Tuesday, September 10, 2013

A Few Items from CSS Florida

Items from the museum's CSS Florida collection gives a glimpse into life aboard the Confederate cruiser. All of these items are currently on display in the museum's CSS Florida exhibit.

Pharmacist jar - This possibly belonged to the ship's assistant surgeon, Georgia-native Thomas J. Charlton, Jr.  Charlton joined the ship's company when the cruiser made port in Brest, France in late 1863. The words  on the jar read, "Pharmacie Podevin Constantin Succr, Pharmacie de 1s Classe Champe de Bataille 37 Brest." The first group of French words is believed to be the name of the pharmacist that the item originally belonged to.  "Champe de Battille 37 Brest" was the address.  The stamp at the top of the item is possibly where the French pharmacist received his training.

Nineteenth century medicine was at a cross roads between modern and old-fashioned remedies. Medical staff stored medicine in glass bottles. We don't know for sure what was in each of these bottles (particularly the one with liquid in it!).  A 19th century pharmacist would commonly have substances such as castor oil, quinine, magnesia sulphate, cholorform, collodion (to harden bandages), sulfuric acid, arsenic nitrate, veratria, and opium. Some naval surgeons were known to carry pumpkin seed oil (to kill tapeworms).

This is a leather sponge bucket.  Despite its humble looks, it is among the more treasured items in the collection. Leather artifacts often fall apart quickly in salt water.  This particular item was saved from the harsh effects of salt water.  One explanation could be that it was found buried in the sand of the James River. This bucket could have been used for daily cleaning of the deck or for possibly holding water to clean out gunpowder residue from one of the cruiser's guns.

These are two fuzes for Florida's shells used with one of the ship's Blakeley Rifles. Timed-fuzes ignited the power inside a hollow shell filled with gunpowder. They are both made of brass.  This was a necessary feature, as brass did not create sparks when being twisted into a shell. In theory, once a shell with a fuze was fired from the gun, the fuze's chemicals would begin to break down and then explode. This explosion in turn would ignite the power. The longer the fuze, the longer the time to explode. There are three such shells on display in the exhibit. Read more about them here.

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