Pay rates in 1851 on the Dakota Territory frontier.

Interior of Fort Union, North Dakota. View from the southwest blockhouse. Photo by James Ulvog.

Fort Union in the Dakota Territory was a major trading post constructed and operated by the American Fur Company. For a few years after it was built in 1828 the major trade was obtaining beaver pelts from various Indian tribes. In the 1830s the predominant trade item was buffalo hides.

What were employees of the company operation paid? A plaque at Fort Union provides the following pay scales:


Army pay scale during the “Indian Wars.”

Model of Fort Buford, Dakota Territory, circa 1866. Photo by James Ulvog. (I’ll get a better photo next time I visit.)

Fort Buford, in what was the Dakota Territory at the time, was the major supply depot as the US Army deployed on the frontier during the Indian Wars of the 1860s and 1870s.

A display at Fort Buford, which is now administered by the State Historical Society of North Dakota, gives an insight to pay rates on the frontier.

Private earned $13 a month, the same as during the Civil War.

Officers at the rank of First Lieutenant through Colonel were billed for their rations. Second Lieutenants down to lowly Privates were provided food at no charge. All were provided housing, such as it was, at no charge.

Over time I will have a lot more to say about Fort Buford. I am just starting to learn. I’m quickly gaining knowledge about the frontier and finding it to be fascinating.

Pay scales were as follows: 


What is a “militia?”

Image courtesy of Adobe Stock.

The 10 Key Campaigns of the American Revolution by editor Edward Lengel and a collection of contributing authors is a delightful description of key fights in the battle for American liberty and freedom.

A side discussion in the text is pertinent to the ongoing debate over the Second Amendment.

The book explains every free male in the colonies from the age of 16 up to 60 was required to report annually for training as a part of the militia.


Some tidbits from the American Revolution.

Re-enactment of Battle of Monmouth. Image courtesy of Adobe Stock.

The American Revolution is a delight to study. A few tidbits from Edward Lengel and the contributing authors in The 10 Key Campaigns of the American Revolution are relevant to this blog. Some fun stuff:

  • Perseverance in face of ongoing reversals.
  • Paying Continental soldiers in specie, that means silver.

Next post will discuss What is a “militia?”

Paying Continental soldiers in specie, i.e. silver

Over the winter of 1780-1781 discontent in the army about not having been paid grew worse, reportedly resulting in either a near mutiny or open mutiny in January 1781. While marching troops from New York to contain Cornwallis at Yorktown, Washington borrowed about 20 million livres from the French to provide one months paid pay to the continental soldiers. Author says this is the only time troops were paid with silver.

Let’s ponder that amount of pay.


Relocation to North Dakota.

Image courtesy of Adobe Stock.

In June of this year, I moved my accounting firm to Williston, North Dakota. 

My wife and I have been wanting to be near our son and his family. So the simple reason for the move is “chasing the grandkids.” It is also good to be out of California, with increasing congestion, skyrocketing cost of living, and deteriorating economy.

With the wonders of technology, I will be able to serve my clients just as easily from Williston, North Dakota as from Alta Loma, California. Only visible change on the website will be the mailing address.


Breaking technology news – Experiment to use gigantic kite to power a commercial cargo ship. Um, the Vikings perfected that technology 1000 years ago…

Some technology wizards are trying to adapt the above technology for use on modern cargo ships.
Image of Viking cargo ship courtesy of Adobe Stock.

… And the Romans had it figured out 1000 years before that.

Yet somewhere some technological wizards have developed an experiment in January to use a big kite to pull a cargo ship across the Pacific Ocean.

Gizmodo – 12/17/21 – Giant Kite Will Pull a Ship Across the Ocean Next Month – The experiment will involve a parafoil kite measuring 5,380 square feet.  It will pull a ship that is 505 feet long.

The ship is rated at 21,528 gross tonnage and 5,200 tons summer DWT. Gross tonnage is a measure of the volume of what a ship can carry. Summer DWT, or summer deadweight, is the measure of how much weight the ship can carry with the drafts available in a port in summertime.


In 1021 A.D., Vikings were living in Newfoundland, Canada

Recreation of ancient homes of Viking settlers in L’Anse aux Meadows National Historic Site on the island of Newfoundland, Canada. Image courtesy of Adobe Stock.

It has been long established that Vikings were living in L’Anse aux Meadows, Newfoundland somewhere around 1000 A.D. Extensive archaeological digs in the area have firmly established there was a settlement there.

Research is also indicated this was a base for further exploration in the area.

Three researchers have looked at trees used in construction on the site and conclusively established four separate logs were harvested in 1021 A.D.


Another comparison of the so very enlightened and civilized English to those vicious, brutal Vikings.

About those civilized, refined, cultured English…..
(Image courtesy of Adobe Stock.)

The vicious behavior of marauding Vikings is well known. Everyone knows they were violent brutes, totally unlike everyone else at the time.

Um, yeah.

This blog has pondered that issue, particularly by putting their violence in context of the harshly violent times in which they lived.

For a few more glimpses into the enlightened, benevolent, dignified, gentlemanly way the English have behaved every day of the last thousand years we can take a look into their behavior at the time of the American Revolutionary War, as described in The Indispensable’s: The Diverse Soldiers-Mariners Who Shaped the Country, Formed the Navy, and Rowed Washington Across the Delaware by Patrick O’Donnell.

Drawn and Quartered

I’ve previously mentioned that the gentlemanly English used the punishment of drawing and quartering during the Viking Age to deal with treason and other capital offenses.

The technique was still used by the civilized British around the time of the American Revolution, around 800 years later.

Book says the insurrection in Ireland shortly before the American uprising had been successfully suppressed by the British. The routine judgment for captured Irish revolutionaries was, to quote a judge at one sentencing:


A few indications of prices during the American Revolution along with travel times.

Washington crossing the Delaware River to attack the Hessians at Trenton. Image courtesy of Adobe Stock.

For a few quick glimpses of prices during the American Revolutionary War, we can glance into The Indispensable’s: The Diverse Soldiers-Mariners Who Shaped the Country, Formed the Navy, and Rowed Washington Across the Delaware by Patrick O’Donnell.

It is a delightful read on the early part of the revolution, focusing on the Marblehead Regiment from Massachusetts. This brave unit was key to several critical battles.

British commanders faced major supply line and communications challenges because of the distance between the colonies and London. At the time it would take three or four months for a round-trip voyage. Add in the time for a critical message to be understood, assessed, and a response developed you can see it took an incredible amount of time to get feedback or guidance.

There are a few tidbits in the book giving some hint of the purchasing power of money at the time.

Arming troops early in the fight was a challenge. In summer 1775, the Marblehead regiment was given 100 small arms (muskets) to help equip the 550 troops. Existing documentation said they were worth “one hundred ninety-two pounds eleven shillings.” The weapons had to be returned in good order unless they were documented as lost in service to the colony.

That puts the value of one musket at £1.92. Let’s call that about £2 each.

When George Washington started to build a small Navy he was able to rent a ship from a fishing captain who was also a key leader, John Glover. The rental was $78 a month for a 78 ton ship. It had the deck strengthened and holes cut for cannons, producing a seagoing combatant.

One of the biggest prizes claimed was the British brigantine Nancy. It weighed in at 250 tons and was loaded with munitions. It was captured on 11/29/1775.

An inventory of the haul included:


More discussion of Viking era weapons, ships, money, and warfare: converting silver value point estimates to per ounce.

Viking coin replica based on archaeological findings. Image courtesy of Adobe Stock.

Previous post listed estimates of the value of silver during the Viking Age mentioned by John Kim Siddorn in his delightful book Viking Weapons & Warfare.

He describe the wide range of estimates of the valuation of an English silver penny and then selected one of those as the most likely. 

He also listed the estimated amount of silver the Vikings removed from England as Danegeld in four specific years. Then he converted that to an estimated value expressed in British Pounds in 2000.

Let’s take those estimates and convert them to U.S. dollars per ounce, using the current exchange rate and value of silver in 2000 and May 2021.

The range of estimates for the value of an English penny run from low side of £10 up to £200 on the high end. He says most of the estimates run in the narrower range from £20 up to £50.  He thinks £20 is the best point estimate.

What does that range look like? Here it is. For perspective, silver value was $5/troy ounce for quite a few years before and after 2000: