A Civil War mortar stolen from the park’s Cold Harbor battlefield more than 40 years ago has been found, seized and returned to the park. In April 1940, the United States Army’s Watervliet Arsenal transferred a Civil War era Coehorn mortar to the National Park Service. The mortar remained in the care of the NPS until the winter of 1970, when it was unlawfully removed from the Cold Harbor battlefield. The incident was originally investigated by the FBI in 1970 but without results.
In August, 2011, the person who unlawfully acquired the mortar back in 1970 sold it for $8,000 to another party. This transaction was brought to the attention of the park historian at Petersburg National Battlefield by an individual in Detroit, Michigan. The Petersburg historian notified protection rangers there, who in turn notified rangers at Richmond National Battlefield Park. A check of records revealed that the mortar was stolen from Richmond.
A case file was opened and an investigation was begun. When the scope of the investigation became apparent and the multiple locations involved in the case exceeded the park’s ability to effectively investigate the case, rangers contacted NPS Investigative Services Branch special agents for assistance.
Through the tireless work of Richmond rangers and numerous ISB special agents, the mortar was located in Kittery, Maine. It was seized on September 15, 2011 by rangers from Lowell NHP, where it was stored as evidence until being shuttled back to Richmond by ISB agents. In January of this year, the mortar was returned to its Richmond home after a 40 year absence. Plans are for the mortar to be eventually placed on display at the park’s newest unit, Totopotomoy Creek Battlefield at Rural Plains, where a battery of Coehorn mortars saw extensive use in 1864.