Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 25.djvu/92

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ss Southern Historical Society Papers.

THE AWFUL EXPLOSION.

Captain George L. Killmer, of Marshall's Brigade, says: "The awful explosion, when it came, confused our men more than it did the Confederates, except the few Confederates who were blown up. We were in a state of expectancy, awaiting orders, when suddenly the ground rocked under foot and an immense mass of earth, tim- bers, cannon and soldiers in gray, enveloped in dust and powder smoke, leaped into the air, and hung there, as it seemed, ready to fall and bury our lines in the ruins. Hundreds shrunk back, ap- palled and unmassed. Colonel Elisha C. Marshall, who was also colonel of my regiment, sprang upon the wall in front, and waving a signal, shouted 'Forward.' Officers and soldiers, to the number of a couple of hundred, joined him instantly, climbing the barrier by the help of bayonets and upon one another's shoulders. Without looking to see how many followed, the party dashed forward to the pit, and there found a great hole encircled by a wall made of the falling earth and debris. We struck the left flank of the breach and planted our flag there."

Then after describing intervening events, Captain Killmer says:

PANDEMONIUM IN THE PIT. . .

" In the pit pandemonium reigned. Men shot on the crest tum- bled in upon the wounded, lying in torture at the bottom. The day was hot. Sulphurous gases escaped from the debris and there was no water at hand, the way back to the Union lines was swept by fire and was corduroyed with dead. Refusing to retreat, men sought death by charging forward. Officers threw away their lives by mounting the walls to inspire the men to move out and relieve the horrible jam in the pit. One of these martyrs was a mere boy, Lieutenant Pennell, an aid to General Thomas. So many bullets struck him that his body whirled around like a top before it fell.

Lieutenant-General U. S. Grant, commanding the United States Army, in his report to General Halleck, under date of August i, 1864, at City Point, Va. , says:

"The loss in the disaster of Saturday last foots up about 3,500, of whom 450 men were killed and 2,000 wounded.

" It was the saddest affair I have witnessed in the war.

' ' Such opportunity for carrying fortifications I have never seen and do not expect to again to have.

' ' The enemy, with a line of works five miles long, had been re-