Monday, October 17, 2016

Virginia Trip Part 5: Petersburg Siegeworks and "Battle of the Crater":

After we got back from our weekend of visiting the Atlantic Ocean, we explored another portion of Petersburg Battlefield as soon as Michael got off work on Monday . It is huge! There were ultimately 37 miles of siegeworks around Petersburg. Saw where Confederate forces broke through the lines at Fort Stedman but were repelled by Union troops near the end of the war.
Here is a bigger picture view of where Fort Stedman was.  

Then we walked the woods where the infamous charge of the Maine First Heavy Artillery failed, resulting in 75% loss, the most of any Union regiment in the entire Civil War. Seeing all those names on that monument just gives you chills.

Other side of the same monument. 
Such a waste of lives.
Then we walked past "The Crater" where a Pennsylvania regiment dug a 500+ft tunnel under a Confederate battery, effectively blowing it up and killing 250 confederate soldiers.
Entrance to the tunnel.
They had to create ventilation shafts and it is amazing that they managed to hide these from the Confederates.
After the big explosion, confused Union forces were soon pushed back into the crater and unable to escape its steep sides. It was like a "turkey shoot" for the Confederates.
Gen. Grant called it a "Stupendous Failure". It was a good idea, but lack of communication lost the day. Confederates killed 4000+ Union troops that day, and the trench warfare continued for 8 more months of hell. This was the most sobering thing I saw back there. Couldn't get it out of my mind. 

The crater would have been much larger at the time. 150 years of erosion has diminished its size considerably.
There were layers of wounded and dead soldiers piled on top of each other. 
The Confederates suspected the Union forces were digging a mine, but didn't know where it was. Thus, they began digging countermines. They almost ran into the Union tunnel, but didn't quite reach it.

Right after the explosion, African American Union troops headed to the other side of the crater, but reinforcements didn't show up in time and they were soon pushed back into the Crater (because it was the only available cover) by angry Confederate troops who gave no quarter to the African Americans. In fact, a sign on the battlefield said that white Union troops trying to surrender were shooting their African American comrades- in-arms in hopes that the Confederates would allow them to surrender. This story sickened me. I'd never heard it before.

Ultimately the whole battle was such a waste of men, especially since they went right back to a stalemate for 8 more months until the end of the war. Walking these battlegrounds and seeing these places with my own eyes - things I've only read about or seen in movies, has made a lasting impression on me. I'll never forget what I saw back there.

Blessings, Jackie

1 comment:

Camille said...

Truly sobering history. I am so glad you were able to visit with your hubby. These things really do make us think, don't they? Hugs, Camille


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