The 48th Pennsylvania in the Battle of the Crater: A Regiment of Coal Miners Who Tunneled Under the Enemy, by Jim Corrigan
Jefferson, NC: Mcfarland & Co, 2012. Pp. xii, 186. Illus., maps, diagr., appends., notes., biblio., index. $25.00 paper. ISBN: 0786469102.
its title this work would seem to be yet another regimental history, but in
fact it is a highly detailed, surprisingly engaging account of the Union effort
to undermine the Confederate lines before Petersburg in the summer of 1864.
and author Corrigan opens by giving us some background on the men of the 48th
Pennsylvania and their early wartime experiences. He then delves into the origins of the idea
of setting a mine under the Confederate lines, how it was received by the Union
brass (who even consulted records of mining operations during the Crimean War!),
the process of digging the mine and laying the charges, and the development of
the Union attack plan. Corrigan then devotes
nearly half the book to explaining what happened to turn a seeming success into
a terrible disaster, a combination of command blunders, including what might be
termed “reverse racism,” inept – even criminal – leadership, poor
communications, and a surprisingly swift enemy response. Corrigan concludes with a look at the consequences
of the disastrous attack, including the “blame game” that quickly
developed. Along the way, Corrigan tells
us a lot about the technology of mining and explosives in the period,
in-fighting among the brass, some interesting individuals, and the experiences
of men under fire.
very good read for anyone interested in the war, and particularly the Virginia
campaign of 1864-1865.
Reviewer: A. A. Nofi, Review Editor
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