French Native Allies
Pierre de Rigaud de Vaureuil’s Raid of Fort William Henry brought together four divisions, consisting of Native, Canadian, and French troops in February of 1757. By March, they all assembled at Carillon in preparation for the surprise attack. An Account of two Expeditions in Canada, in the Course of the winter of 1757, noted, “six hundred and fifty Canadians, one company of which consisted of fifty volunteers, together with four hundred Indians.” By this estimate, nearly one third of this raiding party was native warriors.While one account of the attack notes the first division with “some Abenaki Indians,” it is unclear what other tribes were present. These Native American warriors served right alongside the Canadian milice and volunteers. Pierre de Rigaud ordered that they served on the outer flanks of the three main columns of Regulars and Colonial Troops that marched down frozen Lake George. The clothing worn by those Native warriors at Fort Carillon in the winter of 1757 was not dissimilar from Canadian clothing. Apart from their normal summer attire of a painted shirt, leggings, moccasins, and a breechcloth, these Natives also wore Canadian clothing for warmth. These additional items consisted of gilets, vestes, capotes, and tuques. Although in many cases Native clothing was similar to Canadian dress, they had some unique characteristics in their appearance. Their shirts were painted, their moccasins were often decorated with ornate quill and bead work, and their leggings were similarly embellished. According to Pierre Pouchot, they are describe as being heavily decorated, "with ribbons of different colors, mingled with designs in glass beads, which forms a very pleasing effect, especially when the leg is not too short and thick, which is rarely seen among them. Besides this, they wear garters of beads, or porcupine quills, bordered four fingers wide, which are tied on the legs."
The Natives’ basic clothing was utilitarian, but fashionable amongst their culture. Their accoutrements followed a similar trend: a few basic items, usually highly decorated. Pouchot described these items in great detail as well.
The men wear a belt about six inches wide, made of wool of different colors, which the Indian women make very neatly, with flaming designs. They hung to this belt their mirrors and their tobacco pouch, which is the skin of an otter, beaver, cat or bird, taken off whole and tanned, into which they put their pipe tobacco and steel. They have also a pocket hanging like a little wallet, for carrying their balls and lead for hunting or war. They carry their mirror and tomahawk upon their hips. They have an ox horn with a shoulder strap for carrying powder. Their knife is hung in a sheath on the neck, and falls upon the breast. They also have a crooked knife or a curved sword, and they make great use of this.
In the winter, their basic clothing was simply not enough to keep a Native warrior warm. Outer garments consisted of matchcoats, or more commonly for the French-allied tribes, capotes. "The men prefer to wear capotes or a kind of laced coat, with a false cap on the border, the sides held together with buttons, and further adorned with blue, yellow, or red feathers," Natives also included many distinctively French items into their wear. These items, layered over their basic clothing, would have added the extra layers of warmth that they needed. During Peter Kalm's travels through North America in the early 1750's he notes that the Natives allied to the French "had already begun to dress like the French: the same kind of jacket and vest, while on journeys they wore the same red cap or hat. But one could not persuade them to use trousers, for they thought they were a great hindrance in walking." Considering the frigid weather of the 1757 winter, and the Natives access to Canadian clothing, it is likely that the Natives who were fighting in the winter campaign that year would have dressed similarly to what Kalm observed.
Although there was not much difference in the types of garments worn by the Natives and the Canadians, there were distinct differences in their appearance. The decoration of their clothing as previously described would be one such difference. Natives were also adorning their bodies as well as their garments. Most contemporary accounts of Natives described them as always being painted red, black, and sometimes other colors like green. Other than being painted head to toe, they wore items that they considered decorative. These ornaments are described in a letter dated October 21, 1757 from an anonymous missionary to the Abenaki:
Each part of the head has its distinct ornaments: the nose has its ring: there are also rings for the ears, which are pierced at an early age, and so greatly elongated by the weight with which the they have been overloaded that they swing and beat against the shoulders
The missionary goes on to describe the many "porcelain necklaces" and "silver bracelets" that they wore. A fully adorned Native with all of his finery would have looked overly ornate to a European eye, but according to Pouchot "they regard this property as sacred as their children."
What the witnesses to the Natives described is not only the wearing of only utilitarian and basic clothing, but clothing that is distinctively decorated in a native fashion. It was clothing that is both culturally fashionable and intimidating to their enemy. As Major Robert Roger's described, "Their military dress has something in it very romantic and terrible..."
Best: Hand-stitched white or off-white cotton shirt with narrow band cuffs, made for sleeve buttons (cuff links).
Acceptable:White, or blue cotton or linen shirt with narrow band cuffs with thread buttons or made for sleeve buttons (cuff links) with minor visible machine-stitching.
Discouraged: Checked, striped linen, or wool shirts
Unacceptable:Cotton calico or plaid shirts
Best:Silk, linen, cotton neckerchief, sterling silver gorget, or shell gorget.
Unacceptable: Leather neck-stocks.
Hats and Caps
Best: Knit red wool bonnet or tuque.
Acceptable:Red, blue, or white wool tapaboard caps.
Unacceptable: Fur cap, voyageur cap
Best: Hand-finished well-fit, square-cut gilet made of red, blue, or white wool cloth, made with our without sleeves.
Acceptable: Well-fit square-cut gilet made of red, blue, white, or other color wool cloth, with minor visible machine stitching
Unacceptable:Extremely long or baggy gilet or modern upolstery materials.
Best: Hand-finished and well-fit, sleeved veste made of blue, red, grey, brown, drab, or light colored woolen cloth.
Acceptable: Well fitted sleeved veste made of blue, red, grey, brown, drab, or light-colored woolen cloth with minorvisible machine stitching
Unacceptable: Extremely long or baggy vestes or modern upolstery materials.
Capotes, Blanket Coats, and Matchcoats
Best: Hand-finished, well-fit grey, drab, or white stout woolen capote with or without a contrasting color hood and buttons. Blanket coats, made from white British or Dutch blankets, with red or blue woolen ties.
Acceptable:Well-fit grey, drab, white or other color wool cloth capote with minor visible machine stitching. Matchcoats adorned with ribbon
Discouraged:Blanket coats or capotes from a white-bodied, blue or red striped blanket
Unacceptable: 19th century trapper blanket coats; Blanket shirts
Best: Red, blue, or white, woolen breechcloth or brayet decorated or not decorated.
Unacceptable: Leather, cotton, linen breechcloth, trousers.
Best:Well fit, unadorned or adorned wool Indian leggings, or mitasses with hand woven garters.
Acceptable: Well fit, unadorned or adorned leather Indian leggings with hand woven garters.
Unacceptable: Gaiters, or baggy wool leggings.
Best: pucker-toe or vamp-toe soulier sauvage or mocassins.
Acceptable: Buckled shoes, or souliers de bouefs.
Unacceptable: Officer’s boots, half boots or; Dyer, Arrow, Minnetonka moccasins, Shoepacks.
Cold Weather Protection
Best:Wool or elk hide mitaines,
Unacceptable: Modern gloves or mittens.
Best: French trade guns,Fusil de Chasse.
Acceptable: English trade guns, English fowlers.
Unacceptable: Blunderbuss, "blanket guns," cut down guns, rifles.
Best: Neck-knives, Couteux boucheron, or sheathed trade knife;Casse-tête,or Hatchet; or a curved sword, all carried on a simple leather belt or a sash.
Unacceptable: Unsheathed knives, swords, or hatchets, and bayonets.
Best: Quilled shot bag and quilled slit pouch.
Discouraged: Plain shot bag and plain slit pouch.
Unacceptabe: Cartridge pouches and boxes, belly boxes.
Best: Native-influenced horns and straps.
Acceptable: Empty, plain white powder horn slung on a small leather strap or finger woven Native American strap.
Unacceptable:Filled powder horns.
Knapsacks and Tumplines
Acceptable: Hemp tumpline, moose hair embroidered or plain.
Discouraged: Jute, leather tumpline.
Unacceptable:Two-strap knapsacks, snapsacks, French haversacks.
Best: 2-3 Point, Dutch, or Rose blankets. Sewn Skin robes and bear skin hides may also be used.
Acceptable: Plain white, check or Hudson Bay blankets.
Unacceptable: Civil War grey blankets or modern olive drab blankets.
Best: Gourd canteen slung over the shoulder on a hemp cord or leather thong.
Acceptable: Glass or ceramic canteen, slung over the shoulder on a hemp cord or leather thong
Discouraged: Leather or tin kidney shaped style canteen.
Unacceptable: Wooden cheese-box canteens.