Petersburg, Virginia — The American South (Mid-Atlantic)
A Fatal Error
For weeks the black troops had rehearsed their role as spearhead of the assault. But late on July 29, fearing public outcry should the African-American troops suffer heavy casualties, Meade ordered Burnside to pick another, all-white division to lead the attack. The unprepared white troops – and the attack – faltered.
The last-minute decision did not spare the black troops the horror of the day. The division joined the battle at 8 a.m., when the fighting had degenerated into a brutal, confused brawl. More than 200 black troops died. Another 400 were missing – many of them dead too. No Union division in the battle suffered more.
(sidebar) Maj. Gen. Ambrose E. Burnside (left) advocated using African-American troops to lead the assault. When overruled, he let his division commanders draw straws for the assignment. By this method, Burnside’s weakest division commander, James Ledlie, was chosen.
Erected by Petersburg National Battlefield - National Park Service - Dept. of the Interior.
Location. Touch for map. Marker is in Petersburg National Battlefield on the Auto Tour Road at Tour Stop 7. 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. Prelude to the Crater (here, next to this marker); Waiting Their Turn (about 600 feet away, measured in a direct line); Dash into the Crater (approx. 0.2 miles away); Digging the Mine (approx. ¼ mile away); Ventilation Shaft (approx. ¼ mile away); Joshua L. Chamberlain Promoted “On The Spot” (approx. 0.3 miles away); “A Stupendous Failure” (approx. 0.3 miles away); Confederate Counterattack (approx. 0.3 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Petersburg.
More about this marker. The background of the marker is a picture of African-American troops at drill under the gaze of their white officers. Every black regiment was commanded by white commissioned officers.
The bottom of the marker features a Petersburg Time Line, and indicates the Battle of the Crater.
Also see . . .
1. Crater. CWSAC Battle Summaries. (Submitted on April 12, 2008, by Bill Coughlin of North Arlington, New Jersey.)
2. Petersburg National Battlefield. National Park Service. (Submitted on April 12, 2008, by Bill Coughlin of North Arlington, New Jersey.)
3. The Siege of Petersburg. (Submitted on April 12, 2008, by Bill Coughlin of North Arlington, New Jersey.)
Categories. • War, US Civil •
Credits. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016. This page originally submitted on April 12, 2008, by Bill Coughlin of North Arlington, New Jersey. This page has been viewed 1,055 times since then. Photos: 1, 2, 3. submitted on April 12, 2008, by Bill Coughlin of North Arlington, New Jersey. • Craig Swain was the editor who published this page.