      It has almost become a cliché to say that battle is the ultimate objective of soldiers.¹ Soldiers exist in order to fight: combat defines their function. Despite the fact that battle is infrequent, so infrequent that many soldiers never experience enemy fire, its impact looms large. During battle, the adrenaline flow produces a wide range of behavior from apparent calm to wild exhilaration. As John Keegan and Richard Holmes wrote, “Many soldiers experience battle as a half-remembered blur, a mosaic somehow fragmented and haphazardly reassembled.”² The prevailing feeling before battle is fear—fear of death and fear of cowardice, but...

    • 11 The Wounds of War
      (pp. 217-241)

      Beyond all considerations of higher taxes, food shortages, economic disruption, and political upheaval, the final cost of war is measured in the pain of wounds and the finality of death. As in all human conflict, provincial soldiers found that the immediate consequences of combat were dead and wounded comrades, but military service in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries also promoted the spread of deadly disease, which, in an age of relatively primitive medical knowledge, led to more deaths than bullets. Understandably, the need for doctors on the frontier and for expeditions was acute, but their numbers were few and in...

  8. Afterword
    (pp. 242-244)

    After suffering the disastrous defeats of Lexington and Concord and Bunker Hill, General Thomas Gage observed that the New Englanders “in all their Wars against the French, . . . never Showed so much Conduct, Attention, and Perseverance as they do now.”¹ Because Gage, like most British officers, had always viewed the provincials with the blinders of prejudice, his surprise is understandable. But historians who have disparaged earlier provincial performance have had to explain the success of Lexington and Concord as well, and in their opinion, the British finally met the true citizen soldier. James Kirby Martin and Mark Edward...

  9. Notes
    (pp. 245-301)
  10. Index
    (pp. 302-305)
  11. About the Author
    (pp. 306-306)