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Civil War Blog

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Touring the Petersburg National Battlefield – Battery 5 and the Dictator

Posted By on March 22, 2013

Today’s blog post continues a multi-part series on the Petersburg National Battlefield – that portion of the battlefield which made up the Eastern Front, where the opening assaults and the Battles of the Crater and Fort Stedman.  All parts of the series can be accessed by clicking on the series title here, Touring the Petersburg National Battlefield.  Recent photographs taken at the battlefield are interspersed with the official, interpretative statements made at the various tour stops as well as statements from the National Park Service brochures and web site.  Many men from the Lykens Valley area participated in this battle and the Battle of the Crater itself was noteworthy for the participation of coal miners from Schuylkill County.

Continuing now onto Battery 5 of the Dimmock Line and the Dictator Trail:

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This 0.6 mile trail will take you through Battery 5 of the Confederate Dimmock Line, captured by the Federals on 15 June 1864.  Along the way you will also see the position of the famous Union mortar, the “Dictator.”  For almost three months in 1864, the “Dictator  (shown below), a 13-inch seacoast mortar, fired into the city of Petersburg.

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In 1862, two years before the first Federals appeared at the city’s gates, Confederate Captain Charles Dimmock oversaw the construction of a ten-mile line of defensive works ringing Petersburg.  In front of you is Battery 5, one of the largest of the fifty-five artillery positions in the Dimmock Line.

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In 1862, two years before the first Federals appeared at the city’s gates, Confederate Captain Charles Dimmock oversaw the construction of a ten-mile line of defensive works ringing Petersburg.  In front of you is Battery 5, one of the largest of the fifty-five artillery positions in the Dimmock Line.

At 7 p.m. on 15 June 1864, the boom of Union cannons to the east foreshadowed a Union attack on the Dimmock Line.  Minutes later, soldiers of the Union Eighteenth Corps broke through the undermanned Confederate line and swarmed over the works here at Battery 5.  In two hours the Federals captured 1.5 miles of Petersburg’s defenses.

Though few Confederates stood between the Federals and the streets of Petersburg, Union Major General William F. Smith stopped his advance to wait for reinforcements.  Nine months of tedious, deadly siege would pass before the federals would again have such an opportunity to capture Petersburg.

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This 0.6 mile trail will take you through Battery 5 of the Confederate Dimmock Line, captured by the Federals on 15 June 1864.  Along the way you will also see the position of the famous Union mortar, the “Dictator.”  For almost three months in 1864, the “Dictator  (shown below), a 13-inch seacoast mortar, fired into the city of Petersburg.

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In the cut below (shown in the above picture), was the railroad that ran into Petersburg.  Continuing on the trails, the “Dictator” can be seen.

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Famous but militarily ineffective, the “Dictator” fired on Petersburg from this spot during July, August, and September 1864.

The Dictator was a 13-inch seacoast mortar similar to the one in front of you.  It was the largest gun used during the siege and could lob a 225-pound explosive shell more than two miles.  During its service in the siege, the “Dictator” fired 218 rounds at Petersburg and its defenses.

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Return along the trail to the area near the Visitor Center.

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Cross back over the Dimmock line, enter the car and continue the tour to Stop 2.

Tomorrow, Stop 2….


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