I eagerly await the monthly United Daughters of the Confederacy magazine as it is always edifying about the War Between the States, of which, if you are a regular reader of this blog, you know I am a dedicated aficionado. I don’t know a lot but I learn, as you do, by reading!
The March 2014 edition of said magazine has an article by Suanne Townsend titled “The Crater and Major General William Mahone”. It is about an incident during the Siege of Petersburg, Virginia, The siege began in June of 1864, ended in July, and led to what is know as the Battle of the Crater.
A Union Army officer, Lieutenant Colonel Henry Pleasants, had the idea to build a tunnel beneath the Confederate trenches at Petersburg. This he filled with gunpowder, and set on fire. The tunnel exploded, just as expected and it was “the most awesome spectacle of the War”. The explosion left 300 Confederates dead or maimed and created a huge hole.
The Confederates panicked but regrouped with the arrival of Major General William Mahone, who ordered them to circle the top of the crater and shoot the Union soldiers who were trapped below. Ms. Townsend said “Grant described the attack as a ‘stupendous failure.’ Major General Burnside was relieved of his command”.
General Mahone was promoted to Major General by Robert E. Lee, and Ms. Townsend writes: “he (Mahone) was placed in command of a Division, which led until the surrender at Appomattox.
I have been to Petersburg and think I re member seeing a plaque marking the spot. Would like to go back and relive the experience now that I have read the story.