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

“A Determination That Knew No Such Word as Fail”

The Breakthrough Trail

 

—Pamplin Historical Park —

 
"A Determination That Knew No Such Word as Fail" Marker image. Click for full size.
By Bill Coughlin, April 23, 2007
1. "A Determination That Knew No Such Word as Fail" Marker
Inscription. As the Vermonters pushed closer to the Confederate fortifications, they encountered the multiple rows of obstructions specifically designed to pin down an attacking force. Here, the Confederates extracted a terrible toll on the desperate Federals, who struggled to find their way through the tangled tree limbs while absorbing a deadly fire from the enemy line.

With a cheer we went on getting through the abatis the best we could,” remembered Lieutenant Robert Pratt of the 5th Vermont. When 19-year-old Lieutenant Gardner C. Hawkins of the 3rd Vermont noticed that his men were wavering under the unceasing hail of lead and iron, he sprang forward and flashed his sword dramatically, urging the troops to maintain the momentum and continue the charge. “The effect upon the regiment if not upon other regiments of the brigade was very pointed and decisive,” testified one Vermonter. Shortly after rallying his men, Hawkins received a hideous wound to the face, the minie ball entering the right side of his nose, passing into his head, and exiting out through his left eye, carving a gouge down his left ear and cheek. Despite his injury, Hawkins refused to leave the battlefield.

At last, the bluecoats tore away the obstructions allowing them to renew their advance towards their immediate goal several
Marker on the Breakthrough Trail image. Click for full size.
By Bill Coughlin, April 23, 2007
2. Marker on the Breakthrough Trail
The Vermonters charged across this field toward the fortifications seen at the top of the photo.
hundred yards ahead of them. These survivors mustered their courage and plunged forward into the Confederate line with, according to Captain Merritt Barber, “a determination that knew no such word as fail.”
 
Erected by Pamplin Historical Park.
 
Location. 37° 10.844′ N, 77° 28.246′ 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. A Mysterious Historic Feature (within shouting distance of this marker); Lieutenant Colonel Ronald A. Kennedy (within shouting distance of this marker); “A Great Struggle is Now Impending” (about 300 feet away, measured in a direct line); “We Fought Desperately” (approx. 0.2 miles away); Battlefield Terrain (approx. 0.2 miles away); “Our Line of Battle was so Thin” (approx. 0.2 miles away); 1st Lieutenant Evander McNair Robeson (approx. 0.2 miles away); First Man Over the Works (approx. 0.2 miles away). Click for a list of all markers in Petersburg.
 
More about this marker.
Confederate Fortifications image. Click for full size.
By Bill Coughlin, April 23, 2007
3. Confederate Fortifications
These earthworks were the objective of the April 2 Breakthrough attack by the Union Sixth Corps.
The left of the marker contains a photograph of “Robert Pratt, a native of Brandon, Vermont, [who] enlisted as a private in Company H, 15th Vermont Infantry, in September 1861. He rose through the ranks to become 1st lieutenant in November 1864. Pratt succeeded to command of his company after his captain was wounded during the Breakthrough. In May 1865, he was promoted to captain of Company F, 5th Vermont. The top of the marker features a picture of the Union charge of April 2, 1865. It has the caption “Major General Horatio G. Wright directed each brigade to provide men armed with axes to chop through the abatis. In some places the Confederate obstructions were relatively easy to breach. In others, the Southerners created as many as four separate lines of obstructions. The highest concentration of Union casualties during the Breakthrough occurred at these deadly barriers.”
 
Also see . . .
1. Breakthrough at Petersburg. The American Civil War website. (Submitted on January 15, 2009, by Bill Coughlin of North Arlington, New Jersey.) 

2. The Breakthrough Trail. Pamplin Historical Park website. (Submitted on January 15, 2009, by Bill Coughlin of North Arlington, New Jersey.) 

3. The Final Assault. The Civil War Siege of Petersburg. (Submitted on January 15, 2009, by Bill Coughlin of North Arlington, New Jersey.)
Inside the Confederate Fortifications image. Click for full size.
By Bill Coughlin, April 23, 2007
4. Inside the Confederate Fortifications
This photo, taken from inside the Confederate fortifications, looks in the direction of the marker. Artillery such as this delayed the Vermonters during the breakthrough on April 2, 1865.
 
 
Categories. War, US Civil
 
 
Credits. This page originally submitted on , by Bill Coughlin of North Arlington, New Jersey. This page has been viewed 734 times since then and 61 times this year. Photos:   1, 2, 3, 4. submitted on , by Bill Coughlin of North Arlington, New Jersey. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016.
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