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“Bombs Bursting in Air”

Eighth-plate tintype by an anonymous photographer. Michele Behan Collection.
Eighth-plate tintype by an anonymous photographer. Michele Behan Collection.

A cannonball at the feet of this federal would have been filled with an exploding charge and capped with a fuse in the visible hole. This type of ammunition illustrates the “bombs bursting in air” lyric in “The Star-Spangled Banner.” The cannonball could have been a photographer’s prop. It might also have been carried into the studio with purpose by the soldier, who may have been a heavy artilleryman or infantryman. His identity is not known. A barely readable inscription on the back of the iron plate appears to read Samuel Bo—-.


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