A Federal or Confederate mortar? You make the call.

I keep going back to that series of photos from Broadway Landing…

… because they just fascinate me.  Not only are there several guns to identify, but also projectiles and carriages.  These are all fodder for future posts (and many there will be).

And what drew the photographer to capture the scene from a multitude of angles escapes me… unless he had, as I do, a natural attraction to iron guns.  He must have been “framing” something.

One guess is the Navy 32-pdr on a wrecked carriage.  Must have been a story full of cussing and fussing there.

But today I’m more interested in the 8-inch Model 1840 siege mortar sitting in front of that 32-pdr.  And we have a “muzzle view” of that weapon from a stereo view:

Zoom in ad you can see numbers at the top.

From near on 148 years distance, that stands out as “972.”  But… recall the standard weights of the 8-inch Model 1840 mortar.  If that stamp is the weight, it is some fifty pounds over weight.  While not an unheard of variation, that would push the limits of standardization.  Could that be a mis-stamp that should read “932”?  Looks rather clear to me, though.

And of course, were the number appears, by regulations should be the registry number of the piece.  As indicated in earlier posts, the registry numbers of 8-inch mortars never reached above the twenties.  And there are no inspectors initials on this weapon, which should appear at the bottom.  Views of this mortar in other photos do not provide sufficient resolution to read any stamps on the trunnions.

There is another lead on the “972” number.  Tredegar Foundry/J.R. Anderson & Company, while not producing any 8-inch mortars for the US Army, did produce such weapons before and during the Civil War.  Before hostilities, state governments, notably South Carolina, placed orders with Tredegar for mortars.   And during the war, Tredegar produced several 8-inch mortars for the Confederate Army.

Tredegar’s standard company marking system placed the foundry number (not to be confused with a registry number) at the top of the muzzle.  The numbers were sequential and included all cannons – guns, howitzers, and mortars – produced by the company.  So is this Tredegar 972?  Maybe.  If so that indicates this mortar was produced well before the war.  By the time Fort Sumter was fired upon, Tredegar was already up to the 1100 foundry numbers.

So is this an overweight, and poorly marked, Federal mortar?  Or is it a Tredegar pre-war production bought by the Confederates?  You make the call.

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