Two Naval Men Looking at the Bronze Mortar of George II, Island No. 10, Mississippi River near New Madrid, Missouri
Overall: 6 1/2 x 4 1/2 in. ( 16.5 x 11.4 cm )
mat: 14 x 11 in. ( 35.6 x 27.9 cm )
Civil War Drawings Collection. Engraved for Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper, 5 July 1862 (XIV:352-3):220, as "Ancient Mortor, Captured on Island No. 10"; sailors omitted. Before the war, the mortar had been displayed in Jackson Square, New Orleans.
Battle of New Madrid and Island No. 10:
Confederate forces under Brig. Gen. Pillow started construction of these two positions in April 1861, to block Federal navigation of the Mississippi. On a peninsula 10 miles long by three miles wide the defenses consisted of a two-regiment redoubt at New Madrid, and a floating battery at Island No. 10. The latter was also covered by land batteries on the Tenn. Shore. Federal forces had to reduce these forts to pursue their general offensive down the Mississippi.
Pope was sent to organize a corps from the remaining US troops in Mo. and to capture New Madrid. He realized that the 50 heavy guns and the small fleet of gunboats the Confederates necessitated a regular siege operation. He sent for siege artillery and started a bombardment and the construction of approaches on 13 Mar.
Pope then decided to cross the river south of New Madrid and turn the defense of Island No. 10. Since his supporting naval transports were upstream, he had a canal cut through the swamps so that boats could by-pass the defenses of Island No. 10. The canal was finished 4 Apr. Two Federal gunboats ran the Confederate batteries to support the river crossing, and on 7 Apr four regiments were ferried across the Mississippi to cut the Confederate line of retreat at Tiptonville. The Confederates surrendered 3,500 men (over 1,500 of whom were sick) and 500 escaped through the swamps. Pope's victory opened the Mississippi to Fort Pillow, and gave him a reputation which led to his being selected by Lincoln two months later to command the Army of Virginia (2nd Bull Run Campaign).
James B. Wilbur Fund
Inscribed along lower edge in graphite: "One of the ancient bronze mortars of the time / of the George II -- found at Island No 10. / formerly in Jackson square New Orleans."
John T. Kavanaugh Collection, Rutherford, New Jersey, 1945
Due to ongoing research, information about this object is subject to change.