The Milice de la Belle Riviere
The Milice de la Belle Riviere or formally, La Compagnie de la Milice de Montreal sur la Belle Riviere, ( Company of Montreal Militia on the Ohio River)is a unit during the French and Indian War. This milice unit served in western Pennsylvania, constructing frontier fortifications for the French and helped secure disputed territory for the French King until late 1759.
Participating in the overwhelming defeat of British General Braddock and his army near Fort Duquesne in 1755, this militia with their Native American Allies demonstrated a new form of woods fighting tactics on the North American Continent. The Milice de la Belle Riviere reflects the European adaptation to the new world and the skills needed for survival.
FRENCH CANADIAN MILICE
This is the established clothing for portraying a French Milice during the French and Indian War. As a part of the “Milice de la Belle Riviere,” this list has been gathered from documentation from the period.
-Silk, linen, or cotton scarf of solid dark color as black, brown, or dark blue or red, this piece of cloth was about 36 to 42 inches squared. Folded into a triangle and placed over the head and tied in the back. The Milice de la Belle Riviere (MBR) has chosen black as their choice of color.
Cap (Bonnet, also known as a Toque)
-Knitted cap without tassel which folds down upon itself. Common colors were red, scarlet (dark red), as well as brown, gray and even white. The MBR has chosen brick red as the choice of color.
–A wrap around coat made with the cut of the French style Justaucorps, having large boot cuffs. These cuffs often had wool covered buttons on them. This coat has a single wool covered button on the right shoulder to close the front of the coat. This coat extended to the knee or below.
–Woven wool belt worn around the waist to hold the capot closed.
Worn also around the shirt in warmer weather to hold the belt knife and ax. This should be about three inches wide. The length of the sash is your waist measurement plus about 16 to 18 inches, beyond which there is a fringe of about 10 to 11 inches on each end of the sash. These may also be of a solid colored center with an edge of another color about 3/8ths of an inch on each side of the center color. The fringe is taken into pieces of three or multiples of three and braided to strengthen it from damage in the woods. Common colors were red, scarlet red, gray, black, and brown.
–Natural white cotton cut in the French style (see French shirt instructions attached). Linen may also be used in lee of cotton. Long to the knee or often below the knee with full body and sleeves.Narrow cuffs.
–Made of tanned deer hide, linen, or canvas cut in the French style (buttoning up the front without the fall). These came below the knee where they were buttoned or tied. Fit snug in the leg but full in the seat for movement.
–A strip of wool about 10 inches wide that was worn between the legs and brought up front and back to cover the groin are in place of breeches. Average length of this cloth is about 60 to 70 inches depending on the height of the wearer. The MBR prefers the breechclout to the breeches.
–Wool leg coverings that go from the ankle to about a hands width above the knee. These were some times made of deer hide too. Common colors were white, red, dark blue, brown, and gray. These leggings had a side seem sewn with a double flap of excess material about three fingers in width. The MBR has chosen purple as the legging color.
–Garters to hold up the leggings, they were woven the same color scheme as the waist sash. They were the diameter of your leg just above the knee and about two inches wide with an additional eight to nine inches of fringe at each end of the leg ties. Just like the sash, this fringe is braided to strength. These garters are tied on the outside of the leg just below the knee.
–Black leather shoes of the period with or without period style buckles.
Indian Moccasins (Souliers des Sauvages)
–Leather foot coverings made in the Natives Fashion from deer or cow hide. See drawings attached for correct styles. This is the preferred foot ware of the MBR.
ADDITIONAL ITEMS CARRIED BY THE MILICE
Haversack (See picture). A sack approximately 35 inches by 22 inches with leather strap attached to both sides of the bag allowing the top to become a flap and naturally draping over the bag. The strap was buckled across the front and the worn under the left arm
Knives were commonly carried, one hanging around the neck, one at the waist in the sash, and one attached on the outside of the leg in the leg tie. These should all have a sturdy leather sheath, and for extra precaution we suggest having a leather thong attached to your belt and sheath.
Milice wore a powder horn and shooting pouch, not a cartridge box. The horn was commonly 12 to 14 inches long in this period and the pouch was made of a sturdy hide such as cow or pig. These were hand sewn, and not laced and had a good flap for protection.
A belt ax was also a common tool carried by the Milice. This too should be in a sturdy leather sheath for safety.
In the warmer months when snakes were common, a small leather pouch with a linen lining was filled with salt and worn about the neck or carried by a leather thong attached at the sash. Mixed with saliva to form a thick paste, then the salt was applied to the wound to draw out the poison.
A canteen was commonly carried. These were often made from a dried gourd and hung around the neck and shoulder with a leather thong. A leather covered bottle with a cork stopper is also fine, as is the period tin canteens. The canteens are best covered with leather or wool.
A blanket of wool was carried even in the summer months, generally tied in a tump line and in winter: a bear hide, a waistcoat, and mittens were added. Other items included an awl, needles and thread, extra flints, a cleaning worm for their gun. A comb, small cloth or leather pouches with dried meat, fruits, corn, and nuts.
The most common firearm of the French Milice was the Tulle Fusil which was a hunting smoothbore firearm of the period. There has been no documentation of French Milice carrying rifles of any kind. An early Charliville or a trade gun would be preferred over a rifle. However rifles are acceptable for reenacting but not preferred.
The wearing of trade silver, feathers and paint are not documented. However some milice were at one time traders and may have had some tattoos about the wrist, arm, and leg areas. These would be of a period Indian nature. A rosary or a beaded necklace was also sometimes worn about the neck. Beaded knife sheaths were in existence, but were only lightly beaded such as along the edge of the sheath. Ribbon and beads on breechclouts, moccasins, and leggings were very minimal and not common.
Hair was often long and tied in a queue with a strip of leather or ribbon. French men of this period were clean shaven.