THE OFFICIAL RECORDS
OF THE
UNITED STATES GOVERNMENT
[Written By The Winners of The War And Reported Below]

"THE BATTLE OF THE CRATER"

"Ok,
  how many of you have ever heard any of this at the Petersburg National Battlefield Park???

O.R.--SERIES I--VOLUME XL/1 [S# 80]
JUNE 13-JULY 31, 1864.--The Richmond (Virginia) Campaign.
No. 176.--Reports of Brig. Gen. James H. Ledlie, U.S. Army, commanding First Division, of operations June 17 and July 30.
HEADQUARTERS FIRST DIVISION, NINTH ARMY CORPS,
Near Petersburg, Va., August 4, 1864.

At this time the enemy was holding the same line of intrenchments with my own troops, starting from the point where the right of my division rested and extending thence to the left (our right). It was impossible for my line to advance from this position, as no troops had come up on my right to dislodge the enemy, and had I moved my line forward the enemy would merely by filing to the right in the same trench have occupied my position and poured a deadly fire into my rear. I reported this fact to one of the corps staff officers and soon after received peremptory orders to move my troops forward. I immediately gave the necessary orders, and the brigade commanders had barely got their men into proper position for a charge when the colored troops came running into the crater, and filing through passed into the rifle-pits to the left (our right) of the fort, where my troops now formed for the charge. The colored troops then made a feeble attempt at a charge, but before they accomplished anything the enemy made a fierce attack, and they retreated precipitately into the rifle-pits, breaking my line and crowding the pits to such an extent that it was impossible to reform my line. The enemy seeing the advantage gained by this attack, shortly afterward made another attack, fiercer and more determined than the first, and owing to the crowded condition of the troops a panic was created among the colored regiments and they broke and fled in disorder to the rear, pressing back with them a large portion of my line. ....
I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
JAMES H. LEDLIE,
Brigadier-General, Comdg. First Division, Ninth Army Corps.
 
O.R.--SERIES I--VOLUME XL/1 [S# 80]
JUNE 13-JULY 31, 1864.--The Richmond (Virginia) Campaign.
No. 178.--Report of Capt. Willard D. Tripp, Twenty-ninth Massachusetts Infantry, of operations July 30
HDQRS. TWENTY-NINTH MASSACHUSETTS VETERAN VOLS.,
Near Petersburg, Va., August 3, 1864.

………A division of colored troops was marched into the works and the position held by my regiment was filled so full of them that it was quite impossible to move or be in any manner effective. While in this position a part of the colored troops attempted a movement on the enemy, but were repulsed and fell back into the work in a disorganized manner, closely pursued by the enemy………..
WILLARD D. TRIPP,
Captain, Commanding Regiment.

O.R.--SERIES I--VOLUME XL/1 [S# 80]
JUNE 13-JULY 31, 1864.--The Richmond (Virginia) Campaign.
No. 183.--Reports of Brig. Gen. Robert B. Potter, U.S. Army, commanding Second Division
HEADQUARTERS SECOND DIVISION, NINTH ARMY CORPS,
Before Petersburg, Va., August 1, 1864

……Anticipating that an attack would be made on the right or left, which would relieve us enough to enable us to advance, reform, and charge the hill, I was about arranging for reforming and connecting my lines, when the Fourth Division unexpectedly advanced and attempted to pass over the men in the crater and charge the enemy's line through our troops. In this they were but partially successful, the largest number halting in the crater or anywhere that they could find space amongst our troops, thus greatly aggravating the difficulty of overcrowding and confusion. The right of this division nearly connected with the Fifty-first New York Volunteers near the ravine, and partly covered the troops of my division, who had charged up the hill and fallen back into the covered way or ditch. Shortly after the arrival of the colored troops the enemy made an assault on us, when these troops fled in confusion, sweeping a portion of my line back into the crater and pits in its vicinity…..
ROBERT B. POTTER,
Brigadier-General
 
O.R.--SERIES I--VOLUME XL/1 [S# 80]
JUNE 13-JULY 31, 1864.--The Richmond (Virginia) Campaign.
No. 191.--Report of Maj. James T. P. Bucklin, Fourth Rhode Island Infantry, of operations July 30.
HEADQUARTERS FOURTH RHODE ISLAND VOLUNTEERS,
Before Petersburg, Va., August 8, 1864

....The order was here given to move forward, which was attempted several times, but having no support except the Forty-fifth Pennsylvania and Fifty-eighth Massachusetts, we were repulsed. The regiment remained in the covered way before mentioned for some time, when there appeared some confusion on the right and we were soon overrun with colored troops, who hampered our movements to such an extent that it was almost impossible to organize for defense
J. T. P. BUCKLIN,
Major, Commanding Fourth Rhode Island Volunteers

O.R.--SERIES I--VOLUME XL/1 [S# 80]
JUNE 13-JULY 31, 1864.--The Richmond (Virginia) Campaign.
No. 193.--Report of Brig. Gen. Simon G. Griffin, U. S. Army, commanding Second Brigade, of operations July 30.
HDQRS. SECOND BRIG., SECOND DIV., NINTH ARMY CORPS,
Before Petersburg, Va., July 31, 1864.

....My brigade was, however, pushing gradually but constantly ahead and to the right in the next work of pits and traverses, when the Fourth Division came up shouting and yelling, and pouring into the crater and the pits already filled with our men, rendering "confusion worse confounded." A few minutes later the enemy made a desperate assault.   A panic seized the colored troops, and they went pouring through and over our men, plunging into the pits with fixed bayonets in frightful confusion. My brigade being principally to the left of the pits at this time repulsed the enemy handsomely, but the assault being more successful on our right, the colored troops came piling in upon us from that direction, completely paralyzing all our efforts.
S. O. GRIFFIN,
Brigadier-General, Commanding
IN CONTRAST -- GENERAL WILLIAM MAHONE
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