Friction Primer Wire Used at Fort Sumter
One of the fuse wires used in setting off cannon charges in the initial bombardment of Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor on April 12, 1861, was scavenged in the aftermath, and currently remains in the collections at the Virginia Historical Society. The serrated wire shown here would have been surrounded by a sparking compound, much like the. material on the tip of a match, and attached to a brass tube filled with gunpowder; this constituted a friction primer that would then be inserted into a small hole at the rear of the cannon. To set off the charge, a long string attached to the loop at the top of the wire would be pulled, ripping the fuse wire off; the friction created by that action would spark the powder.