This Week in the Civil War - #860
At Petersburg, Federal engineers began digging a tunnel from Union lines toward the Confederate defenses, with the express purpose of blowing a salient in the Confederate line. This idea was the brainchild of Union Lieutenant Colonel Henry Pleasants of the 48th Pennsylvania Infantry. Many in that unit had worked in Pennsylvania’s coal mines and were expert diggers. Ulysses Grant saw little strategic value in the enterprise but recognized a means “to keep the men occupied” during Petersburg’s siege. Beginning their endeavor on Saturday June 25, 1864, Pleasants’ troops labored with few materials, having to forage for wood to support the structure. Their work would continue for some three weeks before the tunnel extended under Confederate lines. One of the most tragic moments of the Civil War would soon follow.