Founding Fathers EDC
July 3, 2013
Photo courtesy of docentjoyce via Flickr.com
What we carry in our pockets everday has changed a lot throughout history. The evolution of hand tools has greatly impacted how we interact with the world and by what means we affect it. With the upcoming celebration of our nation’s independence, I‘ve been thinking about how different the EDC I carry everyday is from our Founding Father’s EDC. What items did they carry that they believed were absolutely necessary? What style of blade and sharpening tools were popular during the American Revolution?
The most interesting fact about American Revolutionary War soldiers is that no two would be dressed alike or carry the exact same gear. The home spun army founded to fight the British was a hodge podge of people from all walks of lives. There was no “official” uniform and effects issued to Revolutionary soldiers. Generally, soldiers would bring into the field what they had at home and made due until they razed a battle field for extra weapons and supplies. So what did our Founding Fathers and Revolutionary soldiers carry onto the field?
Revolutionary soldiers did carry backpacks and had pockets in their trousers, waistcoat and overcoat. In their backpacks, they would carry extra cotton and linen clothing such as shirts, trousers, socks, an extra pair of boots, a blanket (possibly the most important item a soldier carried) and other personal effects. Sound familiar? A lot of the items they carried are very similar to the items we keep in our pack today. They would carry items they need quick access to in their pockets, such as:
- rudimentary folding knife or pen knife
- clay smoking pipe and a twist of tobacco
- a pencil and a small diary
- spare flints for their musket and for fire making
- a flute, whistle, mouth harp or playing cards
- wallet, coins
- loose ammunition
- a few handkerchiefs
- waxed cloth used to cover their musket breach
- sharpening stone
The soldiers would also carry some sort of canteen filled with water, a haversack for carrying food as well as a belt case for their powder, powder horn and ammunition. Most soldiers would also carry a socket bayonet for use with their musket or (much rarer) their rifle.
The blades that our founding fathers carried are also varied. Swords such as sabers and small swords were very common among the officers. George Washington himself considered a sword to be an integral part of an officer’s uniform and it is rare to see a portrait of the first president without him holding an unsheathed sword. Other edged tools such as tomahawks, camp axes, and fixed blade knives would be carried by soldiers. Generally, most belt knives and axes were used for the purpose of setting up camp and daily chores rather than used for fighting.
The biggest gap that I’ve found in researching the EDC of our founding fathers is sharpening stones. I’ve found revolutionary era sharpening stones, but little is known about the stones or their origins. We can assume that each regiment had a Blacksmith or Farrier to repair broken tools and shoe horses. They would probably use a grinding wheel made out of sedimentary stone or quartzite stone like chert or novaculite (Arkansas stone material). Soldiers may have carried small pocket stones or even just found a stone on the side of the road when the time came to hone their tools.
Though the tools that our Founding Fathers carried were more primitive than what we carry today, the similarities between what their EDC was and what we EDC is pretty evident. Making sure they had a sharp blade, a way to make fire, protection from the elements and a way to pass the time are pretty universal between Revolutionary times and today. Every time you fill your pockets with your EDC just remember that there is a lot of history in this country of loading up your pockets to be prepared for anything. This July 4th give thanks to the men that established our freedom, inspired our EDC and fought for our rights. Be Smart, Be Safe and Stay an Edge Above the Rest.
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