|During the siege of
Petersburg, VA the armies were aligned along a series of fortified positions
and trenches more than 20 miles long.
|Lt. Col. Henry Pleasants,
commander of the 48th Pennsylvania Infantry of Maj. Gen. Ambrose E.
Burnside's IX Corps and a mining engineer from Pennsylvania, proposed
digging a long mine shaft underneath the Confederate lines and planting
explosive charges directly underneath a fort (Elliott’s Salient)
in the middle of the Confederate First Corps line.
that the explosion would kill all the defenders in the area and open a
hole in the Confederate defenses.
|Burnside hoped that
enough Union troops could fill the breach quickly enough and drive into the
Confederate rear area where the Confederates would not be able to launch a
counterattack, and Petersburg might fall.
|On July 30th the Federals
exploded a mine in Burnside’s IX Corps sector beneath Elliott’s
salient, blowing a gap in the Confederate defenses.
|Unfortunately instead of
going around the crater as planned, many units charged into the crater. The Confederates quickly recovered and
launched several counterattacks led by Maj. Gen. William Mahone.
The break was sealed off, and the Federals were repulsed with severe
casualties. Ferrarro’s division of black soldiers was badly mauled.
|This may have been Grant’s
best chance to end the Siege of Petersburg. Instead, the soldiers settled in
for another eight months of trench warfare.