Though I have lived now within a few miles of Antietam for the past 18 years, and though I’ve been especially interested in this battle of the Civil War since my childhood and an assignment in 7th grade in 1967, I am actually from Phillipsburg, New Jersey. Even as a little child, I remember passing a memorial park there (Shappell Park) and being so impressed by several Civil War mortars.
I was recently in the area and took a number of pictures of these incredible weapons. There are three of them in this typical small town America memorial park in remembrance of Civil War veterans – established in 1906. Two of the mortars are referenced as being used in the attack upon Island No. 10 in the Mississippi, and one as a part of the siege upon Vicksburg.
In this season of sesquicentennial remembrances, we are going to be referencing the name of General John Pope – until his defeat at 2nd Manassas in leadership of the Army of Virginia (Union). Pope had come east from a successful war record in the west. It was he who in April of 1862 opened the middle Mississippi River to Federal control by the defeat of Confederate fortifications at Island No. 10.
Here is a description of the capacities of these mortars as taken from an excellent blog post at: http://civilwarnavy150.blogspot.com/2012/04/unfavorable-mortar-boats.html … The mortars themselves came from Fort Pitt Foundry in Pittsburgh. <See close-up picture below> These 13-inch Seacoast Mortars, Model 1861 – were the Army’s latest and heaviest seacoast mortars. The Army Ordnance Department designed the weapon to arm coastal fortifications. The 13-inch mortar fired 227 pound shells to a maximum range of 4600 yards. Unlike standard guns, the mortars fired the shells in a high, arching trajectory to fall on top of the intended target. The army designed these seacoast mortars to drop shells upon an enemy bombardment fleet attacking coastal fortifications.
The same blog posting speaks of the floatation methods by which these heavy guns were made mobile. However, their inaccurate fire made them less than as deadly and effective as originally hoped.