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Today in our meeting our Civil War buff introduced us to his next model, a Civil War Mortar Schooner. The vessel he is considering is the CP Williams that housed a single mortar mid deck. In that discussion our host of the Military History Society of Rochester NY introduced us to a fusing "stick" that he related was used as a timed fuse for the actual projectile. In the picture below (sorry for the fuzzy picture) one can clearly see the shaft demarcations representing some time interval. As related, the saw was used to cut the shaft to achieve the burn interval desired. Then this all gets a bit fuzzy for me. Can someone shed further info on exactly how these were used i.e was the ball loaded with gun powder, how did they judge the correct time interval, was the fuse lit by the explosive force of the charge etc.?


Secondly all 20 of these vessels were re-purposed schooners and as such there are no drawings in the National Archive. Does anyone have a source of further info on these schooners? Judging from the mass of the mortar certainly some rework of the vessel's backbone had to be considered.





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I reaching into the dark recesses of memory here so bear with me.    The ball was filled with powder as was the fuse. I believe there might have a different powder used for the fuse that burned a tad bit slower.   After determining range, the fuse would be cut and hammered (gently) into the ball.  The whole thing was put in the mortar and when the mortar fired, the fuse was lit by the blast.  Note that this wasn't precise and something the fuse didn't ignite or heaven forbid, it was a fast fuse and blew the shell very early....


They were using the same type fuse on all shell guns not just mortars.

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There is an extensive explanation of fuses and bombs in Adrian Caruana's The History of English Sea Ordnance, Volume II, The Age of the System. It is a large (and expensive) work, but you may be able to access it through inter-library loan. It is a very scarce volume.

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Please forgive me if you already know this but the Civil War mortar schooners with dimensional data, build location and date are listed in Paul Silverstone’s Warships of the Civil War Navies.  There are a number of two masted coasting schooners described in Chapelle’s National Watercraft Collection.  To build a plausible model your modeler could to try to select a vessel from the collection that has been documented that best matches the characteristics listed in Silverstone.


I noticed that one of the mortar vessels was built at Mystic, CT.  There is a paper in the Internet by Maynard Bray listing drawings held at the Seaport.



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Interesting, didn't see this kind of fuse before. The ones use over here in Europe during that period were hollow wooden cones that screwed into the shells. The cone was perforated at intervals and a fuse like you see today on fireworks was reefed through one of the holes and led to the outside. The lower the hole one used, the longer the fuse would burn. It was ignited by the charge of the gun/mortar.



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