Artifact Corner: Battle of Plattsburgh Edition – Episode 2

Hi everyone, and welcome back to our Battle of Plattsburgh series of Artifact Corner. Today we will be looking at a very interesting artifact, a cannon lock. This lock is made of brass, and would have been the firing mechanism for a cannon. There is a makers mark which reads J Sherwood. J Sherwood was a cannon lock manufacturer at number 67 Upper East Smithfield Row in London in 1812, according to the Post Office Directory for London.
Our cannon lock is incomplete. We are missing the hammer piece that would have held the flint. To fire the lock, you would pull the trigger, which would cause the hammer to fall, and the flint in the hammer will strike a steel pan, which then causes the spark that will fire the cannon. This is the same mechanism used for flint lock muskets of the time. This was a big advance from previous methods of firing artillery.
In the past, the person firing the cannon used a long stick, with a length of slow match wound around it. What is slow match? It is a length of cotton, linen or hemp cording boiled in lye. Saltpeter is added, and it is left to dry. When the cording is lit, it will burn very slowly, and act as a match for the powder. In order for a person to safely fire a cannon using slow match, they need to secure the slow match to something that will allow them to be at a distance from the cannon. The stick that holds the slow match is referred to as a linstock.
With a cannon lock as the firing mechanism, the person firing the cannon would be holding a length cord, and can stand further away from the cannon. This is not to say that this method was safer. Firing a cannon is inherently dangerous.
This cannon lock is in quite good condition despite missing the hammer. This piece and all of the pieces we are featuring this week are from the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum’s collections. We are so thankful to them for their generosity is helping to make this series happen. Thanks so much for stopping by.

Special thanks to the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum for access to the LCAA collection and their collaboration in making this video possible. Visit them at

Acoustic Breeze by Benjamin Tissot