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The Crater

Petersburg, VA  |  Jul 30, 1864

Two weeks after Union forces arrived to invest the Confederate defenders of Petersburg, the battle lines of both sides had settled into a stalemate. Since Cold Harbor, Lieut. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant was reluctant to mount a frontal attack against well-entrenched Confederates. By late June, Grant's lines covered most of the eastern approaches to Petersburg, but neither side seemed ready to risk an offensive move. Part of the Union line was held by Maj. Gen. Ambrose E. Burnside's Ninth Corps. Some of Burnside's men were Pennsylvania miners, and they approached Burnside with a plan.  They would tunnel underground from behind Union lines to a point underneath a Confederate position and fill the mine with explosives. When detonated, the resulting explosion would destroy a portion of the Rebel lines that could be exploited by infantry. Grant demurred but the digging began. On July 30th, after weeks of preparation, the Federals exploded the mine beneath a Confederate salient, blowing a gap in the defenses. At that point, everything deteriorated rapidly for the Union attackers. Unit after unit, most of whom were U. S. Colored Troops, charged into and around the crater, where most of them milled in confusion in the bottom of 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. Most of the black soldiers were badly mauled. Instead of ending the siege, both sides settled in for eight months of trench warfare. Burnside was relieved of command for his role in the debacle.

All battles of the Richmond-Petersburg Campaign

Civil War  |  Battle
Petersburg
City of Petersburg, VA  |  Jun 15 - 18, 1864
Result: Confederate Victory
Est. Casualties: 11,386
Union: 8,150
Confederate: 3,236
Civil War  |  Battle
First Battle of Deep Bottom
Henrico County, VA  |  Jul 27 - 29, 1864
Result: Confederate Victory
Est. Casualties: 1,167
Union: 488
Confederate: 679
Civil War  |  Battle
The Crater
Petersburg, VA  |  Jul 30, 1864
Result: Confederate Victory
Est. Casualties: 5,289
Union: 3,798
Confederate: 1,491
Civil War  |  Battle
Second Deep Bottom
Henrico County, VA  |  Aug 13 - 20, 1864
Result: Confederate Victory
Est. Casualties: 4,399
Union: 2,899
Confederate: 1,500
Civil War  |  Battle
Reams Station
Dinwiddie County, VA  |  Aug 25, 1864
Result: Confederate Victory
Est. Casualties: 3,561
Union: 2,747
Confederate: 814
Civil War  |  Battle
New Market Heights
Henrico County, VA  |  Sep 29 - 30, 1864
Result: Union Victory
Est. Casualties: 5,900
Union: 4,150
Confederate: 1,750
Civil War  |  Battle
Battle of Fort Harrison
Virginia  |  Sep 29 - 30, 1864
Result: Union Victory
Union: 4,150
Confederate: 1,750
Civil War  |  Battle
Peebles' Farm
Dinwiddie County, VA  |  Sep 30 - Oct 2, 1864
Result: Union Victory
Est. Casualties: 4,140
Union: 2,900
Confederate: 1,240
Civil War  |  Battle
Hatcher's Run
Dinwiddie County, VA  |  Feb 5 - 7, 1865
Result: Inconclusive
Est. Casualties: 2,700
Union: 1,539
Confederate: 1,161
Civil War  |  Battle
Fort Stedman
Petersburg, VA  |  Mar 25, 1865
Result: Union Victory
Est. Casualties: 3,850
Union: 950
Confederate: 2,900

Related Battles

Petersburg, VA | July 30, 1864
Result: Confederate Victory
Commanders
Estimated Casualties
5,289
Union
3,798
Confed.
1,491

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