Straight Outta Woolwich

A sampling of the range of works in Fort Ticonderoga’s library, the title pages of Christoph Friedrichs von Geisler’s Neue, Curieuse und vollksommene Artillerie, Dresden, 1718, and Marchel Blondel’s L’Art de Jetter les Bombes, Paris, 1683. (Collection of the Fort Ticonderoga Museum)

A sampling of the range of works in Fort Ticonderoga’s library, the title pages of Christoph Friedrichs von Geisler’s Neue, Curieuse und vollksommene Artillerie, Dresden, 1718, and Marchel Blondel’s L’Art de Jetter les Bombes, Paris, 1683. (Collection of the Fort Ticonderoga Museum)

To kick off the 2016 season, Fort Ticonderoga will open a new exhibit, “The Last Argument of Kings: The Art and Science of Artillery in the 18th Century.”  This project is supported in part by a generous grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services and involves a re-contextualization of Fort Ticonderoga’s massive collection of early modern artillery. This means a lot of reading! Fortunately, Fort Ticonderoga’s library is well stocked with artillery manuals, treatises, and handbooks, thanks to the foresight of the museum’s founders in the 20th century who built a rich collection of period literature on the art of war. The collection contains works on artillery, bombs, and mines reaching back into the 17th century through the middle of the 19th century (including a confederate ordnance manual from 1863). These books span the period when smoothbore artillery was the king of the battlefield, when it was quite literally “the last argument of Kings.”

The Fort Ticonderoga Museum’s earliest works on artillery were almost exclusively published in French, out of Paris, Amsterdam, and the Hague; the most important being Surirey de Saint Remy’s three volume Memoires d’Artillerie, of which the library holds two editions (1697 and 1745). Christoph Friedrichs von Geisler’s Neue, Curieuse und vollksommene Artillerie, published in Dresden in 1718 is one example of a German edition of the time. Few books were written on the subject in Great Britain until the second half of the 18th century, introducing a problem for monolingual English speakers. Granted there were some of the Continental volumes that were translated into English, such as the 1746 English edition of A Treatise of Artillery by the Frenchman Guillaume Le Blond, part of a larger series on the art of war.

Muller Title Page Treatise of Artillery

Title page of the 1779 Philadelphia edition of John Muller’s Treatise of Artillery showing Colonel Jeduthan Baldwin’s inscription. (Collection of the Fort Ticonderoga Museum)

This changed, in part, thanks to John Muller, an English mathematician and engineer that served as chief master of the Royal Military Academy in Woolwich. Muller was especially dedicated to the technical training of artillery officers. The French and Germans had been receiving technical training for some time and it eventually developed in Britain. Muller generated a wealth of new works and translations on artillery, fortification, siegecraft, and mathematics from the 1730s through the 1750s. Although some works in English were published between the middle of the 17th century and middle of the 18th century, the field was dominated by foreign translations. Muller’s 1757 Treatise of Artillery stands out as an original English work on the subject. Most 18th and early 19th century writers in English consider it the first volume in their own language.

What may be somewhat more important was the impact of the Treatise on the artillery arm of the young American forces during the Revolutionary War. Muller’s broader work on “Mathematicks,” Fortification, and Artillery in seven volumes was just one of four military-specific works that Henry Knox stocked in his London Bookstore prior to the outbreak of war. Responding to a query from John Adams in 1776, Knox specifically recommended that American officers should read Muller’s Treatise. Knox’s regard for Muller’s work was reinforced by its use at the short-lived artillery academy at Pluckemin, New Jersey over the winter encampment of 1778-1779. Muller’s Treatise was in fact the first artillery-specific volume to be printed in the United States.

American printing on military topics was dominated by manuals of arms and treatises on the management of infantry. It wasn’t until 1779 that Muller’s Treatise of Artillery was added to this output by the Philadelphia printers, Styner and Cist. This printing was due in some part to its centrality as a text on the art and practice of artillery that was accessible to Anglophone Americans. The Philadelphia edition was appropriately dedicated (taking up a whole page) to George Washington, Henry Knox, and the officers of the Continental Artillery. The importance of the work is also underscored by the re-use of plates nearly identical to Muller’s work in American artillery manuals printed in the 1790s, of which the museum holds a number of copies. Muller’s text dominated American military thought until nearly the turn of the 19th century as the modern theory and practice of the successful French artillery.

Plates Artillery of the US

The continuing influence of Muller’s work in America. Above, An 8 Inch Howitz Carriage as it appears in the 1779 Philadelphia edition of Muller’s Treatise, virtually a copy of the London printing, below, An 8 Inch Howitz Carriage printed in William Stevens, System for the Discipline of the Artillery of the United States of America, New York, 1797. (Collection of the Fort Ticonderoga Museum)

The Fort Ticonderoga Museum holds a copy of the 1779 Philadelphia edition of Muller’s Treatise. The engravings depict artillery carriages and related vehicles which are accurately reproduced from the London original. These have been invaluable as a resource for our exhibition and interpretive departments to recreate the material culture of Anglo-American artillery during the Revolution. Hand written above the title in dark ink is the word “Northampton 1841.” The name of the owner evidently written above has been torn away. This inscription was added after an earlier owner’s name was crossed out. Partially obscured through the tear in the paper but still visible is the name “Colo Jeduthan Baldwin, Engineer.”

Jeduthan Baldwin was the chief engineer at Ticonderoga and Mount Independence between 1776 and 1777. He prepared the defenses that made the camp into an impregnable fortress and compelled the General Carleton’s British force to withdraw in the fall of 1776. Like many Yankees, Baldwin was no newcomer to Ticonderoga; he had served at Fort William Henry in 1755 and 1756 as the captain of a company from his native Massachusetts and accompanied Amherst’s final campaign to take Ticonderoga in 1759.

Uniform coat of the Boston Independent Company of Cadets, 1772-1774, worn by Jeduthan Baldwin’s cousin Cyrus Baldwin’s prior to the Revolution. (Collection of the Fort Ticonderoga Museum)

Uniform coat of the Boston Independent Company of Cadets, 1772-1774, worn by Jeduthan Baldwin’s cousin Cyrus Baldwin’s prior to the Revolution. (Collection of the Fort Ticonderoga Museum)

Close to the beginning of the Revolution, Baldwin was involved as an engineer preparing the works around Boston until its evacuation by the British when he was finally sent to Ticonderoga. Baldwin remained in the Engineer Corps through the evacuation of Ticonderoga in 1777, thus he may have purchased the edition of Muller’s Treatise during a visit to Philadelphia in 1780, as it post-dates his service here. The volume confirms the American consumption of English artillery literature by officers of the Continental army.

It might be added that the Baldwin family contributed mightily to the American cause. Jeduthan served nearly the entire war, retiring in 1782. His brother Isaac had been killed at the Battle of Bunker Hill in 1775. His cousin Loammi Baldwin was given command as Colonel of a regiment of Massachusetts men designated as the 26th Continental Regiment that served during the New York campaign and crossed the Delaware prior to the attack on Trenton, New Jersey under Washington’s command. Loammi is also the namesake of the Baldwin apple which he propagated. Loammi’s brother Cyrus, another cousin of Jeduthan, was the owner of the only surviving Boston Company of Cadet’s uniform, now part of Fort Ticonderoga’s collections and perhaps the oldest surviving American made military uniform in existence. The Baldwins testify to the depth of service and sacrifice one family was capable of during the tumultuous period the American Revolution, which is well represented and preserved in the Fort Ticonderoga Museum’s collection.

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