The Civil War in Missouri

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The Artifact Gallery was made possible by a generous gift from the William T. Kemper Foundation – Commerce Bank, Trustee.


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Shipwright’s Caulking Mallet and Iron

mid-1800s
MHM Collections

These specialized tools are examples of the type that would have been used in the construction of James B. Eads’ gunboats at his shipyards in Carondelet, Missouri, and Mound City, Illinois. Eads contracted with the Federal government for the majority of Union ironclads that patrolled the western waters during the war and helped secure control of the Mississippi River. The caulking mallet and iron were used together to drive a caulk of hemp fiber soaked in pine tar into the wedge shaped seams between wooden planks. The caulking was then covered over by putty to create a watertight seal.