Powder horn inscribed “WILLIAM WILLIAMS” of Deerfield and Pittsfield, Massachusetts, and attributed to John Bush (1725-1757). The skilled carver John Bush fashioned this horn in his precise but fluid style, characterized by highly stylized capital letters, especially the letter “W,” graceful C-scrolls on most of the capital letters, and borders and other decoration linked with feather-like shells and flowers. Bush only worked a couple of years before his capture on August 9, 1757, and was never seen again. On the other hand, William Williams (d.1760) served as Surgeon’s Mate for his uncle, Doctor Thomas Williams (1718-1775) of Deerfield, and was present when Thomas’ brother, Colonel Ephraim Williams (1715-1755), was killed during the “Bloody Morning Scout” at the beginning of the Battle of Lake George on September 8, 1755. After service in the 1758 and 1759 campaigns, Williams was a surgeon in the campaign of 1760 and died of smallpox. Bush apparently carved this horn and a similar one, which he signed for Doctor Thomas Williams (see reproduction horn, HD 2006.28.3), right after the Battle of Lake George. The 1888 drawing in the papers of antiquarian Rufus Grider (1817-1900) records the Doctor’s horn (now lost) as signed by Bush; Grider's drawing is now in the New York Historical Society collection.
During the colonial wars and the Revolution, American soldiers carried black powder for their flintlock muskets in hollowed cattle horns, plugged at both ends. These lightweight containers “kept their powder dry” and were obtained from the hundreds of cattle driven behind the army for food. When dexterous comrades elaborately engraved the owner’s name and illustrations from the soldier’s world on their horns, they became a canvas for one of the few indigenous art forms of colonial America. This fine French and Indian War powder horn was made for William Williams, Jr. (died 1760), of Deerfield and Sheffield, Massachusetts, who served as Surgeon’s Mate under his uncle Doctor Thomas Williams (1718-1775) of Deerfield during the near disastrous Battle of Lake George on September 8, 1755, where many men from western Massachusetts became casualties. Among the most beautifully carved horns attributed to the hand of John Bush (born 1725), a mulatto soldier from Shrewsbury, Massachusetts, who began this tradition of ornamental horns, the carving style on this example is characterized by highly stylized capital letters, especially the letter “W,” graceful C-scrolls on most capital letters, and borders precisely linked with feather-like shells and flowers.
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