Sunday, January 4, 2009

La Florida: Indian Weapons

Several sources were consulted on weapons employed by the Indians of LF. A useful, well-illustrated general source is:

Taylor, Colin F. Native American Weapons. Norman: Univ. of Okla. Press, 2001.

General sources have very little to say about LF, though, and it was necessary to consult specialized sources. Among these, the following was outstanding, and not just for weapons, as the title indicates:

Purdy, Barbara A. “Weapons, Strategies, and Tactics of the Europeans and the Indians in Sixteenth- and Seventeenth-Century Florida.” FHQ, 55 (Jan., 1977), 254-76. [I use FHQ as an abbreviation for the Florida Historical Quarterly.]

From Purdy and other sources, it appears that Indian weapons included: bows, spears, clubs, and short swords.

The bows typically were large, resembling longbows, and powerful. They had a range of 200 yards, and the Indians were said to commonly discharge six or seven cane arrows in the time it took a European to reload his arquebus. The bows were so stout that they could also be used as clubs.

Clubs used by the Indians were of various types. Those with stone heads appear to have been used like maces to stun an enemy at the least and to crush skulls and bones at worst. Others, like the macaña had “blades” made of pebbles or small stones that could not be splintered. “It will kill the best armored man,” wrote a Spaniard, “and anyone who hesitates and is struck with the macaña will surely be killed.” Pick-axe type clubs were described by De Soto.

It seems that thrusting-type spears were rarely mentioned in the literature of LF, and references to spears were mainly to dart-like throwing spears.

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