≡ Menu

Henry F. Charles Memoirs: Jerusalem Plank Road and the Crater

Editor’s Note: Henry Fitzgerald Charles of the 21st Pennsylvania Cavalry (dismounted) wrote a short memoir based on his diary from the Siege of Petersburg in 1864/65. A transcription of this memoir was placed online in 2001 as a part of the web site The Civil War Diary of Henry Fitzgerald Charles, by the web site’s owner and Henry F. Charles descendant John Neitz. Mr. Neitz made the appearance of this memoir at The Siege of Petersburg Online possible, and I thank him greatly for his cooperation.  The transcription on this page is copyrighted by John Neitz as a part of his web site and may not be reproduced without his express written consent.  All rights reserved.

The Battles of Jerusaelm Plank Road and the Crater1

(BTC Editor’s Note: The following text describes Charles’ activities while others were fighting the Battle of Jerusalem Plank Road, fought from June 21-24, 1864 as well as the Battle of the Crater, fought on July 30, 1864.  This portion is a little confusing, however, because Charles discusses the Crater PRIOR to Jerusalem Plank Road.)

We laid back three to six miles for a day or two and then were reorganized and the sent back to the same place, only in the meantime they had built breastworks out of timber and clay. Then we got orders to build bum proofs. They are a hole dug in the ground from three to four feet deep and then covered with logs and railroad iron. We were in luck to have the railroad we took from the Rebs close by. WE wanted a good one so we put about three feet of earth on top. They were intended for protection during artillery duels. Some of our men undermined a Reb works on a hill but they did not tell us when it would go off and we were eating breakfast in our hole about sunrise when the explosion went off and, I tell you, it fairly lifted you right off the ground. We had a good victory and had a big fuss about it, but I could not call killing a victory. After a few days, we were sent to the rear again for rest. I tell you now that was when we began to build mud forts in our rear and front. We worked with a pick and shovel ten hours out of every twenty-four, five hours in daytime and five hours at night. But the shells were so bad in the day that we worked mostly at night. Then we heard of the battle of Jerusalem Plank Road where they trampled and captured a good many of our men. We were run in to stem the tide and we followed the Rebs up through a dry swamp full of long grass and briars and other underbrush; finally our company got lost and we were away from each other and could not find our way out anymore. So all we could do was to lay down and keep quiet. The General thought we were all captured. We lay in the mud and grass all the rest of the night, but the Johnnies did not know it or they would have had all of us. Their artillery kept pounding with sixty-fives all night but their aim was too high. The next morning our army advanced and found us in there and, I tell you, I was a happy boy when they found transportation to the rear for us.


  1. The Civil War Diary of Henry Fitzgerald Charles. 2001. 17 May 2012 <http://www.dm.net/~neitz/charles/index.html>.  These memoirs are reproduced with the written permission of John Neitz, and may not be reproduced without his express written consent.  All rights reserved.
{ 0 comments… add one }

Leave a Reply