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A Powder Boy

Written by: George Chittenden : 04 Sep 2019

This photo was taken on the USS New Hampshire in 1864 and features a powder boy or powder monkey. His role on-board was to man a naval artillery gun as a member of the warship’s crew. It was a role traditionally fulfilled by boys of 12 to 14 years of age, who were selected for the job based on their speed and height. Short boys were favoured as they were able to move more easily in the tiny spaces between decks and would also be hidden behind the ship’s gunwale, where they were safe from enemy ships’ sharp shooters. Occasionally women and older men also worked as powder monkeys, which is a term that goes all the way back to the Royal Navy in the 17th century.

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