The use of Signals and Indian Signs

Smoke signal
The Smoke Signal. Frederic Remington. 1905.

Without modern forms of communication, a system of signals would take on great importance. In ages past, there were common signals that were in use but with the passage of time they have been forgotten or have been sidelined. The subject of signaling in the wilderness has been referenced before on this blog but this detailed account of the use of signals was interesting. I found these in “The Book of Woodcraft and Indian Lore” by Ernest Thompson Seton, 1912.  Growing up in Tennessee, I had heard of the signal used by Indians where tree branches were broken and turned to mark a path but the rest of the signals in this collection were new to me.

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The watch as a compass

Illustrated catalogue and price-list of drawing and tracing papers, sun print papers and equipments, drawing instruments and materials, surveying instruments, accessories, etc. / Kolesch & Company.

This tip was found in “The Way of the Woods: A Manual for Sportsmen in Northeastern United States and Canada,” by Edward Breck, 1908. I have been trying it out all week and it seems to work. Let me know your experience with it. It works differently depending on whether you are in the northern or southern hemispheres.

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What to do when you are lost in the wilderness

Green River Canyon
Green River. Canyon of Lodore, unidentified man standing with foot on dead tree, hat in hand, side view, with the river behind him and the canyons rising on either side of the tree.

Having never been truly lost while hiking, I imagine that it’s terrifying. In the world of GPS I have an artificial reliance on technology to keep me on the straight and narrow.  The entry below is the second part of 3 having to do with navigating mountains and wilderness from “Mountain Scouting, A Hand-Book for Officers and Soldiers on the Frontiers” by Edward S. Farrow, U.S. Army, 1881. Near the end of the explanation Farrow explains through numbers how to calculate your escape. Math is not my strong point so lets just say it took several readings for me to grasp what he was saying. In the coming days I’ll be researching the next and final entry in this series about mountain travel covering ways to signal for help when you are lost in the wilderness.

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Mountain travel

Cumberland Gap
General Burnside’s Army Occupying the Cumberland Gap, Harper’s Weekly, October 10, 1863

I’ve always been fascinated by mountain men and how they knew the backcountry inside and out. Men like Jim Bridger and Jim Baker. The next couple of posts are going to be about navigating the mountains and various techniques for knowing your general whereabouts and what to do when you get lost.

I found this initial entry in “Mountain Scouting, A Hand-Book for Officers and Soldiers on the Frontiers” by Edward S. Farrow, U.S. Army, 1881.

Edward Farrow sounds like he was a good guy to have around in a tricky situation. Enjoy!

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