The 13-inch seacoast mortar called the “Dictator” is shown above in front of Petersburg, Virginia in October 1864. The seacoast mortar weighed around 17,120 pounds and, due to it’s weight, was transported by railway truck along the railroad track. It fired a 200+ pound shell with a charge of 20 pounds of powder. The angle of elevation was forty-five degrees and had a range of around 4,600 yards.
When fired, the recoil would send the flatcar it was stationed on to recoil 10 to 12 feet on the tracks. During the siege of Petersburg, the “Dictator” was manned by Company G of the 1st Connecticut Heavy Artillery. The Fort Pitt Foundry created about 162 of these 13-inch seacoast mortars.
The process of moving the “Dictator” is described on the back of a stenograph as the following:
This large sea-coast mortar is mounted on a special flat-car made very strong for this purpose. This mortar-car is on General Grant’s Military Railroad at Petersburg. The car is readily moved along the line and the mortar is fired whenever required; it is thus made very effective and annoying to the enemy, for it is something like the Irishman’s flea, “when they put their hands on it, it ain’t there;” in other words, when they turn the fire of their batteries on the “Dictator,” our boys hitch on to the car and run it along out of the line of fire and commence pegging away again. By the time the “Johnnies” find out where the “Dictator” is and get the range to smash it, “it ain’t there” again; the boys run it along to a new stand for business.
The “Dictator” is currently mounted at Hartford, Connecticut.
Tucker, Spencer C. American Civil War: The Definitive Encyclopedia and Document Collection. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 2013.
“Mortar Dictator“, Library of Congress.
“The Seacoast Mortar called “The Dictator” at the Siege of Petersburg 1864,” IronBrigader.com.