18th Century New World Colonial Settlement.
The Survival Connection. © Keith H. Burgess.
In an urban survival scenario where police and military protection is none existent, most people will agree that unless you are well fortified, well armed and have an abundance of supplies, you are better off getting out of built up areas. Personally I would not stay in the city at all, it is just too easy for someone to set fire to your house and burn you out. Your choices once you leave city or town are either moving to a country retreat or farm, or moving into a wilderness area where you can hide and survive.
Settlers from England and Europe moving to the New World were faced with a harsh wilderness in which they needed to build their homes and plant crops. They needed to hunt and trap wild game for food and skins, and there was the ever present danger from the woodland natives whose land they were trespassing on. The settler’s homes had to be fortified against attack; small windows with shutters, strong doors, guns kept close to hand and plenty of gunpowder and lead. Everyone in the house strong enough to handle a gun knew how to shoot. Small children would melt lead in the open fire for moulding round ball and shot, they would also know how to load the guns for those who were shooting at the enemy.
Supplying their own food was essential, as there were no shops or stores close-by. Crops from the field and the garden were preserved for use in the winter months. Meat could be smoked or dried, and the skins were used for clothing, making moccasins, for bed covers and for trading. These people had to be totally self-reliant and self-sufficient just as the woodland Indians were.
Now a lot of discussions revolve around the need for modern equipment, tools and gadgets, but do these modern aids in fact help us survive in a situation similar to the above scenario? In such a situation having the knowledge and skills to construct shelters, grow foods, hunt and trap, make cordage, make clothing etc would be as important as having the right tools in order to complete these tasks. With the right fortification a large number of attackers can be held at bay by a lesser number of people with less firepower. Providing they have good supplies to hand they can stay holed up indefinitely. Where as the attackers will need shelter, food, water and munitions in order to carry such an assault. Where as the settlers can afford to take their time and make their occasional shots count, the attackers will be obliged to try and expedite the attack by taking risks. At night the attackers risk being attacked themselves.
The enemy simply can’t afford a long drawn out assault which will deplete their munitions and supplies. These marauding gangs need to end such an assault as quickly as possible so they can pillage new supplies and munitions and move on. Their road does not lead to permanence and self-sufficiency; it is a path of constant mobility and assault on easy targets. It is doubtful indeed that these people will in fact ever venture far from built up areas. Their skills or the lack of, and their equipment choices will simply not support a venture that takes them too far into the bush.
It is my opinion that those people who are equipped with primitive skills and the right tools will carry the day when it comes to retreat and wilderness survival. In a retreat situation it would undoubtedly be wise to have some modern firearms amongst your number. Even if you have to leave your farm it would be advisable to take some modern firepower with your number. But I think it would be unwise to depend on any modern equipment for your survival in the long term unless you have the ability to service, repair and if necessary replace that equipment should the need arise.
Problems that can arise from carrying only modern firearms include: Unable to service and keep in good working order. Unable to make repairs. Unable to make new projectiles and reload cartridges. Unable to limit the fire to single shots when used to firing multiple shots from a semi-automatic weapon [this is the fault of the shooter rather than the firearm per se].Unable to carry large amounts of large calibre munitions due to the excessive weight. If reloading equipment is carried the primers can fall foul from damp and wet, and the reloading equipment adds to the weight an individual has to carry.
Advantages of carrying a flintlock muzzle-loading gun and having the attending skills needed to use this tool include: The ability to retrieve spent lead and remould it into shot or round ball. The ability to use the lock for making fire without the use of gunpowder. The ability to service and repair, and if necessary convert the firing method to a different system. The ability to shoot a variety of projectiles, some in combination. The ability to carry more gunpowder in weight and less lead therefore extending the time that this gun may be in use.
This article first published on the New England Colonial living History Group forum in “The Survival Connection”.