The Crater: A Missed Opportunity?

Today is the 147th anniversary of the Battle of the Crater, one of the better-known events of the siege of Petersburg.  There’s no need here to go through the details of the mining effort, the bungled planning involving the debate over the use of black soldiers, and the disaster of the assault itself.

Many people point fingers at various Union commanders for what happened.  The incompetence of James Ledlie is assumed.  Not much is said about Edward Ferrero, who commanded the division of black soldiers.  Ambrose Burnside, who (outside of biographer William Marvel) is not kindly treated, usually bears the brunt of abuse, with some reserved for George Gordon Meade, while I stand in a distinct minority for holding Ulysses S. Grant accountable (and, indeed, this is exhibit A in challenging the case that I’m a Grant apologist).  Other than the reaction of William Mahone, who made up for his lackluster performance at Gettysburg by mounting a counterattack, the Rebels seem to have had very little to do with the outcome in the minds of many.  There have been recent books on the battle by Alan Axelrod, John F. Schmutz, Richard Slotkin, and Earl Hess, each of which has its fans, but it is unclear whether those studies have appreciably changed (as opposed to enriched) the narrative about the battle and its place in the Petersburg campaign — and a forthcoming book on the battle by erstwhile presidential candidate Newt Gingrich may make no difference, either.  Yes, our attention’s been drawn to stories of atrocities toward black soldiers, but beyond that these narratives create a more detailed understanding without changing the broader story of the campaign.

I tend to hold Grant accountable because by this time he understood that Meade and Burnside had a flawed working relationship, and that the Army of the Potomac as well as the Army of the James did not always meet his expectations when it came to offensive operations (I acknowledge the argument that perhaps Grant expected too much in the first place).  Thus, to remind me that Burnside fell short here or Meade did something wrong there is besides the point: by now Grant knew that such was often the case, and yet he did very little to overcome what were by now well-known obstacles and part of the friction of war.  If, as Grant later said, such a great opportunity had been lost, doesn’t it seem that he should have done all he could to ensure that such would not be the case?

Others disagree (hello, Jim Epperson).  What do you think?

56 thoughts on “The Crater: A Missed Opportunity?

  1. Al Mackey July 30, 2011 / 6:15 pm

    What were Grant’s alternatives?

      • Tony Gunter July 31, 2011 / 6:20 am

        You’re asking Grant to be not-Grant. He made the same mistake at Port Gibson, watching McClernand spin his wheels for most of a day and then wtf McClernand breaks contact with the enemy and makes camp for the night. For all Grant knows, Pemberton is on his way with 30,000 men, and Grant only intervenes three times during the battle:

        1) After the first position is over-run and McClernand is speechifying the troops, he points out to McClernand that the enemy have simply moved to a better position.

        2) He asks McClernand to tell Osterhaus to chill on the artillery ammunition consumption (“this is MY battle!” McClernand snaps back).

        3) He sends McPherson over to Osterhaus with instructions to “see what you can do.”

        The problem with Grant is that he was very hands-off with his subordinates (McClernand). The good thing about Grant, is that he was very hands-off with his subordinates (McPherson).

        • Brooks D. Simpson July 31, 2011 / 8:17 am

          And people would say that I’m asking Lee to be not Lee at Gettysburg, because of his handling of subordinates where he already had a good idea what to expect in the cases of Ewell and Longstreet AP Hill and Stuart were eye-openers).

          Grant could be hands-on: see the Appomattox pursuit. See also Champion Hill, right flank.

          • Tony Gunter July 31, 2011 / 10:51 am

            Champion Hill was a rather uncharacteristic response to McClernand’s screw-up by sending Hovey off in isolation. Not sure why he didn’t simply issue orders attaching Hovey to McPherson temporarily (or for that matter, detaching Osterhaus at Port Gibson).

            I’m not familiar with Appomattox … didn’t that occur in that lesser theater of the war?

            😀

          • Ray O'Hara July 31, 2011 / 12:01 pm

            The trouble with guys like Burnside, McClernand and Butler was they had good political clout and Lincoln felt he needed their support to get those votes. that had to cramp how tough Grant could be with them. And generals running to DC to whine or wheedle was quite common. We’ve all seen the pictures of McClernand visiting with Lincoln at Sharpsburg Md. McC was able to leave his assigned theater and go and get access to the President. you have to treat people with that kind of access carefully and you need an irionclad excuse to move on them.
            Grant got in trouble for merely going to St Louis, McC went half a continent away and nothing happened to him.

      • Al Mackey July 31, 2011 / 9:23 am

        What type of hands-on leadership are we talking about? Should he have micromanaged the planning? It seems to me that his job was at the strategic and operational levels, not at the tactical level. He was, after all, not an army commander but was instead the General-in-Chief. If he’s going to take over Meade’s job, why does he need Meade? Why doesn’t Meade simply resign after that intrusion into his realm of responsibility? Should he have had Meade assign the task to another corps? It was Burnside who brought it up, Burnside’s men who had the idea to start with. It would have been a slap in the face not only to Burnside but also to his men to assign it to another corps. Maybe he should have replaced Meade as commander of the AotP, but with whom at that point? Maybe Burnside should have been replaced?

        • Brooks D. Simpson July 31, 2011 / 10:41 am

          It would have been nice to have managed the planning instead of simply signing off on it. He had no problem telling Meade what to do before North Anna, and he saw how Meade fumbled at Cold Harbor. He also knew that Burnside was not very adept at doing things (which is why Cyrus Comstock became a frequent visitor at Burnside’s headquarters in May).

          Hey, if you’re handed a plan which shows a great deal of promise if executed correctly but you have good reason to believe that it might not be executed correctly, there are intermediate steps between hands off and firing everyone or micro-managing. Grant did not find that middle way. I find him wrong not to have done so, especially given the opportunity and the circumstances. Grant apologists may feel differently. 🙂

          I work with people all the time who are not necessarily up to the tasks assigned them or who do not display what I’d call informed and intelligent initiative. In most cases I can’t fire them. Nor would it pay to be hands off. So I exercise some management skills. Are you saying there are no middle roads between your extremes?

          • Al Mackey July 31, 2011 / 4:54 pm

            Not at all, and I really don’t necessarily disagree with you. But related to Lincoln saying, “Anyone will do for you, but I must have someone,” we can say Grant should have done something, but I think we need to specify what he should have done that he didn’t do and wrestle with the probable outcomes of that action. Does he give Meade a gentle nudge in one direction or another? What happens if Meade doesn’t yield to the nudge? It seems that Meade wasn’t happy with at least one aspect of the plan, and Grant assented to the change Meade wanted. At the end of the day, Meade and Burnside are going to have to work together at some point. Do we expect Grant to sit them down in his tent and school them on teamwork? I’m not necessarily opposed to that, but let’s come up with some specifics of what he should have done before we condemn him for not doing them.

          • Brooks D. Simpson July 31, 2011 / 5:46 pm

            Grant should have taken a more direct hand in the planning. He was already willing to send Meade off to DC (Grant and Lincoln discussed this the next day off Fort Monroe). There’s an argument to be made that he should have been literally looking over Burnside’s shoulder. He needed to impress both men with the importance of this movement … and drawing lots to see who goes first suggests that such was not the case.

            Again, I’ve gotten people who did not work well together and who were not necessarily the types to get the job done to get the job done with a little encouragement, manipulation, and so on. Yet Grant didn’t always do this: you can see the jostling at Missionary Ridge, for example. I suspect this is why he liked Sheridan so much.

          • Al Mackey July 31, 2011 / 6:25 pm

            Did Grant himself really think this was an important project? I can see him having Burnside present the plan to him and Meade and then the two of them questioning Burnside on the plan. Did something like that happen? That affirms Meade as the AotP Commander and still lets Grant determine the plan’s soundness. Once the decision was made to change from Ferraro’s troops in the lead, Grant should have had Meade determine who would lead and how that decision was made.

    • Ned Baldwin July 31, 2011 / 6:39 pm

      When Meade changed the plan the day before the operation was set to go, I think Grant’s best alternative was to postpone the operation and to ask Meade and Burnside to brief him on how they were implementing the change of plan.

      And really, if Meade and Grant were as unenthusiastic about the operation as has been claimed in articles I have read, then Grant should not have let it go forward in the first place.

  2. Ray O'Hara July 31, 2011 / 12:29 am

    Grant gave in his evidence before the Committee on the Conduct of the War:

    “General Burnside wanted to put his colored division in front, and I believe if he had done so it would have been a success. Still I agreed with General Meade as to his objections to that plan. General Meade said that if we put the colored troops in front (we had only one division) and it should prove a failure, it would then be said and very properly, that we were shoving these people ahead to get killed because we did not care anything about them. But that could not be said if we put white troops in front”

    Burnside after the change from Ferrero’s men to White troops seems to have gone into a pout much like he was in at Antietam and he lost interest in success of the attack and he stopped trying.

    that appears to be the key to the affair, politics rearing its head and then Burnside compounding it
    Burnside should have been gone long before, and Ledlie had shown his {lack of} ability before too

    Mistrust of Blacks in the U.S.Military had a long history that lasted until the mid-point of the Korean War when the Military finally desegregated.{yes I know the order to do so was signed in 1948} the 24th Infantry was still an all Black unit that was sent to fight early in the war while half trained and ill equipped {like the other army units first deployed} and like the rest of the troops initially sent it got hammered. This led some to proclaim Blacks lacked the ability to function properly while they ignored the bit that the White troops sent at the same time performed the same and fled the same too.

    The USN which had black sailors mixed into crews in the CW changed after and by 1898 Blacks were relegated to being “mess boys”. Even at the end of WWII such men as Adm Spruance were on record opposing Blacks being given regular Military duty and Doris Green getting a Navy Cross on Dec 7th was a back-handed put down as he didn’t do anything many Whites did that day but the thought a Black man would behave in such a manner was seen as a fantastic event and not something to be expected. No Whites got similar medals as their grabbing weapons and shooting was thought to be expected.

    • Brooks D. Simpson July 31, 2011 / 8:15 am

      Some recent scholars have suggested that the training of the black division for the assault was not as extensive as one might have been led to believe. On which troops not to use, the buck stops with Grant.

      • Ray O'Hara July 31, 2011 / 9:46 am

        They were trained enough to avoid the crater and it appears the lure of crater attracted too many assault troops which stalled the attack.
        All the assault troops needed to do was to make a lodgement and hold it until the follow up waves arrived.

        Troop choice would normally be the Corps responsibility and it should have been left at that. Was Meade’s concern bad press or was it just distrust of Ferrero’s men?
        I think the later because if he felt the affair was hopeless he would have {or should have} opposed the entire scheme and tried to get the affair called off.as getting White troops uselessly slaughtered wouldn’t {and didn’t} go over with the press and public as it was.

        Also how much of the failure was due to the slowness of the following waves.
        in the other two big failures, Upton at Spotsylvania and Gordon at Ft Stedman we see the initial assault easily achieved surprise but the plans had the following troops come along too late and the defenses were given time to come to full alert forcing the reserves had to cross the open under a withering fire no one could withstand, This factor was overlooked in the aftermath as charges of cowardice were hurled about and the faultiness of the plan missed.

        It really took Wright and his VIth Corps on 4/2/65 to figure out the correct method of attack which maintained the momentum of the assault instead of the old method of attack,, see what happened and then send reserves.

    • Ned Baldwin July 31, 2011 / 7:53 pm

      Meade’s testimony doesn’t match Grant’s testimony regarding the reason for forbiding Burnside to use the division of his choice. While Grant describes it as essentially a CYA move predicated on a likelihood of failure, Meade testified that it was becuase the division was “had never been tried” by battle and thus should not be trusted with the leading role.

  3. Kevin July 31, 2011 / 3:16 am

    Both Hess and Slotkin devote a great deal of time on the role of North and South Carolinians in holding off the Union assault. Both interpertations suggest that Mahone’s counterattack was more of a mopping up than a decisive shift in the battle and I think they are right.

    • Brooks D. Simpson July 31, 2011 / 8:13 am

      And people who pay a great deal of attention to details of combat operations (or to Mahone’s manipulation of the account to his best advantage) will highlight that, but the basic story changes little.

      • Kevin July 31, 2011 / 8:22 am

        I don’t disagree.

  4. Sara July 31, 2011 / 7:51 am

    I agree that Grant was wrong to leave things in the hands of Meade and Burnside. But was it wrong of him to expect that they could put aside their personal differences long enough to carry out a successful mission? I know, I’m being too idealistic – maybe Grant was too. But it is amazing – and amazingly sad – to learn how many times bad interpersonal relationships got in the way of duty.

    Still, I agree that it would have been best if Grant had taken a direct role in the planning and execution. At least he didn’t leave it to a subordinate to put an end to the operation when it went awry. His desire to be fair to the established commanders of the Army of the Potomac may have backfired badly in such situations, but if he had taken direct command in all cases wouldn’t it have alienated Meade and the others even more and perhaps led to even more cases of insubordination and poor performance?

    • Brooks D. Simpson July 31, 2011 / 8:11 am

      Of course it would have been better for Meade and Burnside to have gotten along, and for Ledlie to find another line of work. But that wasn’t going to happen. Ledlie should have been gone long before, and, as Grant knew of the friction between Meade and Burnside, you would have to account for that. Grant also knew that Burnside was not an especially skilled offensive commander. When you know these things, at a minimum you compensate for them.

      • Sara July 31, 2011 / 9:14 am

        How aware might Grant have been about Ledlie’s lack of ability as a leader? Forgive me if that is a stupid question, I’m still learning about the command structure in the army. I’m curious if a red flag went up (or should have gone up) when Grant heard Ledlie’s name, or if he didn’t have as much knowledge of Ledlie as the established Army of the Potomac officers had.

        • Al Mackey July 31, 2011 / 9:33 am

          Burnside most certainly should have been aware of Ledlie’s shortcomings, and it’s highly likely sufficient replacements for Ledlie were around. Meade should have been aware because as the army commander he should have demanded reports on the performance of his key commanders. Grant probably should have been aware since he was traveling with the AotP, and he was probably discussing the key leaders with Meade.

          • Brooks D. Simpson August 1, 2011 / 12:07 pm

            Grant testified in December 1864 that he was aware of Ledlie’s assignment and his shortcomings.

        • Brooks D. Simpson August 1, 2011 / 12:08 pm

          Grant testified in December 1864 that he was aware of Ledlie’s lack of ability and disagreed with how Burnside chose the lead division.

  5. TF Smith July 31, 2011 / 5:59 pm

    Here’s a different thought – how much tactical success did these sort of combat mining operations lead to elsewhere in the 19th Century? Was it less the planning than simply the reality that such operations, as attractive as they are in theory, tend not to have the significance operationally one might expect?

    The closest example I can find in the 20th Century was Messines, whuich was on a much larger scale and deemed a success in terms of the immediate objectives, but which still did not lead to any true strategic breakthough.

    Was the tactic simply unworkable, given the limits of the technology and battlefield communications? That may be a question worth considering…

  6. James F. Epperson July 31, 2011 / 7:25 pm

    Brooks is probably wondering at my absence from the discussion, but we have been w/o power all day and I am still catching up from its return. Maybe tomorrow.

  7. James F. Epperson August 1, 2011 / 4:37 am

    Brooks and I don’t really disagree on the history, we disagree on evaluating which of multiple mistakes was THE crucial one. I think the “honor” falls on Burnside’s near total abdication of command responsibility on the night of July 29-30 (as well as his almost fantasy-land hope/belief that Meade would change his mind about using 4/IX as the lead division.) Brooks thinks the “honor” falls to Grant’s failure to closely supervise. I give Grant some latitude here because he had other fish to fry at the time, and was (quite properly) trying not to act like the de-facto commander of the AotP.

    I’d make a lengthy analogy to a car wreck I was in a couple of years ago (I actually think the analogy is quite apt), but that would be a lot of typing.

    • Ned Baldwin August 1, 2011 / 9:07 am

      I think the “honor” falls to Meade but I see Brooks point that Grant could have done more to mitigate the situation.

      • Brooks D. Simpson August 1, 2011 / 9:30 am

        Let’s put it this way: John McNamara got a lot of flak for leaving Bill Buckner in during game 6 of the 1986 World Series, and Grady Little got flak for leaving in Pedro Martinez in Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS. Here’s a case in which Grant had even more tangible evidence of what people could and could not do, yet he lets Meade and Burnside largely alone (except for the replacement of Ferrero’s division); his contribution is sending Hancock across the James to divert Confederate forces away (and to see what they might achieve on their own). Yet Grant gets far less flak from scholars than do McNamara or Little. Yes, Buckner (and two pitchers/Gedman)/Martinez failed to deliver, but if we are going to blame McNamara and Little (and I remember being astonished that Little left Martinez in), then Grant ought to shoulder much more responsibility than he is usually given (criticism focuses on Meade and Burnside, and Burnside’s always an easy target).

        • James F. Epperson August 1, 2011 / 10:18 am

          Well, maybe McNamara should have pulled Buckner, but Buckner made the fielding mistake. Dick Williams should not have let Goose Gossage talk him out of walking Kirk Gibson in the 84 Series, but it was Gossage that threw the pitch that ended up in the stands (and Tigers fans were happy he did).

          I would be more critical of Grant for not offering any insight that might have been gained from the mines used at Vicksburg—and of Meade and Burnside for not asking. for it. I think Meade’s attitude toward the project is implied by the lack of cooperation Pleasants got from the AotP engineering staff, and IMO that is mostly on Meade.

          • Brooks D. Simpson August 1, 2011 / 10:23 am

            And if we hold Robert E. Lee responsible for the orders he gave Richard Ewell on July 1, 1863, giving Ewell the discretion Lee himself later said Ewell did not know how to use skillfully, who do we blame? Lee. Grant was already aware of the shortcomings of Meade and Burnside. Yet he let this effort go ahead, and then mourned a missed opportunity that could have been a game changer. Got to be consistent.

          • James F. Epperson August 1, 2011 / 10:29 am

            Well, but I am consistent. I don’t blame Lee and I think Ewell made the correct call.

          • Brooks D. Simpson August 1, 2011 / 10:51 am

            That says nothing about Lee’s later criticism of Ewell.

          • Brooks D. Simpson August 1, 2011 / 11:56 am

            So you’re okay with Lee saying that Ewell had a track record of failing to use discretion as Lee would have had him use it, yet Lee nevertheless issues such an order? Take the hill if you can but please don’t bring on a general engagement, although you really won’t know whether an attack will bring on that engagement unless you attack, and, no, I really can’t see the ground or the situation from here and I’m so confident of success that I’m holding back a division in case of disaster, so you can’t use it.

            There’s a general for you. But you don’t blame Lee. There we differ.

          • James F. Epperson August 1, 2011 / 12:03 pm

            It’s not a matter of what I am OK with. I was unfamiliar with Lee’s post hoc comments (do they come from one of the postwar conversations in Gallagher’s book?), so I was simply giving my opinion as to the decisions made on July 2, 1863.

          • Ray O'Hara August 1, 2011 / 1:06 pm

            ” That says nothing about Lee’s later criticism of Ewell.”

            Chalk that to advancing age and bitterness about being defeated.
            Ewell followed Lee’s orders as delivered and he did the right thing.
            One wonders what Lee would have said had Ewell advanced and been repulsed which was the most likely result of a renewed attack

          • Brooks D. Simpson August 1, 2011 / 1:13 pm

            Make no mistake about it: I side with Ewell on this one, and I’ve been amused at how Lee apologists try to excuse his actions. Lee’s later comments to me are self-indicting.

        • Ray O'Hara August 1, 2011 / 12:55 pm

          Burnside’s role was that of Johnny Mac{ JM’s criticism deserved} ,Meade was Dan Duquette.
          Grant was John Harrington {with Abe Lincoln as Jean Yawkey:?}.

          How involved should the GM and owner get? in this case the GM inferred with bad result.

          Maybe they should have , if it was possible, to try the attempt somewhere else along the lines. It would have been easy to say to AB ,” the Vth Corps front offers a better opportunity” and the mining moved with no loss of face to anyone.

      • James F. Epperson August 1, 2011 / 10:26 am

        Wasn’t the situation in the Shenandoah still unsettled?

        By the night of the 29th, it was too late unless Grant was going to exercise command of IX Corps. If Grant was going to intervene, he should have done it on the 26th, when Meade got all upset at Burnside’s reply to a query about how to do the attack, But how does Grant do that? Does Grant even know that Meade got so PO’d at Burnside?

        • Brooks D. Simpson August 1, 2011 / 10:50 am

          Grant had known about the friction between Meade and Burnside since May. Grant had also seen both men perform for several months.

          Grant asserts himself as he did during the Appomattox Campaign when Sheridan warned him the Meade was pursuing but not cutting off Lee’s retreat.

          Grant had plenty of time to manage battlefield operations at other times (much to Meade’s displeasure). I reference the Wilderness.

          The valley command issue was to be addressed the next day. Are you saying Grant could only do one thing at a time? Recall Grant was suggesting Meade for the new job (Grant to Lincoln, July 25). So he was ready to reassign Meade (especially as Franklin did not suit, although he proposed that, too).

          Look at Grant to Meade July 25. That’s a detailed set of instructions. On July 26 he pens a directive to Meade to have Burnside prepare the mine but to hold off on triggering it. By July 28 he’s resigned to the fact that the Deep Bottom operation has achieved all it was going to achieve, and refocuses on Burnside. Grant really becomes invested in that on the evening of the 28th. On the 29th he prepares to meet with Meade in the afternoon. The next document reports the failure of the mine on July 30.

          Grant spent more time on the aftermath of the operation than on the operation itself.

  8. James F. Epperson August 1, 2011 / 11:58 am

    The list of communications suggests to me that Grant was doing about what he should have been doing—working through the chain of command. Your point, if I understand it correctly, is that he should have more closely managed the situation, and perhaps intervened at some point to say “This is how it will be done!” I don’t disagree with that, really; I just think the crucial mistake in the tragedy was Burnside’s total failure to be a corps commander on the night of July 29-30. If Burnside does his job and executes his orders, we probably aren’t having this conversation.

    • Brooks D. Simpson August 1, 2011 / 12:06 pm

      Grant testified in December 1864 that he was aware of the drawing of straws by Burnside’s division commanders, and that he considered Ledlie the poorest of the three division commanders involved.

      Yet he didn’t intervene. Even Grant blamed himself for that. He also said, “I blame his seniors also for not seeing that he did his duty, all the way up to myself.”

      Grant was right that he was wrong.

  9. Brooks D. Simpson August 1, 2011 / 12:12 pm

    Jim Epperson says: “It’s not a matter of what I am OK with. I was unfamiliar with Lee’s post hoc comments (do they come from one of the postwar conversations in Gallagher’s book?), so I was simply giving my opinion as to the decisions made on July 2, 1863.”

    But I’m talking about July 1.

  10. James F. Epperson August 1, 2011 / 12:33 pm

    I find Grant’s testimony a little confusing. It is not clear to me that he learned of the lottery before it took place, or after Ledlie had been selected. And did he (USG) find out in time to do anything about it? IIRC, all this was happening at the last minute, and I think if Grant learned all this at 4 a.m., with the mine set to go off about that time, all he could do is go “Oh, darn!” (since he was famous for not swearing).

    My point is not that USG was blameless, but at some point the folks tasked to do a job have to do that job, and when they fail, as Burnside did, spectacularly, well, that is usually the cause of the problem.

    • Brooks D. Simpson August 1, 2011 / 12:37 pm

      I don’t find this confusing at all: “I knew that fact before the mine was exploded, but did nothing in regard to it.”

      Did you actually read the testimony?

      • James F. Epperson August 1, 2011 / 12:55 pm

        Yeah, it is in a PDF I had coincidentally downloaded to a memory stick this morning. It is not clear to me that USG knew of the lottery before the lottery occurred, or that he found out that Burnside had used a lottery and Ledlie had “won.” Also, wasn’t all this happening while USG was riding from Deep Bottom to IX Corps HQ? He’s not exactly in a position to influence things if that is the case. Also, for Grant to “know” that Ledlie was the least efficient of the trio of Potter, Willcox, and Ledlie is *not* the same as knowing Ledlie was a drunk and a coward. I’m not sure anyone outside his division knew that, and that falls on Burnside for not knowing his people.

        • Brooks D. Simpson August 1, 2011 / 1:10 pm

          Grant’s clear about what he did know–Ledlie was the lead division–and he clearly blames himself. You’re offering excuses that not even Grant offers.

          So I agree with Grant, and you don’t. 🙂

          • James F. Epperson August 1, 2011 / 1:17 pm

            It’s not an excuse, it is a reasonable question to ask. Did Grant find out about the lottery in time (and place) to do anything about it, or did he find out about it as a fait accompli? I think his testimony suggests the latter, and also suggests it wasn’t anything he could change, as a practical matter.

            I’m sure Grant blamed himself—most responsible people in his position would.

          • Brooks D. Simpson August 1, 2011 / 1:25 pm

            Had Grant not found out in time, he would have mentioned that. He blamed himself for not acting, and thus a reasonable assumption is that he had sufficient time to intervene. Otherwise he couldn’t blame himself for not doing what he couldn’t have done.

  11. Carl Schenker August 5, 2011 / 7:56 am

    Somewhere in my reading, I came across a very elegant summary of the faults in the Union’s Crater conception and execution, describing basically a cascade of errors at each level of the command structure and no one wise enough to cancel the operation or correct things. Unfortunately, I can’t remember where I saw that or I would post the relevant paragraph. Perhaps someone else knows the passage I have in mind and could give a citation.

  12. Ray O'Hara August 14, 2011 / 5:49 pm

    While it’s from WWI this is how the Petersburg mine might have looked to the waiting Yankees

    the camera filming this was a mile away . it is 1 of 21 mines the British dug and attempted to detonate on July 1 1916. 18 went of on time, one went off late. one went off in the 1950s when lightning struck and the last still awaits underground unexploded to this day.

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