Saturday, May 25, 2013

Mine Exploded at Vicksburg

Siege lines at Vicksburg
The Federals were not content with simply bombarding and waiting for the Confederates to surrender Vicksburg. They had been digging nine zig zag approaches to get close enough so that, with a final charge, they could get over the Confederate lines with little loss of life. They also began digging mines to try to blow up the fortifications. One was detonated 150 years ago today under the redan occupied by the 3rd Louisiana.
To dig the mine, six men would work for an hour, digging out the dirt and handing it back in bags to be taken out of the tunnel, and after working for an hour they were replaced with others to continue the work. The defenders heard the work of the diggers underground and began digging a counter mine to intercept them. They got so close that inside the mines each could hear the commands given to the other. However, they did not reach the mine in time. The mine was exploded at 2 pm on May 25th. 2,200 pounds of gunpowder blew apart the Confederate fortifications, creating a crater 40 foot wide and 12 foot deep. One Confederate soldier wrote:
A huge mass of earth suddenly, and with tremendous force and a terrific explosion, flew upwards, descending with might power upon the gallant defenders, burying numbers beneath its falling fragments, bruising and mangling them most horribly. It seemed as if all hell had suddenly yawned upon the devoted band, and vomited forth its sulphurous fire and smoke upon them.

The mine exploding
About a hundred men were killed or injured from the explosion alone. The Federals immediately opened fire on the crater and sent in infantry to attack. A Union officer wrote:
But little difficulty was experienced in entering the crater, but the moment the assaulting forces attempted to mount the artificial parapet, which had been formed by the falling debris about midway across the fort, completely commanded by the Confederate artillery and infantry in the rear, they were met by a withering fire so severe that to show a head above the crest was certain death. Two lines were formed on the slope of this parapet, the front line raising their muskets over their heads and firing at random over the crest while the rear rank was engaged in reloading. But soon the Confederates began throwing short-fused shells over the parapet, which, rolling down into the crater crowded with the soldiers of the assaulting column, caused the most fearful destruction of life ever witnessed under like circumstances. The groans of the dying and shrieks of the wounded became fearful, but bravely they stood to their work until the engineers constructed a casemate out of the heavy timbers found in the crater, and upon which the earth was thrown until it was of sufficient depth to resist the destructive effects of the exploding shells.
The Federals did not give up after this failed assault. They dug another mine and exploded it a few days later, destroying the fort even more. However, by the time preparations were completed for the assault, the siege of Vicksburg was over.

Fighting in the crater


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