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Petersburg, Va. The “Dictator”

[Detail] Petersburg, Va. The “Dictator”

What do you see? | Possible Answers

Possible Answers

What do you see in this picture?

This photograph has six sections with associated possible questions. Below are some possible answers to the questions.

Left Section

  1. What are the rail tracks used for?
    To transport the heavy gun (too heavy to be pulled by horses or humans) and ammunition
  2. What are the other items in the photograph? Rope, wooden barrels, boxes, railroad ties, rail cart on wheels
  3. What are these items used for?
    Rope for moving heavy objects (such as the gun); wooden barrels may contain food, water, gunpowder; boxes may contain food or ammunition; railroad ties to hold rails down; rail cart on wheels to move supplies, heavy objects such as the cannon balls or the gun

Center-left Section

  1. Is this person in the Union or Confederate Army?
    No evidence is presented in this picture. Look at other portions of the picture to help answer this question
  2. What season of the year do you think this is?
    The man has rolled up the sleeves on his shirt, and is not wearing a coat. This indicates that it would be either summer, late spring, or early fall. Look at vegetation for further clues.
  3. What time of day is it?
    The shadows behind the man and the shadows on his face indicates either late morning or early afternoon.

Center Section

  1. What is unusual about the gun?
    The shape and size of the gun.
  2. Why is the barrel so short and thick?
    The shortness of the gun would allow ease of maneuverability. The gun is a mortar, which allows a high arc (a high altitude), not precision aiming. The gun fires a 225 pound cannon ball over 4,000 yards, using 20 pounds of gunpowder. This much explosive force needs to be contained in a very thick barrel.
  3. Why are there steps in the front of the gun?
    These assist in the loading of the gun.
  4. What is the function of the small metal loop on the top of the gun?
    This assists in removing the barrel from its carriage (the base of the gun) for repair or cleaning.
  5. What is the function of the metal rod and wheel on this side of the gun?
    To rotate the cannon for aiming right to left at various targets.
  6. What is the function of the metal rod in the back of the gun (look between the two men)?
    This rod is called a hand spike which aids in changing the elevation (angle of fire) of the gun.
  7. Why are the men wearing different hats?
    The "issue" (uniform) cap is small and similar to a baseball cap. In the field soldiers preferred the wider brim hat which provided better protection from insects, sun, etc.
  8. Why is there a line moving from upper right to lower left in the picture?
    The original image was produced from a glass negative. At some time a crack developed in the negative, but a good image can still be printed.

Right Section

  1. What are the round objects?
    Cannon balls (solid shot - solid metal) or mortar shells (hollow with gunpowder inside).
  2. Why are they stacked in that manner?
    For ease in handling. If the cannon ball weighs over 200 pounds, putting one on top allows for less lifting.
  3. What is the man in suspenders holding in his left hand?
  4. What is the function of that object?
    Tongs are used for lifting the shells. This would be a two person task. The shells would have indentations to ease in lifting.
  5. Look at the hat worn by the man in the right side of the picture. Are any other men in the whole picture wearing a hat like his?
    This hat is an official uniform (issued) hat. Four other men (all on the right side of the picture) may be wearing similar hats.