Archive for the 'Wars' Category

Mar 25

The Conservation of Enfield Rifle Barrels from USS Tulip

Monday, March 25, 2013 9:32 AM

The Naval History and Heritage Command’s (NHHC) Underwater Archaeology Branch (UAB) manages the Archaeology & Conservation Laboratory which is primarily tasked with the documentation, treatment, preservation, and curation of artifacts from US Navy sunken military craft. Artifact conservation is an integral part of any archaeological investigation and allows for the long-term study, interpretation, and preservation of irreplaceable submerged cultural resources.

Recently, the Archaeology & Conservation Lab has been treating a group of Enfield rifle barrels from the wreck site of USS Tulip. Purchased by the Union Navy during the Civil War, Tulip, a steam-screw gunboat, joined the Potomac River Flotilla in 1863. Tulip was tasked with towing, transporting and landing soldiers, supporting Union communication, and maintaining the Union blockade of Confederate ports. The vessel later sank off of Ragged Point, Virginia on 11 November 1864 after her defective starboard boiler exploded. The sinking claimed the lives of 49 of the 57 sailors on board.

USS Tulip Rifle Barrel Before Conservation Treatment

USS Tulip Rifle Barrel Before Conservation Treatment

USS Tulip and her associated contents, like all US Navy sunken military craft, remain property of the US government regardless of the passage of time or location, and are further protected from unauthorized disturbance or artifact removal by the Sunken Military Craft Act (SMCA). Many of the artifacts from Tulip are a painful reminder of the importance of protecting and preserving these archaeological sites. The Tulip artifacts were removed without permission in an unmethodical manner and did not receive conservation treatment after recovery. Because of this, many artifacts which were likely very well preserved at the time of recovery became seriously deteriorated due to unmitigated corrosion and dry storage in a non-climate controlled environment. Archaeologists have also lost the valuable information that is conveyed by documented artifact provenance on an underwater site.

After a two year effort by the Maryland Maritime Archaeology Program, over 1,500 artifacts, previously removed from the wreck site of USS Tulip in the late 1960s, were returned to the US Navy and sent to NHHC for conservation. The artifact collection includes military uniform components, navigation equipment, ceramics, personal items, medical items, ship’s hardware, tools, ordnance and artillery including the Enfield rifles. These particular rifles were manufactured by the Royal Small Arms Factory in Enfield (London), which was owned by the British government and produced weaponry such as rifles, muskets, and swords. The rifles were a popular weapon with both Confederate and Union soldiers during the Civil War for their accuracy and reliability. Both the Union and the Confederate armies purchased Enfield rifles from the British to outfit their troops.

USS Tulip Rifle Barrel and Ramrod After Conservation Treatment

USS Tulip Rifle Barrel and Ramrod After Conservation Treatment

The Archaeology & Conservation Lab has been able to conserve and preserve several of the USS Tulip Enfield rifle barrels. To prevent further corrosion on the barrels, conservators used a process called Electrolytic Reduction (ER) to remove the corrosion-causing compounds from the artifacts, effectively stabilizing them. The barrels were then carefully cleaned and coated with a solution which bonds to the iron and creates a protective film on the surface of the barrels. After all the barrels have received conservation treatment, they will be temporarily stored in the curation spaces in the Archaeology & Conservation Lab with the hope to eventually place them on exhibit.

 
Feb 20

February 20, 1815: The Capture of HMS Cyane and Levant by the USS Constitution uder Captain Charles Stewart

Wednesday, February 20, 2013 1:00 AM

This article, written by Naval Constructor C. W. Fisher, U. S. Navy was published in the February 1917 issue of Proceedings magazine, entitled “The Log of the Constitution, Feb. 21-24, 1815: The Capture of the Cyane and the Levant .

 

025 Capture of Cyane and Levant NH 86692-KN

The Capture of the Cyane and Levant by U.S. frigate Constitution

 

Enclosed herewith is a blueprint of an extract from the log of the U. S. frigate Constitution, dated February 21 to February 24, 1815. This brief extract includes a description of the action between the Constitution and British vessels Cyane and Levant. As an example of most admirable seamanship, excellent control, fine tactics, and a happy as well as forceful style of recording important events, I consider this brief extract to be of sufficient value to warrant its being published for the “information and guidance” of the navy to-day. It would be hard to find a better model than this modest record of a most unusual and courageous action.

 

Log of the Constitution001

Remarks &c. on board U. S. frigate Constitution, Charles Stewart Esq., Commander on a Cruise, Tuesday February 21, 1815

 

Log of the Constitution002

Remarks &c. continued, Tuesday February 21, 1815

 

Log of the Constitution003

Remarks &c. on board U. S. frigate Constitution, Charles Stewart Esq. Commander on a Cruise, Wednesday February 22, 1815

 

Log of the Constitution004

Remarks &c. on board U. S. frigate Constitution, Charles Stewart Esq., Commander on a Cruise, Thursday February 23, 1815

 

Log of the Constitution005

Remarks &c. on board U. S. frigate Constitution, Charles Stewart Esq. Commander on a Cruise, Friday, February 24, 1815

 
Feb 7

February 6, 1973: Navy Task Force 78 Begins Operation End Sweep

Thursday, February 7, 2013 9:19 AM
A Marine Sea Stallion helicopter with a magnetic orange pipe in tow sweeps the Bay in Hon Gay, North Vietnam during Operation End Sweep.

A Marine Sea Stallion helicopter with a magnetic orange pipe in tow sweeps the Bay in Hon Gay, North Vietnam during Operation End Sweep.

This article was originally published in the March 1974 issue of Proceedings magazine by Rear Admiral Brian McCauley, U. S. Navy

Western strategists of every stripe had grown hoarse calling for the mining of Haiphong Harbor and, at last, it was done. Now, with the ceasefire signed, the mines had to be retrieved or destroyed and, as surface ships of Task Force 58 trailed a sweeping heli­copter into Haiphong on 17 June 1973, the end of “End Sweep”—a tedious, lengthy, and totally unglamorous job—was in sight. Read the rest of this entry »

 
Jul 26

Naval Reserves in the Korean War

Thursday, July 26, 2012 3:21 PM

Three Panther jets make a pass over their carrier USS Boxer (CV-21) before landing aboard in Korean waters.

On July 27, 1953, the Korean War Armistice Agreement was signed at Panmunjon, Korea, and the Korean cease-fire went into effect at 10:00 PM, ending three years of combat. The following article, published in the July 1952 issue of Proceedings, gives an account of what it was like to be a part of a Naval reserve group in the Korean war.

STANDBY SQUADRON

By LIEUTENANT W. H. VERNOR, JR., U. S. Naval Reserve

 

IF you’ve ever driven between the Texas cities of Fort Worth and Dallas on a Sunday morning, chances are you’ve seen some of the rugged, old Navy TBM torpedo bombers lumbering into the air from Dallas’ nearby Naval Air Station. You’ve seen these planes on weekends because they’ve been turned over to the Navy’s Air Reserves, civilians who use their weekends to renew their proficiency in the art of flying and keep up with the latest developments in Naval Aviation. These air reserves, many of them Navy veterans, have maintained more than a nodding acquaintance with the Navy over the past few years. Not only at Dallas, but at other similar Naval Air Stations scattered over the nation, these Sunday flying reserves have become known as the “Weekend Warriors.”

This program was set up by foresighted regular Navy airmen at high command levels. Since the end of the last war, it has kept available a trained and ready pool of organized squadrons-at a fraction of the cost required to maintain a large, continuously active air arm. When fighting broke out in Korea, certain of these standby squadrons were quickly activated; the practical test of the plan was underway. And now that several air groups of these all-reserve squadrons have been operating from aircraft carriers off Korea for many months, the test results are clear: the Navy’s “Weekend Warrior” plan has paid off. Read the rest of this entry »

 
Jul 24

Operation Forager

Tuesday, July 24, 2012 10:17 AM

Japanese planes burning on the air strip on Tinian Island.

On July 24, 1944, the Naval Task Force landed Marines on Tinian. After victory in the Battle of Saipan from June 15 to July 9, Tinian, which was 3.5 miles south of Saipan, was the next logical step in the U.S. strategy of island hopping. Tinian was Phase III of Operation Forager, which began with the capture of Saipan (Phase I) and the battle for the liberation of Guam (II), which was raging even as the Marines were approaching Tinian. Submarines were used to destroy enemy forces approaching the islands , clearing the way for the beach landing. The following article, published in the August 1964 issue of Proceedings, gives an account of the submarines’ success.

Operation Forager

by Sherwood R. Zimmerman, Ensign, U.S. Navy

By May 1944, General Douglas MacArthur, U.S. Army, and his Southwest Pacific Forces had driven westward along the northern coast of New Guinea to the island of Wakde, in preparation for the next step, the invasion of Biak. Admiral Raymond A. Spruance, U. S. Navy, in command of the Fifth Fleet, had completed Operation Desecrate on 30 March and, with a carrier air raid on the Palau Islands ended, plans were laid to thrust the sword of sea power deep into the underbelly of the Japanese Empire.

Meanwhile, Admiral Soemu Toyoda, Commander-in-Chief of the Japanese Combined Fleet, was preparing for quite a different type of operation. The Japanese Empire had been pushed back to a line joining Biak to the Carolines, Marianas, and home islands. Toyoda realized that an attack on this perimeter was imminent, but was determined to hold the line at all costs. A confrontation of enemy fleets was, therefore, unavoidable; it resulted in the Battle of the Philippine Sea. Read the rest of this entry »

 
Jul 23

Richard Dale Strikes Barbary Pirates

Monday, July 23, 2012 9:47 AM

July 23, 1801

Commodore Richard Dale blockades Tripoli in America’s first foreign war.

In the December 1937 issue of Proceedings, Lieutenant Felix Howland wrote about the American blockade of Tripoli during 1801 to 1802, examining the popular conception that the blockade had been a success. Howland’s article highlighted the necessity of vigilantly maintaining the blockade, and emphasized the implications of failing to do so:

On May 14, 1801, Tripoli declared war against the United States. Shortly thereafter an American squadron under the command of Commodore Richard Dale appeared in the Mediterranean, and on July 23, 1801, Mr. William Eaton, the Consul at Tunis, taking advantage of the presence of the American ships, declared Tripoli under blockade and notified Commodore Dale of his action. As there has been generally current the idea that this blockade was successfully and vigorously prosecuted thereafter until the end of the war in 1805, it is the purpose of this paper to present some hitherto unpublished documents in the archives of the State Department which show how false is such an opinion and which help to explain why Commodore Richard V. Morris, who succeeded Dale, was subsequently disgraced for his part in the failure of the blockade. Read the rest of this entry »

 
Jul 18

John Paul Jones Remembered

Wednesday, July 18, 2012 8:15 AM

Portrait of John Paul Jones by Cecilia Beaux in the U. S. Naval Academy Museum

The United State’s first well-known naval fighter died 220 years ago, on July 18, 1792. Originally published in the July 1947 issue of Proceedings to mark the bicentennial of his birth, the following article outlines the life of John Paul Jones and his contributions to the Navy.

THE BICENTENNIAL OF JOHN PAUL JONES

By DR. LINCOLN LORENZ

VIEWED from the bicentennial of his birth, John Paul Jones has even greater eminence now as a leader of the American Navy at its beginning than he won at the time of his incomparable triumph in the battle of the Bonhomme Richard with the Serapis. The climax of his intrepid career on this occasion was in keeping with his life so that he remains today, even following the panorama of heroic exploits of two world wars, an indomitable warrior of unique personality. He became the first American naval officer to set a tradition of victory, to win respect for the flag by other nations, and to have the statesmanship to foresee and urge the paramount importance of the Navy in our future history. Read the rest of this entry »

 
Jun 26

U.S.S. Scorpion Artifact Vignette: Surgical Scissors

Tuesday, June 26, 2012 8:49 AM

“It is no small presumption to dismember the image of God.”

-John Woodall (1556-1643)

The Naval History and Heritage Command’s Underwater Archaeology Branch (UAB) has been conducting a multi-year investigation of a shipwreck in the Patuxent River believed to be War of 1812 vessel USS Scorpion. During the 2011 field season, several artifacts were recovered from the vessel’s hold including a pair of surgical scissors, SCORP-2011-53 (Figure 2). Previous investigation of the shipwreck in 1979 yielded another pair of surgical scissors, 99-69-AE (Figure 1). UAB has been conducting ongoing research to better understand the specific medical uses of these artifacts.

Figure 1: A range of artifacts collected from the suspected USS Scorpion site.

Although both scissors are made of iron, the design of each blade is rather different. The first scissor found in 1979 is a small instrument, measuring 13.2 cm. The blades are short and slender accounting for 5.5 cm of the total length. Each blade terminates in sharp points; they meet the base of the handle at a slight angle. The second pair found in 2011 is a more familiar shape. This scissor is slightly longer, measuring 13.4 cm. The blades of this instrument also terminate in a sharp point, but unlike 99-69-AE, the blade to handle ratio is skewed in favor of the blades as the blades account for 7.5 cm of the total length. Both pairs of surgical scissors (Figure 2) bear the maker’s mark “Nowill”.

Figure 2: 99-69-AE (Left) and SCORP-2011-53 (Right)

In one irony of the war, the marker’s mark on the scissors indicates they were manufactured by Haugue & Nowill, of Sheffeild England. This suggests that Dr. Thomas Hamilton, the assigned surgeon aboard U.S.S. Scorpion, purchased at least part of his naval kit from an English firm. Unfortunately, research on the manufacturer revealed little information related to the specific functions of the scissors. This may be due to the fact that in the 1800s firms did not specifically associate themselves with the production of surgical instruments; instead they were silver firms etc.

 Much information can be learned about the intended use of surgical scissors by analyzing variations in their point, blade length, or angulation. Although there appears to be no recorded medical standard that dictates the specific correlation between scissor dimensions and function, a 1952 inventory compiled by Down Bros. and Mayer & Phelps LTD allows for some clarification. The inventory catalogued 104 pairs of historical scissors of varying types providing detailed measurements, scale drawings, and specific functions. It also suggested that the function of an instrument can possibly be determined by analyzing the percentage of blade length compared to the total length of the scissors. Scissors with a smaller percentage of blade length were typically used to make small controlled incisions while instruments with a higher percentage were used for post-mortem operations.

Based on the Down Bros and Mayer & Phelps LTD inventory, it is possible to posit the function of both pairs of recovered scissors. The total length of SCORP-2011-53 measures 13.4 cm while the length of the blade measures 7.5 cm (i.e. the blade composes approximately 55% of the instrument). An instrument with such a high blade percentage may have been used for post-mortem procedures such as cutting open large lengths of bowel for examination. A pair of scissors with identical shape and blade percentage can be found at the Musée de Histoire de la Médecine in Paris (Figure 3). This particular pair is part of a kit used by Dr. François Carlo Antonmarchi in 1821 during the autopsy of Napoleon Bonaparte. 

Figure 3: Surgical instruments used by Doctor Antommarchi for the dissection of Emperor Napoleon I (1769-1821). Musee d'Histoire de la Medecine, Paris, France / Archives Charmet / The Bridgeman Art Library

The total length of 99-69-AE measures 13.2 cm while the length of the blade measures 5.5 cm, (i.e. the blade composes approximately 42% of the instrument). Based upon this percentage and the angulation of the blade, it is likely that this instrument was used to cut bandages. However, the ends of the instrument terminate into sharp points which would also allow the scissor to enter tight spaces and perform more delicate procedures such as suture removal.

Naval surgeons were outfitted with a standard set of equipment that would allow them to fulfill any possible medical demands that could occur on board. This ranged from amputation blades to apothecary bottles, and would also include several different types of scissors. Although individual surgeons would be given a medical kit upon boarding a ship, it was expected that these supplies would stay with the ship. In the case of U.S.S. Scorpion, the assigned surgeon, Dr. Hamilton, may have not been present at the scuttling of the ship but all of his supplies remained on board. Many of the recovered artifacts at UAB would have been used by Scorpion’s surgeon to treat the men of the Chesapeake Flotilla. The range of artifacts recovered shed further light on the activities of a naval surgeon during the War of 1812. Although these instruments were designed with a particular function in mind, it is likely that the demands of the ship outweighed decorum and were used for a wide range of activities. 

Further Reading:

1. Bennion, Elisabeth. “Surgical Scissors.” In Antique Medical Instruments. London: Sotheby Parke Bernet Publications, 1979. 73.

2. Kirkup, John. “Scissors and Related Pivot-Controlled Cutting Instruments.” In The Evolution of Surgical Instruments: An Illustrated History From Ancient Times to The Twentieth Century. California: Norman Publishing, 2006. 247-260.

 
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