History, Historic Furnishing, and Historic Structure Reports
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Historic Furnishing Study

A. Large Armaments

Although Fort Stanwix was a solidly built fort for its day, it was actually never fully armed with the proper number of cannon.

In 1758, while it was under construction, 50 cannon and mortars were proposed for the fort. Each of the four bastions was to carry eight cannon; the remainder were to grace the curtains and other sections of the fort. The type and size of guns to be employed were as follows:

6eighteen pound iron cannons
12twelve pound iron cannons
12nine pound iron cannons
10six pound iron cannons
2eight inch iron Howitzers
2eight inch iron mortars
2thirteen eight inch iron mortars
4four and three-fifths iron coehorns

50 [1]

This plan to arm the fort with 50 guns was never realized. About a year later General Gage, who was superintending the construction of other forts on the Great Lakes and was desperately in need of any kind of assistance from Fort Stanwix, reluctantly admitted that the latter could provide little help in the way of guns having only one 12-pounder two 9-pounders, two 6-pounders, four 3-pounders, and two small mortars. [2] One traveller through North America in 1765 noted that while Fort Stanwix was "calculated" for a good many guns, it had only 18 mounted. [3] While the fort was undergoing reconstruction in 1776, an effort was made to supply it with the necessary guns, but the attempt was not any more successful than in 1758.

Anticipating the shipment of heavy guns, and before a detachment of artillerymen could be as signed, General Schuyler directed the commander of Fort Stanwix to

furnish the Officer of Artillery with such a Number of Men, as will be fully sufficient to work the Cannon in case of an Attack & they should be constantly exercised in that Business. This will not only be an advantage to the Regiment In case they [sic] should be no Artillery men may be at hand, hut be of service to the cause in general, that, one or more of your Officers, should also be instructed in the Management of Cannon. [4]

It was not until January 1777 that a company of artillery was dispatched to Fort Stanwix. [5] In the meantime, cannon and other guns, including related equipment and ammunition, were being shipped to Fort Stanwix. By June 1777 these supplies were leaving the quartermaster depot at Schenectady almost on a daily basis.

In spite of all this activity, however, a report issued the same month noted that the fort had only six "small" cannon and two field pieces to defend it. Schuyler unhappily complained to Washington that the fort was poorly supplied with cannon. [6]

After learning that the enemy had reached Oswego and was soon to threaten Fort Stanwix Schuyler quickly set about sending provisions and ammunition to the fort, but the effort, unfortunately, bore little fruit. [7] At the end of the siege, one member of the garrison reported in his journal that Fort Stanwix had 13 cannon on hand besides several guns of varying sizes and types taken from the enemy. [8]

Manuscripts reveal that from March through June 1778 the number and types of cannon at Fort Stanwix remained essentially the same. During this period, the fort had three 9-pounders, four 6-pounders, and four 3-pounders—a total of 11 cannon. In addition, it had four 4-2/5 caliber Royal mortars. [9] It is very likely that the above cannon were at least the same type of guns, if not the same ones, used during the siege.

An excellent inventory of the ordnance, including the cannon and mortars noted above, in store at Fort Stanwix in May 1778 revealed the following items in the quantities indicated:

11cannon (three 9-pounders, four 6-pounders, four 3-pounders)
4Royals, 4-2/5 caliber
4traveling carriages for 3-pound cannon
9garrison carriages for 6- and 9-pound cannon
2,269round shot
31cannister shot
393case shot fixed with flannel cartridges (shot were in all 3 caliber)
148grapeshot (for 6- and 9-pounders)
640wads (for 3-, 6-, and 9-pounders)
360tubes damaged (3- and 6-pounders)
450paper cartridges filled (3-, 6-, and 9- pounders)
849empty paper cartridges (3-, 6-, 9- pounders)
40handspikes (3-, 6-, 9-pounders)
14spunges (3-, 6-, 9-pounders)
8ladles (3-, 6-, 9-pounders)
10wad hooks (3-, 6-, 9-pounders)
14caps for spunges (3-, 6-, 9-pounders)
11aprons for cannon (3-, 6-, 9-pounders)
8priming wires (3-, 6-, 9-pounders)
11tompkins (3-, 6-, 9-pounders)
12lind stocks (3-, 6-, 9-pounders)
8tube boxes (3-, 6-, 9.-pounders)
1gin ropes
1set of men's harness
1coil of rope
5spunges for Royals
4aprons for Royals
4trail spikes
8post fire stocks
3dozens of post fires
10powder horns
20coils of slow match
16-1/2rheems of cartridge paper
4sets of dragropes for 3-pounders
1set of spare wheels for 9-pound carriages
1spare carriage for 9-pounders
1spare carriage for 6-pounders
63boxes of musket balls
127shells for Royals
37barrels of powder [10]

It may be of interest to compare the similarity of the following partial list of heavy armament and ordnance supplies, which appeared in a return of ordnance needed in the Northern Department in August 1777, with the preceding list of items:

7tons of 3-pound shot
4tons of 4-pound shot
3tons of 6-pound shot
3dozens of large horns suitable for priming, cannon, with belts, bits, priming wires, etc.
12dozen post fires
1/2ton of slow match
2000tubes suitable for 3-, 4-, and 6-pounders
2003-pound flannel cartridges
4004-pound flannel cartridges
2006-pound flannel cartridges
1000paper cartridges for 4-pounders
1000paper cartridges for 3-pounders
1000paper cartridges for 6-pounders
20sets of men's harnesses
20sets of dragropes
4dozen scissors for the laboratory
2dozen pairs of pinchers
2dozen hammers
500sheets of lead
2dozen tube boxes with belts
100yards of oil cloth for covering ammunition [11]

B. Small Arms and Ammunition

Although the written evidence is meager, the musket was probably the most common small weapon employed at Fort Stanwix during the siege. Whether the Brown Bess or some other English musket was used is not known, but in all probability, an English musket was extensively utilized. On the other hand, there is some concrete evidence that a French type of musket was also used. In June 1777, Leonard Gansevoort again wrote to his brother that "Lieut. McClallen has desired me to inform you that he has drawn out of the Store sixty good new French muskets and the like number of Quality Bayonets, Cartouch Boxes and Bayonet belts." This written evidence may be corroborated by the discovery by archeologists of a single iron forward band said to have probably come from a French weapon. [12]

Although there are few direct references to the use of the musket at Fort Stanwix, there are several references to musket ball and musket cartridges. [13]

There are several documents pertaining to the Northern Department and to posts in other parts of the colonies that make references to small arms and related items. From these documents we can conclude that generally the same arms and related equipment were probably employed at Fort Stanwix. A resolution passed by the New York Provincial Congress in August 1776 directed that every person in the military, including the city and county of Albany and Tryon County, was to furnish himself with a

good Musket or firelock & Bayonet Sword or Tomahawk, a Steel Ramrod Worm, Priming Wire and Brush fitted thereto, a Cartouch Box to contain 32 rounds of cartridges, 12 flints and a knapsack agreeable to the directions of the Continental Congress. . . . That every man shall at his place of abode be also provided with one pound of powder and three pounds of bullets of proper size to his musket or firelock. [14]

Pistols, usually carried by officers, were also used at Fort Stanwix. Reference to such a weapon appears in a letter from Jermiah Van Rensselaer to Willett [15] Swivel guns also might have been items in use at the fort, but if they were, they were in small numbers. These guns, along with musket balls, powder, bullet molds, cartridge paper, and fuzes, were requested of the New York Provincial Congress by General Schuyler for the Northern Department in 1775. [16] A return of ordnance at Fort Ticonderoga in July 1777 noted, among other types of supplies on hand, reams of musket cartridge paper, powder (in whole or half barrels), swivels (guns), wall pieces (guns), muskets, bayonets, pistols, bayonet belts, cartouch boxes, bullet molds, musket cartridges, priming wires, flints, boxes of musket ball, powder horns, and hand grenades. [17] That same month General Schuyler appealed to Washington to send him, among other much-needed items, "a Quantity of fixed Musquet [sic] Ammunition, cartridge paper." [18] The following month, while Fort Stanwix was under siege, the Northern Department made a note of ordnance stores needed. Among these items were lead for musket balls, bullet molds, reams of musket cartridge paper, and molds for buckshot. [19]

C. Edged Weapons

There is little documentation, other than on bayonets and spears, regarding the use of edged weapons at Fort Stanwix. In July 1777 a soldier at Fort Stanwix was punished for stealing a bayonet. [20] The use of bayonets is corroborated by the discovery of bayonets (one marked "U.S.") by archeologists in 1972. [21]

In describing his famous raid, Willett noted that in order not to be encumbered with too many weapons, his men left the fort with no other weapon "but a spear for each, 8 feet in length, which was intended to serve as a staff as well as a weapon of defense." [22] Again, this evidence is supported by the archeologists who found six spear tips in 1972. [23] A source dated May 24, 1781, refers to spears being thrown "out of their places." [24]

The small hatchet or tomahawk may have been a common weapon at Fort Stanwix, particularly in the hands of the militia. The New York Provincial Congress provided its troops with small hatchets, and insisted that each member of the militia be furnished with either a bayonet or tomahawk. [25]

Swords, knives, and daggers were probably also common weapons at Fort Stanwix, although no specific references in documents have been found. There were probably a variety of swords used by officers, and noncommissioned officers must have used short sabers. Knives and daggers were especially plentiful, since they could be used for cutting food and other objects, as well as for in-close fighting. The Massachusetts and Tryon County militias were most likely to be seen with them.

D. Accouterments

As in the ease of small arms and edged weapons, specific documentation attesting to the existence of accouterments of various sorts is also very meager. Nevertheless, the use of tents at Fort Stanwix seems to be established as early as 1759, and in 1776 one officer took umbrage at the fact that he was obliged to "lye in the tents along with the men whilst" his superior officer slept quietly indoors. [26]

Because the tent was indispensable during the periods that construction was going on, it is probable that it may have played a significant role in housing some of the men during the siege, when the garrison was overcrowded. Overcrowding at the fort was inevitable, although sources are silent on this subject. No doubt some room for the overflow was made available in barracks and casemates, but it is not unreasonable to suppose that the tent was employed within the fort in order to absorb some of this increase.

The knapsack and canteen were two items barely mentioned in documents; it is possible that they may not have been as plentiful as one would have liked. In fact, in April 1778, Lt. Col. Willett in writing to Colonel Gansevoort, who was temporarily away from Fort Stanwix, asked, "Don't you think the men ought to have each a Napsack [sic] of some kind or other in case anything should turn up to require us to march, as well as canteen. . . ." [27] The conclusion that there were knapsacks and canteens is reinforced by the fact that just before the siege, men were arriving almost daily at the garrison. These men must have carried such items, because a long march was unthinkable without them.

Other accouterments that were undoubtedly at Fort Stanwix were the powder horn, flints, and cartouch or cartridge boxes. It is inconceiveable not to imagine these items at Fort Stanwix during the siege. In 1776 the New York Provincial Congress set down what each member of the militia should have in addition to weapons. It directed that each man furnish himself with a steel ramrod. worm, priming wire (with a brush attached there to), and a cartouch box containing 23 cartridges, 12 flints, and a knapsack. [28]

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Last Updated: 26-Dec-2008