Researching an engraved Revolutionary War powder horn
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  1. #1
    us
    Jun 2017
    16
    32 times
    All Types Of Treasure Hunting

    Researching an engraved Revolutionary War powder horn

    So I'm always searching for different treasures whether it's digging them from the ground or browsing the local classifieds and I've just acquired something I'm pretty excited about. This powder horn is to date the most fascinating Revolutionary War artifact I've come across and my reason for posting it is I want to find out as much as possible about it. I am particularly interested in finding out more about the individual that engraved and carried this horn during the war. My expertise on Revolutionary War artifacts is limited and google searching the name engraved in the horn hasn't been as productive as I had hoped. Any input is much appreciated!
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  2. #2
    Charter Member
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    Randy

    Feb 2015
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    The only thing I know about powder horns is that you have to be extremely careful and knowledgable when you buy them. Most are fantasy pieces and the real ones are like hens teeth. Someone here may know if your is real. I myself stay away from them because I only know enough to be dangerous to my pocketbook
    gunsil, AUhills and Fullstock like this.
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  3. #3
    us
    Jun 2017
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    All Types Of Treasure Hunting
    Since this came in a lot with 2 other period flintlocks and everything looked right to me I took a chance on it but it hasn't been evaluated in person by an expert to officially authenticate it yet.

  4. #4
    Charter Member
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    Randy

    Feb 2015
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    Let us know what you find out. I am curious.
    AUhills likes this.
    Anything That Comes Out of The Dirt Is Awesome!

    Best find 1941 Patek Philippe 2 register flat pusher Chronograph Bought 1,000 Sold 62,000 !!
    First Year 911 Porsche Purchased 36K SOLD 140K!!! Whoo Hoo

  5. #5
    us
    Dec 2012
    lower hudson valley, N.Y.
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    I agree that there are many more modern "copies" around than real ones. You would likely have to show it to a reputable dealer in such items and even then I'd want a couple of opinions. To me it doesn't "look right".
    trdking, AUhills and CreakyDigger like this.
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  6. #6
    us
    Jun 2017
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    32 times
    All Types Of Treasure Hunting
    I sent pictures to Sean Rich who owns a business called Tortuga Trading that deals in stuff like this. His reply,"It appears to be genuine but I would have to examine it in person to know for sure." I wonder if there is someone reputable here around NC that would be able to examine it in person? Apparently it is worth a lot of money if it is real and I don't really want to be shipping it around to various dealers for analysis, unless I end up having to.

  7. #7
    gb
    Dec 2019
    Surrey
    761
    1946 times
    All Types Of Treasure Hunting
    That would be a rather special find if genuine! I really hope you’ve got the real thing. Please do keep us posted if you learn more.

    I have a question. I see the following places mentioned: Philadelphia, (Fort?) Lebanon, Trenton and York County. Do you see this powder horn as an American item… or as a British item, with those places relating to where McAllister’s unit was garrisoned or campaigned during its tour of duty relating to the Revolutionary War?

    I also noted what is very obviously a British flag on the right below, although it’s not clear what the flag on the left is meant to be.

    If you could see this as a British item, I may have a potential lead for you.

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  8. #8
    us
    Jun 2017
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    American or British? That's a good question and with what I know right now it could still be either but I am leaning more toward American. The flag on the left is the later version (circa 1775) of the "Sons of Liberty" Flag. Also with York Co noted next to his name and date it was making me think maybe York County Pennsylvania Militia? It reads: Serjt W. McAllister : York Co : 1778. Serjt stands for Sergeant? One would assume the places marked on the horn are places where he was garrisoned or campaigned which could very well be a lead, there is even Allentown up toward the spout of the horn. Any thoughts or opinions are appreciated.
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  9. #9
    Charter Member
    us
    Nov 2012
    Maryland
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    Try the Daughters of the American Revolution database. Then one of the ancestry services.

  10. #10
    gb
    Dec 2019
    Surrey
    761
    1946 times
    All Types Of Treasure Hunting
    Hi @AUhills

    Yes, “Serjt” is the abbreviation for Serjeant, which was the common spelling used within the British Army in those times. In fact it wasn’t formally replaced by “Sergeant” until 1953 and even today one regiment has been allowed to retain it as part of their heritage.

    I checked the list of service records for individuals who served in the Revolutionary War, compiled by the US National Archives & Records Service in 1972. It was collated from historical individual local records and covers regular units authorized by the Continental Congresses to form the Continental Army (the ‘American Army’ as such) together with the supplementary units of militia and volunteers created by states, counties and towns (for all ranks). Inevitably as a result of documents that didn’t survive, it’s still probably an incomplete list, but there is no record for a “W. McAllister” of any rank nor indeed even for that surname.

    However, looking at other types of records, there is an interesting mention in the George Washington Papers, Series 4, General Correspondence “Abraham Skinner to Robert H. Harrison, July 20, 1779, Return of Prisoners Taken at Stoney Point on July 17th, 1779.” It includes the following entry (among many) for prisoners taken:

    Of the 17th Regiment of Foot:
    Serj’t McAllister
    [no initial for christian name is given].

    Stoney Point (about 30 miles north of New York City) had been taken by the British from a defending force of about 40 American Patriots in May 1779 and was then garrisoned by eight companies of the British 17th Foot plus detachments of Loyalists, grenadiers, and artillery. Washington’s Continental Army under the command of General “Mad Anthony” Wayne took it back on 16 July 1779, capturing 543 British prisoners. The Washington Papers detail all of their names, but sometimes only as surnames. A handful of captured commissioned officers were immediately exchanged with the British but the other ranks (including McAllister) were marched off to a prison camp at Easton, Pennsylvania. As a serjeant, he was a non-commissioned officer and not valuable for exchange purposes. Doubtless, if he had a powder horn it would have been taken from him.

    The 17th Foot had arrived at Boston on 1st January 1776 and in the next two-and-a-half years (before Stoney Point) were one of the most active British regiments. They played a prominent role in the Philadelphia Campaign; pursued Washington’s forces through New Jersey as far as New Brunswick, and again after the Battle of Trenton when Washington had briefly taken the town before withdrawing; saw action at the Battles of Long Island, White Plains, Fort Washington, Princeton, Brandywine and Germantown among others. A case could probably be made for its presence (or at least detachments of it) at all of the places detailed on that powder horn, although it’s not clear which “York County” is being referred to. It might be the one now in Maine (which was part of the Massachusetts Bay Colony at the time).

    I tried to check if Serjeant McAllister of the 17th was “W. McAllister” (if so, my bet would be that he was a “William”). Unfortunately, his record isn’t in the UK National Archives: “General Muster Books and Pay Lists 1730-1898” which means either that the documentation hasn’t survived or hasn’t yet been digitised for the archive available on the net.

    If you think any of this is worth pursuing, I have a potential historian for the 17th Foot contact who may be able to confirm whether McAllister was a “W. McAllister” and/or comment on the relevance of the places mentioned on the powder horn in relation to the regiment’s activity in the Revolutionary War… although probably not on the authenticity of the horn itself. On the other hand, the horn may be American and none of the above is relevant.
    Last edited by Red-Coat; May 11, 2020 at 06:00 PM. Reason: spelling: serjeant

  11. #11
    Charter Member
    us
    "WP"

    May 2012
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    Tough determining authenticity for sure...

    Some random thoughts from prior reading and horn making , none of which are being attributed to this specific horn.
    A horn could trade hands from one "side" of a war to another's.
    Maps or locations could be specific places a campaign was participated in. Or travels. Dated sites would not be unusual if personal.
    Yet a map of a fort or similar or a location the bearer had not been to yet could have been desired...

    A horn could have been crafted and worked by someone other than the user , and user added too. Should be obvious by the "hand" /method of scrimshawing/scratching, dye used to highlight ect.
    Red-Coat and AUhills like this.

  12. #12
    us
    Jun 2017
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    Wow thanks so much for the research and information, I think that is a lead definitely worth pursuing. It would be really interesting to find out it was the possession of a captured British soldier instead of an American militiaman. Especially a soldier from a regiment that played a role in so many significant battles. Hopefully the 17th Foot historian you know will be able to find out the first name of Serjt McAllister, I'm really curious now.
    Red-Coat likes this.

  13. #13
    gb
    Dec 2019
    Surrey
    761
    1946 times
    All Types Of Treasure Hunting
    Quote Originally Posted by AUhills View Post
    Wow thanks so much for the research and information, I think that is a lead definitely worth pursuing. It would be really interesting to find out it was the possession of a captured British soldier instead of an American militiaman. Especially a soldier from a regiment that played a role in so many significant battles. Hopefully the 17th Foot historian you know will be able to find out the first name of Serjt McAllister, I'm really curious now.
    Okey Dokey… I'll try my contact and report back on what he is or isn't able to say.

  14. #14
    us
    Dec 2012
    lower hudson valley, N.Y.
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    Red-Coat, all those towns on the horn are in Pennsylvania, the horn has no Brit association.
    Ya won't find nuthin' if ya don't hunt

  15. #15
    gb
    Dec 2019
    Surrey
    761
    1946 times
    All Types Of Treasure Hunting
    Quote Originally Posted by gunsil View Post
    Red-Coat, all those towns on the horn are in Pennsylvania, the horn has no Brit association.
    And the 17th Foot were active in Pennsylvania. As I said they played a prominent role in the Philadelphia Campaign. They fought at the Battle of Brandywine which took place at Chadds Ford in Pennsylvania on 11 September 1777 prior to the assault on Philadelphia. A detachment was with Cornwallis when he took the city and the 17th remained in garrison there until the city was evacuated in June 1778, using it as a base for further forays and engagements, including the Battle of Germantown (also in Pennsylvania of course). The records aren’t good enough to say how far from the city those engagements took them, but if the places referred to are in Pennsylvania, none of them are very distant from Philadelphia. Previously they fought at the Battles of White Plains and Fort Washington, after which Washington’s forces were chased all the way across New Jersey into Pennsylvania too.

    In any case, how can you know that the Trenton referred to is not Trenton NJ where the 17th were also active during those earlier exchanges, rather than Trenton Pennsylvania? Equally, there’s a Lebanon in NJ as well as in Pennsylvania and an Allentown in both states too. “York County” was not a city in Pennsylvania at this time. It was a county, for which the county seat was known as “Yorktown” and then just as “York” during the colonial period. How can you know which “York County” is being referred to, since there is also one that was part of the Massachusetts Bay Colony where the 17th originally landed (at Boston Harbour)?

 

 
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