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On July 28, 1864, the men of the 48th Pennsylvania were carrying gunpowder into a tunnel that ran from the Union lines to a place 20 feet beneath the Confederate trenches at Petersburg, Virginia. They were a day away from setting off the biggest explosion of the Civil War, one which could lead to the capture of Virginia’s second largest city.1
The 48th Pennsylvania was recruited in the Coal Country of Schuylkill, Pennsylvania. Nearly 70 percent of the men came from coal towns, with most of the rest coming from rural areas. The regiment drew its soldiers from not only coal miners, but from the immigrant day laborers who worked underground beside them and shared their risks, but who earned a fraction of their money. Skilled miners from Wales and mine laborers from Ireland extracted the black fuel of the Steam Revolution under the hills of eastern Pennsylvania. 2
Mine workers began their work lives as children. These breaker boys sorted coal. Children between the ages of eight and thirteen performed this labor.
Nearly a third of the men in the 48th were immigrants. Of the immigrants who served in the regiment during the war, 36 percent were Irish, 31 percent were from England and Wales, 18 percent were Germans, and 7 percent were Scotch. The Irish served in the regiment in greater numbers than their proportion in the population would indicate, in large part because poor immigrants were more likely to be taken up in the draft that began the year before. Although the Irish had suffered discrimination in their Pennsylvania homes, it is interesting to note that a quarter of the regiment’s officers were immigrant. More than a third of these immigrant officers were born in Ireland. 3
These breaker boys were photographed in Pottsville, Pa. in the 1880s.
The 48th Pennsylvania was commanded by a foreign-born officer. Lt. Colonel Henry Pleasants was born to an American businessman and an Argentine woman in Buenos Aires in 1833. His childhood was spent in Argentina and he spoke very little English when he was sent to Philadelphia at the age of thirteen after his father’s death to be educated by his uncle. Pleasants never saw his mother again. 4
Lt. Col. Henry Pleasants would build a strong bond with the miners in his regiment that allowed him to complete one of the best known engineering achievements of the Civil War. In the 1870s he would be involved in the effort to break their unions back in Pennsylvania.
Pleasants was an outstanding student who finished college and went on to complete a master’s degree at a time when few Americans attended school after the age of sixteen. He became an engineer for the Pennsylvania Railroad and he developed an expertise in tunneling. Pleasants designed the 4,200-foot Sand Patch Tunnel through the Allegheny Mountains in western Pennsylvania as well as other excavations.5
Although Pleasants shared the views of many progressive young Americans, his Latino background was commented upon. For example, here is how the historian of the 48th Pennsylvania described him:
[He] was in all respects an American—thoroughly so—a pure type of progressive young America—his career shows remarkable understanding in a young man. He sprang from an old Virginia Quaker family, although his father was born in Philadelphia. Whilst in business in South America, this gentleman married a South American lady, and General Henry Pleasants was the result of this union. His impetuous nature, and quick, fiery temper, but withal generous, goodheartedness, comes of this Americo-Spanish blood. . .6
Commanding his infantry through the bloody Overland Campaign from the Wilderness to Cold Harbor and on to Petersburg, Pleasants, according to a fellow officer in the regiment, had an:
ability that he displayed many times during the campaign from the Rappahannock down to Petersburg, in the erection of temporary fortifications which he required the regiment to build every night, and the lives of many of the men were saved through this precaution.7
In executing his plan for the mine, Pleasants drew upon the expertise of the roughly one hundred professional miners in his regiment. Many miners in the region had immigrated from Wales, where coal from Welsh mines provided the power that underlay 19th Century industrialization in Great Britain. The immigrant miners brought great skills in tunneling and, just as importantly, in constructing wood braces to support the roofs of mine shafts. Also crucial to the Petersburg mine were Irish immigrants, who entered Coal Country in the wake of the Great Famine of the late 1840s and had faced discrimination at every turn. Their work in the Pennsylvania mines had been as dangerous as that of the Welsh, but they often made a third of their money.8
The Irish had formed form secret labor unions back in Pennsylvania to break down barriers to their equality in the mining field. Their labor organizations sometimes came led to violent clashes with the wealthy Republican native-born Protestant elite of the region. They also came into conflict with the better paid Welsh and English immigrants who dominated in the skilled mining jobs.9
Mine workers organizing clandestinely.
Although the Irish had been quick to enlist in the 48th in the first two years of the war, the coming of the Draft in 1863 sapped immigrant enthusiasm for the war. Disturbances in the county seat at Pottsville against the draft led to troops being sent to the region to enforce the draft and the Catholic bishop went to the town to preach against the secret societies that were aiding draft resisters. Mine owners used the suppression of the Irish secret societies as a pretext to crack down on labor organizing.10
Whatever the class and ethnic divisions at home, the men of the 48th Pennsylvania, to a man, volunteered to work on the ambitious mining project.
While Pleasants did the engineering work, the actual mining was supervised by Sergeant Henry Reese. Reese was a Welsh immigrant who had been sent into the mines to earn a living at the age of eight. He immigrated to the United States in his youth, worked his way up to mine foreman, and joined the army at the start of the war. 11
Henry Reese would eventually die from the damage caused by a lifetime of breathing in coal dust, a common and painful death for miners.
Reese lived at the mouth of the tunnel his work teams were creating. He ate, rested, and slept there when he was not actually supervising the work inside it. A comrade recalled that the Welsh immigrant was “on duty continually, never leaving the mine during its construction.” His men were digging, by hand, a shaft four feet high and only two feet wide at its top. Three men at a time pressed the work forward, with other men dragging dirt and rocks through the lengthening tunnel. The miners installed roofs, braces, and wood retaining walls as they progressed. Black troops manned a sawmill to cut the planking the miners needed.12
The entrance to the tunnel is preserved at Petersburg National Battlefield. Henry Reese lived beside it for a month.
The first day of digging, June 25, the miners dug out 50 feet of tunnel, and they did the same the second day. Work slowed as the miners encountered increasingly difficult soil, but the work went on every day, 24 hours a day, with new shifts relieving exhausted tunnel crews. A week after work began, the Confederates began to search for the mine that some said they could hear being built under them. Confederate tunnels, called countermines, began to snake through the hillside in hopes of intercepting Pleasants men.13
As the mine progressed, General Burnside had to choose a division to lead the assault on the gap in the Confederate lines that he hoped the explosion would create. He chose the black division commanded by Brigadier General Edward Ferrero. The brigadier was an immigrant who had been born in Spain and who had come to New York when he was young. He had run a popular dance studio in New York, and without formal military training he had risen to a high level of command in the volunteer army. Although Ferrero would fail in his battlefield duties during the crucial hours after the mine was detonated, in the days leading up to the battle he appears to have prepared his men for their role as the spearhead of the attack. 14
The news that they were to be placed at the point of greatest danger was met with pride by the black soldiers. They had been treated as little more than laborers in uniform during the first months of their enlistment and now they would have the chance to strike at their old masters. The soldiers composed a song when they found out that they were to be the first to go in. A white officer heard it and wrote it down; “We look like men a-marching, we look like men a-war.”15
The black troops included escaped slaves as well as free blacks born in the North. Some had come from black refugee communities in Canada who returned to the U.S. after Lincoln endorsed the recruitment of the United States Colored Troops (USCT). The “Colored Troops” from New York included at least a few Asian immigrants in their ranks. A number of the officers, who were all white, were also immigrants. German immigrants in particular were attracted to service in the USCT. One, Lieutenant Scholl, had immigrated from Germany when he was a teenager and had joined the army at the start of the war because he had “already learned to love his adopted country and was ready to assist in preserving her unity.”16
Map of the tunnel.
On July 27, with the mine nearing completion, General George Meade, commanding the Army of the Potomac, decided he could not send the black division in at the head of his attacking force. General Ulysses S. Grant, overall commander of all Union armies, recalled that “Meade said that if we put the colored troops in front… it should prove a failure, it would then be said, and very properly, that we were shoving those people ahead to get killed because we did not care anything about them.”17
This last minute change meant that the new spearhead would not have time to train for their attack. General Burnside compounded the problem. When he found out that he needed to pick a new lead division, instead of picking his best white division, he allowed his division commanders to draw straws to see whose division would go first. He put the organization of his assault force in the hands of blind luck. His worst general won the draw.18
Lt. Col. Pleasants supervising his men’s placement of explosives.
The next day the men of the 48th Pennsylvania began carrying 25 pound kegs of gunpowder through the 511-foot long tunnel into two galleries running under the Confederate fortifications. In all, 8,000 pounds of gunpowder were placed 20 feet under the Confederate lines. As the moment for his mine to be tested came close, Pleasants thought of the moral cost of the explosion. He wrote to his uncle that “it is terrible…to hurl several men with my own hand at one blow into eternity.”19
At 3:15 AM on July 30, Henry Pleasants ignited the fuse. He was worried because the mining fuses he had requested were denied him and instead he received inferior fuses that had to be spliced together and were not waterproof. Pleasants told his commanders that the mine should detonate at 3:30 a.m. When it did not, he had a potentially fatal decision to make.20
The Welsh mine foreman, Henry Reese recalled later of that moment:
I saw Colonel Pleasants standing on an earthwork, watch in hand, anxiously looking toward the fort which we expected every minute to see blown up. He had lighted the fuse at quarter past three o’clock a.m., and the explosion out to have followed within then minutes; and when that time had passed, and it didn’t come off, I began to think about the fuse.21
Reese’s experience underground led him to one conclusion:
Being a practical miner, I concluded that a defect in it had caused the fire to go out, and I went up to Colonel Pleasants and so stated it to him, and at the same time offered to go into the mine and remedy the difficulty. Lieutenant Douty joined in with me, but the Colonel wouldn’t permit us to make the venture until he felt sure that the fire was out, and not slumbering. He was afraid that, like many cases in mining, it might go off just as we would be approaching to investigate the trouble.22
Understandably, Pleasants did not want to send two of his men into their tomb, but, said Reese:
At last he consented, and at quarter past four o’clock we entered the mine. We found that about fifty feet of the fuse had been consumed and that the fire had gone out where the fuses were spliced. We needed a knife, so I went out for one, reported the trouble, returned, and with Douty soon had the fuses fixed again…23
Reese and Douty had performed one of the most dangerous tasks of the battle. He was asked how he felt going back into the mine:
Feel? I didn’t stop to feel, I had been in tight placed in coal mines before the war didn’t mind this affair; but when I got outside, and stood a few minutes looking toward the fort that was doomed, and at the ranks of brave men soon to go charging perhaps to destruction or capture, I felt something then trickling near my eyes, but, [said Reese after a pause] I guess it was only sweat.24
Battlefield artist Alfred Rudolph Waud sketched this image of the explosion, seen in the upper center of the drawing. According to his notes: The spires in the distance mark the location of the city; along the crest, in front of them are the defensive works, it was an angle of these that was blown up, with its guns & defenders. The explosion was the signal for the simultaneous opening of the artillery and musketry of the Union lines. The pickets are seen running in from their pits & shelters on the front, to the outer line of attack.
Reese was near the entrance to the tunnel when the mine finally blew. He described the horrifying scene:
The explosion took place at about quarter to five o’clock. There was a heavy jar, a dull thud, a big volcano-puff of smoke and dust, and up went the earth under and around that fort for a distance in the air of a hundred feet or more, carrying with it cannons, caissons, muskets—and men. Poor fellows, their fate was awful…25
A Confederate artilleryman was asleep under his cannon when the mine erupted. “The explosion was terrific,” Lieutenant William P. Robinson recalled, “causing the earth…to heave and stagger. I jumped up…and saw my conception of a volcano. I saw what appeared to be arms and legs…all going up in the air.”26
The mine explosion obliterated the units above it. Of the 22 men of Peagram’s Confederate Battery above it, 19 were killed immediately. In Company B of the 18th South Carolina only one man survived the explosion. A crater 25 feet deep and 125 feet long was the burial site of scores of Confederates. Within minutes of the explosion, 164 Union cannons opened fire on the Confederate trenches on either side of the crater.27
The planned attack that Ferrero’s black troops were supposed to have made involved them beginning their attack as soon as the mine exploded, passing around the crater the explosion would make, and moving up to high ground called Cemetery Hill behind the destroyed Confederate entrenchments. The commander of the division now tasked with carrying out this plan, Brigadier General James Ledlie, never communicated this to his officers or men. Instead, he would spend the battle far from his troops in a bunker where he was reportedly drunk.28
The unprepared white troops who were now ordered to make the assault had no instructions for battle. When the mine went up, they were confused and hesitated in their own trenches. When they finally got moving, there were no ladders for them to climb out of their own trenches and they had to use bayonets to slowly emerge onto the field of battle. When they got to the Confederate lines, instead of pushing forward, they assumed that they were to occupy and hold the giant crater created by the explosion. They would soon find that it was not a shelter but a death trap. As Confederate survivors of the explosion recovered from their shock, the Union delays and disorganization allowed them time to organize a defense.29
The Crater as it looked in 1865
The Union men who entered the Crater saw a horrific sight. One New Hampshire soldier said that he saw “men half-buried alive-some with their heads downwards and their feet and legs protruding, others with their feet down and buried to their waists…” Without instructions on what to do next, many of the soldiers spent the precious first hour of the attack in rescuing Confederates, touring the crater, or simply milling around.30
At 7:00 a.m. a second wave of Union troops rushed forward, only to be caught in the bottleneck at the crater. A half hour later, with the situation deteriorating, the black division was ordered to attack. As it had been instructed, it did not head for the crater, but for the still-intact Confederate trenches next to it. Men in the black regiments were heard shouting “Remember Fort Pillow” and “No Quarter.” Fort Pillow was a battle fought several months earlier. At the end of the fight, surrendering black soldiers had been shot by Confederates. Although the cry of “No Quarter” meant that no prisoners would be taken, in fact the black troops captured dozens of Confederates during their assault.31
Around 8:30 a.m. Brigadier General William Mahone began organizing a Confederate counterattack. As Mahone’s division began to move towards the crater, they encountered survivors of the explosion who told them “boys you have hot work ahead of you, they are negros and show no quarter.” Lt. Colonel William Stewart of the 61st Virginia wrote that “this was the first intimation that we had to fight negro troops…[which] seemed to infuse the little band with impetuous daring.” 32
It distressed the Confederates that their comrades were dead in the crater and “slaves were trampling over and mangling their bloody corpses.” The news that Confederates would now fight former slaves led to one emotion, said Stewart; “Revenge.”33
Mahone’s counterattack was sudden and ferocious. Even though he was outnumbered by the Union troops, his angry soldiers smashed into the black and white troops at the crater with devastating effect. German Captain Hackheiser, who had written to his girlfriend about his devotion to the United States and his desire to command former slaves in the war, was killed in the early minutes of Mahone’s assault. When the black troops finally broke, many of them fled into the crater.34
The crater was perfect killing zone. The men in it were too low to fire out at the Confederates and they were crowded together so closely that Confederates firing into the confused mass of Union soldiers were likely to find their targets. As Union troops began to surrender, a Vermonter recalled hearing the Confederates yell “Save the white men, but kill the damn nig****”.35
Many of the white Union soldiers believed that if they were captured near black troops they would be executed. Captain Kilmer of a New York regiment said that Union soldiers “bayoneted blacks who fell into the crater. This was in order to preserve whites from Confederate vengeance.”36
Confederate Major John Haskell described the reaction of his men to seeing the United States Colored Troops:
Our men, who were always made wild by having negroes sent against them…were utterly frenzied with rage. Nothing in the war could have exceeded the horrors that followed…fearful butchery was carried on.37
Historian Kevin Levin argues that Confederates saw United States Colored Troops not as soldiers, but as slaves engaged in an insurrection.
Some Confederates spared the lives of wounded black men and took them prisoner. This did not guarantee their lives, however. As they passed other Confederate troops on their way to the rear, they encountered new dangers. One Georgia Confederate wrote regretfully, “some few negroes went to the rear as we could not kill them as fast as they passed us.” Confederate Brigadier General Porter Alexander wrote that “some of the Negro prisoners…were afterwards shot by others, and there was, without doubt, a great deal of unnecessary killing of them.”38
The mine had been a brilliant innovation, the attack at the Crater was a disaster. Three decades later when Henry Reese was interviewed about his role in relighting the fuse that ignited The Battle of the Crater, he thought first of the deaths of the men killed in the explosion:
but it was so sudden that the fate of our men who were slaughtered in the crater soon after was worse. The men who went up in their sleep, with the fort, thought that may be that it was only a nightmare that ailed them; but our poor boys at the crater, hemmed in and shot down with their eyes open, had a worse lot, and the suspense they were in was enough to kill them. If I had known what a blunder was going to be made in the assault, after the mine had made such a success, I never would have gone into it to relight the fuse. It made me frantic to see such useless destruction; and when the assault had failed, it made me still more furious to see a division of Colored soldiers rushed into the jaws of death with no prospect of success; but they went in cheering as though they didn’t mind it, and a great many of them never came back.39
The leading military history of the Battle of the Crater is Into the Crater by Earl Hess published by University of South Carolina Press in 2010. Richard Slotkin’s No Quarter: The Battle of the Crater, 1864 published a year earlier provides a good portrait of the miners and laborers who built the tunnel. Kevin Levin authored an excellent study in 2012 of how the Battle of the Crater has been remembered (and forgotten) during the years after the war. His book, Remembering the Battle of the Crater is published by the University of Kentucky Press. Blue & Gray Magazine devoted Issue 5 (2014) to The Crater. A 22 page article on the battle by Petersburg National Park Ranger Emmanuel Dabney is the centerpiece of an issue devoted to Petersburg.
An excellent on-line source of information on the 48th Pennsylvania is The 48th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry, a labor of love of John Hoptak Civil War Historian, Writer, and Park Ranger at the Antietam National Battlefield and Gettysburg National Military Park as well as an Instructor of American History, Civil War History, and Mexican-American War History at American Military University. You will find Hoptak’s notes on his research into the regiment as well as ample primary source material here. This is truly a gem.
Kevin Levin’s blog posts on The Crater are collected at Civil War Memory.
For primary source materials on The Crater, visit The Siege of Petersburg Online.
Video: Historian Kevin Levin spoke in July about the Battle of the Crater.
Video: This clip from the movie Cold Mountain, while wrong on most details, provides a glimpse of the terror Confederates must have felt at the moment of the mine’s detonation.
Video: National Park Ranger Emmanuel Dabney gives a tour of The Crater battlefield. Sound quality is poor.
1. Into the Crater: The Mine Attack at Petersburg by Earl Hess published by the Univeristy of South Carolina Press (2010); Remembering the Battle of the Crater by Kevin Levin published by University of Kentucky Press (2012); No Quarter: The Battle of the Crater, 1864 by Richard Slotkin published by Random House (2009); In the Trenches at Petersburg by Earl Hess; The Petersburg Camapaign Vol. I by Edwin Bearss published by Savas Beatie (2014); The Battle of the Crater by Emmanuel Dabney in Blue & Gray Magazine Vol. XXX #5 (2014); The 48th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry; The Battle of the Petersburg Crater by Maj. William H. Powell in Battles and Leaders of the Civil War; In the Crater by Major Charles Houghton in Battles and Leaders of the Civil War; The Colored Troops at Petersburg by Gen. Henry Goddard Thomas in Battles and Leaders of the Civil War.
2. Portrait of a Regiment: Ethnicity. . . by John Hoptak.
3. Portrait of a Regiment: Ethnicity. . . by John Hoptak; A Regiment’s Raw Data. . . by John Hoptak.
4. No Quarter: The Battle of the Crater, 1864 by Richard Slotkin published by Random House (2009) Kindle Location 620; The 48th/150th: June 24, 1864: Pleasants Finalizes His Plan and the Mine Project is Approved by John Hoptak.
5. The 48th/150th: June 24, 1864: Pleasants Finalizes His Plan and the Mine Project is Approved by John Hoptak.
6. The 48th/150th: June 24, 1864: Pleasants Finalizes His Plan and the Mine Project is Approved by John Hoptak.
7. The 48th/150th: June 24, 1864: Pleasants Finalizes His Plan and the Mine Project is Approved by John Hoptak.
8. The 48th/150th: June 24, 1864: Pleasants Finalizes His Plan and the Mine Project is Approved by John Hoptak; No Quarter: The Battle of the Crater, 1864 by Richard Slotkin published by Random House (2009) Kindle Location 600-664.
9. No Quarter: The Battle of the Crater, 1864 by Richard Slotkin published by Random House (2009) Kindle Location 664-690.
10. No Quarter: The Battle of the Crater, 1864 by Richard Slotkin published by Random House (2009) Kindle Location 700.
11. The 48th/150th: “If I Had Known What A Blunder It Would Be, I Never Would Have Gone In To Relight The Fuse:” Sgt. Henry Reese Remembers the Crater by John Hoptak.
12. The Battle of the Crater by Emmanuel Dabney in Blue & Gray Magazine Vol. XXX #5 (2014) p. 8.
13. The Battle of the Crater by Emmanuel Dabney in Blue & Gray Magazine Vol. XXX #5 (2014) p. 8-22.
14. The Battle of the Crater by Emmanuel Dabney in Blue & Gray Magazine Vol. XXX #5 (2014) p. 8-22.
15. No Quarter: The Battle of the Crater, 1864 by Richard Slotkin published by Random House (2009) Kindle Location 1518-1530.
16. No Quarter: The Battle of the Crater, 1864 by Richard Slotkin published by Random House (2009) Kindle Location 1753, 1862
17. No Quarter: The Battle of the Crater, 1864 by Richard Slotkin published by Random House (2009) Kindle Location 2770.
18. No Quarter: The Battle of the Crater, 1864 by Richard Slotkin published by Random House (2009) Kindle Location 2770.
19. Into the Crater: The Mine Attack at Petersburg by Earl Hess published by the Univeristy of South Carolina Press (2010) p. 76.
20. The 48th/150th: “If I Had Known What A Blunder It Would Be, I Never Would Have Gone In To Relight The Fuse:” Sgt. Henry Reese Remembers the Crater by John Hoptak.
21. The 48th/150th: “If I Had Known What A Blunder It Would Be, I Never Would Have Gone In To Relight The Fuse:” Sgt. Henry Reese Remembers the Crater by John Hoptak.
22. The 48th/150th: “If I Had Known What A Blunder It Would Be, I Never Would Have Gone In To Relight The Fuse:” Sgt. Henry Reese Remembers the Crater by John Hoptak.
23. The 48th/150th: “If I Had Known What A Blunder It Would Be, I Never Would Have Gone In To Relight The Fuse:” Sgt. Henry Reese Remembers the Crater by John Hoptak.
24. The 48th/150th: “If I Had Known What A Blunder It Would Be, I Never Would Have Gone In To Relight The Fuse:” Sgt. Henry Reese Remembers the Crater by John Hoptak.
25. The 48th/150th: “If I Had Known What A Blunder It Would Be, I Never Would Have Gone In To Relight The Fuse:” Sgt. Henry Reese Remembers the Crater by John Hoptak.
26. The Battle of the Crater by Emmanuel Dabney in Blue & Gray Magazine Vol. XXX #5 (2014) p. 23.
27. Into the Crater: The Mine Attack at Petersburg by Earl Hess published by the Univeristy of South Carolina Press (2010) p. 85-86.
28. Into the Crater: The Mine Attack at Petersburg by Earl Hess published by the Univeristy of South Carolina Press (2010) p. 126-136.
29. Into the Crater: The Mine Attack at Petersburg by Earl Hess published by the Univeristy of South Carolina Press (2010) p. 91-116.
30. Into the Crater: The Mine Attack at Petersburg by Earl Hess published by the Univeristy of South Carolina Press (2010) p. 93.
31. Into the Crater: The Mine Attack at Petersburg by Earl Hess published by the Univeristy of South Carolina Press (2010) p. 121-136.
32. No Quarter: The Battle of the Crater, 1864 by Richard Slotkin published by Random House (2009) Kindle Location 4750-4760
33. No Quarter: The Battle of the Crater, 1864 by Richard Slotkin published by Random House (2009) Kindle Location 4750-4760
34. No Quarter: The Battle of the Crater, 1864 by Richard Slotkin published by Random House (2009) Kindle Location 4846.
35. Into the Crater: The Mine Attack at Petersburg by Earl Hess published by the Univeristy of South Carolina Press (2010) p.p. 165.
36. No Quarter: The Battle of the Crater, 1864 by Richard Slotkin published by Random House (2009) Kindle Location 5604
37. No Quarter: The Battle of the Crater, 1864 by Richard Slotkin published by Random House (2009) Kindle Location 5623.
38. No Quarter: The Battle of the Crater, 1864 by Richard Slotkin published by Random House (2009) Kindle Location 5672.
39. The 48th/150th: “If I Had Known What A Blunder It Would Be, I Never Would Have Gone In To Relight The Fuse:” Sgt. Henry Reese Remembers the Crater by John Hoptak.
The Immigrants’ Civil War is a series that examines the role of immigrants in our bloodiest war. Articles will appear twice monthly between 2011 and 2017. Here are the articles we have published so far:
1. Immigrant America on the Eve of the Civil War – Take a swing around the United States and see where immigrants were coming from and where they were living in 1861.
2. 1848: The Year that Created Immigrant America – Revolutions in Europe, famine and oppression in Ireland, and the end of the Mexican War made 1848 a key year in American immigration history.
3. Carl Schurz: From German Radical to American Abolitionist– A teenaged revolutionary of 1848, Carl Schurz brought his passion for equality with him to America.
4. Immigrant Leader Carl Schurz Tells Lincoln to Stand Firm Against Slavery.
5. …And the War Came to Immigrant America -The impact of the firing on Fort Sumter on America’s immigrants
6. The Rabbi Who Seceded From the South
7. The Fighting 69th-Irish New York Declares War
8. The Germans Save St. Louis for the Union
9. New York’s Irish Rush to Save Washington
10. Immigrant Day Laborers Help Build the First Fort to Protect Washington-The Fighting 69th use their construction skills.
11. Carl Schurz Meets With Lincoln To Arm the Germans
12. Immigrants Rush to Join the Union Army-Why?– The reasons immigrants gave for enlisting early in the war.
13. Why the Germans Fought for the Union?
14. Why Did the Irish Fight When They Were So Despised?
15. The “Sons of Garibaldi” Join the Union Army
16. The Irish Tigers From Louisiana
17. Immigrant Regiments on Opposite Banks of Bull Run -The Fighting 69th and the Louisiana Tigers
18. The St. Louis Germans Set Out To Free Missouri
19. Wilson’s Creek Drowns Immigrant Dream of Free Missouri
20. English-Only in 1861: No Germans Need Apply
21. After Bull Run: Mutineers, Scapegoats, and the Dead
22. St. Louis Germans Revived by Missouri Emancipation Proclamation
23. Jews Fight the Ban on Rabbis as Chaplains
24. Lincoln Dashes German Immigrants Hopes for Emancipation
25. When Hatred of Immigrants Stopped the Washington Monument from Being Built
26. Inside the Mind of a Know Nothing
27. The Evolution of the Know Nothings
28. The Know Nothings Launch a Civil War Against Immigrant America
29. The Know Nothings: From Triumph to Collapse
30. The Lasting Impact of the Know Nothings on Immigrant America.
31. Lincoln, the Know Nothings, and Immigrant America.
32. Irish Green and Black America: Race on the Edge of Civil War.
33. The Democratic Party and the Racial Consciousness of Irish Immigrants Before the Civil War
34. The Confederates Move Against Latino New Mexico
35. Nuevomexicanos Rally As Confederates Move Towards Santa Fe—But For Which Side?
36. The Confederate Army in New Mexico Strikes at Valverde
37. The Swedish Immigrant Who Saved the U.S. Navy
38. The Confederates Capture Santa Fe and Plot Extermination
39. A German Regiment Fights for “Freedom and Justice” at Shiloh-The 32nd Indiana under Col. August Willich.
40. The Know Nothing Colonel and the Irish Soldier Confronting slavery and bigotry.
41. Did Immigrants Hand New Orleans Over to the Union Army?
42. Did New Orleans’ Immigrants See Union Soldiers As Occupiers or Liberators?
43. Union Leader Ben Butler Seeks Support in New Orleans-When General Ben Butler took command in New Orleans in 1862, it was a Union outpost surrounded by Confederates. Butler drew on his experience as a pro-immigrant politician to win over the city’s Irish and Germans.
44. Union General Ben Butler Leverages Immigrant Politics in New Orleans
45. Thomas Meager: The Man Who Created the Irish Brigade
46. Thomas Meagher: The Irish Rebel Joins the Union Army
47. Recruiting the Irish Brigade-Creating the Irish American
48. Cross Keys: A German Regiment’s Annihilation in the Shenandoah Valley
49. The Irish Brigade Moves Towards Richmond-The Irish brigade in the Peninsula Campaign from March 17 to June 2, 1862.
50. Peninsula Emancipation: Irish Soldiers Take Steps on the Road to Freedom-The Irish Brigade and Irish soldiers from Boston free slaves along the march to Richmond.
51. Slaves Immigrate from the Confederacy to the United States During the Peninsula Campaign
52. The Irish 9th Massachusetts Cut Off During the Seven Days Battles
53. Union Defeat and an Irish Medal of Honor at the End of the Seven Days
54. Making Immigrant Soldiers into Citizens-Congress changed the immigration laws to meet the needs of a nation at war.
55. Carl Schurz: To Win the Civil War End Slavery
56. Carl Schurz: From Civilian to General in One Day
57. Did Anti-German Bigotry Help Cause Second Bull Run Defeat?
58. Immigrant Soldiers Chasing Lee Into Maryland
59. Scottish Highlanders Battle at South Mountain
60. Emancipation 150: “All men are created equal, black and white”– A German immigrant reacts to the Emancipation Proclamation
61. The Irish Brigade at Antietam
62. Private Peter Welsh Joins the Irish Brigade
63. Preliminaries to Emancipation: Race, the Irish, and Lincoln
64. The Politics of Emancipation: Lincoln Suffers Defeat
65. Carl Schurz Blames Lincoln for Defeat
66. The Irish Brigade and Virginia’s Civilians Black and White
67. The Irish Brigade and the Firing of General McClellan
68. General Grant Expells the Jews
69. The Irish Brigade Moves Towards Its Destruction At Fredericksburg.
70. Fredericksburg: The Worst Day in the Young Life of Private McCarter of the Irish Brigade
71. Forever Free: Emancipation New Year Day 1863
72. Private William McCarter of the Irish Brigade Hospitalized After Fredericksburg
73. The Immigrant Women That Nursed Private McCarter After Fredericksburg
74. Nursing Nuns of the Civil War
75. The Biases Behind Grant’s Order Expelling the Jews
76. The Jewish Community Reacts to Grant’s Expulsion Order
77. Lincoln Overturns Grant’s Order Against the Jews
78. Irish Families Learn of the Slaughter at Fredericksburg
79. Requiem for the Irish Brigade
80. St. Patrick’s Day in the Irish Brigade
81. Student Asks: Why Don’t We Learn More About Immigrants in the Civil War?
82. Missouri’s German Unionists: From Defeat to Uncertain Victory
83. Missouri Germans Contest Leadership of Unionist Cause
84. German Leader Franz Sigel’s Victory Earns a Powerful Enemy
85. Immigrant Unionists Marching Towards Pea Ridge
86. German Immigrants at the Battle of Pea Ridge: Opening Moves
87. Pea Ridge: The German Unionists Outflanked
88. German Immigrants at the Battle of Pea Ridge
89. The Organization of the “German” XI Corps
90. The Irish Brigade on the Road to Chancellorsville
91. The “German” XI Corps on the Eve of Chancellorsville
92. The “Germans Run Away” at Chancellorsville
93. The New York Times, the Germans, and the Anatomy of a Scapegoat at Chancellorsville
94. An Irish Soldier Between Chancellorsville and Gettysburg
95. Lee’s Army Moves Towards Gettysburg: Black Refugees Flee
96. Iron Brigade Immigrants Arrive at Gettysburg
97. Iron Brigade Immigrants Go Into Battle the First Day at Gettysburg
98. The “German” XI Corps at Gettysburg July 1, 1863
99. An Irish Colonel and the Defense of Little Round Top on the Second Day at Gettysburg
100. A Prayer Before Death for the Irish Brigade at Gettysburg: July 2, 1863
101. The Irish Regiment that Ended “Pickett’s Charge”: July 3, 1863
102. Five Points on the Edge of the Draft Riots
103. Before the Draft Riots: The Cultivation of Division
104. The New York Draft Riots Begin
105. Convulsion of Violence: The First Day of the New York Draft Riots
106. The Draft Riots End in a Sea of Blood-July 14-15, 1863.
107. Pat Cleburne: The Irish Confederate and the Know Nothings
108. Killing Pat Cleburne: Know Nothing Violence
109. Pat Cleburne: Arresting a General, Becoming a General
110. The Immigrant Story Behind “Twelve Years a Slave”
111. A German Immigrant Woman’s Gettysburg Address
112. Pat Cleburne: The Irish Confederate’s Emancipation Proclamation
113. Pat Cleburne: The South Can’t Use Black Soldiers Without Ending Slavery
114. The Suppression of Pat Cleburne’s Emancipation Proposal
115. An Irish Immigrant Colonel’s Warnings Ignored at Chickamauga
116. An Immigrant Colonel’s Fighting Retreat at Chickamauga
117. August Willich: German Socialist at Chickamauga
118. Hans Heg:at Chickamauga: Norwegian Commander on the Eve of Battle
119. Ivan and Nadine Turchin: Russian Revolutionary Aristocrats at Chickamauga
120. German Immigrants Pinned Down at Chickamauga
121. Hans Heg: To Die for His Adopted Country at Chickamauga
122. Patrick Guiney: An Irish Colonel on the Edge of the Wilderness
123. Immigrants March Out of The Wilderness and Into a Wicked Hail of Gunfire
124. Peter Welsh in the Irish Brigade’s Purgatory at Spotsylvania