Accurate Hatchet for Camp Display?

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Kirk Womack

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Jun 29, 2019
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Brookville, Indiana
This is something I have wondered about for some time. Does anyone know what pattern of hatchet is accurate for the 1860's? I've seen photos of hatchet heads dug at battle sites, but some I believe postdate the war. Does anyone have any info, period pictures, documentation, etc.?
 

7thWisconsin

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Francis Lord, writing about 1960 in the "Collector's Encyclopedia," says: "Two types of hatchet heads have been recovered from campsites and battlefields in recent years. These show clearly that there has been practically no change in design and size of hatchets in the past 100 years." (vol. I, p. 48). In vol III, on p. 84, there is a picture of several hatchet heads, with dimensions given in the caption. It looks like this:There is very little difference from postwar hatchets for a long time. Farm tool can be hard to date because the same model may remain in use for multiple decades. I carry one like the one on the bottom right for pounding in tent pegs.
Hatchet heads from Lords.jpg
 
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johan_steele

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Here are a variety of period hatchets and axes. Many hatchets were merely scaled down axe heads. Period amp hatchets were often whatever could be scrounged or borrowed from the local area as well as what was brought with the army. The black and white picture has one non period hatchet; the far right one on the picture. The gull/goose wing style hatchets were becoming rather scarce except for those coming out of a Northern or Eastern Europe. That style head weren't all that common outside of those areas with immigrants from those regions. All of the gull/goose wing hatchets pictured came out of the Minnesota area.

1840's felling ax.jpg
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578253_10150911634042920_1974689381_n.jpg
21765268_10155755352817920_6157875347740917416_n.jpg
Hastings 3.JPG
IMG_3908.JPG
 

Kirk Womack

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Location
Brookville, Indiana
Francis Lord, writing about 1960 in the "Collector's Encyclopedia," says: "Two types of hatchet heads have been recovered from campsites and battlefields in recent years. These show clearly that there has been practically no change in design and size of hatchets in the past 100 years." (vol. I, p. 48). In vol III, on p. 84, there is a picture of several hatchet heads, with dimensions given in the caption. It looks like this:There is very little difference from postwar hatchets for a long time. Farm tool can be hard to date because the same model may remain in use for multiple decades. I carry one like the one on the bottom right for pounding in tent pegs.View attachment 325268
The problem I have with the Civil War Collectors Encyclopedia is that there are several items included that were either of a style not introduced until after the war, or are marked with company names that weren't in business until after the war. For example, two of the hatchet heads shown here are said to be marked "Plumb". That company wasn't called that until 1888, and their hatchets weren't marked as such until the early 1900's. I try not to be too crazy about accuracy, but I do want to do the best I can with what I have. I don't particularly care when I'm using it around camp, but for display purposes, I want it to be as close as possible. I guess this proves that just because it was found on a battlefield, that doesn't mean it is from the war. Oh well, close enough for government work as they say.
 

7thWisconsin

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While that's true, as I said, farm tools don't change very quickly, and that style is still representative of the 2nd half of the 19th century. To see real differences in an item like that you really need to compare it to a hatchet from, say, 1760. My grandfather was a blacksmith. He made all the tools for the family in his spare time. I have a hatchet he made not any earlier than 1910, nor later than 1948. It looks like the one on the right on the top row.
 
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DixieRifles

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The only interesting relic that I found using a borrowed metal detector was a large axe head. As best as I can remember, it looked like the top axe in the 3rd photo, above, with the yellow background. It was concluded this axe was one used for building/repairing railroads since we found it near the M&C RR.
I know they used a sledge hammer to drive spikes but I'm sure they also needed an axe. The axe head I found had a head large enough to drive spikes also.
Can someone show a typical axe used during this time for working on the railroad?
 

Kirk Womack

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Location
Brookville, Indiana
The problem I have with the Civil War Collectors Encyclopedia is that there are several items included that were either of a style not introduced until after the war, or are marked with company names that weren't in business until after the war. For example, two of the hatchet heads shown here are said to be marked "Plumb". That company wasn't called that until 1888, and their hatchets weren't marked as such until the early 1900's. I try not to be too crazy about accuracy, but I do want to do the best I can with what I have. I don't particularly care when I'm using it around camp, but for display purposes, I want it to be as close as possible. I guess this proves that just because it was found on a battlefield, that doesn't mean it is from the war. Oh well, close enough for government work as they say.
While that's true, as I said, farm tools don't change very quickly, and that style is still representative of the 2nd half of the 19th century. To see real differences in an item like that you really need to compare it to a hatchet from, say, 1760. My grandfather was a blacksmith. He made all the tools for the family in his spare time. I have a hatchet he made not any earlier than 1910, nor later than 1948. It looks like the one on the right on the top row.
Sure, and I thank you very much for sharing this page of the Encyclopedia( I only have volumes 1 and 2). I guess what I'm saying is that if two of the hatchet heads on that page can be proven to have been made after the War, we really can't consider them examples of what they carried during the War. However, I do believe that you are correct about the hatchet on the bottom right being correct. I always appreciate the advice of reenactors more experienced than myself( which includes about everyone). I thank you again for your input.
 
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Frederick14Va

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Virginia
Many hatchets that found their way into the field were simply obtained off the commercial markets, or procured locally as available at the time. Hence the wide variety of types and styles found. Many patterns were designed for a particular specific purpose in mind.. however if it could accomplish the task at hand and was available... so be it. Hewing, Shingling, Lathing, Claw, Carpenters, and assorted others all commonly show up in period images and excavated from campsites.

On a side note... The handle shape of choice also tends to reflect on the level of authenticity one may desire, and can also be just as important part of it. Majority of automated machine made handles available at the local hardware stores today, tend to be a different style and pattern from those that were in common use in the 1860's era. Some can be reshaped reasonably enough, others may prefer them to be made from scratch. (hatchets & axes alike)

Here's some hatchets that were cropped from original period images for further reference...
62P_01805u_1.jpg


62Pen_03792u_1.jpg

ambulanceshop1.jpg

postoffice1.jpg
 
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