25 July 2017

No. 99: A Civil War Battlefield

No. 99: Visit a Civil War Battlefield

Ok. I confess. I visited one and then put it on the list. But now my plan is to visit another, because it was so interesting.

Truthfully, I didn't know there was such a thing really.  A battlefield? Wouldn't that just be a big empty field? Maybe a field with an historical marker? I was clueless.

While in Virginia, friend Cathy's husband, Dick, suggested we visit a nearby battlefield. I responded with a resounding "Do what?" Cue the disbelief that I did not know there was such a thing, and certainly not more than one. Or at least I did not know there was anything to SEE at a battlefield. Except a field. Not my idea of how to spend an afternoon.

Well, I was mistaken.  Battlefields are kinda cool.

We went to Petersburg National Battlefield in Petersburg, Virginia and saw where the Battle of the Crater occurred.  

Me and a replica cannon in the rain. 

Here's the deal. There are rows of hillocks for each side of the Civil War. North on one side, South on the other. In this case, in the middle a small Southern battery. These guys are so close that at night they can yell to the opposing army. And they do apparently. They fight during the day, then at night, everyone settles down and relaxes.   Did they punch a time clock? Almost seems like it.

Anyway, for this battle, the South had a small battery that the North just couldn't get past. So a Lt. Colonel who was a mining engineer in his civilian life suggested building a tunnel from the North's side, up to and under the battery.  The plan was to fill the tunnel with explosives, blow up the battery and kill all the Southerners that were in residence. 

 Approaching the mine. You can see where it has caved in over the years. 

July 30, 1864.
Everything went according to plan, the tunnel was built undetected, explosives loaded and Boom!

I love the little soldier staring back at us. 
This is the mine entrance. 

The South's army was not in residence, they were already out at work in the field.  All of the Northern Soldiers went rushing into the crater that was created by the explosion, looking to capture and/or kill some Confederates.  The Confederates came rushing to see what caused the explosion and found a large crater, filled with Union soldiers. So they did the only logical thing, stood on the rim of the crater and shot as many Union soldiers as they could.
The plan was a great success. Except it wasn't. 
Union soldiers casualties: 3,798   Confederate soldiers: 1,491

The crater left in the ground by the explosion.

That's a very simplified version of what happened, but you get the idea. It was fascinating to see the crater, the hills that they fought behind, the recreation of living quarters, etc. 

An example of winter quarters. 
Not too shabby on the inside. 
Simple but cozy with its own fireplace. 

On my radar now is to watch the movie Cold Mountain starring Jude Law. The Battle of the Crater is supposedly featured in the opening scenes.  

And in the end, the South still lost. 
But you knew that. 

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