Powder Horn

Brown curved object raised on one end by two small stands.

Massachusetts National Guard Photo

Powder horns carried extra gunpowder for the flintlock muskets then in use by the Massachusetts Militia. This powder horn belonged to Zachariah Tarbell Sr. (1730-?) or his son Zachariah Tarbell Jr. (1754-?) of Westminster, Massachusetts. their unit, Capt. Wood’s Company of Col. Sargent’s Regiment, turned out on April 19, 1775 in response to the alarm at Lexington and Concord. They were too far away to arrive in time for any of the fighting in Concord, but Private Tarbell and his comrades continued to join the Siege of Boston. Tarbell Sr. got sick during the siege, but survived, and he and his son both returned home later in 1775.

Brown curved object with carvings etched into the surface.

Massachusetts National Guard Photo / David Wilkinson

Many powder horns from this period are heavily decorated. This one is much simpler, but very charming. It is obviously a bored soldier doodling on his powder horn images and scenes that meant something to him, such as the various shipping vessels he would have seen in Boston Harbor, and a white-tailed deer (a very rare animal in Massachusetts at that time).

Brown curved object with depiction of three people in a boat.

Massachusetts National Guard Photo / David Wilkinson

The most intriguing carving is one of three figures sitting in a small boat. This very likely could have been a reference to the capture of Zachariah, Sr’s two uncles and aunt, John, Zachariah, and Sarah, by Kahnawake Mohawks in 1707 from their home in Groton. Sarah was sold to a French family in Quebec and ended up as a nun, and the boys were adopted into the tribe, eventually marrying Mohawk women, and becoming leaders in the tribe.

They were among the founders of the Mohawk settlement of Akwesasne. Zachariah would have been 9 years old when his two uncles in their Mohawk clothing returned to Groton to meet the rest of their family, and probably heard their stories.

Part of a series of articles titled Citizen Soldiers.

Salem Maritime National Historic Site

Last updated: June 28, 2022