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I'm reading Sailing the Graveyard Sea by Richard Snow right now, and the sailers were using turpentine as a solvent on the guns.  Was turpentiune used for a small arms cleaner back then?

Jeremiah Jones:
In the rural south where I grew up, Turpentine was used to clean guns and other small metal parts, treat cuts and bug bites and as an all-round solvent and skin damage treatment.  I even heard of people taking it internally for "worms".  I would not try that, but I still keep a couple of bottles handy.

For what it may be worth, the memoirs of legendary Canadian Frontiersman John George “Kootenai” Brown (1839-1916) relate an incident in about the late 1860’s or 1870’s when he and a companion came under attack by Indians (interestingly, at a locatiom which is now within the City of Medicine Hat, where I live) and he was wounded by an arrow. His companion removed the arrow and treated the wound with turpentine before binding it.  The men had been on the trail for quite some time, and the area they travelled through had not yet been settled, so obviously they had the turpentine with them. I don’t recall any mention of what uses they had for it, but I suppose they may have included such mundane purposes as gun cleaning, disinfection/ treatment of wounds, and perhaps (based on my own personal experience) even a fire-starting aid …


Turpenes have been used medicinely for a LONG time.    Back to Romans at least.   I would not take it internally, but I would not swallow Listerine either (okay, I have and it is unpleasant).   I have used listerine to treat wounds, and a distilled product like turpentine would be safer than something from a snake oil salesman.

So what were the soldiers in the frontier army issued with to preserve their weaapons?  I am assuming that it was some petroleam by-product after the 1860's, but we know what happens when we assume. ;)


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