Friday, October 3, 2014

Keep Your Powder Dry Ep. 1 - Fort Friday


A slightly different take on our occasional Fort Friday:

Click to enlarge

This is a Revolutionary War powder-horn featuring some great scrimshaw and was recently up for sale in Portsmouth, UK.   This is reportedly from a soldier who served in the British 7th Regiment of Foot and “features a map of the Hudson River, the famous river that flows from north to south through eastern New York State, as it was during the American revolution… The profuse engravings include depictions of wildlife (including a beaver and deer), the towns (Saratoga, Stonrabby), states (Albany), forts (Fort Hunter, Fort Henry) & tributaries (Mohawk River, North River) as they were during this era. Also depicted on this is a view of New York city, with ships underneath for the ocean that lays beyond.  The British Royal coat of arms lays on the larger, lower edge. The owner is named in a cartouche..."W.M.Gill, His horn press on"






There are several fine examples of such detailed engraving.
Engraving of personal items can be viewed as common overall during this era, much like any time of war, and oft is deemed by a more contemporary term of “trench art” when applied to relics like this.  Powder-horns are notable as they tend to lend graphic representation of a soldiers service, or at least the geographic region in which they were deployed.
Something can be said as well by the comparison of artists’ works over time, as to the conditions or strategic locations – especially when applied to frontier New York.  For example, below is a sketch created from another powder-horn that also bore a representation of Ft. Hunter – this time from a much earlier year and previously dated as 1759. 
 


Source: American Engraved Powder Horns, by Stephen V. Granesay, Ray Riling Arms Books Co., Phildelphia, 1965
Notice that this powder horn appears to show two structures at Ft. Hunter – possibly reference to the chapel, but as many may believe now it is possible that it more likely indicates two forts at the confluence of the Schoharie Creek and Mohawk River.  Documentation describes that by this time there were indeed two forts located at this site – one for a British garrison and one for the Tiononderoge Mohawks.   More on that at a later point. 

 
It should be noted that powder horns were used to store bulk powder despite what Hollywood misrepresents.  No foolhardy musketeer would think of pouring a cask of powder into their barrel, especially during sustained firing!  Most people are too attached to their hands and faces to attempt such dangerous loading practices. 

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