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Petersburg, Virginia — The American South (Mid-Atlantic)
Dictator
 
The Dictator Marker Photo, Click for full size
By Bill Coughlin, April 23, 2007
1. The Dictator Marker
 
Inscription. Sept. 1864: “…the enemy frequently shoot very large shells into Petersburg & do some damage to buildings, but the people are getting used to it, so they don’t mind them….”
- A.I.P. Varin 2nd Mississippi

Famous but militarily ineffective, the “Dictator” fired on Petersburg from this spot during July, August, and September 1864.

The Dictator was a 13-inch seacoast mortar similar to the one in front of you. It was the largest gun used during the siege and could lob a 225-pound explosive shell more than two miles. During its service in the siege lines, the Dictator fired 218 rounds at Petersburg and its defenses.
 
Erected by Petersburg National Battlefield, National Park Service, Department of the Interior.
 
Location. 37° 14.811′ N, 77° 21.392′ W. Marker is in Petersburg, Virginia. Marker can be reached from Petersburg Tour Road, on the left when traveling north. Click for map. The marker is in Petersburg National Battlefield, on the Battery 5 Trail. The trailhead is at the Visitor Center. Marker is in this post office area: Petersburg VA 23803, United States of America.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Opportunity Lost (about 400 feet away, measured in a direct line); Battery 5 of the Dimmock Line (about 700 feet away); Artillery at Petersburg (approx. 0.2 miles away); Uprooted by War (approx. 0.2 miles away); Battery 5 Trail (approx. 0.2 miles away); The Siege of Petersburg (approx. 0.2 miles away); Stephen Tyng Mather (approx. 0.2 miles away); Jordon Family Cemetery (approx. ¼ mile away). Click for a list of all markers in Petersburg.
 
Dictator mortar on the siege line Photo, Click for full size
By Bill Coughlin, April 23, 2007
2. Dictator mortar on the siege line
The Union army used the Dictator to fire on the city of Petersburg during the siege of 1864-65.
 

 
More about this marker. The marker is dominated by a photograph of the Union siege line and the Dictator. It has the caption This view, taken from your left, shows the Dictator and the entrance to its powder magazine.

The right of the marker contains a picture of soldiers loading mortars. It has the caption A battery of 10-inch mortars at work. Watching mortar shells arc through the night sky became a popular – and sometimes dangerous – spectator sport.
 
Also see . . .
1. Petersburg National Battlefield. National Park Service. (Submitted on April 4, 2008, by Bill Coughlin of North Arlington, New Jersey.) 

2. The Dictator. (PDF) National Park Service article about the restoration of the Dictator. The document details the construction of this concrete replica of the mortar. (Submitted on December 22, 2008, by Craig Swain of Leesburg, Virginia.) 
 
Closeup of the Dictator Photo, Click for full size
By Bill Coughlin, April 23, 2007
3. Closeup of the Dictator
The "Dictator" on display today is a reproduction made of cast concrete.
 
 
Powder Magazine Photo, Click for full size
By Bill Coughlin, April 23, 2007
4. Powder Magazine
The Union army kept mortars and other ammunition in the powder magazine for safety purposes. The powder magazine can be seen in the war-time photograph on the marker.
 
 
Close up of the Powder Magazine Sign Photo, Click for full size
By Craig Swain, November 22, 2008
5. Close up of the Powder Magazine Sign
 
 
Dual Vents on the Dictator Photo, Click for full size
By Craig Swain, November 22, 2008
6. Dual Vents on the Dictator
The accuracy of the reproduction is near complete. The design featured two vent holes, only one of which was drilled completely through. The right side vent was drilled one inch short. The intent was, should the original vent be obstructed, simple field maintenance could restore the mortar to working order. The "lugs" under the mortar engage into the elevation ratchets on the mortar's mounting sled.
 
 
Battery 5 Trail Map Photo, Click for full size
By Bill Coughlin, April 23, 2007
7. Battery 5 Trail Map
This map of the Battery 5 Trail, which begins at the Visitor Center, indicates the location of the Dictator.
 
 
The Dictator Today? image, Click for more information
By Bill Coughlin, August 13, 2009
8. The Dictator Today?
This 13-inch seacoast mortar, presently located at Fort Hamilton in Brooklyn, NY, could possibly be the actual "Dictator." It was moved here from Ft. McNair, Washington DC.

Click for more information.
 
Credits. This page originally submitted on April 4, 2008, by Bill Coughlin of North Arlington, New Jersey. This page has been viewed 2,094 times since then. Photos:   1, 2, 3, 4. submitted on April 4, 2008, by Bill Coughlin of North Arlington, New Jersey.   5, 6. submitted on December 22, 2008, by Craig Swain of Leesburg, Virginia.   7. submitted on April 4, 2008, by Bill Coughlin of North Arlington, New Jersey.   8. submitted on March 21, 2011, by Bill Coughlin of North Arlington, New Jersey. • Craig Swain was the editor who published this page.
 
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