The "Dictator" Mortar
A Union gun crew mans the "Dictator," a mortar that lobbed two-hundred-pound shells at the lines around Petersburg during the summer of 1864. When Union general Ulysses S. Grant failed to dislodge Confederate forces defending the city, he settled into a siege that lasted nearly ten months, from June 1864 until April 1865. Artillery fire was a key strategy in forcing the Confederates into submission. The Dictator achieved particular notoriety when images of it appeared in Gardner's Photographic Sketch Book of the War (1866); however, it was an unusually large mortar and was only used sporadically during three months of the siege. On September 28, 1864, the Dictator returned to the ordnance depot at City Point never to be fired again during the Civil War.