Today marks the sesquicentennial anniversary of the Battle of the Crater, a Civil War episode during the ten-month Siege of Petersburg, Virginia that began in June 1864 and ended in April 1865. A plan to dig tunnels under the Confederate position at Petersburg was implemented during the month of July 1864, and at 4:40 A.M. on July 30, 1864, a mine exploded underneath the Confederate position, leaving a wide crater. The Ninth Corps of the Union Army charged into the thirty-foot deep crater to overtake the Confederates, with the Eighteenth Corps remaining along the front lines in support. The attack ended in devastating failure for the Union, as the Confederates charged to the defense of their men by lining along the rim of the gaping hole and firing into the men of the Ninth Corps inside the crater. Massive losses from death or capture for the Ninth Corps were the tragic result of the catastrophic episode. Casualties mounted to nearly 5,000 for the Union and 1,000 for the Confederacy.
These modern-day pictures of the remnants of the Crater illustrate that time and exposure to the elements have eroded the destruction wrought by the mine explosion.
This plaque near the Crater at Petersburg reads:
Crater of Mine
The 48th Regt. Penn. Vet. Vol. Inf.
Burnside's 9th Corps.
July 30, 1864