Monday, June 27, 2016


Scalping by the English in the French and Indian War.


Indian Warrior with Scalp, 1789, by Barlow.
source:  wikipedia
       Reading primary sources from the French and Indian War, it is evident that the light troops of the Anglo-American army participated in the practice of scalping.  It is clear that the rangers employed by British commanders were not bothered at all by the grisly and bloody taking of scalps, and of all the light troops they are mentioned most frequently as bringing back scalps from their skirmishes with the enemy.    

      Here are some references to scalping I have found:

“there was an Engagement between our Scouting-Parties and the Indians.  Our People drove them off, we had a great Number wounded, several very badly, but most slightly; there was but few kill’d:  There was one of the 35th Reg. told me, he saw an Indian who fir’d at him, but miss’d him; that he levelled his Piece and fir’d at the Indian and miss’d him likewise; upon which the Indian immediately threw his Tommahawk at him and miss’d him; whereupon the Soldier, catching up the Tommahawk, threw it at the Indian and levell’d him, and then went to scalp him, but 2 other Indians came behind him, and one of them stuck a Tommahawk in his Back; but did not wound him so much as to prevent his Escape from them.”  Orleans, August 11, 1759.   .  A Soldier’s Account of the Campaign on Quebec, 1759.  P. 5.

“On the 20th the Louisbourg Grenadiers began their March down the main Land of Quebeck, in order to burn and destroy all the Houses on that Side ---- On the 24th they were attack’d by a Party of French, who had a Priest for their Commander; but our Party kill’d and scalp’d 31 of them, and likewise the Priest, their Commander; they did our People no Damage.”  Quebec, August 1759.  .  A Soldier’s Account of the Campaign on Quebec, 1759.  P. 6.

“It is the General’s Orders that no Scouting Partys or Others in the Army under his Command shall, whatsoever Opertunity they may have, Scalp any Women or Children belonging to ye Enemy.  They may bring them away, if they can, if not they are to leave them unhurted; and he is determined that if the Enemy should Murther or Scalp any Women or Children who are the Subjects of the King of England, he will revenge it by the Death of 2 Men of the Enemy, whenever he has Occasion, for every Woman or Child Murthered by the Enemy.”  Orders:  Fort Edward, June 12, 1759.  Wilson Orderly Book.  P. 22-23.

“The Endeavour schooner, of Boston, arrived this day with ordnance stores : the Master informs us, that Major Rogers had been lately on a scouting party beyond fort Edward towards lake George ; that they were met by a body of near seven hundred, mostly Indians, whom they attacked and twice routed ; but the enemy, upon being pursued, finding our party so much inferior to themselves in number, rallied and renewed the fight with such vigour, that our partisan was at length obliged to retreat with the loss of near sixty men and Officers ; Mr. Rogers's detachment consisted of one hundred and eighty sighting men, among whom were many volunteers, both Officers and Cadets from the regulars ; and, before he ventured on the pursuit, the enemy lost near two hundred men, forty of whom he scalped on the spot ; some of the regular Officers are prisoners.”  April 11th, 1758.  Knox, Vol. I.  P., 122.

“On Saturday morning (July 1st) Captain Danks, with the two Lieutenants and seventy-five men, landed, marched into the woods, and directed the sloop to sail up the river close to the N. E. shore, in order to decoy the enemy, and then attack them, which answered their expectations: for, about twelve o’clock the same day, thirty of the enemy came down to meet the sloop, and fired upon her; - the Captain, with the main body, who were within them on the shore under cover of the woods, hearing their fire, instantly flew down with his party, and surrounded them, took nine prisoners, killed and scalped three, drove fourteen into the river, ten of whom were drowned, four swam a-cross the river, and the rest made their escape, under cover of a large dike in the marsh.  As soon as Captain Danks had secured his prisoners, and nineteen stands of arms belonging to them, he returned, with his party, on board the sloop, and lay at anchor that night.”  1758.  Knox, Vol. I.  P. 153.

“The Captain of the rangers here has received a letter from Lieutenant Butler of the fame corps at Fort Frederic, da ted the 6th of last month, of which the following is an extract: " Captain M'Curdie was killed by the falling of a tree on the 30th " of January; Lieutenant Hazen commands at present, who returned " last night from a scout up this river. He marched from this fort " the 1 8th of February, and went to St. Ann's ; the whole of the in-habitants being gone off, he burned one hundred and forty-seven " dwelling-houses, two Mass-houses, besides all their barns, stables, " granaries, &c. He returned down the river about, where " he found a house in a thick forest, with a number of cattle, horses, " and hogs ; these he destroyed. There was fire in the chimney j the " people were gone off into the woods ; he pursued, killed, and scalped six men, brought in four, with two women and three children ; " he returned to the house, set it on fire, threw the cattle into the " flames, and arrived safe with his prisoners : he and the party well."  Knox, Vol. I.  P. 230.

“The light troops, who crossed the river last night, had a successful skirmish early this morning with some of the enemy’s colony troops, seven of whom were killed and scalped by our rangers, and five were made prisoners.”  June 30, 1759.  Knox, Vol. I.  P. 386.

“At three o’clock this afternoon, we were alarmed by a smart firing of musketry in the woods, and the troops stood to their arms; this was occasioned by a party of Indians coming down to annoy our camp, for whom Captain Goreham, and his rangers, laid an ambush, and scalped nine of them.”  July 1, 1759.  Knox, Vol. I.  P. 394-395.

“Our van, composed or the light troops, soon fell in with an advanced guard of the enemy, consisting of four hundred regulars and Indians, under Monsieur Capitaine Bourmie, whom they routed, the enemy’s savages not waiting for a second fire; two of Berry’s regiment were made prisoners, and four of them were scalped; their wounded they carried off with them in their flight.”  Ticonderoga.  Knox, Vol. I.  P. 397.

The General strictly forbids the inhuman practice of scalping, except when the enemy are Indians, or Canadians dressed like Indians.”  Orders:  Montmorency Camp, July 24, 1759.  Knox, Vol. I.  P. 438.

“General Wolfe was… reconnoitering to the northward of his camp, and his escort was attacked; whereupon a smart skirmish ensued, in which we had about fifty killed and wounded, and, by the numbers the enemy carried off, (who were mostly Indians) it is conjectured their loss may be almost double:  we took eleven scalps.”  Montmorency Camp, July 26, 1759.  Knox, Vol. I.  P. 442.

“Captain Goreham has sent an express to the General to acquaint him, that he had burned a large settlement, and made some prisoners; that his rangers met with some Canadians dressed like Indians, had routed them, and took a few scalps.”  Montmorency Camp, August 11, 1759.  Knox, Vol. II. P. 16.

“A company of rangers, on a scout towards Beaumont, eastward, surprised about twenty Canadians reaping their corn, who instantly took to their arms, and made to a coppice that the covered the road, at half a mile’s distance, intending to way-lay them; they gave our rangers a fire before they were within reach, which discovered their design; whereupon the Captain retired a little way, formed his men into three divisions, detached one to the right, and another to the left, while the third moved on at a gentle pace:  upon the center party’s advancing, the enemy fired again, and immediately the other divisions got round, and rushed upon them unexpectedly: five of the those wretches were killed and scalped, and four more were made prisoners; the rangers had two men slightly wounded, who returned to the field where the Canadians had been reaping, and found a bag of bread, a second of powder, and a third of letters….”  Montmorency Camp, August 30, 1759.  Knox, Vol. II. P. 36.

“A scalp was brought in this evening, with two prisoners, by another party of rangers, from the S. S. W. quarter.”  Montmorency Camp, August 30, 1759.  Knox, Vol. II.  P. 36.

“A Priest, with about four score of his parishioners, have fortified themselves in a house, a few miles to the eastward of our camp, on the north side of the river, where they indiscreetly pretend to brave our troops:  a detachment of light infantry, with a field-piece and a howitzer, are to be sent to reduce them.”  Quebec, August 23, 1759.”  Knox, Vol. II.  P. 42.
“The unfortunate Priest is defeated; a detachment of light troops laid an ambuscade in the skirts of the wood near to his fortified house, and as soon as the field-piece was brought up, and began to play, he, with his men, sallied out, when, falling into the ambush, thirty of them, with their leader, were surrounded, killed, and scalped; the reason of their being treated with such cruelty proceeded from the wretched parishioners having disguised themselves like Indians: in this encounter we had five men wounded.”  Quebec, August 25, 1759.  Knox, Vol. II.  P. 45.

“At one o’clock a body of about four score Canadians came down, divided themselves into small parties, and attacked the ranges at Varenne; our brave fellows quitted their cover, and advanced upon them; but the Commanding Officer, perceiving they wanted to possess themselves of a barn that stood detached from the chapel, set fire to it:  this so exasperated the enemy, that a party of them endeavoured, under cover of the smoke and flames, to cut off the chapel, and take post there; but herein they were also soiled, a few of the a few of the rangers having got before, and repulsed them; by this time some Officers, and six of light infantry from the church, who are expert marksmen, came down, posted themselves advantageously on the enemy’s flank, and galled them so sensibly, that they could stand no longer.  The rangers, covered by a company of light infantry, pursued them in their flight for near a mile, in which they made seven wounded Canadians prisoners; besides these, they had three men killed and scalped near the chapel, and we had only three who were slightly wounded.  In the evening the enemy shewed themselves again to the south-east of the church, whereupon the light infantry set fire to two houses and out-offices on that side, which, by their elevated situation, commanded their post, and might have incommoded our people considerably, if the inhabitants, reinforced by the regulars, should attempt to molest them in the night.”  Varenne, August 31, 1760.  Knox, Vol. II. P. 380-381.

“If you send any Party forward, Don’t permit them to take Scalps, which serves only to render the Ennemys more vigilant.”  Bouquet to Byrd:  Raystown, August 23, 1758.  Bouquet, Vol. II.  P. 408.

“Our brave Men disdained so much to touch the dead Body of a vanquished Enemy that scarce a Scalp was taken, except by the Rangers & Pack Horse Drivers.”  Bouquet to Amherst:  Bushy Run Battle Report, August 6, 1763.  Bouquet, Vol. VI.  P. 343.

“All those who shall take Prisoners or Scalps of the Enemy Indians during the Course of the Expedition may depend upon proper Certificates and Recommendations to enable to obtain the Reward offered by the Government.”  Bouquet – Advertisement for Volunteers for 1764 Expedition:  August 11, 1764.  Bouquet, Vol. IV.  P. 602-603.

“Some Indians shewed themselves and killed one of our Men – the Light Infantry pursued, killed and scalped two, and brought in another of them.”  The Siege of Louisbourg, June 29, 1758.  An Authentic Account of the Reduction of Louisbourg, in June and July 1758 by a Spectator.  P. 31.

“If any soldr or follower of the army bring into head quarters an indian scalp he shall receive five pounds from the Genl for every scalp.”  Orders:  Braddock’s March, June 26, 1755.  Halkett Orderly Book. P. 19.

It is interesting to note Colonel Bouquet's apparent disdain for scalping.
If you are looking for some good information about scalping knives, check out Jim Mullins blog on them at  Of Sorts for Provincials.  He also, blogs about making a sheath for one.