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“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Near Petersburg in Dinwiddie County, Virginia — The American South (Mid-Atlantic)
 

McGowan’s South Carolina Brigade

The Breakthrough Trail

 

—Pamplin Historical Park —

 
McGowan’s South Carolina Brigade Marker image. Click for full size.
By Bill Coughlin, April 23, 2007
1. McGowan’s South Carolina Brigade Marker
Inscription. Brigadier General Samuel McGowan, a 43-year-old lawyer and politician from Abbeville, South Carolina, commanded the troops responsible for maintaining these fortifications from October 1864 through March 1865. McGowan’s Brigade consisted of five South Carolina regiments numbering about 1,400 men during the time they spent here.

Although these original fortifications have eroded relatively little since 1865, their appearance has changed significantly. Most of the fieldworks around Petersburg contained large amounts of wood for strength and durability. The soldiers erected a row of vertical logs called a “revetment” and then began digging a ditch or moat about twelve feet in front of it. They placed the dirt from the excavation against the revetment to form an embankment, or “parapet.” A firing step, or “banquette,” behind the revetment allowed riflemen to step up behind the fortification and place barrels of their rifles over the “superior slope,” or top of the parapet. McGowan’s men worked on these fortifications continually, finding new ways to improve them, and repairing damage caused by the elements. Every brigade along General Lee’s line had similar responsibility for the works protecting their individual fronts. Therefore, the Confederate line did not have a strictly uniform
Confederate Fortifications image. Click for full size.
By Bill Coughlin, April 23, 2007
2. Confederate Fortifications
These fortification, maintained by the troops of General Samuel McGowan, are located a short distance from the marker. They were taken by Union soldiers during the April 2, 1865 Breakthough battle.
appearance along its length. The works reflected the construction techniques, craftsmanship, and diligence of the particular soldier defending them.

These works were constructed according to rule – with a ditch in front of six feet depth and eight feet width, whence all the earth for the embankment was thrown; with an embankment of six feet height, twelve foot base, and four foot terreption; with a strong nest revetment, and banquette tread. These works should conceal troops marching behind them, would afford perfect protection from small arms and ordinary field artillery fire, and they could scarcely be stormed, on account of the ditch and the brush abatis in front. This was hard work, for we had to walk at least two miles over ground, almost always either shoe-deep in mud or frozen to the depth of a foot, and at other times running streams or water.
- Lt. James Fitz James Caldwell, McGowan’s Brigade

 
Erected by Pamplin Historical Park.
 
Location. 37° 10.802′ N, 77° 28.502′ 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.
Confederate Fortifications image. Click for full size.
By Bill Coughlin, November 10, 2007
3. Confederate Fortifications
These reconstructed fortifications, located on the Spotsylvania Battlefield, show how wood was used in constructing the earthworks. Seen here are the vertical logs used as revetments.
At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. The Confederate Fortifications (within shouting distance of this marker); “The Strongest Line of Works Ever Constructed” (within shouting distance of this marker); Petersburg Breakthrough Battlefield (within shouting distance of this marker); The Breakthrough Trail (within shouting distance of this marker); Sergeant John E. Buffington (about 300 feet away, measured in a direct line); Confederate Winter Quarters (about 300 feet away); The Attack Begins (about 300 feet away); Lieutenant Colonel George B. Damon (about 300 feet away). Click for a list of all markers in Petersburg.
 
More about this marker. The bottom right of the marker features a photograph of “Brigadier General Samuel McGowan.” The top of the marker contains a picture of Confederate soldiers building the fortifications. It has a caption of “This sketch by Civil War artist Edwin Forbes shows soldiers felling trees and transporting the logs for use in revetting the works. Note the vertical logs used as a revetment and the men in front of the works digging the ditch and moat.”
 
Also see . . .
1. Breakthrough at Petersburg. The American Civil War website. (Submitted on January 18, 2009, by Bill Coughlin of North Arlington, New Jersey.) 

2. The Breakthrough Trail. Pamplin Historical Park website. (Submitted on January 18, 2009, by Bill Coughlin of North Arlington, New Jersey.) 

3. The Final Assault. The Civil War Siege of Petersburg. (Submitted on January 18, 2009, by Bill Coughlin of North Arlington, New Jersey.) 
 
Categories. Notable EventsNotable PlacesWar, US Civil
 
 
Credits. This page originally submitted on , by Bill Coughlin of North Arlington, New Jersey. This page has been viewed 850 times since then and 74 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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