At first glance, this object—a smooth, solid lead sphere less than an inch in diameter—seems noteworthy only for its simplicity. It is a musket ball, the ammunition used during the colonial wars and the War of Independence in the 18th century. The unassuming solid-lead musket ball bears little resemblance to its modern successors: contemporary ammunition must be precisely manufactured in factories to exacting specifications, while the 18th-century musket ball was so simple it could be hand-cast around a campfire using a basic mold. But there is more to the musket ball than first appears. Indeed, its design—and its limitations—had a great deal of influence on the way that Americans organized their defenses during the colonial period and waged their war for political independence against the British.
Click on each image below to learn about the object and its significance in American history.
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