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Lewis and Clark War Ax

Updated: Jun 18

Lewis and Clark War Ax by Iron John Logan. Contemporary copy of the Corp of Discovery "war ax" made by the expedition's gunsmith and blacksmith John Shields at their winter camp at Fort Mandan in 1805. Lewis the expeditions leader had set up a convenient bartar with the Native Americans to trade corn for forged iron objects. The demand was so great Shields had to train two other Corp members to act as apprentices and the men ate well all winter long.

Pleasent morning wind from N. W. fair; visited by many of the natives who brought a considerable quanty of corn in payment for the work which the blacksmith had done for them – they are pecuarly attatched to a battle ax formed in a very inconvenient manner in my opinion. it is fabricated of iron only, the blade is extreemly thin, from 7 to nine inches in length and from 4¾, to 6 Inches on it’s edge, from whence the sides proceed nearly in a straight line to the eye where it’s width is generally not more than an inch. The eye is round & about one inch in diameter. the handle seldom more than fourteen inches in length, the whole weighing about one pound— the great length of the blade of this ax, added to the small size of the handle renders a stroke uncertain and easily avoided, while the shortness of the handel must render a blow much less forceable if even well directed, and still more inconvenient as they uniformly use this instrument in action on horseback. The oalder fassion is still more inconvenient, it is somewhat in the form of the blade of an Espantoon but is attatchd to a helve of the dementions before discribed the blade is sometimes by way of ornament purforated with two three or more small circular holes— the following is the general figure it is from 12 to 15 inces in length

Meriwether Lewis, February 5, 1805

Iron John's masterful copy is an exact replica of the pictured journal entry from 1805. Hand forged from a thin strip of historical 19th wrought iron as would have been available to John Shields in the far reaches of Oregon country. The eye is folded and a crude lap weld joins the two halves before the roughly hammered diamond shaped blade extends to a rounded tip. The curly quillions are sawn and twisted back towards the eye and three holes are hot punched through the blade for decoration. Side opposite the flap weld is deeply cartouched by Iron John Logan's touchmark

The tomahawk in use at the Fort Union National Park yearly rendezvous with the costumed interpreters dressed as high ranking Chiefs of a trading party

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