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Rev War Magazine Chest: The Barrington Magazine
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Barrington, Rhode Island

Scarce Revolutionary War American militia magazine chest for storage of ammunition and equipment. Dovetailed American pine, 48 1/4 inches long, 18 by 18 inch body. The lid is detached but present, slightly warped, but showing holes on its rear edge matching those in the upper rear edge of the body for snipe hinges. The front edge of the top and the top center of the body show traces of an exterior latch that was probably secured with a separate lock. A 1 X 5 inch bracket for rope handles is nailed on each end.

Prominently painted in period hand on the back of the chest is:

The Barrington
Magazeain October 30th 1776

Two towns named Barrington were contenders for attribution, one in New Hampshire and one in Rhode Island. Barrington, Rhode Island, has the strongest claim. Not only does the town history refer to a town magazine that is plainly not a structure, but a storage unit for ammunition allotted to the towns militia, but there is even documentation for it's reception by the town in the town's records! Bicknell's 1898 town history transcribes the town records of December 5, 1776, recording the reception from Nathaniel Heath of 1 MAGAZINE CHEST COST 21s 6p. The date recorded on the back of the chest is thus likely the actually date of construction and the town record indicates the date of payment for it, one month later.

Barrington had a very active role in the Revolution, supplying men to continental army units and, just as importantly, guarding against British raids. The town militia consisted not only of a company of infantry, but a two-gun battery of artillery as well. The town history records not only the appointment of a committee to acquire arms and equipment for the militia company, but distribution by the colony to the town of powder, lead and flints at various points, and the distribution of cartridges. This town history also records an act of the town dated May 12, 1777:

Major Peleg Heath is appointed to have the care of the Towns Magazine and to the supply the Militia and Alarm with Cartridges

How the chest migrated from Barrington, R.I., to Batavia, N.Y., is unknown. Most likely it was carried there directly or indirectly by a descendant of the last militia officer charged with its care after it had been decommissioned from its military function. It was too useful to be thrown out or burned.

The chest was reused as a blanket chest after it passed out of military use and the front and sides were covered with a brown stain. The interior of the body is lined with 1902 dated Batavia, NY, newspapers, from its use as a blanket chest. The lid shows wear on one end. Likely there was something stacked on top on the other. The undersides of the extreme edges of the lid show narrow slats were once there that come down over the upper side edges of the body. The upper edges of the body on each side show a line marking where it was covered when the stain was applied.The upper body and rear of the lid show that the snipe hinge to the viewer's right wore through the wood during its period of use and was moved a few inches further and refastened.

Town records show several deliveries of powder, lead and musket flints to the town from provincial authorities during the war.

Nicely painted in a dead-real 18th century hand, likely by the maker. This was possibly Nathaniel Heath, but he may have simply delivered it or acted as a middleman in the transaction. In any case, the maker was a skilled craftsman.

This is a scarce Revolutionary War survivor. A few officers' campaign chests survive, but I cannot think of any comparable Revolutionary War munitions chest.

Shipping, delivery or pick-up will have to be arranged. Withing a reasonable distance, I can meet a buyer half way. I can say with some authority that the chest will fit in the backseat of a Toyota Corolla.

Shipping costs are in addition to the purchase price. NY addresses must add sales tax or supply a resale certificate. Payment by cash, check or bank money order. Delivery upon clearance of funds. Thanks!