Collection Now Here's Something You Don't See Everyday!

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Tom Hughes

Corporal
Joined
May 27, 2019
Messages
463
Location
Mississippi
I was fortunate enough to be on a dig in Vicksburg where me and some relic hunting buddies uncovered some Navy Watercap Lead Safety Fuze Tabs.
I retrieved two from the hole - a 5 second and 10 second tab.
tabs.JPG

Here are the two specimens.

They were found in Vicksburg near Fort Hill on the bluff overlooking the Mississippi River.
Pete George, the "godfather of civil war artillery" made these comments:
"They are indeed civil war era lead safety seals from a US Navy Watercap (waterproof) artillery shell fuzeplug. The seal was put in place by the arsenal on the top of the fuzeplug to cover a wafer of mealed gunpowder which helped ignite the papertime fuze inside the fuzeplug underneath the waterproof cap.
The Navy Watercap fuze's lead seal was always marked with the time length of the paper timefuze inside the fuzeplug. For example: 5 second or 10 seconds of burning time before shell detonation."

I was blown away and humbled.
As it turns out, Vicksburg is one of the very few places where these were found during the war. That's because these were used aboard ships.
At Vicksburg, however, 9'' Dahlgren cannons were hoisted from the ships onto the hills and used during the siege.

I actually found mine near this Tennessee heavy artillery battery on Fort Hill Drive on private property.

plaque.JPG
 
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alan polk

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
Jun 11, 2012
Messages
2,774
Tom, I remember you getting the information from Pete George. These are indeed rare finds! If you forgot, or failed to keep the rest of his post, here are more specific points he made in regard to your items:

“[T]he Watercap fuzeplug was not put into the shell's fuzehole until just before firing the shell, because until then you didn't know what length of timefuze (5-seconds, 10-seconds, 15-seconds, etc) you needed for use on the target you were shooting at, depending on the range to the target.”

Below is a diagram of the fuze plug showing your tab as it would be used:

A53DEF57-E390-4DC6-8073-630168028080.jpeg


The seals you recovered are rare, and Pete George reiterated this. Again, if you failed to preserve all of his post, here is where he drives home just how rare your finds are:

“I must add my public congratulations on your EXTREMELY rare find. Those Watercap Fuze lead safety seals are almost never dug, because the Navy Watercap fuze was (of course) used almost entirely aboard ships. Vicksburg is one of the very-very few places where these lead safety seals have ever been dug.”
 
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