CDV OF A NORTHERN MORTAR BATTERY BEFORE YORKTOWN

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Item Code: 1054-186

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General McClellan was an engineer by training and disposition. His advance up the Peninsula toward Richmond in 1862 was calculated and methodical. When Confederates contested his progress by digging in at Yorktown he decided to teach them a lesson and set to work entrenching heavy guns to blast them out of their positions. He was probably happy to have photographers around to record the triumph.

This carte-de-visite view is copyrighted at the bottom by Barnard and Gibson in 1862 as part of their series of views taken during the campaign and shows the rear section of Battery Number Four, which consisted of ten large 13-inch siege mortars that were laboriously brought up from Fortress Monroe. Five appear in this view, sheltered behind the bank of Wormley’s Creek, which has been dug away to provide cover from enemy sharpshooters.

It was only too bad that after delaying McClellan for about a month while he mapped out his siege and got all his men and heavy guns into place, the Confederate defenders pulled back just before he could open fire. It was a victory of sorts, one attained by science, mathematics, engineering and more than a little sweat from enlistedmen, who might have had other thoughts on the matter. Nevertheless, it spared the bloodshed of a direct assault and the photographs taken at the time are a reminder of the engineering and industrial might that the north could bring to bear.  [SR]

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