John Lord’s Sea Chest
While this leather-bound storage chest is typical of the era, the brass plates on it tell the story of its owners and a friendship formed at sea.
John Lord, who served as a gunner on USS Constitution from 1824-1828, proudly proclaimed ownership of this chest by placing a brass plate, engraved with his name and his personal motif of crossed cannons and a stack of cannon balls, on the chest’s lid. But it is the other small brass plate, marked “J.H. Ward,” on the front that broadens the story. James Harmon Ward was a midshipman who entered the U.S. Navy in March 1823. He served on Constitution during the Mediterranean Cruise from October 1824 until July 1828, the same period as Lord. In the close and personal confines of a frigate, the midshipman and the gunner had to know each other.
The chest may have been a parting gift between the two men, or Ward may have received it after Lord’s untimely death from illness in 1829. Ward clearly cherished the piece, and maintained Lord’s nameplate while adding his own. Perhaps inspired by his friend, Ward went on to become an expert in gunnery and ordnance and even authored an important work on those subjects. He died in 1861, the first U.S. naval officer killed in the American Civil War.