Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Artillery 30 July 1864 at the Crater

One thing that stands out in much of the Union planning for this attack ... everything will go fine if only there weren't a Confederate army in the field. We have a picture of Burnside readying his HQ to be on the move into Petersburg as soon as his corps sweeps to the top of Cemetery Hill and Ferrero's 4th Division goes double-time down the Plank Road into town. [cite]

One indication of this mentality is Hunt's sketch for 5th, 9th and 18th Corps artillery placement from the OR Atlas Plate LXIV, No. 3:

While a few Confederate positions are marked, many are not shown. The ones not shown played a large role in slowing/stopping the Union advance. It's interesting that the map legend "SKETCH Explanatory Of The Positions ..." sits over the most significant of those Confederate batteries.

The mortars on the far side of the Plank Road were hidden from easy view, as the road was raised over east-west downward slopes. Wright's battery sat at small elevation on the north side of a natural ravine and to the west of thick timber, as a map from the opposition's point of view is shown in another OR Atlas Plate (LXXVIII, No. 5)

 Taking just the north part of the full map, starting with batteries 14-18 from the 5th Corps (and #19, the southernmost 9th Corp battery), I've moved the legend to make way for Confederate gun positions.

Various reports show that the Confederates were aware of a mine somewhere on this front and preparations were made by Pendleton and the other artillery officers to have sufficient extra ammunition on hand, just in case. Even though only 3 divisions were left south of the Appomattox when Lee responded to Grant's gambit at Deep Bottom on 27-29 July, they were on full alert.

Sure, the Union generals cooperated fully to make a mess of the attack of the mine, they weren't alone on the battlefield.They did have the full attention of soldiers who were putting up a fierce defense of their home state and towns. Led by very capable men, William Mahone among them.

Monday, March 3, 2014

City Point and Army Line

US Military RR from June 1864 to April 1865

Abstract and Chronology of construction, from Official Records III(5):69-74

Mr. C.L. McAlpine, engineer of construction and repairs

13 June: take up track of Richmond and York River RR, remove all material of value

18 June: arrive at City Point, orders to rebuild City Point and Petersburg RR
"the bridges were gone, track taken up, and the iron removed for a distance of four miles."
" ... on to within two miles and a half from Petersburg ... ties were very much decayed and the gauge needed changing from five feet to four feet eight and one-half inches."

5 July: bridges all rebuilt, track repaired and road in running order for 7 miles

7 July: regular trains start running

22 July: orders to make a preliminary survey of branch line from Pitkin Station (5.5 miles from City Point) to 5th Corps HQ at Yellow House. Survey made w/o instruments.

9 August: explosion, accidental[??] of ammunition stored on ordnance boat

30 August: orders to commence building Pitkin to Yellow House

1 September: work commenced

10 September: Pitkin to Yellow House (9 miles), City Point to Yellow House (14.5 miles)

?? September: construction of earthworks about 0.5 miles to protect open track from rebel batteries

October: road bed put in first-rate order, the yard at City Point enlarged, switches, sidings, turn-tables, engine-house, shops; at all stations, sidings laid and station-houses built. Average of 9 trains run each way daily.

22 October: orders received to extend to Peebles house (2.25 miles)

2 November: work on Patrick branch begins; weather raining nearly all the time

9 November: work complete with all necessary sidings

10 November - 19 December: extra side tracks, quarters for RR employees; 15 trains daily.

21 December: work begins on branch from Hancock Station to Fort Blaisdell

29 December: work complete

2 January: orders to extend this branch 2.5 miles to HQ of Crawfords' Division (5th Corps)

20 January: Gregg Branch line opens with station-houses, platforms and water-stations.

8 February: order received to extend Army Line west

13 February: work begins (from Warren Station south down the old bed of the Weldon RR about 2 miles, then right, west, to the Cummings house on the Vaughan road, a distance of 5 miles)

24 February: work to Humphreys Station complete, sidings, buildings, platforms, water-stations; weather rainy almost the whole time

---- "A number of hospital cars were fitted up for the purpose of moving the sick and wounded from the front and along the line to City Point. These were kept in almost constant use."

Added 2 passenger trains daily for mail, officers and others to/from the front.

"At the time of building the Army Line many of the officers of the Army of the Potomac, together with the regular Engineer Corps, denounced this location, declaring that it would be impossible for an engine alone to ascend the heavy grades; and as for furnishing the necessary supplies for the army over it, they considered it altogether out of the question."

15 loaded cars/train (up to 23) pulled by one ordinary engine

21 miles, 3955 feet with 1 mile, 1393 feet of trestle at an average 21 feet high

28 February - 3 April: not much of note; maintenance, improvements, building up rolling-stock, timber and iron ready to move the army.

3 April: abandoned the Army Line and began relaying South Side RR to Petersburg.

4 April: that road open and in running order; yard work in Petersburg to change gauge.

11 April: completed gauge change on South Side RR to Burkeville, 62 miles from City Point, and trains began running with supplies