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The Big Bang: 1864

The Big Bang: 1864

City Point, Virginia. "Wharves after the explosion of ordnance barges on August 4, 1864." Wet-plate glass negative from photographs of the main Eastern theater of war, the siege of Petersburg, June 1864-April 1865. View full size.


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Barrels of Bones

According to this article, the date of the explosion was August 9, 1864.

General Grant is reported to have sent a telegram to Washington five minutes after the blast, claiming that "every part of the yard used as my headquarters is filled with splinters and fragments of shell." The New York Times reported a few days later that steamers and barges were sunk and wharves and warehouses destroyed -- and several barrels of human remains were collected from the site.

The Times article (available in their archives) makes for ascinating reading. A list of the killed and wounded is appended and it appears that "colored" dockworkers suffered the brunt of the human damage. Their names are listed along with a Capt. Benedict, who was found in the warehouse under "fourteen boxes of soap."

It appears that this photograph was taken several days later, as tents have been erected and the debris piled in the middle-ground of the frame. it also looks like other barges have been unloaded and goods stacked neatly on the rebuilt or restored docks.


This photo gives rise to thoughts surrounding what the scenario would be if an American Civil War were to be fought today (let's just say between the two major political parties). I'm willing to bet it would be much shorter, have far fewer human fatalities, there would be much less property destruction, less illness and starvation and many more pacifists or conscientious objectors. Let your imagination run wild (your assignment for today). Oh, and tell us the outcome.

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