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   jrbakerjr  Genealogy   
Making Buckshot In Missouri For The War of 1812
Large quantities of Munitions were obtained from Missouri by the U.S. for use in the War of 1812.
Producing lead shot from a shot tower was pioneered by William Watts of Bristol who adapted his house on Redcliffe Way by adding a three-story tower and digging a shaft under the house through the caves underneath to achieve the required drop. The process was patented in 1782. The process was brought above ground through the building of shot towers.
Molten lead would be dropped from the top of the tower. Like most liquids, molten lead becomes spherical as it falls. Usually water is placed at the bottom of the tower, causing the lead to be cooled immediately after dropping. Roundness of manufactured shot produced from the shot tower process is graded by forcing the newly produced shot to roll accurately down inclined planes; unround shot will naturally roll to the side, for collection. The unround shot was either
re-processed in another attempt to make round shot using the shot tower again, or used for applications which did not require round shot (split shot).
Herculaneum, Missouri, was laid out by Moses Austin and Samuel Hammond in 1808, and named after the ancient Roman town of Herculaneum, destroyed by the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius. Austin is said to have chosen the name because the limestone ledges overlooking the Mississippi River resembled a Roman amphitheatre.
The lead industry was an old one in Missouri when the war broke out. The Indians had mined the lead for centuries before the arrival of the White Man, and the Whites continued, but the shot was made by a hand mold process that was slow and cumbersome. Julien Dubuque began mining lead around Heculaneum in 1788.
About 1809, John Nicholas Maclot, a political exile from France, made his way to Missouri and discovered that Herculaneum offered facilities for the erection of a shot tower. Just below the town was a high and overhanging cliff. He could erect a place on the edge of the cliff where the lead could be melted, then dropped into a receptacle at the base.  He built one immediately and it worked. It was from this shot tower that large quantities of shot were supplied to U.S. forces for the War of 1812. Lead Balls for cannon were also supplied from the facility. It was said that the Munitions were responsible for the Victory at New Orleans in 1815.
One hundred years later even richer deposits of lead were discovered along the Mississippi in Missouri. The Mississippi Valley remains today the nations primary source of lead.
Little Herculaneum contains the largest lead smelter in the nation and the second largest lead smelter in the world. In combination with the smelter in Annapolis, Missouri, which is owned by the same company and is located a short drive further south, it produces eighty percent of the nation's refined lead. Only one other lead smelter in the US remains in production today. The smelter in Herculaneum has been in production now for over one hundred years. Fundamentally, the town exists to serve the smelter which is really the only industry in town.

James R. Baker Jr.



   jrbakerjr  Genealogy