‘Bullseye’ At Gettysburg

The Hometown History column is presented by the Fenton History Center and The Post-Journal. Each Friday, a distinct item from the Fenton History Center collections or archival special collections will be featured. Learn about your hometown history through parts of its past.

If one of the items featured brings back some memories or brings up a question, please contact the Fenton History Center at 664-6256 or information@fentonhistorycenter.org to share your memory or get an answer to your question.

Just more than150 years ago, the Union and Confederate forces met in battle at the small town of Gettsyburg, Pa., with three hot days of attacks and retreats. As with all hot summer days, water was important to the well-being of all people and especially those on the battlefield. The canteen became almost as important as the gun and ammunition. The canteen carried the water, and the usually wool cloth covering of the canteen when wet helped to “cool” the water as the moisture evaporated from the cloth.

Undoubtedly a number of canteens littered the battlefield after three days, and many of them were like the above pictured canteen. This canteen is in the collection of the Fenton History Center. It was manufactured by Hadden, Porter and Booth in Philadelphia. This company was in business throughout the American Civil War. It was one of a number of companies that supplied canteens to the Union Army at the Philadelphia Depot. This model of canteen is referred to as Model 1858 by Hadden, Porter and Booth. One source on the Internet reported that this company supplied 1.5 million canteens to the Union Army.

Many canteens have smooth sides while this model has raised ridges in concentric circles which strengthen the sides. Each canteen, made by two round plates of pressed tin, is about 8 inches in diameter and holds about 3 pints of liquid. The two sides of the canteen were soldered together with three strap loops added to the edges at the bottom and each side. The two parts of the wool cloth cover were then sewn together around the canteen. A woven strap was then added through the strap loops so that it could be carried.

This canteen has a pewter spout on which the name of “Hadden, Porter and Booth, Philadelphia” has been stamped. Actually on this canteen it has been imprinted twice on the spout with the top one partly unreadable. The stopper is intact. The stopper is cork with a metal plate on top and bottom, and the pull ring on top goes through the cork and is held in place by a nut at the bottom. The chain that connected the stopper to the canteen is gone and replaced by a piece of twine tied around the spout but has broken where it was tied to the ring.

Because of the concentric circles of raised ridges on these canteens, they are referred to as “bullseye” canteens. With the cloth cover, these ridges were not as obvious until the cloth picked up dirt and then the circles became noticeable as can be seen in the picture.

While many of these canteens were certainly used and lost at Gettysburg, we don’t have this particular artifact’s provenance so we do not know if it was at the famous battle. However we do know the following about the local men who were at Gettysburg:

The 397 men of the 9th NY Cavalry lost 11 men: two killed, two wounded and seven missing. They maintained after the war that they fired the first shot at Gettysburg.

Two of the 359 men of the 49th NY Volunteer Infantry which were made up of both Erie and Chautauqua counties’ men were wounded.

The 305 men of the 72nd NY Volunteer Infantry lost 114 men: seven killed, 79 wounded and 28 missing.

The 154th NY Volunteer Infantry unit made up of men from Chautauqua and Cattaraugus counties lost almost 84 percent of the unit: one killed, 21 wounded and 178 missing.

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The purpose of the Fenton History Center is to gather and teach about southern Chautauqua County’s history through artifacts, ephemeral and oral histories, and other pieces of the past.

Visit www.fentonhistorycenter.org for more information on upcoming events.

If you would like to donate to the collections or support the work of the Fenton History Center, call 664-6256 or visit the center at 67 Washington St., just south of the Washington Street Bridge.