Chesapeake Bay Duck Gun

Although this has nothing to do with Civil War history, this does pertain to the organization I work for and the importance of conservation. Upon arriving at the Hessian Barracks for an event I did, I stumbled upon a neat artifact in the Bjorlee Museum which is located on the grounds of the Frederick Campus of the Maryland School of the Deaf. It is a bootleg (illegal) muzzle loader used by duck hunters along the Chesapeake Bay. The Chesapeake Bay gun was a weapon used by duck hunters and was thrown overboard from a boat to avoid capture by game wardens in the late 1800’s to early 1900’s.

This firearm measures ninety-three inches long, almost eight feet! The wooden stock at the base measures about six and a half inches by three and a half inches. The barrel itself is five-feet long and seven inches in diameter with a two inch bore. Illegal duck hunters would mount this gun to the skiffs on a boat and hunt in the waters where water fowl would nest for the night. By dawn the hunters would pick up their spoils by combing the beach after the carcass came ashore or wading in the waters. This gun was designed to fire gravel or pebbles found along the bay and that would be loaded through the muzzle. This gun nearly wiped out entire poulations of duck.

Apparently, the gun was hanging on the wall while Mr. Hayward entertained many of his friends, one of which was a game warden. The game warden listened to the story and later told Mr. Hayward that was illegal to possess such a weapon. In order to keep the gun, Mr. Hayward complied with local laws, filing a groove under the barrel that would be flattened if it was ever fired. Mr. Hayward became a board member of the School for the Deaf in 1923. The gun was donated by Thomas Hayward, and has been on the site of the School for the Deaf since 1932. Mr. Hayward died in 1937.

This is an interesting piece of history, and is just one of many artifacts that are housed in the Bjorlee Museum. Another neat Civil War artifact is an 1861 sewing machine, and a complete set of threads and a sheet showing how needles were made.

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