At war's end, and with the loss of his wife and over half of his children to death, Edmund decided he could not live under the rules of the North. So he went upstairs with a pitched twig and musket, put the barrel in his mouth and manipulated the stick till the trigger was pulled. The musket failed to go off, so it was reloaded. The 2nd attempt was more successful.
Just one of the millions of tragedies over the entire war, every one before... and since.
Since early February I have brought you many stories about the plight of those captured or born into slavery in the US, and about coloured troops in the military, and treatments most received in many cases. Yet to be covered are the steps taken over recent years to right the wrongs when those deserving, were not awarded medals simply because they were men of colour.
Last week's story of the horrors faced at Fort Wagner, were very much influenced by prejudicial feelings so strong that the very unit was created with this in mind. I suggested that you go to the library and get a copy of the 1989 movie Glory and learn about this famous regiment and what it endured.
Sadly it became famous because of the movie. That status belonged to it since CW days but was long forgotten by most till the movie brought the regiment's history back to life.
Moving forward exactly a year (and 2 days if you are counting,)
It was 30 July 1864, and the scene to explode, literally, was near Petersburg Virginia, a major railway hub that had to be taken by the Union forces. But with dead open ground to the front of the enemy lines, very heavily defended, the only approach was across that very dangerous field. The Union had no desire to make such an advance, having just recently been defeated in an important battle and failing to cross similar terrain and win the fight.
Three divisions of men were assigned to take the major Fort. One would go up the center and one to the left and right on an arc that would end at the left and right sides. So the plans said.
But an altered plan involved using one of the divisions that included pre-war miners who suggested a long tunnel underground that would end up directly underneath a major enemy cannon some 150 ft. away from the Union's concealed entry point. From there the tunnel would move off to the left and right some 50 ft. and also directly under two more powerful enemy cannons.
The commanders had both coloured and white troops on hand. It was felt that the more experienced white troops were better trained and disciplined and should be the first to enter the tunnel after some 8000 pounds of gun powder was lit and the tunnel blown up. But the whites had been exhausted before the battle and very weary and just worn out. Not so for the Blacks who had been usually employed on less important tasks and biting at the bullet to prove their worth. It was finally decided that the Blacks should go in first despite fears of accusations of discrimination should the plan fail.
The men were trained on what to do after the explosion, where to go etc, but just before the powder was lit, plans reversed and the whites were ordered in first.Tired whites already exhausted and NOT trained on what to do when they got to the pit that would result from the explosion.
The rumbling of the ground and noise was heard and felt many miles away. The explosion was so powerful that it blew cannons wagons, enemy troops, woodworks and more tens of yards into the air and all then came crashing down to shatter. Arms and legs of the enemy were sticking out of sand piles and Southern deaths numbered in the hundreds in minutes.
The White Union troops followed by the Coloured then entered the pit and were as stunned at what they saw as were the Confederates farther back. It took the Southerners about 1/2 hr to regroup and bring reinforcements up to the edge of the pit, that was about 130 ft. long, 60 wide and 30 deep. One would later say three houses could have easily fitted into the crater.
But with the excitement it seems that many of the Union forces did not go around as ordered, but got caught up in the interest or sheer movement of the mob and pushed into the pit. This created a pit of horror. Men could not get out because the sides were so slippery with mud and oil and loose sand and they could not dig their heels into anything that would allow them to climb out.
Then the real horror started with the Confederates who were under orders to shoot and kill every soldier of colour. and also every white officer that appeared to be in command of any of the blacks. Many trying to surrender threw up their arms and pleaded for mercy and were instead simply shot by the enemy. Some of the white Union officers even started to club and shoot their own black comrades in the hopes the enemy whites would spare them. Not so!
A later army Court of Inquiry sought answers on why the Union lost 8,500 soldiers in a manner of just over 24 hours. No doubt they were brought to tears as they heard from the witnesses who were in the battle.
One would tell of the Southern officer who yelled..."shoot the nigger but don't shoot the white man." Another said that..."whites and blacks threw down their weapons and then raised their arms to surrender. Suddenly however the Confederates began shooting and bayoneting the unarmed blacks." Others told of how the Southerners were throwing their bayonets into the crowded pit like spears knowing that they'd surely hit one of them.
Another gave testimony that when the Confederate officer yelled down...why don't you surrender, a Colonel yelled back..why don't you let us?" Another gave testimony that when some blacks were allowed to surrender, they were taken out of the pit, only to be later shot.
As the original title last week suggested, now you have seen some evidence that goes far beyond that of normal battle and casualties. Some would argue this is evidence of murder... possibly on both sides.
And based on nothing but discrimination.
I am now taking 2 weeks off to work on other research. My next blog will appear on May 5th.
Please come back for a visit then,