Bottom of the barrel? – Confederate use of old mortars

I’ve written much in the past about Castillo de San Marcos (or Fort Marion if you prefer) at St. Augustine.  The fort boasts a fine collection of colonial-era ordnance worth hours of examination.

Castillo 2 Aug 11 765

Since I’ve been on the mortars lately, let me belatedly mention a sesquicentennial anniversary of sorts, marked by this particular artifact.

Castillo 2 Aug 11 768

This old bronze mortar sits upon an accurate reproduction mortar bed of the type used in the 18th century.  The mounting system changed a little by the time of the Civil War, but not much. A quoin in front of the mortar, resting upon a cross piece, provides elevation.

I’ll avoid identifying this weapon by caliber and model, in deference to experts in colonial artillery.  I’ve looked in vain for a proper catalog of the weapons at the Castillo.  I know it is a light mortar, so I’ll leave it at that.

Castillo 2 Aug 11 766

Perhaps experts in this field will identify the piece given the crest and name on the scroll.  These markings are typical of Spanish weapons found on this side of the Atlantic dating to the colonial period.

But what brings us back to the Civil War is an inscription on the muzzle.

Castillo 2 Aug 11 770

At the top the inscription reads “Captured at Fernandina, Fla. //by  Rear Adm. DuPont. // February __, 1862.”  The date is somewhat obscured by a scratch.  It appears to be a two digit date.  A late February date would coincide with operations to occupy Fort Clinch on the north end of Amelia Island.

Now was this an example of the Confederates using an antique weapon because nothing else was available? As impractical that might have been, the Confederates did press old weapons into service during the war.  (At some point I need to discuss a “banded and rifled” English gun of 1700s vintage.)  So I could see this mortar used at some less important point, where little was expected or needed.

Or did the Navy simply pick up an old trophy weapon and re-purpose it to honor their nearly effortless seizure of a southern port?  You know how sailors are….

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