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Главная » Фотоальбом » Lewis & Clark Gallery » SHOOTING FOR THE RED LEGGINGS, January 16, 1804
One of the methods William Clark employed to build comradery among the disparate group of soldiers and frontiersmen that had been assembled through the autumn and winter of 1803 at Camp River DuBois, was to allow a number of shooting matches between the men of the fort and groups of locals. There were three matches recorded that winter and Clark couldn’t have set up a better scenario. After losing the first match (and a gold coin put up by Clark as the prize) the men of the fort must have been humiliated. They were professional soldiers and woodsmen, handy with firearms and individually selected for their skills to form the backbone of this Corps of Discovery yet they had lost to a group of country people, possibly farmers and French tradesmen. The men were eager to get their revenge. On January 16th, 1804, the men of the fort challenged the locals to a rematch. John Colter, Rueben Field, Peter Weiser and the rest were set to compete for the two prizes- a pair of leggings and their pride. The snow, which had fallen on the 14th was still fresh due to the cold conditions as the men stepped up to the firing line just outside the entrance to the fort at Camp River DuBois. Situated at the edge of the prairie, the fort’s location provided easy access to logs and other building materials but also had the advantage of open ground and exposure to the full winter sun. The match had been tightly contested and it had come down to the final few shots. Reuben Field, one of the Nine Young Men from Kentucky, is firing as William Clark, dressed for the match in his full dress uniform, records the results though his spyglass. Clark is standing next to a barrel with the prized leggings atop it. The rest of the contestants show varying degrees of confidence with the locals, on the left, feeling as if the results are again going in their favor. These local country people are a mix of Upper Louisiana French habitants and newly settled Americans with one metis squatting near the wall of the fort. A smug American dressed in a green, three caped hunting frock shares a smirk with a Creole whose capote is similar to one painted by Francis Anne Hopkins in the collection of the Canadian National Archives. The man in the blue toque is wearing an interesting blanket coat that’s inspired by an original in the collection of the Four Winds Trading Post in St. Ignatius, Montana. To his left is an eager, upper class merchant, wearing a round hat and fine frock coat while retaining his finger woven sash and leggings. Meriwether Lewis commented in his journal on the curious combinations of dress of even the wealthiest and influential citizens of Upper Louisiana. It was common for them to dressed in the height of European fashion combined with Indian style clothing- leggings and beautifully beaded or quilled moccasins, even breechclouts. Sitting on a barrel, an American, finished shooting for the day, is cleaning his rifle. Judging from the condition of his clothing, he is most in need of the leggings being offered as the prize. The men of the fort are clad in their full dress uniforms for the occasion. Rueben Field is wearing the uniform that was designed by Meriwether Lewis and we believe was issued to the recruits from Kentucky. The uniform consisted of military issue dark blue wool overalls, a coatee, a hunting bag with powder horn and a belt and scalping knife. The coatees, which were short tailed coats, were sewn by Francis Brown, a tailor in Philadelphia and were made of drab colored wool. At $7.00 a yard for the wool, this was a very expensive garment for the period. There is no record of the recruits being issued vests so he is shown wearing a fine striped one brought from home. The other military shooters are clothed in their issue coats, overalls and roundhats dressed with a bearskin crest and deers tail plume. All of Clark’s men are shown shooting with some of the 1792 contract rifles, which Lewis procured at Harpers Ferry. It’s possible that the Kentucky recruits may have brought their own rifles on the expedition but whether they were armed with their own weapons or the contract rifles, either would have been preferable to the wildly inaccurate smoothbore muskets issued to the regulars. Oblivious to the mounting excitement taking place on the shooting ground, the men inside the fort go about the grind of their daily chores. They’re clad in their issue fatigue wear of linen overshirts and trousers with black-tarred gaiters over their shoes. Small, cloth fatigue caps made by the men from scraps of old uniform coats complete this comfortable and serviceable uniform. Mrs. Cane, a local woman hired to do the washing, has a full basket of soiled linen, which she’s busy collecting from the men’s quarters. Unwilling to suffer another defeat, the men of the Corps are anxious to make every shot count and Rueben Field does. It’s the best shot of the day and brings the leggings, and a renewed sense of pride, back into the fort.
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