A Project of the USS Constitution Museum

A Project of the USS Constitution Museum

The Magazine in Battle

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Buried deep below Constitution‘s waterline was a strange, cramped, dark, place: the magazine. Copper lined the walls. The only light came through a window from a lantern in the next room. Sailors working here were forbidden to carry iron objects, and they wore felt slippers. These precautions were needed because the magazine was a store-room for gunpowder. If it got damp, Constitution‘s guns would not fire. And if just one spark entered the room, the ship might instantly explode.


Running Powder to the Guns

These games give your students a sense of what it was like to run and pass powder from Constitution’s magazine up to the guns. The magazine was on the orlop deck, and the gunpowder needed to be passed all the way to the gun or spar decks. A real-life cartridge of gunpowder on Constitution weighed 6 to 8 lbs. Have your students compete in teams to see who is the victorious crew!

Game: Powder Run

Game: Powder Relay Competition


Build an Alka-Seltzer Cannon

Understanding the chemical reaction of gunpowder was vital aboard Constitution. Sailors wore felt slippers while in the magazine to avoid sparks or moisture. What other types of precautions might have sailors followed with such a dangerous substance? Use the scientific method and learn about chemical processes by building cannons with your students in this lesson plan.

Lesson Plan: Build an Alka-Seltzer Cannon