Field of blood was the Crater. From the times-dispatch, Nov. 12, 1905.Address delivered at reunion of Mahone's men in Petersburg.
[Whilst during the reunion of Confederate veterans at Petersburg, Virginia, in October 1905, the memorable battle of the Crater was not as had been proposed fought over again with the reality which only participants therein might render, still the convocation was in many ways important in results for the common weal. Not only as so eloquently presented by the gallant Captain John Lamb, in previous pages, but in published testimonials, of valiant Federals: Mr. J. D. Lynch of Johnstown, Pennsylvania, a member of battery D, 2nd Pennsylvania Heavy Artillery, whose regiment was in the front line of the battle, in a letter to Governor Montague, regretting his inability to be present at the reunion, gave the following interesting incident: ‘He says that he and his colonel pulled two Confederates from under the debris and gave them their breakfast. “There were two Confederates,” says the letter, “buried under the loose ground. They were both in the same hole. I think one was a lieutenant. I was sitting over them, and felt the ground move under me. My colonel ordered me to dig the dirt away. I got them both out, and neither was hurt. We gave them breakfast out of our haversacks.” ’ Mr. Lynch, further expressed a desire to hear from these veterans if they were still living. Lieut-Colonel J. S. Watrous, U. S. A., in an article extensively published by the press, touchingly gave the reasons why Captain Tom La Flesch, who had recently died in California, and who fought through the war in the 2nd Wisconsin Cavalry, (whose first colonel was the late Gov. C. C. Washburne), ‘loved the men in gray,’ who starving, barefooted and almost naked, accepted the cruel sufferings unmurmeringly, and ‘fought like tigers.’ At the regular meeting of A. P. Hill Camp, C. V., Nov. 2, 1905, a beautiful souvenir was presented to the camp by Rev. Dr. Ray of Petersburg, on behalf of the Pennsylvania Second Heavy Artillery Association, a delegation from which came to the reunion and  placed markers on the advanced positions held by their regiment on the Crater battlefield. During their stay in the city they were courteously received by the Confederate veterans and had several pleasant social meetings with them. As a memento of their visit and of their friendship for the Confederate soldiers, this souvenir is presented and will be so received and appreciated. A well organized movement which promises success has been started for the establishment of a national military park at Petersburg. It may be of interest to mention some of the many points of historic importance that lie within the limits of the proposed park, about which were fought some of the bloodiest and most determined battles of the Confederate war. These are: The Crater, Fort McGilvray, Fort Steadman, Fort Haskel, Fort Meikle, Fort Wadsworth, Fort Rice, Fort Morton, Fort Sedgewick, Fort Mahone, Fort Davis, a series of points which played great parts in the siege and defense of Petersburg in 1864-65. Fort Sedgewick, on the Federal side, and Fort Mahone on the Confederate side, on account of the fierce and almost constant fire they gave and received were appropriately named respectively Forts ‘Hell’ and ‘Damnation.’ While some of these famous forts have almost disappeared under the hand of time and the march of improvement, most of them are still well preserved and in good condition. In the vicinity of the proposed park are many other points of notable interest. At a meeting of the common council of Petersburg, Feb. 6th 1906, Mr. Quicke offered resolutions appropriating the sum of $1.000 to the fund to be raised by the Mahone Monument Association for the erection of a monument in memory of General William Mahone, and granting permission to erect the monument in Central Park. The preamble to these resolutions sets forth in eloquent terms the record of General Mahone as a soldier and the deeds of his heroic men, especially in 1864-65 in the glorious defense of Petersburg, and at the battle of the Crater, ‘the most astounding victory of any war waged during the nineteenth century,’ General Mahone's famous brigade was composed in large part of soldiers from Petersburg and immediate surroundings, many of whom are still here, and all of whom, with the people of the city at large, desire the erection of a suitable and lasting memorial to his memory. The resolutions were referred to the finance committee and will no doubt be favorably reported and adopted. The Mahone Association  purposes to erect an equestrian statue of the famous general. Pacific effort intensifies. With hearts quickened another link is being forged in Congress in welding indissolubly the North and South by providing for duly marking the graves of Confederate soldiers and sailors who died in Northern prisons.—editor.] The following address was delivered at the reunion of the survivors of the Battle of the Crater in connection with the Grand Camp reunion in Petersburg October 26th, by Lieutenant-Colonel William H. Stewart, of Portsmouth. It was to have been delivered on the old battlefield that day, but as bad weather broke up the sham battle the survivors heard it in the hall of the reunion instead: The goodness of God endureth forever. I thank Him for an over-deserving share, and bless His name for this day and this privilege of meeting you. Our pilgrimage to this field of blood recalls the eventful times of a war, which, although resulting in final surrender, has embalmed its sacred memories in our hearts. Those sacrificial years will ever be regarded with tenderness and love—love immortalized by memory; for those days of thrilling danger, long marches and short rations invoke the highest ideal of manhood. They say that hope is happiness,
But genuine love must prize the past;
And memory makes the thoughts that bless—
They rose the first, they set the last.
And all that memory loves the most
Was once our only hope to be:
And all that hope adored and lost
Hath melted into memory.
I would rather go down to posterity as the humblest private soldier, whose shoeless feet made blood tracks on the soil of Virginia, than the richest magnate who ever clipped coupons from corporate bonds. Who would not suffer for the honor of a soldier rather than live in luxury to be the sneer of time? Who would not have the name of the disarmed Southern soldier  fighting with his fists in the trenches of the crater rather than those who gathered gold from orphan's hunger and widow's tears? Comrades, I speak now to demand simple justice at the hands of history for the men who saved Petersburg on the 30th day of July, 1864. The greatest general of the Federal army, its commanderin-chief, was gloomy over the results of his assault upon the Confederate position, which 8,000 pounds of gunpowder had destroyed in the glimmer of that morning. The great plan ‘that was expected to scatter and destroy the army of General Lee was a failure’—an ‘utter and disastrous failure;’ and the Federal correspondent who wrote this on August 2nd, 1864, said: ‘Often have the Confederates won encomiums for valor, but never before did they fight with such uncontrollable desperation.’ Gold went up to its highest notch as compared with greenbacks—two dollars and eighty cents in paper for one in gold, which made the average price of gold in July, 1864, the highest during the whole war; and if the financial thermometer is any guide, the Confederate States were nearer to independence on the day of the Crater than at any other time during the great war between the Northern nation and the Southern republic. The New York Herald advised that an embassy should be sent to the Confederate government, ‘to see if this dreadful war cannot be ended in a mutually satisfactory treaty of peace.’ This is evidence from a hostile source of what the artillery and infantry of the Confederates accomplished on this fateful field. Yet when you read some Southern histories you will find the charge of the Crater entirely ignored or dismissed with a sentence, a paragraph or perhaps a page. Ex-President Davis' History, after giving a description of the mine and size of the Crater, quotes an author who seemed to know nothing of the charge of the infantry of Mahone, only noticing the fire of the artillery, and the confusion of the enemy's troops, and then Mr. Davis concludes: ‘The forces of the enemy finally succeeded in making their way back with a loss of about four thousand prisoners, and General Lee, whose casualties were small, re-established his line without interruption.’ You might conclude from reading his account that the disordered ranks of the enemy, demoralized by artillery fire, lost heart, retreated at leisure or waited to be rescued from the excavation, but  finally making their way back without a bayonet thrust or a sword stroke. The accuracy of this is in keeping with his claim of four thousand prisoners, who actually numbered 1,101. He gives no credit to the men of the three brigades, who charged up this hill two hundred yards, and fought hand to hand, foot to foot, with bayonets and butts, pistols and swords, as desperately and daringly as ever recorded in the annals of war; and took from Burnside nineteen flags (Mahone 15, Saunders 3, Wright 1.) Then that voluminous ‘Confederate Military History,’ in giving its account, leaves out entirely the charge of the Alabama brigade under the chivalrous Saunders. I shall always remember the splendid manner in which that glorious brigade did the final act which enabled General Lee to re-establish his line ‘without interruption.’ Mahone's brigade had recaptured the works on the left up to the excavation, and I could look back and see the Alabama brigade form in this valley, and charge in beautiful array up to the rim of the Crater, held by Bartlett, where, after a short struggle, the white flag went up and Bartlett and his men came out as Saunders' prisoners of war. No troops ever acted more brilliantly on any field than Alabama's faithful sons under the lead of gallant Saunders on that day. While speaking of the infantry, I am not unmindful of the wonderful work of our artillery: and you saw the gallant Haskell with two little cohorts help to force the capitulation of the Crater. I must pause to pay tribute to the bravest Federal general officer, William F. Bartlett, who fought in their front line, with the admirable desperation that made him the foremost hero of all the officers who commanded the 70,000 Federal troops in our front on that day. Massachusetts never sent out a braver and more dashing soldier to uphold her honor than Bartlett, the Federal hero of the Crater. Stung by the unfairness of such treatment from our own historians, I conceived a plan for a reunion of the survivors of Mahone's Brigade, who participated in the charge of the Crater, to correct the injustice to you and our dead comrades, and it resulted most successfully on the 6th day of November, 1903. I have collected many personal narratives from those who charged with muskets in their hands and laid them aside to be read by those  coming after us, who may wish to know about the charge of the Crater from the mouths of the participants. It was in no spirit of boastfulness that we returned, realized on this battlefield and charged over the same ground where we rushed and fought in the whirl of battle, over forty-one years ago. You did no more than your duty; you did no more than your comrades of other commands, who stood to duty; no more than those who with you won other fields, and I do not claim for you greater honor than for any true Confederate soldier, but when a feat of arms so brilliant as the successful charge of the Crater by the three depleted brigades of Anderson's division on the 30th day of July, 1864, is brushed aside as a skirmish by those in whom justice is supposed to abide, I thought it was time for the participants to speak out in behalf of the great open-field charge, which challenges the world for a parallel. The English historian, Gregg, says: that ‘the exploit crowned General Mahone with fame that no subsequent errors can obscure.’ When you helped to defend Petersburg in 1864-5, five times Mahone's brigade left its place in the breastworks on Willcox farm and twice its winter quarters, and each time successfully charged the troops of the Army of the Potomac, and while all reflected equal credit cn the courage and fidelity of the participants, the charge of the Crater was fruitful of greater results, and it should be known if the world will listen, to-day, to the survivors of the men who made this fight, saved the Army of Northern Virginia from a fatal disaster, and inflicted upon the enemy a defeat that brought the Herald's cry for peace. It really seems the irony of fate that you should have to go to your enemies to find justice for your valor, but it is, nevertheless, true, for you have to read the official reports of the Federal officers to know the full force and effect of your prowess on that day. These documents, your written personal experience of the battle, and this demonstration to-day, makes me content to rest the history of the charge of the Crater with the historians who shall come after us. The unique feature of a sham battle on a real battlefield will burn your deeds on the ineffaceable tablets of Virginia's history. Between Southern soldiers who have touched elbows in a charge with bayonets, there always exists a brotherhood bound by unwritten and unspoken laws, even as strong as the kinship of brothers.  While I glory in the everlasting link of kinship between all true Confederate soldiers, I also thank God that the bond of friendship has grown between those who held opposite sides of the firing line from 1861 to 8651. These old battle flags, given back to us by the unanimous vote of Congress with the willing signature of a chivalrous President, are signals of peace and love. They are heralds proclaiming that the veteran soldiers of the North and South love their enemies for the glory of God, and have united in friendship for the honor of the great American Republic. Our flag of glory fly no more
Where 'mid mad battle's thunder-roar
We brothers slay!
Glow love in souls where once glared ire!
Then never will a star expire
Until the heavens in final fire
Have passed away!
We rally again to recount actions and recall memories of war in a spirit of friendly rivalry, which will shed luster on the Army of Northern Virginia and the Army of the Potomac in degrees humilitating to neither. Let the truth come, and the American soldier who stood with Lee and Jackson will be found by the future historian as true and patriotic as the soldier who fought with Grant and Hancock; and the cause of the South shall be pronounced absolutely right and just under the Constitution, to which George Washington affixed his signature.