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
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.
' 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