After the initial attacks on Petersburg by Union forces ended on June 18, a portion of the IX Corps picket line, built under fire, was established only four hundred feet from Elliot's Salient, part of the main Confederate line. The Federals decided to construct and explode a mine underneath the salient in an attempt to surprise and overwhelm the Confederates and seize the heights above Petersburg and thereby shorten the siege.
After several weeks of preparation the mine was exploded on July 30 at 4:45am. The Union sent unit after unit into the 200 foot-wide gap created in the Confederate line.The poorly-led Federal soldiers end up heading into the crater and not around it as planned.
Did You Know?
The only contemporary visual evidence of the Battle of Five Forks was drawn by artist Alfred Waud. (Five Forks is a unit of Petersburg National Battlefield)