The Northern papers of the last arrival contain quite full accounts of Grant
's operations on the other side — especially his mining experiment:
The correspondent of the Herald,
attached to the Ninth army corps, thus describes the commencement of the mining operations in front of our works:
The work was commenced on the 25th of June last as previously stated.
Such was the secrecy with which it was conducted that for a long time the project was unknown even to those at whose side it was going on. It is true that reports were in circulation of a mine; but nobody could speak certainly of the matter.
So much doubt was there, indeed, that for a time it was disbelieved that any undertaking was on foot.
One soldier in the breastworks, by whose side a ventilating shaft emerged, told his comrades, in the most surprised manner, that "there was a lot of fellows under him a doing something; he knew there was, for he could hear 'em talk." To guard against indiscretion on the part of the pickets, to prevent any meeting of our soldiers with the rebels, whereat the secret of the mine might be boastingly or imprudently disclosed our pickets were ordered to fire continually.
Hence the never ending fusillade on the front of the Ninth corps, so incomprehensible to the other corps, and which was often referred to in newspaper paragraphs.
The enemy doubtless suspected at first that the undermining was going on; but when several weeks elapsed without any demonstration their suspicious began to vanish, especially as their engineers thought the plan unfeasible.
Progress of the work.
The progress of the work was necessarily very slow, and it was not until the 25th instant--just one month after inception — that it was completed.
At the outset one of the most important points was to ascertain the exact distance and bearing of the rebel fort.
The excavation was commenced in the side of the hill whereon our exterior line of works run. The funnel or, to use the technical term, "gallery," is about four and half feet high, nearly as many feet wide at the bottom, and two feet wide at the top. The usual army pick was not suited to the work, as its flukes were too broad to permit their swinging in the funnel.
This difficulty was easily overcome by filing down the flukes to the size of the regular mining pick.
Water was met with not far from the entrance, and for a time gave no little trouble.
The floor, however, was planked, and the sides and ceiling shoved up. A quicksand was met with, and to obviate it the range of the tunnel was curved upwards, so that the latter half was several feet higher than at the entrance.
The oozing of the water formed mud in several places, so that the regiment came from their daily labor bespattered and stained.
At length the end was reached, and the triangulation was abundantly verified in the noise overhead.
The nailing of timber and planks could be distinctly heard, and left no doubt that the men were directly beneath the rebel fort.
The enemy were evidently making a flooring for their artillery.
As near as could be ascertained, the distance from the tunnel to the fort was twenty feet.
After it was sufficiently evident that a point directly under the fort was reached, the construction of the mine was commenced.
The angle of the first projects towards our lines, and under this angle the tunnel diverged into two galleries, each running, as near as could be ascertained, under each side.
It was the intention to make the mine consist of eight magazines, placed at intervals along these branch galleries, so that the entire length of the fort might be blown up, in place of one spot.
Preliminary experiments were made by Colonel Pleasant
with cartridges of powder, which he inserted in the earth and ignited by a fuse.
He ascertained that the work of making a breach would be more effectually secured by distributing the powder instead of putting it in bulk.
In the latter case the explosion resulted in a deep and broad crater; in the former in a wide chasm.
Where the cartridges — his miniature magazines — were not disconnected by packing, the tendency of the explosion was to find vent at the first hole.
Hence, he resorted to packing between the magazines, or, as it is technically known, "tamping."
Charging the mine.
The mine was charged to day. The quantity of powder used was six tons!
Pause and think.
twelve thousand pounds! Imagine eight dry goods
boxes (the magazines resemble them in size and shape,) filled with powder, and you will have an idea of the mine.
What a terrific spectacle is in store for us.
The Springing of the mine.
A later letter says:
The mine was to have been sprung at three o'clock this morning, and the Lieutenant General
, accompanied by his staff, reached General Burnside
's headquarters about that hour.
and staff also assembled at the same headquarters.
The appointed hour for the explosion of the mine arrived, but, for some reason or other, it did not take place.
Hundreds of soldiers had assembled at convenient places to witness the upheaving of earth, and the most breathless anxiety was manifested by all Everything movable in the way of troops had been placed in position to move at the first signal.
The entire Second corps was held in reserve; but up to the hour of writing this dispatch they had not been called into action.
At ten minutes to five a cloud of dust was seen rising from the rebel entrenchments.
This was followed by a general upheaving of earth, which reached probably fifty feet. The whole mass looked like a huge fountain of earth and dust, and formed a most imposing spectacle.
Simultaneous with this explosion our batteries along the entire line opened a most murderous and destructive fire upon the rebel breastworks; and the infantry, with deafening cheers, rushed into the embankments of the enemy.
A constant cannonading, lasting now one hour and twenty minutes, has been going on. At six o'clock our valiant troops had captured and occupied the first line of rebel entrenchments.
Prisoners are constantly arriving from the front, some of them wounded, others unhurt.
Several of our own wounded are also coming in, and they report that the slaughter inflicted upon the enemy by the explosion and the accurate range of our shells from the guns and mortars is terrible in the extreme.
So far the victory is ours.
The air is thick with flying missiles.
We are punishing the enemy steadily and surely, and are occupying his fortifications.
The corps engaged are the fifth, ninth, and eighteenth.
It is by far too early to estimate the number of our casualties or those of the enemy.
Those in the immediate front, where the mine was sprung, report that the excavation made by the expression resembles the mouth of a crater.
The earth was loosened and thrown in the all for hundreds of yards around.
The behavior of our troops challenges the admiration of all our veteran commanders.
Their beating is highly creditable and they are only held upon taking the rebel fort.
They are determined to win, and with such resolute and brave troops there is no such word as defeat.