While all of this was going on Diane was at the hair salon, enduring a nightmare of an entirely different sort.
Working the floor of a busy salon, Diane was creating elaborate hairdos in a busy shop full of pleasant, every-day patrons. However, each patron was accompanied by a ghostly spirit. These ghosts all looked like every-day citizens, save for their transparent flesh, their malevolent eyes, and their evil tendencies. Were it not for the vigilant supervision of their earthly flesh-and-blood minders, the bad spirits would cause great harm. The salon bustled along normally (albeit creepily) enough, the bad ghosts, like bad dogs, attempting to do harm to the living at every opportunity while their living minders kept a lid on things. Diane turned her back on a patron and leaned against a work station for some scissors. She felt a presence press in. Suddenly, she was shoved against the work station. Cold hands snatched her wrists, pressing hard. The scissors trembled in her hand. Suddenly, she was spun around. An evil spirit was assaulting her. This evil ghost (called “Michael the Bad Ghost”—I’m not making this up), grabbed a fist-full of Diane’s hair. Diane, struggling, scissors clattering to the hard floor, frantically looked for the bad ghost’s living minder. But that person was nowhere to be seen. Unleashed, Michael the Bad Ghost yanked Diane by the hair and drew her closer, closer, closer still, until … until Diane woke herself up.
It was a rough night for the both of us, and we spent the better part of the morning going over our respective dreams. I should also mention that, the day before, we had poked through an afternoon at the Petersburg National Battlefield.
Petersburg National Battlefield is a place of many ghosts—many confused and angry ghosts, it would seem. I’m not one to put much stock in the bad ju-ju of bad sprits, much less bad spirits who cause bad dreams, but I’m otherwise at a loss to explain our common reaction to the
For those who don’t know,
And so it was. Lee’s army supply lines essentially held steady during the siege. Meanwhile, Grant’s army shipped in an absolutely huge cache of war material at City Point, a small town just east of
Back to the
But back then it was a horrible place to be. Life in the fortifications was, as one Union soldier wrote, “Endurance without relief; sleeplessness without exhilaration; inactivity without rest; and constant apprehension requiring ceaseless watching."
Clearly, something had to be done to break the stalemate. Spurred by the offhand suggestion of a former
That was the plan. This is what happened.
Starting June 25, 1864, and continuing on for the next month, Lt. Col. Henry Pleasants’
On July 30, at 3:15 a.m., Pleasants lit the fuse and scrambled out of the tunnel.
At 4:40 a.m., two regiments of Confederate soldiers lay sleeping under the sputtering powder keg. In a thunderous quake, the earth below them evaporated and a great crater was ripped from the ground—170 feet long, 80 feet wide, and 30 feet deep. Two hundred seventy eight Confederate troops were instantly blown to hell or heaven or wherever they were destined. Thousands of survivors were hurled into chaos. Some ran in circles. Some remained frozen, paralyzed with fear. Others vaguely scratched at the fortifications as if trying to escape. Smoke and dust filled the air.
Union troops then attacked. However, the troops were unprepared. Weeks prior to the attack, a regiment of black troops had practiced their role as the spearhead for the assault. But late on July 29—hours prior to the big bang—fearing public outcry should the black troops suffer heavy casualties, the Union’s top brass picked another, all-white division to lead the attack. These untrained troops faltered in the smoking maw of The Crater. The Union attack stalled. Confederate forces regrouped. More Union troops were called in—some 15,000 in all. The result was a brutal, confused brawl that decimated both sides, including the formerly-spared black troops. It was a day not of glory and triumph but of indescribable horror.
When all was said and done the Confederates held their line, took possession of The Crater, and later even incorporated it into their defenses. As one
The war continued on, of course.
Grant, under orders from
And the American Civil War was officially over.
But before we break out the fireworks and strike up the band, before important people say important words on important stages, we need to go back to The Crater at
And this is what you’ll see today.
But why should we go back at all? The Crater doesn’t look like much of anything now, and this stale old war is long since over.
We go back because The Crater endures, the clover on its grassy knolls as sweet as a summer’s dream. We go back because the ghosts are there, too, demanding our attention. We go back because the attention they demand does not so much require that we listen to the howl of their confused and angry voices, but that we remember their plight, that we acknowledge their torment, that we put our feet upon the very ground of their every step and misstep, lest we too doom ourselves to the hellish realm of endurance without relief; sleeplessness without exhilaration; inactivity without rest; and constant apprehension requiring ceaseless watching.
* The town of