Artifact Corner: Battle of Plattsburgh Edition – Episode 3

As part of our Battle of Plattsburgh celebration, today we’re looking at a flacon – a small glass bottle, likely used to hold medicine.

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

Hi everyone, and welcome back to our Battle of Plattsburgh series of Artifact Corner. Today we will be looking at a beautiful late 18th Century blue green French glass bottle. This bottle, along with all of the artifacts we are looking at this week came from the site of the Battle of Plattsburgh, in Lake Champlain.
This particular design of bottle is called a Flacon. A Flacon refers to a bottle that is smaller in size and has a stopper in it. Some flacons have stoppers made of the same material as the bottle, for example, a porcelain flacon with a matching porcelain stopper. The stopper for this bottle was likely cork, and has not survived the last 200 plus years. This bottle is similar to other 18th Century bottles that were used to hold oils and medicines, and so we believe it was a medicine bottle.
Any ship that was intended to travel a long distance, had to have medicine on board, and all fleets in military service would have a doctor or surgeon. For ships just traveling for commercial purposes, there were strict guidelines about provisioning for the health of the sailors. The following citation draws on the Acts of Congress for July 20, 1790, section 8. It states,
“Every vessel of one hundred and fifty tons or upwards,
navigated by ten or more persons in all, and bound on a voyage beyond the United States, and every vessel of seventy- five tons or upwards, navigated by six or more persons in the whole, and bound from the United States to any port in the West Indies, is required to have a chest of medicines, put up by an apothecary of known reputation, and accompanied by directions for administering the same. The chest must be examined at least once a year, and supplied with fresh medicines.”
The Battle of Plattsburgh was hard fought, and there were many casualties on both sides. The American’s had around 220 men killed and wounded. The British had almost 390 men killed and wounded. With so many people in need of medical care, they would have exhausted their supplies quickly. Maybe this bottle was emptied, and discarded? We don’t know why it ended up in nearly perfect condition at the bottom of the lake, but it is a beautiful example of 18th Century glass.

We are so fortunate to have been able to work with the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum for this series. All of the artifacts you see this week in our videos are part of their collections. If you would like to learn more about the history of Lake Champlain, check out their website, Thanks for stopping by.

Music: Acoustic Breeze by Benjamin Tissot