One of the most interesting genres of American art that survives from 18th century America is the engraved powder horn. Horns fashioned for carrying gunpowder were supplied to military troops in both the French & Indian War and American Revolution. Soldiers often engraved or carved designs on their horns, perhaps as a way of memorializing their service and the places they served.
Daniel Dwight was a regimental surgeon in General Phineas Lyman’s 1st Connecticut provincial regiment during the 1759 campaign. His powder horn was engraved at Ticonderoga and records the only surviving view of the siege works constructed in 1759 by the British about a half-mile from Fort Ticonderoga. The British cannon batteries identified by the number “5” on this powder horn held a total of 11 cannon. The two larger batteries each held one 12-pounder and three 24-pounders and the smaller battery held two 10-inch mortars and one 13-inch mortar.
Once the British cannon batteries were securely in place, the small French garrison blew up the powder magazine in the southeast bastion which set fire to the Fort as they retreated northward. With the Fort securely under British control, General Amherst renamed the stronghold Fort Ticonderoga.
While the person who engraved Dwight’s horn did not sign his work, powder horn historians generally refer to hors with the same decorative elements as seen on Dwight’s horn as the “Momento Mori” carver. The “Momento Mori” carver was most likely a member of the Connecticut provincial forces and served with the army in the Lake George region. His work is typified by the distinctive border decoration at the ends of the horn and form of the cartouche enclosing the horn owner’s name.
Blog post by Christopher D. Fox, Curator, Fort Ticonderoga