?These mortar shells were the most disgusting, low-lived things imaginable,'
W.W. Blackford, a Confederate Engineer.
Developed in an age of massive innovation in ordnance technology, the 13-inch seacoast mortar became one of the most formidable weapons used during the Civil War. Records indicate that a battery of four mortars was once stationed here at Fort Hamilton - keeping the Narrows (the main waterway into New York City and where the Verrazano Bridge now spans) protected from an enemy attack. Although no battle ever took place in New York City during the Civil War, the fortifications and their arsenal of weapons were ready for use by Union forces. 13-inch mortars of the same pattern were also positioned at Fort Richmond and Fort Tompkins across the Narrows in Staten Island, making it very difficult for enemy ships to sail into the city.
The mortar that stands here is mounted on an accurate reproduction steel carriage made from the original 1861 plans. Emplaced on fixed wooden platforms in battery pits, these mortars were able to launch projectiles in a high elevating arc. The impact of their explosive shells caused considerable damage and proved to be highly effective in many battles throughout the Civil War. For years, this artifact was buried muzzle down in the ground at Fort McNair in Washington D.C., but it is now a living example of the extensive defenses that once guarded New York City's harbor and strategic waterways.
"Old veterans never forget the noise those missiles made as they went up and down like an excited bird, their shrieks becoming shriller and shriller, as the time to explode approached."
Unknown Georgia infantryman