59 School Street, Box 1310, Edgartown MA 02539 - 508.627.4441
Martha's Vineyard Museum MV Museum



Probably Nathan Smith (1736–1812)

Cow's horn, ink

Gift of Miss Dorris Hough

Nathan Smith first used this powder horn when he was twenty years old and serving with Massachusetts provincial troops alongside regular British forces in 1756, the second year of the French and Indian War. He may have engraved it himself, placing forts, stockades, and blockhouses along a map showing the important Mohawk River from Schenectady to Lake Ontario.

The horn is boldly carved with his name, the date, and "Iarmon Flats," a reference to "German Flatts," at the time the forward British base against the French. The horn descended through his family and is the only current evidence that Smith was serving with a provincial regiment so early in the conflict. Two years later, he is listed as an ensign in Josiah Thacher's company of Colonel Doty's regiment and was probably involved in campaigns in the maritime provinces of Canada.
Smith returned to Makonikey on Lambert's Cove in Tisbury and became a master mariner and farmer, but his military days were not over. During the Revolution, he was captain of one of three seacoast defense companies raised to defend the shores and harbors of Martha's Vineyard. In April 1775 the volunteers captured the armed schooner Volante using whaleboats and three swivel guns, the first naval action of the war. He and a party from his company captured the schooner Bedford in March the following year, thereby depriving the British of supplies to its forces trapped in Boston by Washington's army.

The most famous incident of the Revolution involving Martha's Vineyard was Major General Charles Grey's raid in September 1778, which cost the Island's farmers ten thousand sheep, three hundred head of cattle, and £950 of public funds. The Island's militia leaders, almost certainly including Nathan Smith, were arrested for hiding arms.