The Crater

5001 Siege Road

I-95 Exit 52, Virginia

804-732-3531 ext. 200

Click on photo to enlarge

On June 25,1864 Union soldiers of the 48th PA volunteers, mostly coal miners, began digging a 511 ft. tunnel toward a Confederate fort at Pegram’s (or Elliott’s) Salient. It took a month to dig, and the plan was to explode 4 tons of gunpowder under the area, creating a large gap in their defense line, then pouring troops through the hole. On July 30 at 4:45 am the mine was detonated, and it created a crater about 180 ft. long, 60 ft. wide and 25 ft. deep. The Union troops rushed forward into the tunnel, instead of going around it.

They got stuck in it because of the high walls created at the end, and Confederate troops inflicted more than 4,000 Federal casualties. Major Houghton of the 14th NY Heavy Artillery reported that the hole was “filled with dust, great blocks of clay, guns, broken carriages, projecting timbers and men buried in various ways - some up to their necks, others to their waists, and some only with their feet and legs protruding from the earth.”, and then “blood was streaming down the sides of the crater to the bottom, where it gathered in pools for a long time before being absorbed by the hard red clay.”

The crater can still be seen at the Petersburg National Battlefield through short trails or a 4-mile drive. 
Grounds opened: 8-dusk, Visitor Center opened: 9-5.