The Horrid Pit
The Battle of the Crater, the Civil War's Cruellest Mission
By (author) Alan Axelrod
Horrid Pit by Alan Axelrod
Book DescriptionAxelrod tells the story of one of the most violent yet least known episodes of the Civil War: the daring excavation of the longest military tunnel in history and the tragic subterranean assault on the Confederate line at the Battle of the Crater.
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Book DetailsISBN: 9780786718115
(229mm x 153mm x 28mm)
Imprint: Carroll & Graf Publishers Inc
Publisher: Carroll & Graf Publishers Inc
Publish Date: 29-Jun-2007
Country of Publication: United States
Books By Author Alan Axelrod
View all books by Alan Axelrod
US Kirkus Review » Prolific military historian Axelrod (Miracle at Belleau Wood: The Birth of the Modern U.S. Marine Corps, 2007, etc.) takes a powerful look at one of the Civil War's more grotesque episodes.In June 1864, Confederate and Union positions dug in for what looked to be a long, intractable siege of Petersburg, Va. Lieutenant Colonel Henry Pleasants, serving under Major General Ambrose E. Burnside in the storied IX Corps, suggested that the impasse could be ended by digging a huge tunnel beneath a key section of the Confederates' 20-mile entrenchment, planting explosives in it and detonating them, then launching an offensive taking advantage of the element of surprise. What seemed simple on paper became increasingly complex and thoroughly misguided in execution. Pleasants' 48th Pennsylvania Infantry, which dug the 510-foot tunnel, was plagued by problems arising from the soldiers' ignorance of modern engineering. The Union's post-explosion plans were a classic case study in military incompetence. Descriptions of scores of Union soldiers losing their lives in a massive trench devised by their own army make for a suspenseful, devastating read. If the Battle of the Crater wasn't nearly as bloody as Antietam or Gettysburg, it was nevertheless one of the Civil War's more grisly events. Using just enough illuminating field correspondence, Axelrod details the faulty reasoning of both armies at almost every level of command, revealing no lack of human bravery and foibles among the men behind the medallions. He nicely accents his economical narrative with analyses of the main players' personalities: how rancor in the ranks led to disorganization; how grudges and jealousies undermined unity of purpose; and how poor equipment, and even poorer intelligence and racism, ensured the offensive's total failure. Another example of how miraculous the Union's ultimate win really was. (Kirkus Reviews)
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Author Biography - Alan Axelrod
Alan Axelrod is the author of three books on the Civil War: "The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Civil War, My Brother's Face: Portraits of the Civil War" (with Charles Phillips; Chronicle Books, 1993; reissued in 1998 by Barnes & Noble Books as "Portraits of the Civil War"), and "The War between the Spies: A History of Espionage During the American Civil War." In addition, he has written many volumes of military history and reference, popular history, biography, and general reference. He has served as consultant to numerous museums and cultural institutions and has worked as a creative consultant (and on-camera personality) for The Wild West television documentary series (Warner Bros., 1993), Civil War Journal (A&E Network, 1994), and The Discovery Channel.
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