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Powder Monkey: 1865

Powder Monkey: 1865

Circa 1864-65. "Powder monkey by gun of U.S.S. New Hampshire, Federal depot ship off Charleston, South Carolina." Wet plate glass negative. View full size.


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Parrott Rifle

The cannon in the picture is a Parrott rifle. A Dahlgren gun looked more like a Coke bottle.

Sailors could sew

Back in those days sailors would embroider their uniforms themselves. You were considered salty if you had embroidery on your uniform and had it tailored just right. I am guessing he has a heart on his jumper top because he is BRAVE!!! Most sailors could sew, if not for the simple fact that they had to repair the sails and their own uniforms. If you get a chance read "My Twenty Years in the Navy" from the Naval Institute Press.

Change is slow in the Navy

Many have mentioned the cutlasses, and other items as being dated for 1865, but they remained until after the Spanish American war of 1898. Hundreds of years at sea of crews having to repel boarders was well ingrained in any navy, and as steam and steel slowly developed over the years few things where given up on. Sails lasted for many decades after the advent of steam. Change was not only dragged down by traditions, but budgets as well, and also the new technologies were prone to constant breakdowns.

Old Cutlass

The cutlass was an official weapon in United States Navy stores until 1949. The last new model was the Model 1917 which is a popular collector's item. USN cutlasses made during World War II were the Model 1941, but they were only a slightly modified M 1917.

In the Korean War, a Marine NCO was reported to have killed an enemy with a cutlass at Inchon.

The Recruit Chief Petty Officer for each division at US Navy Recruit Training Command is still issued a cutlass.

He looks confident

and well fed. Brave lad!

C'est magnifique, mais ce n'est pas la guerre

A proud and handsome ship the USS Hampshire may have been but sadly in 1865 she was obsolescent.

In 1859 France had built the first ironclad of the modern age, the La Gloire. By 1865 the major nations of the world were building ironclad screw or steamships as fast as they could.

I "heart" his shirt

Such sweet embroidery. A going-away gift from Mama?

Jaunty and jaded

Looks like he's thinking, "Okay, take your picture then move along." But the rakish angle of his tam and the heart embroidered on his chest belie his tough-guy swagger! I imagine he'd seen a lot for one so young.

Pleasant Surprise

At first glance I thought this to be a later photograph as it doesn't
have the "look" of most Civil War era photos shown here. This is
quite a piece of work in my opinion. And that young man.... and
man he is .... is timeless. Wonderful.

Somewhere in Appalachia

A worried mother sewed that heart and border on what appears not to be a uniform top, and sent it off to her little man, far away from home, hoping that the top would help keep him warm and the heart would remind him that she loved and missed him.

Bag O' Shot

Looks like a load of grape shot at the ready on the upper deck above the touch hole of the gun.

Monster Gun

I noticed how big the gun is and also that there didn't seem to be a rear wheel on the carriage (although it's possible it was concealed behind the boy's legs). So I looked up New Hampshire in the official "Dictionary of American Navy Fighting Ships ("DANFS") and found some neat details:

"The 9-inch [Dahlgren] broadside guns were mounted on the two-wheel Marsilly carriage rather than the four-wheel common carriage...." and also the shells weighed over 72 pounds! The boy must not only have been quick on his feet but also have been strong as a horse.

The absence of scoring on the deck from the non-wheeled carriage, and the fact that the breechings and gun tackles are tied up out of the way of the holystone party to facilitate washing down decks shows that on a depot ship the gun was mainly a decorative object. I wonder if they ever had live fire drills or if they just practiced running the guns in and out? Our hero probably kept the elevating screw clean and well oiled in addition to his ammunition supply duties.

New Hampshire, a 2600 ton ship of the line authorized way back in 1816 and kept under construction as a means of preservation until the Civil War, was armed only with four 100-pounders and six 9-inch Dahlgrens. Designed for a traditional battery of 74 guns, she was a sister of the USS North Carolina, probably our best ship of the line of the age of sail, according to Chapelle's "American Sailing Navy."

The Good Old Days

When ships were made of wood and men made of steel.

En garde!

Is that a selection of swords ready for action on the wall behind the boy? Even for 1865, they seem like relics of the past.


Those cutlasses on the bulkhead were not there for decoration.

Shorpy of the Age of Sail

This cocky kid, is, in his way, not unlike Shorpy -- a youngster working in an adult world sharing the same dangers as the grownups.

Boarding axe

Note the boarding axe fitted into a bracket on the cheek of the gun carriage. Boarding axes found their main use on sailing vessels in chopping through fallen rigging to help clear the decks. Normally they were worn in axe holsters on the belts of sailors. I have seen this picture many times, but this is the first time I have noticed the boarding axe in that bracket.

Old for his age

He's probably 12, but looks 30.

Faster than a speeding bullet

These young boys or teens were part of the military in the age of sail. They were chosen for their speed and earned little more than a cot and food.

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