Our featured treasure for March are two items that were not designed for wealth or beauty, but rather for mayhem and destruction. Referred to as bar-shot, these obsolete projectiles usually consisted of two cannon balls, or half balls, joined by a solid bar. Fired from a black powder cannon, they were used to disable an opposing vessel. The principle was simple. Once fired, the projectile would tumble through the air and the whirling action would cut into sails, rigging, masts and yards. The resultant mangling would disable a vessel, making it unable to maneuver and easy to board or fire upon.
The two artifacts that we feature this month are prime examples of the types of bar-shot used by the Spanish fleets in the 17th and 18th centuries.
Our iron “four –pounder bar-shot displays two four-pound cannonballs joined by a square bar between them. It is 11 ¾” long and 3” in diameter on the ends. It weighs 3,167 grams, or about 7 pounds. It was recovered in the 1970s.
Our other example has a slightly different design but was effective nonetheless. Made of iron as well (as was almost all bar-shot) this piece is a wide six-sided bar that flares into flat round ends. It is 12” long and 4” in diameter at the ends but weighs a whopping 6,790 grams, or nearly 15 pounds!
As warships became less dependent on wind power the military usefulness of bar-shot and its variants died out.
Images and portions of this text courtesy of Daniel Frank Sedwick.