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Near Petersburg in Dinwiddie County, Virginia — The American South (Mid-Atlantic)
 

First Man Over the Works

The Breakthrough Trail

 

—Pamplin Historical Park —

 
First Man Over the Works Marker image. Click for full size.
By Bill Coughlin, April 23, 2007
1. First Man Over the Works Marker
Inscription. In the hours, days, and years after the Breakthrough, many Union soldiers boasted that they or their regiment were the first troops to capture the Confederate works on the morning of April 2. Darkness, the chaos of the attack, and the wide Federal battle front make it impossible to credit with absolute certainty any individual or unit with that honor. Captain Charles G. Gould of the 5th Vermont, however, made the most persuasive claim that he preceded the rest of the Sixth Corps over the earthworks at a spot near here.

Gould’s regiment led the Vermont Brigade at the tip of the wedge-shaped formation advancing along the right side of the ravine. Through a misunderstanding of orders, Gould and about 50 of his men veered left across the ravine and approached the Confederate line at this point. The young captain scrambled through the obstructions, and over the parapet in advance of his small party.

In a matter of moments, Gould received a bayonet thrust through his mouth. He managed to kill his attacker, but then another Confederate slashed his skull with a sword. A third Southerner grabbed Gould’s coat allowing a comrade to plunge his bayonet through Gould’s back, the point of the blade resting near a vertebrae.

By this time, additional Union troops had gained the works, among them Corporal Henry H. Recor who managed
Marker on the Breakthrough Trail image. Click for full size.
By Bill Coughlin, April 23, 2007
2. Marker on the Breakthrough Trail
to pull the captain out of harm’s way and into the ditch in front of the fortifications. Incredibly, the thrice-wounded Gould staggered rear-ward until he found someone to help him reach a Sixth Corps hospital.

Charles Gould survived his injuries and wrote his brother on April 4, “Have got wounds enough to make a great deal of noise but they are all very light.” The army rewarded Gould with a promotion, and in 1890, he received the Medal of Honor for his unique ordeal on April 2, 1865.
 
Erected by Pamplin Historical Park.
 
Location. 37° 10.872′ N, 77° 28.441′ W. Marker is near Petersburg, Virginia, in Dinwiddie County. Marker can be reached from Duncan Road (Virginia Route 670), on the left when traveling south. Click for map. Marker is in Pamplin Historical Park, on the Breakthrough Trail. Marker is in this post office area: Petersburg VA 23803, United States of America.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Brother vs. Brother (within shouting distance of this marker); 1st Lieutenant Octavius Augustus Wiggins (within shouting distance of this marker); Lieutenant Colonel George B. Damon (within shouting distance of this marker); The Breakthrough
Confederate Fortifications image. Click for full size.
By Bill Coughlin, April 23, 2007
3. Confederate Fortifications
These fortifications were the objective of the April 2, 1865 assault by the Vermont Brigade.
(within shouting distance of this marker); Confederate Winter Huts (about 300 feet away, measured in a direct line); Sergeant John E. Buffington (about 300 feet away); Battlefield Terrain (about 300 feet away); The Confederate Fortifications (about 400 feet away). Click for a list of all markers in Petersburg.
 
More about this marker. The bottom right of the marker contains a photograph of Captain Gould with the caption “Charles Gould had earned a reputation as a daredevil in his hometown of Windham, Vermont. At age 18 he enlisted in the Union army against the wishes of his parents and was only 20 years old on April 2, 1865. Notice the scar on Gould’s face caused by one of the bayonet wounds he received during the Breakthrough.” The upper left of the marker features a picture of charging Union soldiers. This has a caption of “Small groups of soldiers like that of Captain Gould and his men pushed ahead of their regiments trying to be the first to place their flag on the Confederate works. This Edwin Forbes drawing shows a similar group of soldiers advancing with their colors.” The top center of the marker shows a picture of the award that Captain Charles G. Gould received at the Breakthrough. The caption reads “The Medal of Honor is the highest decoration for valor given by the United States Army. Congress authorized it for enlisted men in July 1862 and extended it to include officers in March 1863.”
 
Also see . . .
1. Breakthrough at Petersburg. The American Civil War website. (Submitted on January 14, 2009, by Bill Coughlin of North Arlington, New Jersey.) 

2. The Breakthrough Trail. Pamplin Historical Park website. (Submitted on January 14, 2009, by Bill Coughlin of North Arlington, New Jersey.) 

3. The Final Assault. The Civil War Siege of Petersburg. (Submitted on January 14, 2009, by Bill Coughlin of North Arlington, New Jersey.) 
 
Categories. War, US Civil
 
 
Credits. This page originally submitted on , by Bill Coughlin of North Arlington, New Jersey. This page has been viewed 1,027 times since then and 65 times this year. Photos:   1, 2, 3. submitted on , by Bill Coughlin of North Arlington, New Jersey. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016.
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