I had also hoped to also use that column to remind of the July connections to a horrendous Civil War battle. One that so upset Civil War General and later President U.S. Grant, that he would later describe it to have being the ''the saddest affair I have witnessed in this war."
The 2003 blockbuster movie about Cold Mountain and staring Jude Law, Nicole Kidman and Renee Zellweger tells in part, the story of the Battle of the Crater. Those reading this blog since its earliest days will hopefully recall the story and of a Canadian connection to this battle.
By using the search engine at upper right, several blogs about this can be found. Searches under... Crater... and... Robert Fulton Dodd will give you links to them.
Robert should not be confused with MOH recipient Edward Edwin Dodds (plural) said to be Ontario born, but in fact from England, but lived for the most part in Ontario. His bravery was recognized for actions at yet another July 1864 battle, at Ashby's Gap Virginia.
In the months before July of 1864, with the war dragging on and on, the Union troops in the Petersburg campaign found themselves at the doorsteps to Richmond, headquarters of the Confederate Army.
Only some 100 miles from DC, Richmond was well protected and all knew that it's fall would lead to the very quick end to the war. But the taking of Petersburg meant charging across open land that would cost thousands of casualties for the Northerners.
One Union officer, a commander of a regiment of miners suggested that rather than go in the attack over open ground, why not go underground? Dig a tunnel to the point directly below the surface where the Southerners had mounted their left right and center guns. Then blow the gun powder.
Most thought it to be a ridiculous idea and lent little in the way of support but the go ahead was given probably more in order to "keep busy" while another plan might be hatched.
But the miners pushed forward and dug out a tunnel some 500 feet long and about 50 feet below the surface.
Then about 8000 pounds of powder, some in piles upwards of 20ft. were lit by fuses. Or so they thought. Something went wrong and the bravest of the bravest had to go in and relight them.
The lower sketch going from the opposite view, has the tunnel starting at left and probably quite some distance off to the left...of the sketch..and ending at right, again below the Confederate guns.
The blast could he heard miles away and men, cannons horses and earthwork were flown dozens of feet in the air. When the dust settled, pardon the pun, a crater large enough to hold a house was left. It measured 130 ft long, 6 feet wide and 30 deep.
The explosion was a success but the battle a failure. Just before the fuse was lit orders came down to change the plan of attack. While all had been practicing day and night for the event, and given orders on what to do and when, at the last minute all changed. Having volunteered, a black regiment was anxious at having the chance to be first in, and new exactly what to do. Among others things was that they were to go AROUND and NOT INTO the crater.
But politics kicked in at the last minute. If there were a slaughter of the blacks, politics would destroy those in charge. So the blacks were held back. The whites when in first... with no idea of what to do or when.They poured into the crater and then push came to shove as others were also moved forward... INTO the crater.
What those at the back of the line could not know was that within the crater the soldiers were trapped and could not get out. The sides were very unstable and it was like trying to crawl out of a barrel of corn. The explosion also had unearthed some damp material that made attempts to climb out even more impossible.. It was like sinking sand.
And the Confederates, after about 20 minutes of shock came to, and realized that they now had a turkey shoot and started firing away. Some claimed no white was to be allowed to live cause he supported the blacks. Others offered hep to the black who would surrender and in the process would himself get slaughtered.
And this was to be ongoing for about 4 hours. The Southerners that day lost about 278 to death or wounds. But the North lost almost 4,000. General Grant would later make the statement ... "The saddest affair I have witnessed in the war."
Among all this horror, Ontario's Robert Fulton Dodd would be awarded a medal of Honor for helping to save some of the wounded from the area around the edge of the crater on 30 July 1864. And that action took place 154 years and a few days ago today.
see you next week,