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Handmade Caltrop 

A caltrop is a small, passive weapon consisting of four sharpened spikes, with each spike usually measuring no longer than 2 inches. The spikes are arranged in such a way that no matter how it is thrown it will naturally land with three spikes on the ground and one spike facing upwards. Caltrops were traditionally littered across battlefields before combat began with the hope that inattentive soldiers and horses would step on the spikes and injure themselves. Stepping on a caltrop wouldn’t immediately kill an enemy, but it would leave a deep puncture wound and possibly immobilize them. Even if the approaching enemy recognized that there were caltrops on the ground, it would still significantly slow down their efforts to advance while they maneuvered around the spikes.[1]

This caltrop from the Mercury Collection dates to the era of the Revolutionary War. Like most weapons manufactured in America during this time period, the caltrop is handmade. It was most likely constructed by joining two iron nails together and sharpening the spikes into fine points. While there are no readily available first-hand accounts documenting the official use of caltrops in the Revolutionary War, it is not far-fetched to assume that they may have been employed by the American militiamen at some point during the war, especially because they are easy and relatively inexpensive to make.



[1] Field Fortifications Course EN0065. Ed. B, U.S. Engineer School Lesson 3, Section 2: Artificial Land Obstacles.


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