• 3" Hotchkiss Canister



    3" Hotchkiss Canister

    This is an intact Hotchkiss Canister projectile.  It was recovered from Appomattox/ James River at City Point. 

    It is intact and complete.  The base has the Hotchkiss patent marking and date of 1862.  The top is nicely crimped. this was recovered in the river at the site of a massive explosion.


    In the summer of 1864, the Confederate Secret Service executed a plot to disrupt the port's service. On July 26, Captain John Maxwell left Richmond, arriving in Isle of Wight County on August 2, where he was met by R. K. Dillard, who acted as his local guide. On August 9, the two talked their way past Union pickets and entered City Point. Under his arm, Maxwell carried a box with a "horological torpedo," or time bomb, that consisted of a timer mechanism and twelve pounds of gunpowder. Upon approaching the wharf, he handed the package over to a man working on the General Meade, where it soon exploded, igniting nearby ammunition stores. A Union ordnance officer who witnessed the blast wrote, "From the top of the bluff there lay before me a staggering scene, a mass of overthrown buildings, their timbers tangled into almost impenetrable heaps. In the water there were wrecked and sunken barges, while out among the shipping—where [there were] many vessels of all sizes and kinds—there was hurrying back and forth on the decks to weigh anchor, for all seemed to think that something more would happen."

    Some 58 people were killed and 126 wounded, while the damage estimate reached four million dollars. Even from his relatively safe vantage point, Dillard was permanently deafened by the explosion. Grant noted that "every part of the yard used as my headquarters is filled with splinters and shells." A Confederate prisoner awaiting exchange was killed, and a bayoneted musket was thrown a half-mile. Union officials had no idea what had caused the blast until after the war, and some had initially blamed careless black dockworkers.