Thursday, 12 December 2013

Stockbridge Indians

For quite some time I had planned to get the group of Stockbridge Indians from the Perries. Ever since I had read the diary of Johann Ewald and seen his watercolour of one of the killed members of this militia of native Americans who fought for the cause of freedom.
Johann Ewald, "An Indian of the Stockbridge tribe", watercolour 1778
Johann Ewald, captain of the Hessian J├Ąger contingent, describes the members of this semi-civilized tribe who lived in the small town of Stockbridge as follows:

Their costume was a shirt of coarse linen down to the knees, long trousers also of linen down to the feet, on which they wore shoes of deerskin, and the head was covered with a hat made of bast. Their weapons were a rifle or musket, a quiver with some twenty arrows, and a short battle-axe, which they know how to throw very skillfully. Through the nose and in the ears they wore rings, and on their heads only the hair of the crown remained standing in a circle the size of a dollar-piece, the remainder being shaved off bare. They pull out with pincers all the hairs of the beard, as well as those on all other parts of the body.
A company of the Indian troops had been ambushed on August 31st, 1778 in the Bronx by British and Hessian troops, and fifteen of them had been killed. Captain Ewald observed the dead Indians on the ground and painted his picture of them. Furthermore he gives this description:

"After the affair I examined the dead Indians. I was struck with astonishment over their sinewy and muscular bodies. Their strong, well-built, and healthy bodies were strikingly distinguished among the Europeans with whom they lay mingled on the ground, and one could see by their faces that they had perished with resolution.  I compared these Indians with my ancestors under Arminius [Teuton chief who defeated the Roman legions in 9 A.D.], against whom they looked like pygmies to me." 
The gun the Indian carries obviously is a rifle and not a musket. So this may be the portrait of the Indian commander Abraham Nimham or his farther Daniel Nimham who were both killed in the ambush, later known as the Bronx Massacre.
In painting the figures I followed Ewald's description. Here they are: 
The 6 types of Stockbridge Indians by Perry




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