The Art of Reenacting
Some Observations on the Methods by Which
Pirates Carry'd Weapons,
Over the years, many times the question
has been asked, "how should I wear my pistols, or sword?" It is
my hope, through the use of a few period illustrations, to suggest a
few methods by which you, the pirate reenactor, might arrange his gear.
First on the list is
Blackbeard. Here we see Blackbeard wearing a double shoulder belt. On
the belt with his monster-headed hanger he wears four pistols in
holsters, and possibly two more on his left hip. We know pistol
holsters existed from finds on the wreck of the Whydah. This
illustration suggests they could be worn staggered on a shoulder belt,
pointing downward. Exactly what Blackbeard is wearing at each hip
in this image is subject to debate. I believe they are two
brace of pistols. If so, the brace of pistols on his right could
very well be an example of pistols worn on a "ribband".
the amount of tassles flowing behind him, this could be a sash of sorts
made from a very wide ribbon. It is also interesting to note he
wears a waist belt over his short cut sailor's jacket, with apparently
nothing attached to it. I would suggest the pistols on his left
hip are actually attached to the shoulder belt, and the hanger is
attached to the waist belt with a frog.
Next we have Captain Every. Every wears a
simple waist belt, worn over his coat. A sword can be seen on his
left hip, probably attached to the waistbelt by way of a single
frog. Suspended from the front of the belt is a cartridge box,
which appears similar in size and shape to that recovered from the Whydah. Thrust into his belt
are two brace of pistols. The pistols under his left hand may be
on belthooks, however, his hand obscures any details. The pistols
on his right hip are thrust under the belt, a precarious method, as
pistols are wont to slip from under the belt when running.
However, it may be noted that captains don't need to run (that's what
common pirates are for).
Captain Low provides us
with out first good glimpse of a sword worn on a belt attached to a
single frog. The scabbard locket is plainly visible.
Whether scabbard lockets have been recovered from the Whydah I do not
know, but I imagine they have, since this the common method by which a
sword is worn during our period. The frog may have stitching
running just inside of the edge, something seen on French
accoutrement belts of the
period. Or, it may be something elaborately covered in
cloth. From this image one can only guess. Around his
waist, under his coat, he also appears to wear a sash into which are
tucked a brace of pistols. He seems to not have a cartridge box.
Captain Lowther wears an interesting combination of shoulder sash and
waist sash, while sporting a basket-hilted sword from his right hip, with what appears to be
a pair of pistols just forward of the sword. The method by which
any of these is suspended from the sashes cannot be determined with any
accuracy. It seems unlikely, considering the point at which the
shoulder sash meets the basket hilt that the sword is attached
thereon. It may be the artist's error. (And with any of
these, the caveat exists that these are all artists'
interpretations.) It is feasible the sword could be hanging from
a waist belt, hidden from view by the sash. Or not. The
pistols could be tied to the shoulder sash, in which case, if this is
two pistols, I could expect there to be two sashes.
Mary Read, here shown as the epitome of
the common pirate, wears what is probably the epitome of pirate
kit. She wears a shoulder belt, which shows evidence of stitching
along the inside (cf. Captain Low above). From this is suspended
a double frog, allowing her to carry an axe, very useful in boarding
both as a weapon and a tool, as well as a sword. Onto the belt
are sewn two holsters, looking very much like the Whydah holster. Note the
almost horizontal angle, which may be an artistic convention lending
Mary the illusion of movement, or possibly the artist thought this to
be a more ergonomic design compared to the downward pointing pistols of
Roberts, here from two different
editions of Captain Johnson's book On the left, which I believe
to be the earlier of the two, Roberts wears two brace of pistols.
While it is difficult to say for sure from this image, the last pistols
may be in some sort of holster. He appears to not be wearing a
waist belt, so if this is a holster (which seems unlikely to me) it
must be sewn to the sash. One suggestion is that these pistols
are all held to the sash by way of belt hooks. Though I would be
so bold as to suggest that this could be an example of multiple pistols
worn on multiple "ribbands." In the image on the right, someone
has removed the four pistols and replaced them with four pistols and a
cartridge box, all of which to my eye seem more crudely drawn.
How this particular arrangement might fare in combat is worthy of
debate. This author believes such a contraption to be unlikely,
as any movement would cause the pistols and box to sway.
As a final note, I know more period illustrations exist. As I
find more, I may add more observations here.
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