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XIII-inch bore Mortar, Model of 1861 - Weapons of the Civil War - Civil War Talk - Civil War Interactive Discussion Board
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 Posted: Wed Apr 8th, 2009 05:54 pm
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Henry
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Hello- This is an initial topic on this forum. I am interested in any reference material anyone might have regarding the 13" Seacoast Mortar , Model of 1861. If you have any reference to these behemoths beyond what is included in the Official Records please post here. Regards, Henry

Letter from Lieutenant Wise, U.S. Navy, to Hon. Frank P. Blair, regarding the placing of an order with Knap, Rudd & Co. for ordnance.

Washington, August 1, 1861

Dear Sir: In compliance with your request, I have placed in the hands of Mr. Charles Knap, of the firm of Knap, Rudd &Co., Fort Pitt Foundry, Pittsburg, the order of the Secretary of War to furnish Major-General John C. Fremont, U.S. Army, with 16 navy shell guns of IX-inch bore and 30 XIII-inch mortars of army pattern, together with shells for the same, all to be forwarded with the utmost dispatch to St. Louis, Mo.

Mr. Knap has accepted the order in a communication of this date addressed to the Secretary of War, in which he states the following terms, viz:

1. That the navy guns will be charged at the original price for which the contract was made, to wit, 7 1/2 cents per pound, each gun weighing about 9,000 pounds.

2. The mortars to be charged at the army contract price of 61/2 cents per pound, each piece weighing about 17,500 pounds.

3. The shells at the navy contract price of 4 1/2 cents per pound; the IX-inch weighing about 71 pounds and those for the mortars 200 pounds.

Mr. Knap further agrees to subject the mortars, guns, and shells to whatever examination or proof under navy or army conditions that the ordnance authorities may choose to direct.

I here desire to remark, in reference to the navy shell guns, that the guns now in possession of the Fort Pitt founders were rejected some few years ago by the Navy as part of a lot which were found to have been cast with defective trunnions. Some of the navy ordnance officers who were charged specially with the duty of inspecting these 16 pieces reported favorably on them and recommended their acceptance, all of which appears on the record of the Bureau of Ordnance. In a conversation, however, which I had this morning with Captain Dahlgren, from whose designs the guns were made, he told me he would not trust the guns beyond 300 rounds per gun.

I would take this occasion to suggest that an order be issued from the War Department to direct the shells for both mortars and guns to be fitted at or by the authorities of the Allegheny Arsenal.

With reference to the carriages for the navy guns, they will depend very much apon the positions the guns are to be mounted. If in battery on board of vessels they will require elevating screws and drawings of carriages, which I presume would be supplied by requisition on the Navy Department. I would finally remark that the probable allowance of shells for both guns and mortars should be 100 shells per piece. Knap, Rudd & Co. promise to forward the guns at once and to turn the mortars out at a rate of four per week.

I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant, H.A. Wise

Assistant Inspector Ordnance, U.S. Navy

The Hon. Frank (P.) Blair, House of Representatives

Attachment: Mortar 13 ich Seacoast.jpg (Downloaded 91 times)



 Posted: Thu Apr 9th, 2009 01:07 am
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CleburneFan
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A very similar seacoast mortar to that can be seen at Fort Zachary Taylor in Key West, FL.



 Posted: Thu Apr 9th, 2009 07:24 pm
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Henry
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Thank You, CleburneFan- Key West was where the Mortar Flotilla under Capt. David Dixon Porter stopped off to assemble and where they learned how to use the weapons they were armed with in February-March of 1862. They then proceded with the second leg of their journey, on to Ship Island off Mississippi. Not many of the 161 13" seacoast mortars survived, at 17,500 pounds each they were a valuable scrap item.
The image included in my post is of the 13" on the banks of the Mississippi in Vicksburg, Miss. She was pulled up from the bottom.
Stephen Twining reports that a 13 inch Seacoast Mortar is in St. Michaels Cemetery in Springfield, Ma. The Cemetery dates from 1871. 8/19/07
Henry,
The one seacoast mortar that I have actually seen is in St. Michael's Cemetary in Springfield, MA. It is number 1188. That number is engraved on the muzzle and embossed on the upper right side of the barrel. The other engraving on the muzzle includes "P., 17124 lbs, J.M.B., FORT PITT. P.A.
The plaque located on the back underneath the barrel appears to be made of marble, and reads; "HONOR THE DEAD" "THIS MEMORIAL IS HERE PLACED BY E.K. WILCOX POST 16, DEPARTMENT OF MASS. G.A.R. TO MARK THE LAST RESTING PLACE OF BRAVE MEN WHO IN 1861-5 OFFERED THEIR LIVES FOR THE HONOR AND INTEGRITY OF THE NATION." The plaque is dirty and cracked. I and my camp of Sons of Union Veteran's are exploring plans to renovate this memorial. I could use a paint job and perhaps a concrete base. The gun now sets on a layer of bricks that is deteriorating.
I have heard that this piece is one of only three that are still in existence.
I am working on registering this monument with the Sons of Union Memorials Committee and would like as much information as I can find about this piece.
Thanks for the reply.

Regards, Hank



 Posted: Fri Apr 10th, 2009 12:32 am
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CleburneFan
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Henry, I'll tell you what I will do. I will be in Key West starting April 20 for a few days. I'll go to the mortar and find out what markings it has, measure the size, and see if I can find an exact history for that mortar. It should be fun to do so. There is only one mortar at Fort Zachary Taylor but some really, really impressive seacoast cannon. It is hard to believe the size. Can you imagine the range they must have had?

I hope I can find a park ranger who is knowlegable about the mortar. I can take a photo too, but it will involve my learning how to upload the dang thing to this web site.

Last edited on Fri Apr 10th, 2009 12:35 am by CleburneFan



 Posted: Fri Apr 10th, 2009 01:34 am
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CleburneFan
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Guess what! Your gun is bigger than my gun. :( I found all the specs at a web site I will link below.

The Fort Taylor 8-inch seige mortar was made at the West Point Foundry, Cold Spring, NY. The Reg # is 49. The inspector is EH. The Foundry number is *254. The year is 1861 and the mortar weighs 945 pounds, much less than yours.

At Fort Taylor the mortar was set up facing Key West and not out to sea. It was there to fend off attack from the city.

These two web sites have detailed information about the sea coast arty on display at Fort Zachary Taylor.  The seond web site has a great picture of the mortar...a baby mortar beside yours. This mortar sits in the sally port of the fort.

http://www.cwartillery.org/ws-fttay.html

http://www.forttaylor.org/armament.html



 Posted: Fri Apr 10th, 2009 02:09 am
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CleburneFan
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Say, I found an existing 13" seacoast mortar, none other than the infamous "Dictator" of Petersburg fame. It is in Hartford, Connecticut now. Here is a picture and minimal information. Note the mortar ordnance are there also. I cannot read the marker even though several different views are provided.

http://www.waymarking.com/waymarks/WM465A

Last edited on Fri Apr 10th, 2009 02:15 am by CleburneFan



 Posted: Fri Apr 10th, 2009 03:45 am
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Henry
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Thanks for the info, CleburneFan. The range of the 13" Mortar is around 4325 yards. The Parrot rifle the yanks used to pummel Charleston was firing around 7000 yards from impact. The "Swamp Angel", as this rifle was named, now is a park piece in Trenton, New Jersey. I'm in Bradenton, over on the left coast. I'm off to look at the Dictator you linked to. Hank



 Posted: Thu May 28th, 2009 02:07 am
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Henry
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Primary documentation of the period regarding ammunition. Though the following links to the 1870 British Royal Laboratory "Treatise on Ammunition" the materials and practises are essentially the same as U.S. Ordnance.

http://books.google.com/books?id=7gYHAAAAQAAJ

A plethora of period ordnance material is contained in the scanned pages, much covering the larger mortars.



 Posted: Thu May 28th, 2009 11:55 pm
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CleburneFan
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Just by coincidence I have been reading "Vicksburg 1861" by Winston Groom. In it, he states that Commander David Dixon Porter had a flotilla of mortar boats that carried thirteen-inch mortars. These were used to blast  New Orleans, Vicksburg and also Port Hudson from the Mississippi River.  Needless to say, the size of the schooner  limited only one mortar per boat.

An 1862 issue of Harper's Weekly has an article that stated each mortar weighed 17,600 pounds and employed balls weighing 241 pounds with a range of three miles. The flotiila was assembled in Key West in early 1862. I cannot prove it or find information to prove it, but my guess is those mortars may have been manufactured in 1861 or possibly earlier. I cannot find out what foundry made these mortars.

I also don't know what eventually became of these mortars or if any exist today.

Please check these two web sites. The second has an excellent photograph of one of Porter's schooners with a thirteen inch mortar.

http://www.sonofthesouth.net/leefoundation/civil-war/1862/february/porters-mortar-boats-flotilla.htm

http://www.usna.edu/Library/SpecialCollections/Findingaids/watsonsmith.html

Rereading all your posts, I see you already are ahead of me and know about Porter's mortar flotilla and that it spent time in Key West. I hope the little bit of extra information I was able to find was of some help. Now you've made me interested in this topic too and I will see what more I can dig up.

Last edited on Fri May 29th, 2009 12:04 am by CleburneFan



 Posted: Fri May 29th, 2009 03:40 am
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Henry
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Series I, Volume 18 of the Official Records of the War of the Rebellion covers the development of the attack plan that included, as of the middle of September, 1861, a move to take New Orleans from the South. Operational reports and sundry whinings. Forget Harper's for accuracy of reporting.

See DANFS for individual histories of the Mortar Schooners.



 Posted: Thu Jun 4th, 2009 05:48 pm
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Henry
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Another mention of the use of the XIII inch bore Seacoast Mortar of 1861 as told by Lieutenant George W. Gift, C.S.N. regarding operational conditions following the C.S.S. Arkansas' passage through the Federal fleet assembled north of Vicksburg, Mississippi, July 15, 1862.
"The enemy now had a fleet above and below us, and though foiled and angry he made no immediate active effort to do us more harm, other than to shell us incessantly by day, and once by night, with mortar shells. Half a dozen or more thirteen inch mortars kept missiles continually in the air, directed at us. We were twice struck by fragments -- otherwise the business was very harmless."



 Posted: Fri Jun 12th, 2009 06:13 pm
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Hamy3
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There's some speculation as to whether the 13" in Hartford this is the actual Dictator, or a similar weapon. The Dictator, and other 13" seacoasts were indeed manned by members of the CT Heavy Artillery, among other units, and members of that unit were instrumental in securing a 13" for this display, but the wherabouts of the exact piece of ordinance that was known as the Dictator remains a mystery.
If you'd like to see another 13" mortar, check out Ft Moultre on Sullivans Island SC, part of the seaboard defensive ring around Charleston. They have a very nice collection of gun tubes, some of which are quite rare. The 13" in in pretty good shape, but the bed could use some restoration!!
I'd love to see one of these things fired!! It must be spectacular!!

Doug



 Posted: Fri Jun 12th, 2009 06:31 pm
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CleburneFan
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Hamy3 wrote:
I'd love to see one of these things fired!! It must be spectacular!!

Doug



Hamy, this is second best to being there when a thirteen incher is fired, but here is a You Tube video with sound that shows the firing of original  8" and 10" seige mortars. They were fired at Fort McCoy for some type of competition.

Two things really impressed me on this video. One--the terrifying sound as the shot whistles through the air. The other is the sound and show as the shot hits the ground and explodes. You would not have to be hit by the shell. The sound would be enough to scare you to death.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Eox-jnTaEgk

Here is a You Tube video of a actual 13 Inch Seacoast mortar being fired. It is much longer video and the sound is even more terrifying. I hope this link works. I've tried it three times now.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5v7bLf2ipmA&feature=related

 

Last edited on Fri Jun 12th, 2009 06:45 pm by CleburneFan



 Posted: Fri Jun 12th, 2009 11:59 pm
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Henry
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The First Connecticut Heavy Artillery, originally the Fourth Connecticut Infantry, was the first volunteer organization that was mustered for three years into the service of the United States (May 22, 1861-September 25, 1865)

F. H. Abbott & Sons, Baltimore, Maryland received a contract from the War Department shortly after completing Monitor's plate to fabricate 30 Mortar beds for use on Western rivers.Abbott also manufactured mortar beds for David Dixon Porter's flotilla that bombarded the forts guarding New Orleans.

Thomas Fitch Rowland was awarded contracts for his Continental Ironworks, Greenpoint, Brooklyn, New York by the Naval Department soon after the Civil War began. One contract included work as sub-contractor to manufacture wrought iron beds for the 13 inch Seacoast Mortars for installation on Schooners of the flotilla of David Dixon Porter.

The army beachmaster in charge of accepting the ordnance from the navy and transporting it to the positions laid out by the engineers was Lt. Horace Porter. He describes the methods of transport of the heavy ordnance as follows:
" The heavy guns were landed by lowering them from the vessels into lighters having a strong decking built across their gunwales. They were towed ashore by row-boats at high tide, often in a heavy surf, and careened by means of a rope from shore, manned by soldiers, until the piece rolled off. At low tide this was dragged above the high-water mark.



 Posted: Fri Jul 3rd, 2009 12:32 am
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Henry
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Bronze was the material of choice for casting of British Mortars prior to 1792.

The Royal Marine Artillery took over operation of Mortars from the Royal Artillery in August of 1804.

Two XIII inch bore Mortars are mounted on Beresford Gate, Woolwich, London. This area was an arsenal until 1994.



 Posted: Sat Aug 8th, 2009 12:58 am
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Henry
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The following order from Federal Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles underlines the importance given to the XIII inch bore Seacoast Mortar. Both the Philadelphia and New York Navy Yards were active in the transformation of twenty two merchant schooners into men-of-war, each to carry one Mortar. Several of the vessels had additional ordnance.

Navy Department, January 21, 1862

Sir: The Department desires to call your particular attention to the great importance of getting the bomb fleet to sea at the earliest possible moment. Let the work on them take precedence of all other. Next in importance are the steamers. If you fall short in men, draft them from the Sabine, which vessel can wait for the steamers, as was telegraphed on Tuesday last.
I am, respectfully, your obedient servant, Gideon Welles

Commodore H. Paulding
Commandant, Navy Yard, New York

(Extract from ORN, Series I, Volume 18, Page 8)



 Posted: Sat Oct 23rd, 2010 12:25 pm
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John in PA
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I shoot a10-Pounder Parrott rifle in live fire competition with the N-SSA, and also shoot long range competition out at Camp Grayling in Michigan.  One of the interesting things about the clip is the intermittent whistle you hear, barely audible on the outgoing clip, but plainly audible on the downrange clip as the shell is incoming toward the camera.  It is the sound of air rushing over the fuse hole as the shell rolls slowly during it's flight.  the pitch varies from high to low because as the shell rotates, the hole alternately has air rushing over it from different directions.  As the shell gets closer, the sound of it roaring through the air predominates, and after the explosion of the bursting charge, you hear the combined sound of jagged shell fragments ripping through the air combined with the echo of the explosion.

If you get on Paulson Brothers Ordnance website, and go to the section titled "Action" you'll find many clips of 1860's artillery being fired at military bases, most at hard targets with exploding ammunition.  (this is only legal to do on a military base, as practicing it anywhere else would get you an immediate, and lengthy stay at Hotel Leavenworth!!

If you live anywhere near Winchester VA and are interested in seeing Mortars and cannon live fired at targets, come visit the N-SSA National Matches, held May and October every year.  Usually around 50 cannon of various types, and anywhere from 50-75 mortars (largest being 8" Seige mortars) Attendance is free to the public.  check CleburneFan wrote:
Hamy3 wrote:
I'd love to see one of these things fired!! It must be spectacular!!

Doug



Hamy, this is second best to being there when a thirteen incher is fired,

Here is a You Tube video of a actual 13 Inch Seacoast mortar being fired. It is much longer video and the sound is even more terrifying. I hope this link works. I've tried it three times now.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5v7bLf2ipmA&feature=related

 




 Posted: Sat Oct 23rd, 2010 11:31 pm
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CleburneFan
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That was awe-inspiring! It sounds like the Angel of Death coming.:shock:

Last edited on Sat Oct 23rd, 2010 11:32 pm by CleburneFan



 Posted: Fri Dec 10th, 2010 02:49 pm
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Hamy3
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After watching those two vids, I can only say "Holy Smoke"!!!!

I still need to see them in person!!

Thanks for sharing!!!

 

Doug



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