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

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

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

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

Excerpt

The New England Provincial Soldier

A Problem of Perception

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 of the towns themselves, such as Goffstown, New Hampshire, and Westbrook, Maine, provide a direct link with those colonial conflicts. The legend of our sturdy Puritan ancestors, muskets in hand, fighting off hordes of screaming Indians continues to hold a strong position in local mythology, even if it owes its existence more to nineteenth-century romanticism and Hollywood than reality. In the latter half of the nineteenth century, a period now known as the Colonial Revival, the Centennial celebration, the final defeat of the western Indian tribes, and the apparent closing of the frontier recalled to New Englanders their own Indian wars, and they assiduously recorded the legends and stories of those early years in their town histories.

Everywhere, local historical societies preserved the relics of their heroic age—an Indian war club, a collection of powder horns, a musket or sword that belonged to some long-forgotten Indian fighter were all carefully laid out in viewing cases with the appropriate labels, now yellow and faded. Perhaps the most startling artifact was preserved in the Memorial Hall Museum in Deerfield, Massachusetts. Housed in an old school building whose several floors overflow with memorabilia, the museum is an antiquarian paradise. As you pass among the shoes, farm implements, carriages, spinning wheels . . .

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