Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 33.djvu/364

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360 Southern Historical Society Papers.

left. The news soon reached our lines that the enemy had ex- ploded a mine under a fort then known as "Elliot's Salient," sub- sequently named the "Crater," from its resemblance in shape to the crater of a volcano, and during the terrible struggle one in ac- tive operation, caused by the smoke and dust which ascended therefrom.

Mahone's division was the "supporting division" of the army while in front of Petersburg, and consequently whenever the en- emy were making serious attacks, this command, or a part of it, was, when reinforcements were needed, sent to the point assailed. Hence it was in many hard fought battles while the army was in front of Petersburg.

Of the many battles in which this command was engaged none will equal or ever approximate in such bloody and stubborn fight- ing as occurred at the battle of the "Crater," where the loss on the Federal side was 5,000 and on the Confederate side 1,800, out of the small number engaged, and all on about two acres of land. For quite a while after the explosion all was quiet, but then com- menced a severe cannonade by the Yankees, which was promptly replied to by the Confederate artillery.


Soon orders were received for two of our brigades to move to the point of attack. The Virginia and Georgia brigades, being on the right of the division, were withdrawn from the works in such a manner as not to be seen by the enemy who were intrenched in strong force immediately in our front, and dispatched as directed. This occurred about 8 or 9 o'clock. About n o'clock orders came for the Alabama (Wilcox's) brigade, then commanded by General J. C. C. Saunders. This order was delivered by the gal- lant officer, R. R. Henry, of Mahone's staff. We were then quietly withdrawn from the works, thus leaving the space which the three brigades had covered unoccupied, except by a few skir- mishers (one man every twenty paces), commanded by Major J. M. Crow, of the gth Alabama regiment, a brave officer.

By a circuitous route we arrived at Blandford Cemetery and then entered a "ziz-zag" or circuitous covered way through which we had to pass in single file in order to shield ourselves from the fire of the enemy. We came out of the covered way into a ravine which ran parallel with the enemy's line of fortifications, and also of our