Wearily, along lines that were now becoming very formidable earthworks, the survivors of Lee's many battles awaited the next move of their adversary. An hour before dawn every man was aroused and stood at arms to repel attack. After daylight, one man in two could sleep as best he might under the summer sun. The other 50 per cent of each command had to remain constantly on the alert, weapons in hand. Half an hour before dusk the whole of each regiment mounted the fire step and remained there until dark. Then those who had slept during the day went on duty.1 Two men of each company were required to keep up infantry fire from dawn till night. Each fired once in five minutes — twenty shots to a regiment every ten minutes.2
The sharpshooters became so proficient on both sides that momentary exposure of the person was almost certain to result in a serious wound, if not in death. There was always, too, the danger of an exchange of mortar shells. The Federals had put these weapons into action at the beginning of the investment of Petersburg. The Confederates began to employ them on June 24.3 It was seldom that the artillerists of either army got the exact range of the trenches, but they fired steadily, sometimes furiously, and forced the men to keep under cover, especially when in rear of the works. In hot weather the heat, the flies, and the stench of the latrines made existence a torture. When a long June drought ended and thunderstorms became frequent, the water was often •two feet deep in the trenches and sometimes eighteen inches on the banquette.4 Drainage was very slowly installed. Those who p464 sickened under this ordeal were scarcely better off than those who contrived to "stick it out"; for many of the field infirmaries were for a long time in wretched condition.5
Often, as the weary men listened in moments of silence, they thought they heard the sound of picks at work, far underground. As early as July 1, General Alexander, who was going home for a short leave on account of a wound, reported to General Lee his conviction that the enemy was mining.6 Countershafts were sunk at intervals along the lines, and listening galleries were run out, but the engineers failed to encounter the Federal miners.7 Suspicion was strongest that the enemy was striking for a position known as Elliott's salient, located •one and five-eighths miles south of the Appomattox and •nearly three-quarters of a mile southeast of Blandford Cemetery. This was, in reality, more of a re-entrant than a salient, and was a somewhat weak point, closer to the Federal works than almost any other part of the front. In rear of it a second and part of a light third line were constructed.8
Perhaps the precautions against the explosion of a mine were not so thorough as they might have been, because the Confederates did not believe a tunnel could be run for the •500 feet that lay between the lines. Francis Lawler, the correspondent of The London Times, who happened to be at Lee's headquarters when Alexander reported his suspicions, maintained that •400 feet was the absolute limit of length for such a tunnel, because ventilation could not be had for a greater distance. The men in the ranks took the talk of a mine as something of a joke and told newcomers that Grant was trying to mine all the way under Petersburg, so as to take the army in reverse. Already, they said, the Federals had carried their tunnel as far as Sycamore Street, the main thoroughfare of the town, and had installed a train. A conscript was assured that if he listened carefully, he could hear the roar of the engine, and if he looked he could see the smoke from it, rising through the spaces among the cobblestones of the roadway.9
All the signs of mining operations on the Petersburg front p465 General Lee followed with care, but he had equal anxiety for the north side of the James River. General Ewell, who had now gone on duty, had only a small force there, consisting chiefly of the heavy artillerists at Chaffin's Bluff. In the emergency created by the movement to Petersburg, the local defense forces of the capital had been called out, and had remained on the line below Richmond until the end of June.10 Lee also had kept two brigades of infantry at Chaffin's Bluff, though on July 4 he had to warn General Ewell that he could not count on these troops permanently.11 In his correspondence with Custis, the General often discussed the organization of troops for any sudden attack north of that sector.12 General Ewell, he reasoned, would be on the alert and could give a measure of protection on the water front by the use of his 20‑pounder• Parrott guns,13 but Lee was convinced that he could not get early warning of any sudden advance on Richmond from the landside.14 His apprehension was heightened by the knowledge that General Grant enjoyed the great advantage of inner lines, for the Federals had thrown a double pontoon bridge across the James at Deep Bottom, whereas Lee's pontoons were above Chaffin's Bluff.
Sketch showing how, in the transfer of troops from one side of the James River to the other, Grant enjoyed the advantage of a short route and in effect had the "inner lines."
On July 23 there were reports that Union troops had crossed to the northside. Lee thought it likely that they were intended for nothing more serious than to interrupt Confederate operations on the James, but as a precaution he ordered Kershaw's division to Chaffin's Bluff.15 When he learned that the Federals were entrenching opposite Deep Bottom, Lee directed Kershaw to drive the enemy back and, if possible, to destroy the pontoon bridges.16 Before Kershaw could accomplish anything, Lee discovered on the morning of July 27 that the II Corps had crossed the James, apparently for a surprise attack on Richmond. He at once dispatched General Anderson to Chaffin's Bluff, followed by Heth's division of the Third Corps. As these troops encountered both p466 infantry and cavalry in considerable numbers on the 28th and had the worst of a skirmish with them, Lee ordered Rooney Lee's cavalry across, together with reserve artillery, and on the 29th he sent Field's division and Fitz Lee's cavalry.17 The southside was almost denuded by these transfers. Pickett was on the Bermuda Hundred line. In front of Petersburg were only Hoke's and Johnson's divisions of Beauregard's command, Mahone's18 division of the Third Corps and part of Wilcox's command, altogether about 18,000 infantry. To risk the very existence of this small force was to purchase security for Richmond at a heavy price. Perhaps it was at this time, when he was strained to the p467 utmost to defend so long a line, that Lee began to doubt whether it was wise to attempt indefinitely to hold Richmond with his weakened army.
Late in the night of July 29‑30, after reading the dispatches from the northside, Lee became satisfied that the enemy was merely making feints at other points and was preparing to attack on the Petersburg sector. At 2 A.M. on the 30th, a General warning was sent down the trenches.19 It found Hoke on the Confederate left, defending •nearly a mile of the front southward from the Appomattox. Next to Hoke, toward the right, was Bushrod Johnson's division — from left to right, Ransom's, Elliott's, Wise's, and Colquitt's brigades.20 This was the part of the line on which the evidence of mining by the Federals had been strongest. Johnson's right rested at Rives's Salient, •about a fourth of a mile northeast of the point where the Jerusalem plank road passed through the line. West of Rives's Salient, on the right of Johnson, where the Federal lines were at a greater distance, were Mahone's and half of Wilcox's divisions. The men of the Third Corps were veterans, of course, but the greater part of the defenses were in the keeping of Beauregard's army. This was in accordance with a decision that Lee had reached but naturally had never announced, to leave the less-experienced troops on the line and to employ the more seasoned units in open operations when it became necessary to draw men from the thinly held trenches. Before another twelve hours passed, Lee was to have evidence that in a crisis Beauregard's men could be as readily trusted as his own.
At 4:44 on the morning of July 3021 there came across the Appomattox to Violet Bank the sound of a distant but mighty explosion, somewhere to the southeast of Petersburg. Was it the mine of which there had been so much speculation, or had a great magazine been fired accidentally? Lee and his staff made ready. At 6:10 a galloping officer arrived from Beauregard.22 On the front of Elliott's brigade, he said, the enemy had blown up the Confederate line, and under cover of a wild tornado p468 of fire had thrown forward heavy columns into the crater formed by the upheaval of hundreds of tons of earth. The Federals were already in the works and at the moment might even be advancing straight on Cemetery Hill, •a sinister name, surely, in the memory of Gettysburg.
Sketch showing the relation of the Federal mine, exploded on July 30, 1864, to the Confederate defenses around Petersburg.
Lee's orders were given almost as soon as the message was delivered. The line must be restored at once, or Petersburg would be lost. Colonel Venable was to ride forthwith to General Mahone's headquarters and was to tell him to draw two brigades out of the line, unobserved by the enemy, and to hurry them to a position in rear of the gap in the fortifications.23 The other p469 staff officers were assigned instant duty. Lee himself mounted Traveller and, unattended, hurried toward the front. At Hill's headquarters he found that officer's assistant adjutant general, Colonel W. H. Palmer, who told him that Hill had ridden off, a few minutes after the explosion, to bring up Mahone. Lee said he would go in person to expedite the movement. By a short route to the left of Halifax Street and along Lieutenant Run, he hurried with Palmer toward Mahone; but before they reached the house where Mahone was lodged they found his troops under way.24 Lee turned at once, rode out into the open, and when he reached a point whence the break in the lines was clearly visible, he drew rein, took out his glasses and surveyed it carefully. Smoke was rising thick above it; the whole sector was aflame with bursting shell and flashing infantry fire.
How many Federal flags, he asked, could Palmer count on the works?
The young colonel took his glasses and scrutinized the whole of the captured position. Eleven, he answered.
Eleven regiments, at the least — virtually three brigades — a heavy force, not easily to be driven out!
Lee wheeled Traveller again and rode back to Mahone's column as the two brigades of Weisiger and Wright moved down Lieutenant Run.25 Seeing that the men of the Third Corps were pressing steadily onward, Lee hastened to General Johnson's quarters, northwest of Blandford Cemetery.26 Here he found General Beauregard, who had been forward to the Gee house, •some 500 yards in rear of the crater formed by the mine. After a few words, they went on to Gee's and, from its upper windows, got an excellent view of the action that was now at white fury.27
The explosion had occurred about the middle of Elliott's front, p470 •some 200 yards north of the Baxter road.28 It had destroyed the front line for a distance of •135 feet and had left a crater •some thirty feet deep, with a breadth, from front to rear, of ninety-seven feet.29 Nine companies, forming part of two South Carolina regiments, had been blown up, together with the men of Pegram's four-gun battery, which was stationed between the main earthworks and the cavalier trench.30 Two of Pegram's pieces had been left intact; the others had been hurled high into the air, and one of them had landed in front of the wrecked fortification. A great clod of clay, almost as large as one of the Negro cabins around Petersburg, had been lifted from the crater and was poised on the rim nearest the enemy.31
As he looked over the ground, Lee could see that the enemy had crowded men into the crater by the thousand, and had captured •about thirty yards of the line to the right of it and some 200 yards to the left.32 Union flags floated also from the second line, though none of the Federals were yet over its parapet. Lee learned that Elliott's men had been demoralized by the explosion for a few minutes only. Those who had fled from the works had rallied quickly.33 On the left of the crater, in the ditches, and behind the traverses that led from the first line to the second, they were keeping the Federals at bay. On the right, a fragment of Elliott's brigade had the support of Wise's men, who held a sector from which they could pour a fire into the crater and across the field leading to it. These two brigades, almost unaided, had met the first onslaught and had prevented the enemy from extending his front along the trenches.34 To them, first of all, was due the credit for saving Petersburg.a
Lee thankfully observed, also, that the artillery had gone into action quickly, and was pouring a blasting fire into the crater. On Wise's front, Davidson's battery had two guns in a fixed p471 position, looking down a shallow ravine.35 Only one of these could bear on the enemy and this one had been abandoned for a short time by its crew, but it had been manned by Wise's troops, some of whom had been trained as artillerists, and it was now firing fast and with the deadliest precision.36 Apparently the Federals could not locate it, though many of their field pieces were searching for it with their shells.37 In rear of the left of the crater, where a hill rose above the covered way that ran from the right of Ransom's brigade, was Wright's battery of four 12‑pounder Napoleons.•38 The elevated position of this battery gave it a clear field of fire, virtually at point-blank range into the crater.39 When Lee turned his glasses in that direction, Wright was firing as fast as his men could serve the pieces. The enemy's shot broke about them till the very ground was pockmarked, but this seemed only to spur them to greater speed.40 From the Jerusalem plank road, almost directly in rear of the crater, Flanner's North Carolina battery was plastering the Federals in the second line, undeterred by the ceaseless fire directed against it.41 Some nearby mortars were sending their shells into the chasm on high, graceful arcs. The approximate position of each of these Confederate artillery units is shown in the sketch on page 473:42
Position of certain Confederate batteries employed in the counterattack of July 30, 1864, for the recovery of that part of the line occupied by the Federals after the mine explosion.
Evidently the enemy was stopped, but for how long? With his superior artillery to cover his infantry, he might force his way up and down the trenches or dash straight forward to Cemetery Hill,43 which was undefended. The Federals must be driven out: it might be bloody work but there was no way of avoiding it.
Where were Mahone's two brigades? Moving up the covered way, their commander said. A third brigade had been ordered to join them. Were any other reinforcements available? None, General Johnson assured Lee, except one regiment that Hoke was sending from the left, and a few of Elliott's men, who had been p472 placed in a sheltered ravine between the lines and the Jerusalem plank road. Mahone, then, must charge with what he had — and as quickly as he could file his men into the depression where the South Carolinians were waiting. Calmly Lee directed his subordinates to prepare for the assault; carefully he counselled where the officers should place the Third Corps reserve artillery that was now arriving.44
The infantry fire had slackened somewhat by this time — it was now after 8 — or else the ears of the combatants had been deadened to its rattle,45 but artillery bombardment increased in violence every moment. From across the distant Appomattox, Captain William D. Bradford began to send shell from his 20‑pounder Parrotts• as far as south as the Hare house, in a grim warning to the enemy not to extend the front of attack.46 Colonel John Haskell, on the Plank road, stirred his gunners to still more brilliant practice; Ellett's and Brander's pieces, under their brilliant battalion chief, Colonel William Pegram, were in battery and added their salvos to the din.47 Fourteen Union flags were visible now; Federal officers could be seen on the parapet of the second line, waving their swords and urging their men to come out of the ditch and charge up Cemetery Hill.48
How much more time would be required to get all the men out of the covered way and into the ravine? Daniel Weisiger, the senior colonel of Mahone's old Virginia brigade, was working furiously to make ready; General Mahone's aide, Captain Victor Girardey, was everywhere; Mahone himself, with encouraging words, was hurrying late-comers into place. The Georgia brigade of Wright, which had marched on the heels of the Virginians, was gathering on their right. At last the word was given for the men to move out of the ravine and to crouch in the open as they formed their line. Only one special instruction was given — that the troops should not fire till they were on the enemy.49
At the Gee house, Lee knew that Mahone was forming, and he must have watched with anxious eyes asº the gray regiments spread themselves along the ravine; but still more anxiously must he have p474 looked to the occupied line to see if the Federals would advance before the Confederates were ready for them.
Soon a Federal officer on the parapet seized a flag, called once more to his men to charge, and sprang down toward the open ground between him and the Confederates. Out from the works came his followers, their number swelling every second.50
Girardey saw them leaping over the parapet, and cried out, "General, they are coming!"
"Tell Weisiger to move forward," said Mahone on the instant.
But Weisiger had not waited for orders. He had shouted "Forward" at the same instant that Girardey had called to Mahone, and his 800 men, with some of the Georgia troops and a fragment of Elliott's brigade, raised the old rebel yell and started up the hill.51
As Lee saw the valiant gray line spring up from the ground at the very instant the Federals started their charge, he must have had some of the exhilaration he had felt that day at Fredericksburg when he had told Longstreet it was well war was so terrible or they would grow too fond of it.52 Up the hill the line swept, its ragged battle flags, flying, with the fire of all the Confederate batteries redoubled as if in applause. Soon it was apparent that the right of the Georgia brigade had not started with the rest. The front of attack was too short to cover all that part of the line held by the Federals. Perhaps, too, the men unconsciously obliqued to the left, for when they approached the second line, their right was perhaps •100 yards to the left of the crater.53 "No quarter!" some foolish Federal cried, as they leaped into the rear work. They answered with one volley, jumped over the parapet and fought it out with bayonet and clubbed musket.54 Only a few minutes of this and then, their lines irregular but unbroken, they rushed for the front trench. Thrust and counterthrust there, and soon, through the smoke, the red of their flags could be seen on the main parapet.55
p475 Most of the ground on the left was recovered in this charge; the gap was narrowed; Haskell's mortars were brought close up, where they could drop their shells into the crater with so light a charge of powder that the gunners had to smile;56 gleefully Mahone's men collected the hundreds of muskets the enemy had dropped.57 Now for the right! Those of the Georgia brigade who had not assaulted with Weisiger were ordered forward to take the second line, immediately behind the crater. At 10:30 they advanced, but met so heavy a fire that they, too, drifted to the left and only reached the rear position where it was already occupied by their comrades.58 Still the enemy held the crater, a section of the main line on either side of it, that part of the second line just in rear of it, and some scattered rifle pits. On the left of the chasm, Mahone's and Elliott's troops steadily drove the Federals back along the front line until they were almost to the edge of the crater, and on the right Wise's brigade pushed the foe to the very rim.
One more effort must be made, this time by the third brigade of Mahone's division, Saunders's Alabamians, who had been summoned from the right before the first advance. Arriving at 11 o'clock, they were disposed with care. The order was that when they went forward, the other infantry commands on either side the crater, and Colquitt's brigade on the right of Johnson's division, were to co-operate with every musket and every man. Saunders's troops were told to stoop low as they went up the grade, until they reached the point where they could see the enemy. Then they were to break into the doublequick and were not to halt until they reached the crater. Lee sent word to Saunders that he had no more troops available. If the Alabamians did not take the crater on the first assault, he said, he would re-form them and would lead them in person.59 The thing had to be done and done by Saunders. The remainder of the line had been stripped almost bare to supply troops for the counterattacks. On the front from which Mahone had been drawn there was only one man every twenty paces.60
p476 As Saunders's brigade gathered in the ravine for this grim business, a soldier covered with dirt and powder came up to Captain James C. Featherstone. "Captain," he said, "can I go into this charge with you?"
"Yes," said Featherstone hurriedly. "Who are you?"
The man gave his name, which unfortunately has been lost, and explained that he belonged to one of the South Carolina regiments that had been blown up. "I want to get even with them," he said. "Please take my name, and if I get killed inform my officers of it."
"I have no time for writing now," Featherstone answered. "How high did they blow you?"
"I don't know," the man replied, "but as I was going up I met the company commissary officer coming down, and he said, 'I will try to have breakfast ready by the time you get down.' "61
The spirit of this brave fellow was that of the Alabama troops whom he had joined, for the brigade had been Wilcox's, and among its 628 survivors were some who had distinguished themselves in their most renowned battle, that of Salem Church. They were ready now. It was 1 o'clock. On the second, the order "Forward!" went down the line, and the men began to creep out from the ravine and up the hill. The artillery roared anew; the shells screamed over their heads like frightened birds. Soon all were in the open, where the enemy's fire began to tell on their ranks. But this time there was no obliquing. Directly up the incline they went, straight for the crater. Lee watched them, now hidden in smoke, now visible, and saw them reach the second line, from which the enemy had fled. They waited there only long enough to catch their breath and were about to dash into the crater when, at one point, a white flag was raised and the Federals surrendered. At another place on the crater rim the fighting kept up. By direction of Colonel J. H. King, some of the Alabama troops lifted their caps on their ramrods just over the rim of the crater. A hundred bullets tore them to tatters, and the volley that was meant for the men was wasted. Immediately the Alabamians sprang into the crater,62 followed by soldiers from the other brigades of the division. The mêlée was like a battle of despairing p477 demons. One captain fell dead with eleven bayonet thrusts.63 The sight of Negro troops, whom they now encountered in close action for the first time, seemed to throw Mahone's men into a frenzy. Bewildered by the onslaught, all the Federals who could do so fell back into a smaller pit, in front of which the explosion had raised an earthen barrier. The Confederates were preparing to follow them there, when there were wild cries, shouts, uplifted hands, frantic appeals, and a final surrender.64 Meantime, thousands of the Federals had scurried across the open ground toward their abatis, preferring the chance of falling before Confederate bullets to the certainty of long confinement in Southern prisons.
The "Battle of the Crater" was over. As quickly as it could be done, an earthwork was run around the edge of the pit and the line was restored. At 3:25, Lee was able to report to the War Department, "We have retaken the salient and driven the enemy back to his lines with loss."65 Mahone counted 1101 prisoners66 and Johnson's division had a lesser quota. Twenty flags were taken.67 The price paid by the Confederates was about 1500, of whom 278 lost their lives or were captured when the mine exploded.68
Lee was much gratified that so serious a threat had been repulsed with such unequal losses, and he said of the action, "Every man in it has today made himself a hero."69 He at once had Mahone regularly promoted to command of the division he had been temporarily heading,70 and he raised both Colonel Weisiger and Captain Girardey to the rank of brigadier general.71 The camps rejoiced and told incredible tales of what had happened, but the full horror of the struggle in that inferno of man's own making was not apparent until August 1, when many of the Confederates entered the crater during a truce declared at the request of General Meade.72 "The sight," wrote Colonel Taylor, p478 ". . . was gruesome indeed. The force of the explosion had carried earth, guns, accoutrements and men some distance skyward, the whole coming down in an inextricable mass; portions of the bodies of the poor victims were to be seen protruding from immense blocks of earth. . . . The bottom of the pit . . . was covered with dead, white and black intermingled, a horrible sight."73
2 Shaver: History of the Sixtieth Alabama Regt., 64.
3 Alexander, 560.
6 Alexander, 564.
9 Taylor MSS., July 25, 1864.
12 E.g., Lee to Custis Lee, July 24, 1864; Duke Univ. MSS.
14 Cf. Lee's Dispatches, 272: "It is very difficult for me to get correct information here."
17 O. R., 40, part 1, p762; Pendleton, 356. Alexander (op. cit., 566‑67) was badly mixed in his chronology of this operation. For the correct sequence of events, see Hancock's report, O. R., 40, part 1, pp308 ff. Lee's display of force led the Federals to abandon what was a serious attempt to capture Richmond and to destroy the Virginia Central Railroad by a quick movement (Hancock's report, loc. cit.).
18 Formerly Anderson's.
19 McCabe, 519; 32 S. H. S. P., 359.
20 Colquitt belonged to Hoke's division but had been assigned temporarily to Johnson, in place of Gracie, who had been detached (O. R., 40, part 1, p787, History of Kershaw's Brigade, 393). Colonel Roman stated (op. cit., 2, 261‑62) that Johnson's left rested on the Appomattox, but he overlooked the presence of Hoke.
22 2 S. H. S. P., 289.
23 Taylor's General Lee, 257; Lee to Mrs. Lee, July 31, 1864, R. E. Lee, Jr., 135‑36.
24 20 S. H. S. P., 203; W. H. Stewart: A Pair of Blankets, 154. Mahone's troops were on the Willcox Farm, approximately on a prolongation of Adams Street (18 S. H. S. P., 3). The ground in their rear was visible to the enemy, so they slipped back, one at a time, as if they were going to a nearby spring. The Federal commander on that part of the front, General G. K. Warren, did not know the line had been weakened, and testified as late as December, 1864, that the force opposing him had not shared in the battle (W. Gordon McCabe in 2 S. H. S. P., 289 and n., quoting 1 Report of Comm. on the Conduct of the War, 1865, p7).
25 20 S. H. S. P., 204.
26 The location of this house was "on the crest of the hill a short distance from the northwest corner of Blandford Cemetery and near the road leading southwardly up the hill to the cemetery" (18 S. H. S. P., 6).
27 2 Roman, 264.
30 Ibid., and Captain Geo. B. Lake, in History of Kershaw's Brigade, 413.
31 4 B. and L., 561.
32 2 Roman, 266. The Federals claimed to have seized approximately 150 yards to the right, but they admitted that they held this ground only a very short time (4 B. and L., 555). "Right" and "left," in this description, are from the Confederate position looking toward the enemy.
33 Cf. the statement of their commander, Colonel F. W. McMaster in 10 S. H. S. P., 120, and in History of Kershaw's Brigade, 395.
35 10 S. H. S. P., 123.
38 Manned by soldiers from Halifax County, Virginia.
39 10 S. H. S. P., 126‑27.
40 The battery used between 500 and 600 rounds during the engagement (10 S. H. S. P., 127).
41 5 S. H. S. P., 247‑48.
42 Artillery subsequently brought into action does not appear. A post-bellum map, giving much more topographical detail, appears in Bernard, 321.
44 Cf. Pendleton, 359: "General Lee as usual directed with consummate judgment."
45 McMaster in History of Kershaw's Brigade, 399‑400.
46 10 S. H. S. P., 127.
47 2 S. H. S. P., 285, 289.
48 History of Kershaw's Brigade, 401.
49 2 S. H. S. P., 291.
50 2 S. H. S. P., 291.
51 A controversy echoed for years over the question of whether Weisiger or Mahone ordered the charge. The conclusion here reached is practically that to which the chief protagonist of General Mahone arrived in 28 S. H. S. P., 220.
53 28 S. H. S. P., 205‑6.
54 W. H. Stewart: A Pair of Blankets, 155‑56.
55 2 S. H. S. P., 291‑92; 28 ibid., 205‑6. It must be remembered that when the (p475)Federals held these works, which the Confederates had constructed, "parapet" and "ditch" were in reversed position: the "ditch" was nearest the attacking Southerners, and Federals were where the outer side of the Confederate "parapet" had been.
56 2 S. H. S. P., 292.
57 2 S. H. S. P., 292.
58 2 S. H. S. P., 292.
59 25 S. H. S. P., 84.
60 33 S. H. S. P., 364.
61 33 S. H. S. P., 362.
62 33 S. H. S. P., 364.
63 Richard Lewis: Camp Life of a Confederate Boy, 57.
64 2 S. H. S. P., 293; 33 ibid., 364.
66 Alexander, 572.
69 W. H. Stewart: A Pair of Blankets, 168.
71 Marcus J. Wright: General Officers of the Confederate Army, 123; 6 C. M. H., 421.
73 Taylor's General Lee, 258. The proposal to mine the Confederate works was made by Lieutenant Colonel Henry Pleasants, a mining engineer, whose regiment consisted largely of coal diggers. General Burnside, commanding the IX Corps, approved the plan. Work was begun on June 25 and was pushed vigorously by Pleasants. The main gallery was •510 feet long, with two laterals. The eight magazines, after completion on July 23, were filled with a total of •8000 pounds of powder. The high command of the Army of the Potomac was skeptical of success, but it sanctioned the assault (4 B. and L., 545; 2 Meade, 217). The attack was delivered by Ledlie's 1st Division of the IX Corps, followed by parts of the other three divisions of that command. The failure of the enterprise was the subject of a court of inquiry, the testimony before which is printed in O. R., 40, part 1, pp42 ff. The reasons were defective co-ordination, tardiness on the part of some of the units, and, fundamentally, the crowding into the crater of too many troops. This last condition, in turn, was attributable to bad leading, to the effort of new troops to seek shelter, and to the practical difficulty of getting the men out of the crater, once they had entered it (cf. 5 Correspondence of B. F. Butler, 1 ff.). Some picturesque details of the battle, not given in the text, or in the authorities cited supra, will be found in Bernard, op. cit., and in MS. Memoirs of W. B. Freeman.
a See the eyewitness report by Capt. John Floyd, 18th South Carolina Volunteers, C. S. A., in The State (Columbia, SC): "Elliott's Brigade at the Crater"
Images with borders lead to more information.
The thicker the border, the more information. (Details here.)
Robert E. Lee
The Siege of Petersburg Online
A page or image on this site is in the public domain ONLY
if its URL has a total of one *asterisk.
If the URL has two **asterisks,
the item is copyright someone else, and used by permission or fair use.
If the URL has none the item is © Bill Thayer.
See my copyright page for details and contact information.
Page updated: 26 May 18