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Tomahawks and tomahawk throwing ...
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Booshway
Picture of andy*
posted
First I want to say that these are my thoughts, in no way am I telling people what to do or how it should be or that I am the final authority on anything ...

I have been shooting muzzleloaders and "rendezvousing" for about 20 years.
Not as long as I would like and not as long as many here on the forum. In that time I have seen many a tomahawk match. Also countless broken handles , chipped edges , nicks and gouges to heads and handles etc ... have been observed.
Not to forget to mention a "lost" tomahawk or two.

In this time I have amassed a large library of early American history and fur trade books.
Both of the "classic" studies and first person accounts / narratives.
I have read of many a shooting match or "shooting at a mark". Only once have I come across someone throwing a tomahawk.
And in this case it was a measure of emergency due to having an unloaded gun and having a chance "shot" at a raccoon.

My reading of narratives and seeing the "abuse" and damage caused by throwing contests has me thinking that the throwing of tomahawks was not a regular practice.

Again , I am not saying that they were never thrown or that no one should throw a tomahawk.
I enjoy a good fun match as well as anyone else.
Also I have no doubt that folks being folks, would wager almost anything or have a contest for entertainment at the fur trade rendezvous.
But I am thinking that the throwing contests we have today or the frontiersman / mountain man or Indian throwing his tomahawk at a enemy were not as common as shown by current media or at today's rendezvous.
Just putting my thought on subject out there.
Andy

This message has been edited. Last edited by: andy*,


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Posts: 664 | Location: Everson, Washington | Registered: 27 June 2008Reply With QuoteReport This Post
Factor
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" Throwing the tomahawk was another boyish sport, in which many acquired considerable skill. The tomahawk with its handle of a certain length will make a given number of turns in a given distance. Say in five steps it will strike with the edge, the handle downwards; at the distance of seven and a half, it will strike with the edge, the handle upwards, and so on. A little experience enabled the boy to measure the distance with his eye, when walking through the woods, and strike a tree with his tomahawk in any way he chose."
Joseph Doddridge

Now the actual contests may not be as they were, one might say they would throw for accuracy and then retrieve the hawk instead of risking striking a previously thrown hawk, but the fact that 'hawk throwing was a pastime has been established.


LD


It's not what you know, it's what you can prove
 
Posts: 3645 | Location: People's Republic of Maryland | Registered: 10 November 2004Reply With QuoteReport This Post
Booshway
Picture of andy*
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I have read and own a copy of Dooddridge but forgot that quote thanks L.D.

I agree with you on throwing contests for accuracy ... but still think that throwing a hawk as a regular pastime or practice as opposed to shooting at a mark was not common.
Andy


Follow me I am the Infantry
 
Posts: 664 | Location: Everson, Washington | Registered: 27 June 2008Reply With QuoteReport This Post
Factor
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Perhaps I don't understand you...,

If people "acquired considerable skill", then they must have done it a lot, especially if they could "strike a tree with his tomahawk in any way he chose".

Now perhaps you mean it was more of a kid's game than what the men would do for sport?

Along those lines we don't properly shoot either...,
"Shooting at marks was a common diversion among the men, when their stock of ammunition would allow it; this however, was far from always being the case. The present mode of shooting off hand was not then in practice. This mode was not considered as any trial of the value of a gun; nor, indeed as much of a test of the skill of a marksman. Their shooting was from a rest, and at as great a distance as the length and weight of the barrel of the gun would throw a ball on a horizontal level.
Joesph Doddrdige

LD


It's not what you know, it's what you can prove
 
Posts: 3645 | Location: People's Republic of Maryland | Registered: 10 November 2004Reply With QuoteReport This Post
Booshway
Picture of andy*
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L.D,
What I am trying to say is that the throwing of tomahawks was not done as often as a formal shooting match or the informal shooting at a
mark.
Doddridge is a great source for Virginia and Pennsylvania from 1763-1783. But what happened there may be common to that area , but not anywhere else.

Again I am not saying that tomahawks were never thrown or denying that some folks were good at it.
Just that the practice of throwing a hawk was not a regular happening.

In my reading I have two sources for hawk throwing, Ruxton and the hunting account I mentioned in my original post and Doddridge that I forgot , but you brought to light ( Again thank you ).
I have 189 first person accounts of early American life and fur trade history. Of those 189 two mention the throwing of tomahawks , amid countless accounts of shooting matches in those 189 books.
I have more books in my library dealing with these subjects , but generally use only first person accounts as sources.

With only two sources and what I've seen of abuse , damaged and lost tomahawks at rendezvous leads me to think that , tomahawk throwing was done to a limited extent , but not as prevalent as it might be thought or practiced today.
Again as I said in my original post , I am not the final authority on anything , this just my thought and subject to disagreement.
Andy

This message has been edited. Last edited by: andy*,


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Posts: 664 | Location: Everson, Washington | Registered: 27 June 2008Reply With QuoteReport This Post
Booshway
Picture of MountainRanger
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Well, I sure don't know enough about the history of tomahawk throwing to comment forcibly either way, but this is a good discussion and I really appreciate reading the good references that you guys cite. I have read many accounts of fights (notably the battle of Oriskany and the exploits of Robert Rogers in White Devil) where tomahawks were used during the fighting on both sides. I don't recall any accounts where someone threw a tomahawk at a foe. Lots of detail about deaths and injury as a result of being whacked by one though...

When I dress out, I carry one but these days and especially after surgery to repair a torn rotator cuff in my right shoulder, I don't see me throwing it again in like.... forever! I use it around my camp more than anything. It's a darn good tool.

Thanks Andy and Dave for a good thread and a great read!


Sua Sponte
 
Posts: 460 | Location: SW Virginia (New River Valley) | Registered: 13 August 2014Reply With QuoteReport This Post
Booshway
Picture of andy*
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Thanks MountainRanger.
Dave knows his stuff and is always worth reading.
Andy


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Posts: 664 | Location: Everson, Washington | Registered: 27 June 2008Reply With QuoteReport This Post
Factor
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Andy, I see your point, and I think Doddridge may support you. NOTE, he mentions it as a "boyish" sport. He mentions shooting at marks for the men, but not 'hawks. So indeed, throwing-at-A-Mark with a 'hawk may be a "kid's game", resurrected in the 1950' s and 1960's as a sport for the men due to Hollywood, and their affinity to show a thrown 'hawk as an instantly deadly weapon. Not to mention the opening montage to Daniel Boone where Fes Parker throws the hatchet, and splits the cartoon tree in half.

You may have indeed spotted a long established "reenactorism".


LD


It's not what you know, it's what you can prove
 
Posts: 3645 | Location: People's Republic of Maryland | Registered: 10 November 2004Reply With QuoteReport This Post
Factor
Picture of Dick
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I've always said that once one throws a knife or tomahawk, one no longer has that weapon to use. The accounts of using tomahawks in battle seem to be mostly of actual hand-to-hand combat, or, after the battle, the execution of prisoners. JF Cooper, in his Leatherstocking fantasies, does, if I remember correctly, speak of natives in particular throwing their tomahawks skillfully. I discount most of what he says. As a "boyish skill" it makes perfect sense, and then later, around the campfire or "sittin' on the porch with a jug" it might be an evening's past time. Just my opinion.


"Est Deus in Nobis"
 
Posts: 2886 | Location: Helena, Montana | Registered: 10 December 2004Reply With QuoteReport This Post
Greenhorn
Picture of Stophel
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People play mumbly peg too.... and I don't recommend that either! Big Grin

I'm sure tomahawk throwing was done, at least on occasion, but probably not in any organized competition, and probably not where one would risk clanging his tomahawk against another! It was far too valuable a tool.
 
Posts: 44 | Location: Kentucky | Registered: 02 August 2011Reply With QuoteReport This Post
Factor
Picture of Hanshi
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It occurs to me that throwing a knife or hawk in any lethal encounter is similar to - but far worse and more foolhardy - grabbing an opponent before you punch them. Any time an attacker grabs or chokes he is giving away at least one weapon, two if he uses both hands. This is why any grabbing attack is so easy to defend against.

Why would anyone want to disarm themself by throwing their weapon away and possibly giving it to the enemy? Of course, I can think of a few exceptions to that rule. For instance: a weapon is raised to strike (or shoot) a companion and you're too far away to close the distance; a knife can get there in a heartbeat. If the throw proved ineffectual time for another response from you or your companion remains. I'm sure there are others but the rule still stands IMHO.


*Young guys should hang out with old guys; old guys know stuff.*
 
Posts: 3091 | Location: Virginia (by way of Georgia) | Registered: 26 January 2009Reply With QuoteReport This Post
Factor
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Oh as a distractor that's a bit different. There are lots of cultures where folks would throw an edged or blunt weapon as a means of distracting a foe for just a moment, to buy them time for another technique. Cut the opponent above an eye, stick him in the thigh, or arm, or face..., but it was the idea of the Hollywood Coupe de' Grace where the killing blow was done with a thrown 'hawk....or a thrown "Bowie" knife ...that I find circumspect.

The Indians were known to carry very little, and often what they carried had more than one use. A tomahawk weapon was also a camp axe and good for dismembering deer after harvesting. BUT the Eastern Woodland cultures favored the ball headed club in warfare, and it's a..., club. That's it.

I wondered about this until a fellow remarked that a bladed axe might get stuck just a bit in an enemy's skull, and while the attacker was busy working it free..., the fellow with the ball-club would be able to stove in a skull, or damage an arm or leg without fear of it sticking, PLUS one can switch direction with it, and not worry about orienting the blade for impact.

BUT..., we digress...., again perhaps the 'hawk throwing at a target was indeed a kids' game.

LD


It's not what you know, it's what you can prove
 
Posts: 3645 | Location: People's Republic of Maryland | Registered: 10 November 2004Reply With QuoteReport This Post
Hivernant
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Andy:

I didn't read all that everyone said, but I will say I agree that throwing hawks really was not a true to the period thing. For trappers in the field the ax was a very important tool not only around camp but used every day in setting your traps etc. Not something you would throw around.

That said, it sure is fun in today's world to throw a hawk into a target, and since many if not most of the events today are really more about having a great time than they are about staying totally true to the period, have fun and throw a hawk into a stump target if you want.
 
Posts: 140 | Registered: 18 March 2009Reply With QuoteReport This Post
Booshway
Picture of andy*
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I hear you Rio.
I have been known to throw a hawk a time or two.
As to throwing my camp ax circa 1920 or 30 nope LOL
Andy


Follow me I am the Infantry
 
Posts: 664 | Location: Everson, Washington | Registered: 27 June 2008Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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