01001 - Battery No. 4; Yorktown, VA; 13 inch mortars weighing 20,000 Lbs. May 1862 [LC-DIG-cwpb-01001]
Massive mortars, such as these, were used to devastate enemy fortifications. A 13 Inch mortar could fire a shell weighing 200 pounds, a distance of 875 yards and land within 40 yards of the target. With a maximum range of 2 ½ miles, these mortars provided great advantage when firing on earthen fortifications.
Typical cannon shot could be fired into an earthen fort but had little effect and did not have the desired impact. Mortars, on the other hand, could bring a shell over the fortification and cause it to explode in the middle of the fort. Mortars came in sizes from 6 in. (firing a 17 lb. shell) to the 13 inch seen here.
While small mortars where easy to transport, large ones like this, were difficult to move and required special railroad cars or ships to relocate them. While mortars remain in use today, most of the modern ones are 2-5 inches in diameter and can be carried by 1-2 soldiers.