Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 36.djvu/178

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Southern Historical Society Papers.

The news soon reached our lines that the enemy had exploded a mine under a fort then known as "Elliott's Salient," subsequently named the "Crater," from its resemblance in shape to the crater of a volcano, and during the terrible struggle one in active operation, caused by the smoke and dust which ascended therefrom.

Mahone's was the "supporting division" of the army while in front of Petersburg, and consequently whenever the enemy was making serious attacks this command, or a part of it, was sent to reinforce 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 engaged, however, none will equal or even approximate in bloody and stubborn fighting the battle of the "Crater," where the loss on the Federal side was five thousand and on the Confederate side one thousand eight hundred, out of the small number engaged, and all on about two acres of land. For quite awhile after the explosion all was quiet, but then commenced 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 The Virginia and Georgia brigades, being on the right of the division, were withdrawn from the works in such a manner as not to be seen by the enemy, who were entrenched in strong force immediately in our front, and dispatched as directed. This occurred about 8 or 9 o'clock. About 11 o'clock an order came, delivered by that gallant officer, R. R. Henry, of Mahone's staff, for the Alabama( Wilcox's old) brigade. We were quietly withdrawn from the works, leaving the space which the three brigades had covered unoccupied except by a few skirmishers—one man every twenty paces—commanded by Maj. J. M. Crow, a brave officer of the Ninth Alabama regiment.

By a circuitous route we arrived at Blandford cemetery, and then entered a "zigzag," 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 soon came out of the covered