Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln. Volume 6.
Lincoln, Abraham, 1809-1865.

Memorandum of Instructions for Test of Diller's Powder [1]

[c.November 2, 1863]

I select you to make the test of the new gun-powder, according to the foregoing documents. Having expended some five thousandPage  560 dollars to be prepared for making the test, it is desired that it be most carefully and thoroughly made, and answers thereupon given to all the following questions, and any others which may occur to you as pertinent.

Does this powder contain saltpetre or sulphur?

Does it bear any relation to gun-cotten?

Can the ingredients for making it always be obtained in sufficient quantity in the United States?

Is it's manufacture simple, requiring no complicated apparatus, and is it attended with less danger than the manufacture of ordinary gun-powder?

Do atmospheric changes, whether of moisture or heat, injure the powder?

Will it explode with as little or less pressure than ordinary gun-powder?

Will it ignite under 300deg.. Celsius?

Will it ignite by a spark, or percussion-cap, like common gun-powder?

Are seven parts of it, in weight, as effective in smooth bored guns as nine parts of common gun-powder?

Is one part of it, in weight, as effective in rifled guns, as two parts of common powder?

Will it, or the ingredients of it, deteriorate in store?

Will it heat a gun less than common powder? and in what proportion?

Does it give a weaker report?

Does it make less smoke?

Does it foul a gun less?

Is it less liable to burst or damage a gun?

In proportion to effect produced, is it cheaper than common gun-powder?

Has it any fault or faults not stated, or suggested in and by the answers to the foregoing questions? and if so, what?


[1]   ADf, DLC-RTL. See Lincoln to Isaac R. Diller, December 15, 1862, supra. As cataloged in the Lincoln Papers, this undated memorandum is assigned the date ``[November?, 1862]'' but a notation ``Apr. 4 1863(?) (Evidently to Dr. [Charles M] Wetherill)'' appears on the first page, not in Lincoln's handwriting. Lincoln's reference to the amount of $5,000, however, definitely places this memorandum after his memorandum to Stanton and Welles of July 21, supra. A letter from Diller dated November 2, 1863, reads as follows:

``I have the honor to enclose, at your request, a true copy of the agreement entered into between your Excellency and myself, on the 15th. of December, 1862, respecting a new article of gun powder.

``I very respectfully beg leave to inform you, that I have delivered to Major T. T. S. Laidley, U.S.A. at the Frankford Arsenal, Penna. the maximumPage  561 amount of powder as specified in the within agreement, and have the honor to request that a board of `officers, or other skilled person or persons' may be selected by your Excellency to test the same, according to the terms of the agreement, before mentioned.'' (DLC-RTL).

Thus Lincoln's memorandum, which follows closely the specification given by Diller on December 10, 1862 (see note to Lincoln's letter to Diller, December 15, 1862), would seem to have been meant for the board of ``officers, or other skilled person or persons'' who were to test the powder.

See also Lincoln to Diller, November 7, infra.

On December 14, Diller wrote from Virden, Illinois, that he was awaiting orders, and that if the government did not intend to do anything about the manufacture of the powder, he would want to patent it. John Hay endorsed the letter, ``Ansd. Dec. 26. The Prest. declines appn'g a new Board Mr D. has permission to patent his invention. The Prest. sends his best wishes for success.'' (DLC-RTL).