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Our holdings include hundreds of glass and film negatives/transparencies that we've scanned ourselves; in addition, many other photos on this site were extracted from reference images (high-resolution tiffs) in the Library of Congress research archive. (To query the database click here.) They are adjusted, restored and reworked by your webmaster in accordance with his aesthetic sensibilities before being downsized and turned into the jpegs you see here. All of these images (including "derivative works") are protected by copyright laws of the United States and other jurisdictions and may not be sold, reproduced or otherwise used for commercial purposes without permission.

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Petersburg: 1864

Petersburg: 1864

August 1864. "Petersburg, Virginia. Group of Company D, U.S. Engineer Battalion." Wet-plate glass negative, photographer unknown. View full size.

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A Confederate view

One of my ancesters was killed in this battle. He was a private in the South Carolina 1st Batallion sharpshooters and as best as I can tell, they were standing right over the explosion.


The Army Engineers had nothing to do with the construction of the great mine at the Battle of the Crater. That was dug by Colonel Henry Pleasants' 48th Pennsylvania Regiment which was drawn from the Pennsylvania coal mining country. Pleasants himself was a mining engineer and he and his men had considerable knowledge of extended tunneling, probably greater knowledge than the army engineers.

Builders not fighters.

Although war anywhere near the front must've been wearying, these men were engineers not warriors. I would imagine thet spent more time surveying and drawing, rather dodging bullets.

Gentlemen's Quarterly

Forgive me, but this grouping of soldiers looks like a picture from a men's clothing catalog rather than of war-weary survivors. They look as if they were modeling, posing with hands on the hips, looking away to the distance, hands on knees, etc. And then there's that ubiquitous fellow in a recumbent pose in the front. There always seems to be one or more of those fellows in photos of this nature.

These could be some of the guys

who tunneled under the Confederate front line and laid the mine whose explosion started the famous Battle of The Crater at Petersburg. They managed to blow up a considerable section of the Confederate line and Union infantry occupied the crater.

If there had been a sucessful exploitation of the gap, Union troops might have broken through to Richmond and possibly ended, if not shortened, the war. Poor planning by the Union High Command and lack of discipline by the troops holding the crater allowed the Confederates to recover, counterattack and re-take control of the gap. Thus, the War slogged on for another year.

SHORPY HISTORICAL PHOTO ARCHIVE | History in HD is a vintage photo archive featuring thousands of high-definition images from the 1850s to 1960s. (Available as fine-art prints from the Shorpy Archive.) The site is named after Shorpy Higginbotham, a teenage coal miner who lived 100 years ago.

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