Saturday, September 22, 2012

A Record of Triumph Unsurpassed in Warfare

A Record of Triumph Unsurpassed in Warfare
Just before 5AM on Saturday, 30 July 1864, the enemy triggered explosives in a tunnel under Southern lines at Petersburg, burying 278 Confederate soldiers in the upheaval.  General Robert E. Lee later recognized General William Mahone’s three counter-attacking brigades at the Crater: “All who charged from that vale crowned themselves heroes.”  
Bernhard Thuersam, Chairman
North Carolina War Between the States Sesquicentennial Commission
"The Official Website of the North Carolina WBTS Sesquicentennial"
A Record of Triumph Unsurpassed in Warfare:
Dead Bodies Several Layers Deep:
“On Monday morning a truce was granted, and the Federals sent out details to bury their dead between the lines. They dig a long ditch and placed the bodies crosswise, several layers up, and then refilled it. After they had finished burying their dead and were moving off, General Mahone noticed that they left the dirt piled up high enough for breastworks on the slope of the hill, midway between the two lines of battle.
He quickly discovered the danger of this, as it would have afforded shelter for another assaulting column, He stopped the burial detail and made them level the ground, as the found it.  General Pendleton, Chief of Artillery of General Lee’s army, was standing near, and paid a high compliment to Mahone’s foresight.
The Last Act of a Great Battle:
This was the last act in this celebrated battle – a battle won by the charge of three small brigades of Virginia, Georgia and Alabama troops, numbering less than 2,000 muskets, with the aid of the artillery, which rendered effective service to the charging columns, over an army of 70,000 men behind breast-works, which surrendered to this small force of nineteen flags.
General B.R. Johnson, who commanded the lines which were broken by the explosion and upheaval of the Crater, in his report of the battle said: “To the able commander and gallant officers and men of Mahone’s Division, to whom we are mainly indebted for the restoration of our lines, I offer my acknowledgments for their great service.”
Secretary of War James A. Seddon said: “Let appropriate acknowledgement be made to the gallant general and his brave troops. Let the names of the captors (of the flags) be noted on the roll of honor and published.”
Nowhere in the history of war were greater odds driven out of fortifications and defeated. The charge of three brigades of Mahone’s Division is a record of triumph unsurpassed in warfare.”
(Southern Historical Society Papers, Volume XXV, R.A. Brock, editor, Southern Historical Society, 1897, page 90)