The guard was created by Andrew Johnson who was the state governor (and a later President.) Its sole job was the guarding of three most senior and very important citizens of the state of Tennessee. These men had pledged to the several other states that had already broken away from the Union, that they would do there best to convince Tn. to join the Confederacy. The men were immediately arrested and then the new unit was created to secure them.
The prisoners and the new troops were all put on a steamer and headed off to an island called Mackinac and to a Fort of the same name. But it had been abandoned years earlier and run down. So for the first 6 days the prisoners were held in a local hotel. Those not on guard duty no doubt were used in part to help refurbish the fort. When it was ready the prisoners were transferred over.
Dodd and about 130 others had the tough job of watching over three prisoners who were so well treated that they were allowed to even roam about in the local town...with escorts of course. But in a matter of months 2 of the three signed oaths of loyalty to the United States and were released. The third was then sent off to another holding facility and the unit then disbanded.
Robert would become a civilian for a few months but then would again sign up, this time being hired as a Corporal and with the 27th Michigan Volunteer Infantry. (Not to be confused with the 27th Maine Infantry and the Purge of 1917 covered in earlier blogs.)
Cpl Dodd and his comrades fought through many battles over the months to come. He'd be at Vicksburg, the Wilderness Campaign, Spotsylvania, and Bethesda. In these four alone the unit would have loses of over 360 either being killed or wounded. Then came two different battles at Petersburg that would claim another 225 of his fellow soldiers.
It would be here that one of the most destructive explosions of the entire war took place.
The taking of Petersburg and Richmond lay directly ahead for the Union, A win at these two centres would see the Confederacy collapse and the war come to an end. Numerous attempt to take Petersburg ended up in it being put under siege for about 9 months. Then along came a regimental commander who told the higher ups of a great plan. Most of his men were miners. Why not just dig UNDER the protective guns and blown them to smitherines, So plans were discussed and soon many put down their rifles and picked up shovels.
The miners dug a 500 foot tunnel. At its end they branched out left and right about another 20 feet. Directly above the two ends and the centre, were powerful Southern field pieces that caused a lot of havoc for the Union. About 6,000 lbs of gun powder was then placed strategically and fuses attached and lit and all ran for cover. Except two guys! They had to go back in and light it a second time after the first went out. Then the explosion came. It was heard and felt miles away. Guns and men were blown sky high and then fell to earth quite dead. The explosion created a massive crater said to big enough you could put three houses into the hole. It was about 170' long by 60-80 wide and some 30 deep.
But then everything fell apart. Pardon the pun!
A general on site had a trained unit who knew exactly what they were to do, where they were to go and how to do their business once the air cleared of dust etc. Trouble is he was a coward. He had removed those trained at what to do...because they were black men. He did not want to face the backlash, in the event they went in and got slaughtered. So at the last minute he ordered a white regiment...untrained or rehearsed on its duties and sent them in first. He of course went in the opposite direction found a secure sport.. AND GOT DRUNK.
The impact of the explosion and the resulting damage put everyone on both sides into shock for a few minutes. But then the troops were ordered into the pit, Soon the Union lost complete control of the situation with almost 15,000 men in that pit... and nothing to do. They could not get out. The sides were so slippery and loose that any attempts to climb just caused more shifting and no footing hold to be able to climb out. And the Confederate were not long in ordering reinforcements and starting to enjoy the turkey shoot before them. They lobed all the shells they could get onto the Union men and fired from a ring most of the way around the top and even tossed in whatever they could get their hands on including riffles fitted with bayonets. Finally the enemy withdrew, partially by being driven back by other union troops, but it would be from the edge of the crater that Cpl Robert F Dodd found himself helping to secure the wounded and getting them to safety, all the time being himself under critical firing.
The tunnel starts at the upper right of the diagram and travels off to the left about foot fit and ends below the gun pits shown above. At the right is a artists sketch of the crater with men in the pit and more running in. It would be shoulder to shoulder. Over 4000 would die in that pit before the day was done. A later inquiry rule that the men died due to gross incompetence of their leaders.
There would be another half dozen battles fought by Dodd and the rest before the Confederacy finally abandoned Richmond and surrendered at Appomattox Court House in the spring of 1865. Dodd would take part in the Grand Review at Washington DC in May, do guard duty in the DC area for another two months and finally muster out on 26 July 1865.
Dodd would move to the Hamilton area of Ontario and raise a family with several children there. He'd work for about 20 years in the real estate mortgage, banking, land holdings and railway dealings. He would then move to Manitoba in similar lines of work for about the same amount of time and would be an early member, if not one of the founders of a Grand Army Of the Republic post branch at Winnipeg in the 1880's. Four more children would join the family in Manitoba where Dodd's work took him back and forth rather regularly between Winnipeg and Portage le Prairie,
On 27 July 1896 the President approved the awarding of the Medal of Honor to Robert F Dodd for his bravery in helping to rescue the wounded at Petersburg, at what was later known as the Battle of the Crater. The date of the award is interesting as it was exactly 30 years... and one day after the day he was released from final military service.
Robert passed away in September of 1903 and lays at rest in a cemetery at Portage Le Prairie. His marked until most recently lacked any notification whatsoever of his military status as a MOH recipient, but that had now been changed.