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21 Readings About the Great Battles of the Civil War #16-- Battle and Siege of Petersburg & Trench Warfare

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           Before World War One, trench warfare was introduced in a large role in the American Civil War. The nineteenth century set a canvas for trench warfare in World War One, because of the importance it played in the American Civil War.
           In the beginning of the Civil War the soldiers would not be in protective barriers, but rather they would line up shoulder-to-shoulder and fire muskets and bayonets at the opposing armies. Eventually during the American Civil War, muskets and bayonets became ineffective for the armies and “Minnie Rifles” were introduced. These were designed for more rapid fire and allowed a much faster reload. These were  much more effective than the previous weapons and the amount of casualties sky rocketed when soldiers began to use them. The Minnie Rifles were very powerful compared to the bayonets and muskets, and they were much more accurate. The amount of casualties became too high and the two sides needed to change their strategy, so they turned to trench warfare.
         Trench warfare was what they needed to help both sides get through the war, and not lose everyone. Instead of being out in the open fire, soldiers were able to stay in bunkers and protect themselves from the open fire of the Minnie Rifles. Moving to the trenches saved the lives of many, and also prolonged the civil war. The war took many more years than it “needed” to take, because battles would be extended because of trench warfare.



        The Richmond–Petersburg Campaign was a series of battles around Petersburg, Virginia, fought from June 9, 1864, to March 25, 1865, during the American Civil War. Although it is more popularly known as the Siege of Petersburg, it was not a classic military siege, in which a city is usually surrounded and all supply lines are cut off, nor was it strictly limited to actions against Petersburg. The campaign was nine months of trench warfare in which Union forces commanded by Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant assaulted Petersburg unsuccessfully and then constructed trench lines that eventually extended over 30 miles (48 km) from the eastern outskirts of Richmond, Virginia, to around the eastern and southern outskirts of Petersburg. Petersburg was crucial to the supply of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee's army and the Confederate capital of Richmond. Numerous raids were conducted and battles fought in attempts to cut off the railroad supply lines through Petersburg to Richmond, and many of these caused the lengthening of the trench lines, overloading dwindling Confederate resources.

Lee finally gave in to the pressure—the point at which supply lines were finally cut and a true siege began on March 25—and abandoned both cities in April 1865, leading to his retreat and surrender at Appomattox Court House. The Siege of Petersburg foreshadowed the trench warfare that was common in World War I, earning it a prominent position in military history. It also featured the war's largest concentration of African American troops, who suffered heavy casualties at such engagements as the Battle of the Crater and Chaffin's Farm.

From Wikepedia at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Siege_of_Petersburg

Siege of Petersburg

Part of the American Civil War

The "Dictator" siege mortar at Petersburg. In the foreground, the figure on the right is Brig. Gen. Henry J. Hunt, chief of artillery of the Army of the Potomac

Date June 9, 1864 – March 25, 1865
(9 months, 2 weeks and 2 days)
Location Petersburg, Virginia
Result Union victory
 United States  Confederate States
Commanders and leaders
Ulysses S. Grant
George G. Meade
Benjamin F. Butler
Robert E. Lee
67,000–125,000 average of 52,000
Casualties and losses
42,000 (estimate) 28,000 (estimate)

A Diary Entry from the Battle of Petersburg by Isaac Foskett (edited by John Foskett)

June, 1864

United States Engineer Battalion

June 1: Pleasant. Broke camp at 7 a.m. and marched 3 or four miles. Hard fighting just at night. Report said that the rebels assaulted our works but they were repulsed. C and D Co.’s had orders to pack up and march. We had just turned in it being 9 p.m. Marched to Allen’s Mill where we commenced fixing the road and bridges. Worked until a little past midnight when we bivouacked for the night having marched 4 or 5 miles.

June 2: Pleasant with a shower just at night. Lay near Allen’s Mill nearly all day. At 4 p.m. marched to HdQrs near Coal [Cold] Harbor about 2 miles. Heavy firing all day.

June 3: Rainy until noon when it cleared off. Went on guard in evening. The battalion went out to the front at tattoo. Heavy firing all day. The battalion working the line throwing up (works)

June 4: Pleasant but commenced raining in the middle of the afternoon. Were relieved at 4 p.m. C and A Co.’s got back to camp at reveille. B and D went out to the front at about 5 p.m. D Co. went to the 18 Corps about 10 p.m.1  Started out to the front with or shovels. We went outside of the picket line and threw up a rifle pit. We worked four or five hours. We were in a very exposed position. The bullets flew pretty thick for a while but it dried up after a while so we finished our work and came back to Smith’s headquarters and bivouacked for the night. Gen. Smith has his quarters pretty well up to the front.  So near that the bullets whistle through the woods quite thick when skirmishing is going on. Not as much firing as usual today.

June 5: Lay in camp. A few details went out in the day time and lay out some earthworks and went out in the night along with some infantry and were out most all night. The enemy made an attack on us but were repulsed. The fight lasted about 20 or 30 minutes. It commenced on our left and extended all along the line towards our left as far as I could hear. There was men killed right in front of where we lay by a shell. He belonged to the NY Heavy Art(illery). Heavy cannonading on out left as far as we could hear. Cleared off in the evening. Received a letter from Frances containing 20 postage stamps and 33 cents worth of stationary. The postage was 17 cts amount $1.10.

June 6: Pleasant with a shower at sundown. Went out on fatigue to work on a redoubt. Picket firing with some shelling. Wrote home to Frances.

June 7: Pleasant. Lay in camp in fore(noon) but luckily for us we went out on fatigue. Our camp being shelled, No one was hurt except a horse. A piece of a shell passed through one of the tents of Gen Smith’s staff. Since the enemy began to pass his shells over to us the men have gone to work and fortified themselves by digging holes and making a breastworks of logs and throwing a bank of earth against them and some have built bomb proofs so it is one vast fortification from front clear back to the rear as far as the enemy can shell.

June 8: Got up at 3 a.m. Got breakfast and went out to work on the redoubt. Finished it went back to camp. Packed up and went back to HdQrs. Pleasant. Picket and artillery firing as usual.

June9: Cool and pleasant with a gentle shower at sundown. Lay in camp. Picket firing as usual.

June 10: Cool and windy. Lay in camp. Everything quiet along the lines.

June 11: Cool and pleasant. A detail went out from the other Co.’s to work building fortifications near Coal [Cold] Harbor but our Co. lay in camp. Received a letter from Sophronia and answered it.

June 12: Cool and pleasant. Broke camp at 2 p.m. and marched ten miles and camped near Providence Church. Passed  ________ miles. Our wagon train did not get up until nearly daylight.

June 13 Marched to Charles City Courthouse distance nearly 20 miles. Crossed the Chickahominy near the [large?] mill  now owned by a man by the name of Christian. Cool and pleasant. The country seems to be pretty destitute of food and inhabitants there being no one left but a few negroes that were so old that they could not get away. The people are glad to swap anything they have for hard bread. Charles City Courthouse I should think might have been quite a pretty place before the war the houses having been all burned except the courthouse and gate.

June 14: Pleasant. Broke camp at 12m and marched to Wyanoak Landing 4 or 5 miles. Went out on fatigue building a pontoon bridge across the James River. Worked until nearly dark and were relieved to go and get our supper then returned and stayed until midnight then went to camp and had slept about an hour when we had to fall in. A steamer having drifted into the bridge but they did not need us so we returned to camp and did not have to get up until daylight.

June 15: Lay in camp in the forenoon. Went out to work in the afternoon repairing the pier at the landing. Trains commenced crossing our bridge last night. Pleasant but warm.

June 16: Broke camp and marched 17 or 18 miles and camped near Petersburg. Very hot. Firing all day. The country seems to be all deserted. Did not see one of the inhabitants on the road of march. The stragglers were all along the road and had set the woods on fire in making their coffee so it was very uncomfortable marching through the woods.

June 17: Hot. Lay in camp. Considerable firing all along the lines. We went on guard in evening.

June 18: Hot and sultry. Made camp about a mile and half.  Cannonading all along the line.

June 19: Hot but pleasant. Lay in camp. A detail went out from C Co. to build a scaffold to hang a negro on for committing a rape at Coal [Cold] Harbor. Went out in the evening along with some of the boys and got a potash kettle to a deserted house to do some cooking in. Some cannonading all along the line.

June 22: Lay in camp. Pleasant. No firing of any consequence.

June 23: Hot and dry. Considerable fighting. Marched down on the left about five miles. Broke camp at five p.m. marched about half mile and returned to camp. Went out with a detail up to the right of the 2 Corps and threw up an eight gun battery. We had a few artillery men to help us. Got back to camp at revile having worked all night.

June 24: Hot and very dry. It being hard work to get good water. Moved camp about half a mile. Some firing all along the line on the right. Can hear the usual amount of heavy artillery firing. There having been such firing in that direction every day since we came here.

June 25: Very hot and dry. Did nothing but fight fire a little that caught in the woods close to our camp. Very heavy cannonading in the morning.

June 26: Very hot and dry. Received a letter from Frances. No firing of any account. Water very scarce. A Co. struck camp and went to Burnside.

June 27: Hot and sultry. Lay in camp. Wrote to Frances. Cannonading up on the right.

June 28: Lay in camp. Went on guard in evening. Had soft bread issued to us and sauerkraut . All quiet along the lines.

June 29: On guard. Is cool but dry. All quiet as usual but considerable moving amongst the troops. They seemed to be moving towards the left.

June 30: Cool. Was mustered for pay. Stay in camp.

From http://www.beyondthecrater.com/resources/lt/f-lt/foskett-isaac/di-18640600-isaac-foskett-diary-entries/

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