History, Historic Furnishing, and Historic Structure Reports
NPS Logo

Historic Furnishing Study

A. Engineer Stores

Engineer stores, as at many forts of the period, made up a very large segment of the furnishings at Fort Stanwix. Since the time of its reoccupation by the Americans and long after the siege, it was constantly under construction. The result was that there were always large quantities of tools and construction materials at the site. [1]

The situation was similar at almost every post in the Northern Department where the construction of fortifications was going on in contemplation of the attack that was expected from Canada. Tools such as axes (including the pickaxe, wood axe, and broadaxe), spades, and shovels, were always in great demand. So desperate was General Schuyler for axes at one time that he wrote to the committees of several towns and districts in the counties of Albany, Berkshire, and Bennington entreating them to procure whatever axes could be spared from the inhabitants. [2]

Perhaps the best available document, which details the kinds and quantities of engineer stores at Fort Stanwix close to the period of the siege, is an inventory of May 1, 1778. The following tools and building materials are listed:

bill hooks105
cross cut saws6
iron wedges6
grapling irons3
crow bars2
broad axes16
bars of iron7
bars of steel15
barrels of nails1/4
barrels of spikes1/2
chest of carpenters tools1
iron squares8
barrels of tar2
set of blacksmith tools1
whip saws7 [3]

It is very probable that other types of tools were at Fort Stanwix besides those classified as engineer stores, but they may have been personal items. For example, because many of the gardens were maintained as an individual preference, it is quite likely that garden tools were private belongings.

There are other documents not directly associated with Fort Stanwix, but relating to other posts in the Northern Department, which provide additional examples of engineer stores that might have been employed at Fort Stanwix. Some of these consist of hoes, hammers, mill saws, trowels, and wheel barrows. The following items appeared at many posts in the Northern Department, and may also have been found in varying degrees at Fort Stanwix before, during, and after the siege: casks of penny nails and spike nails, oakum, barrels of pitch, bar iron, steel, twine, casks of tin plates, paint brushes, barrels of oil, boxes of tin, kegs of white lead, gimlets, gin blocks, and wire. [4]

B. Housewares, Utensils, and Glassware

There are few historical records that specifically refer to the housewares and utensils used at Fort Stanwix. Nevertheless, we are able to determine what was probably used at the fort by examining documents pertaining to other forts of the period.

The members of the garrison did most of their own cooking in their rooms and they needed pots, kettles, and pans in addition to plates, bowls, platters, cups, knives, spoons, and forks. They also probably had salt and pepper shakers, as well as vinegar to spice their food. As early as 1776 when construction was begun to restore Fort Stanwix, the garrison suffered from a shortage of cooking equipment. Almost on the eve of the siege, Colonel Gansevoort complained to General Schuyler that his garrison was so destitute of utensils for cooking that the men either had to double up on the use of utensils, and thus wait a long time to eat, or else they had to cook by other less sanitary means. He attributed the large number of sick men in his garrison to the unsanitary preparation of food. [5]

A document originating in 1768 describes the cooking and eating utensils employed by soldiers in South Carolina and notes that each room occupied by soldiers was to have a pot, frying pan, ladle, flesh fork (fleshook), trivet, pothook, platters, bowls, pitchers, mugs, and trenchers. [6] Because it was shared by several persons in a room, the brass kettle was very much in demand and received considerable attention at Fort Stanwix, as well as at other posts. [7]

Little is known about the kind of spoons, forks, knives, cups, and plates employed at Fort Stanwix. Some of these items may have been made of tin, pewter, wood, and earthenware. Fortunately, there is a 1778 reference to the use of one-pint tin cups at Fort Stanwix. [8] Documents relating to other posts generally refer to wooden bowls and wooden spoons. This later reference may have been intended to describe ladles rather than spoons. Ceramic dishes were also common, but such items were probably found in the officers' quarters, where many may have been personal items. In archeological explorations conducted at Fort Stanwix, restorable plates, bottles, and cutlery were discovered. [9]

C. Furniture and Accessories

Those items of furniture that were made of wood are difficult to document at Fort Stanwix. On the other hand, those items made of iron are easier to trace. Despite the paucity of documents related to Fort Stanwix on this subject, however, there are documents relating to other posts that may lead to some reasonable conclusions.

In 1776 General Schuyler issued orders to his deputy quartermaster general to make available to garrisons at all posts in the Northern Department undergoing construction, including Fort Stanwix, sufficient "bedding or straw," "firewood," and "barrack utensils," the latter to include items such as pails, tongs, shovels, and trammels. These items were to be delivered to the barrack master of each garrison, who was to be accountable for them. [10]

Several other documents make isolated references to bedding, straw, bunks, pails, "benches" or a "bench bed," and to gridirons, but the information is far too meager to obtain a comprehensive picture of the furnishings of rooms in Fort Stanwix.

In 1768 South Carolina provided each room with 1 pair of dog irons, 1 shovel, 1 pair of tongs, 1 broom, 1 tub or box to carry out dirt, 1 long table, 2 forms (chairs), 12 trenchers, 1 hatchet, 1 candlestick, a rack for firearms, wooden pegs to hang knapsacks or clothing, 2 chamber pots, and for every two men 1 bedstead, 1 bed, 1 bolster, and 3 blankets. [11]

Another source originating in 1767 describes an almost identical list of furniture and accessories in use at posts in the northern region. This document lists such items as 36 beds, 36 bolsters, 107 blankets, 24 berths, 3 tables, 7 forms, 12 pairs of dog irons, 12 pairs of tongs, 12 fire shovels, 12 candlesticks, 12 iron pots (possibly chamber pots), 2 chimney ropes, 123-1/2 cords of wood, candles and hay. The reference to 12 pairs of dog irons and tongs, and to 12 shovels, candlesticks, and iron pots may be an indication that there were 12 rooms. [12]

A return of furniture for the same post 6 months later noted that there were 48 beds, 48 bolsters, 12 rugs, 131 blankets, 26 berths, 3 tables, 7 forms, 12 pairs of dog irons, 12 pairs of tongs, 12 fire shovels, 12 candlesticks, 12 iron pots, and 2 chimney ropes. [13]

In 1776 the Committee of War of New York State instructed its barrack masters to furnish each officer's room with one pair of andirons, one pair of tongs, one table, two chairs, and one candlestick. For each noncommissioned officer's and soldier's room containing 20 men, he was to furnish 10 cribs (2 men to a crib), 10 bedcases, and 10 bolsters (to be filled with straw every 3 months), 2 iron pots, 2 trammels, 1 pair of tongs, 1 wood axe, 1 iron candlestick, 1 table, 2 benches, and 1 bucket. [14] It is obvious from these sources, even taking into account the difference of 8 or 9 years between them, that the general furnishings of military posts in South Carolina were not materially different from those in New York.

That same year the Committee of Safety in New York delivered barrack furniture to Continental troops amounting to a total of 680 benches. 393 tables, 85-1/2 cords of wood, 261 cots, some lanterns, 249-1/3 pounds of candles, and 65 candlesticks. [15]

From what has been learned of the furniture and accessories in use at various posts within the colonies, a convincing picture can be established of the furniture employed at Fort Stanwix.

Personal items of furniture, although few might well have adorned parts of the fort, but in all probability if any such furniture did exist, it would have been found in the officers' quarters. It is known, for example, that Colonel Gansevoort had his "camp stool" sent to him at Fort Stanwix by his mother. [16]

<<< Previous <<< Contents>>> Next >>>

Last Updated: 26-Dec-2008