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Toy Cannon

American Revolution, Archaeology, Luke Pecoraro, Nicole Houck



The archaeological collection at Drayton Hall represents a diverse population of individuals who called Drayton Hall home, from the enslaved to the Drayton family, and their visitors. Despite the illustrious history of the plantation, there are gaps in the documentary record that provide only a fragmentary glimpse of daily life in the house when it was occupied in the 18th and early 19th centuries.


Recent excavations in the cellar of the main house yielded hundreds of artifacts relating to the important subject of who lived at Drayton Hall in the years leading up to and during the American Revolution.

A storage pit in the cellar was discovered, and evidence suggests it was used from the time of Drayton Hall’s construction (c. 1738) to the purchase of the property by Charles Drayton in 1784. Following Charles’ residence, the storage pit was filled in with refuse and sealed under stone pavers by 1795.

This provided our team with a great time capsule of material to interpret Drayton Hall’s history during the war years leading to America’s independence.

One such artifact found hints at the presence of children living in the home during this period in the form of a toy cannon barrel. Measuring 3” in length and made of brass, this cannon was a faithful reproduction of what would have then been used on the battlefields by European armies and, despite its small size, it was fully functional and designed to be packed with gunpowder and fire small pieces of shot at toy soldiers! Several other examples are known in collections throughout the Lowcountry, though the muzzles are often damaged, suggesting unfortunate accidents by the children using them.

As we continue to study what is known of the lives of the children who lived at Drayton Hall and determine who this toy may have belonged to, we wish everyone a safe and happy Independence Day and to promote safety when using fireworks for holiday celebrations.