The mortar, nicknamed the “Petersburg Express” and “the Dictator,” was used in the siege of Petersburg (Va.), a series of trench-fighting skirmishes near Petersburg and Richmond in 1864 and 1865.
The monument was erected in 1902 to honor the service of the 1st Conn. Heavy Artillery unit, which was formed in 1861 and served in the defense of Washington and several engagements in Virginia before the siege of Petersburg.
The mortar has been mounted near the intersection of Capitol Ave. and Trinity Place on a granite base. The south face bears a plaque reading “This 13-inch sea coast mortar was in actual use by the regiment during the campaign in front of Petersburg 1864-1865 and widely known as the ‘Petersburg Express.’”
During the war, the mortar fired 225-pound cannonballs and was mounted on a railroad car for portability. The squat design and thick walls were designed to accommodate the explosion of the 20 pounds of gunpowder used when the mortar was fired.
The black-and-white image of the Dictator is courtesy of the Library of Congress’ American Memory project. We’re not positive it depicts the mortar now mounted in Hartford, but there’s a decent chance that it does.
Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, LC-DIG-cwpb-03851 DLC