Made from cow horn, this piece bears the carved insignia of Charleston’s own Palmetto Guard. Before the advent of self-contained metallic cartridges, powder, shot, wadding and primers were individually loaded through a long arm’s muzzle. Hence, soldiers carried separate containers of loose gunpowder they could use either in battle or, in their spare time, make smaller paper cartridges.
Although most manufacturers by this time had switched to cheaper and stronger metal flasks with adjustable chargers (which could pour a set measure of gunpowder into a cylinder before being loaded into a gun), many militia units like the Palmetto Guard preferred the elegance of traditional horn for formal occasions. Horn owners could personalize them with custom engravings, and to accommodate this, manufacturers occasionally boiled then compressed their powder horns to produce flatter, more workable and readable surfaces. Like scrimshaw, an artist (or sometimes the soldier himself) engraved an insignia or some other image or pattern onto the horn before covering it with dye. While still wet, the dye was wiped off the flat surface of the horn, leaving only the engraved lines filled in.
A volunteer infantry company, the Palmetto Guard was founded in Charleston on June 28, 1851 - the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Fort Sullivan (or “Carolina Day”). After secession, the Guard took positions on James Island, Morris Island, and Mount Pleasant. Members of the Palmetto Guard positioned at Steven’s Battery attributed with firing the initial shots at Fort Sumter on the morning of April 12, 1861. After the Fort’s surrender by Federal troops on April 14, the Palmetto Guard raised their flag over Fort Sumter making it the first Confederate Flag to fly over captured U.S. territory.
Weaponry Wednesday: Each Wednesday we post an object (or group of objects) from the Charleston Museum’s diverse weapons collection. Many Weaponry Wednesday items may be on permanent exhibit in our armory or elsewhere in the museum, but some pieces rarely see exhibition, temporary or permanent, but are well worth sharing. We hope you enjoy our selection each week – do let us know if there’s something in particular you’d like to see on WEAPONRY WEDNESDAY! Also, we always want to learn more about our collection - if you have some insights on a piece, please feel free to share! #WeaponryWednes