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For its murderous artillery fire every dawn and dusk during the nine months siege of Petersburg, Union Fort Sedgwick was named by the Confederates “Fort Hell.” It was located some three miles south of Fort McGilvery on the southern end of the inner line of Federal entrenchments, east of Petersburg. “Hell” feared invasion in this instance, as the bristling row of slender sharpened sticks planted in the salient witnesses. They were simply light palisades, held by putting poles through holes in a sill, and then fixing the whole in a horizontal position. They look absurdly ineffectual, these sharpened sticks designed to stop the onslaught of an assaulting column, but when another row of them and another and yet another awaited the assailants, their movements were retarded so that they became exposed to fire. Under the command of regular officers the volunteer engineers soon reached a high point of efficiency. On the Peninsula a brigade, consisting of the Fifteenth and Fiftieth New York Volunteer Engineers, was commanded by Brigadier-General Daniel Phineas Woodbury, a West Point graduate of the class of 1836, and a captain of engineersat the outbreak of the war. In the Peninsula campaign the engineers were active in constructing fortification and building bridges. “Woodbury's Bridge” across the Chickahominy did notable service. Gallant and meritorious conduct in this campaign secured General Woodbury the rank of colonel in the United States Army. At Fredericksburg similar service connected with the work of the pontoon trains brought for him the rank of brigadier-general. He was brevetted major-general August 15, 1864.

Fighting with sharpened sticks — primitive but effective protection

Major-General D. P. Woodbury: the engineer who built the pontoon bridges at Fredericksburg


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