Articles / La Petite Guerre, De´hivre -2016
Category: Camps, Treks & Adventures
Homage to Jean Baptiste Langis
Nov. 2 1757… Montcalm writes to governor Vaudreuil…”Sieur Langis de Montegron has never ceased being used for the most interesting of scoutings, also the most laborious and who has always distinguished himself”.
The last weekend of Feb 2016 our quest for understanding the skills and hardship of ”la milicien” of Nouvelle France continued. And what else if not test ourselves a little bit in the wintery woods. I might add that winter is our favorite season to be outside… This time we had company of our friends Mikael and Ann who wanted to learn a bit about woodsy living and winter survival. For being a couple of greenhorns they kept their spirits high all weekend!
Me and Lars suited up in our historical garments early to not loose any time. Since we had planned a small ambush for Saturday we started with the placing of our shooting targets at the “battle site”. After staging the ambush it was finally time to place the tumpline/collier across the chest and head out into the wilderness. We tried to move through the terrain as if there were redcoats and rangers lying waiting for us behind every tree and rock.
Friday night's campsite was also chosen with a potential enemy in mind. We found a nice spot , somewhat hidden and under a few thick spruce trees. There we placed our bedrolls and started a small fire, smoked a pipe and ate some smoked pork and a few biscuits. After lunchtime we backtracked ourselves a few km to collect Mikael and Ann. A sip of portwine from the keg and then we scouted back to camp.
The rest of the afternoon and early evening went by doing normal camp chores. I.e collecting firewood etc, extremely important when out in subzero temperatures. And of course always guarded by a comrade with musket in hand. Some native allies told us that it might be a friendly native village nearby so we decided to send a patrol to scout the area. To our joy the village ( the wigwam David and Sebastian built a few years back) was not deserted. Inside the wigwam a friendly fire welcomed us, and also Charlotte who had taken the roll of an adopted white woman. After smoking yet another pipe we hasted back to camp to report our findings and get something to eat.
A few notes on food: part of our understanding of our chosen personas is to eat and drink the same food they did. In our case that means salted pork, biscuits, perhaps smoked meat and….that is about it….
Malartic 1757: “I ordered the oilcloths , bearskins and cooking pots to be delivered immediately so that they could set up camp and make soup in the woods…”
Details Militaries 1750: “the biscuit is used when forced to march far away from settled areas”
De Rigaud 1747: “biscuit, salted pork”
De la Corne 1747: “biscuits, salted pork, peas”
Back in camp we made such a soup and together with some smoked deer meat and portwine…it was superb! The rest of the evening was spent with the night sky as our roof. The temperarure fell to -10C but everyone slept quiet good.
As always your moccasin clad feet tends to wake you early in the morning. This time Lars woke up first and got the fire going. Soon everyone was up and warming their feet and somewhat sour bodies. Our native allies came to us again and told us that they have found tracks of an enemy patrol they thought might be a company of Rogers Rangers! We quickly took down camp and hid our gear.
Equipped only with our muskets and shooting pouches we hasted through the woods to find the tracks and also to find a good place for an ambush (as mentioned the place of ambush was prepared earlier with targets out of cardboard, see “gallery”). We found a perfect spot at the top of a small cliff, waited for a while, and then…our cardboard enemies entered the valley below us. We fired our French fusils five times and then charged down the steep slope to finish them off. The enemy was already hit by the musket balls several times. Victory to Langis!
After searching through the scene of battle we went back to where we had “cached” our bedrolls and other gear. An hour later we entered the native village greeted with victorious warcries. It was time for a feast but we had still one more task to fulfill. We went for a small hunting trip looking for some game. Maybe 1 km away we heard the familiar sound of a turkey, or was it yet another cardboard target? Of course it was! We fired our smoothbores once again and Mikael showed a steady hand and took a perfect shot at the cardboard turkey. His price in this little competition was not what he expected… A real turkey!*
Mikael and Ann was put to work plucking the bird. Then we found use of the steel ramrod once again, we used it as a skewer.
A few hours and a lot of firewood later the bird was ready to be eaten. Luckily we had enough pipe tobacco and portwine to sustain the long wait. I can insure you it was worth waiting for, best meal ever!
That night in the wigwam time just flew by. Such good company, laughter, a warm fire, a clear night sky filled with stars showing through the smokehole, nice eating… We all agreed that in spite of our tired moccasin feet and aching shoulder muscles we were having a great time and truly living the high life!
One by one we slipped into our blankets and fell into well deserved sleep. That night we took turns in tending to the fire so everyone should get a good nights sleep.
Sunday morning was as always a moment of mixed emotions as our adventure was soon to be over for this time. Before we went back to our civilian lives we all said that our journey into the life of la milicien has just begun and a lot of adventure awaits us.
Keep the powder dry! By the goose pen, writing in the light of a beeswax candle, your humble servant/ David
*Notice! The bird was taken care of according to Swedish law and no English soldiers were actually killed….