Flanner’s North Carolina Battery at the Battle of the Crater.1
[We only regret that the publication of the following narrative by the gallant Captain of Flanner’s battery has been so long delayed by circumstances beyond our control:]
After reading Captain Gordon McCabe’s artitle (BTC Editor’s Note: sic) in the Southern Historical Society Papers on the defence of Petersburg, I think I have the right to find fault, not with what is written, but what was omitted in the article referred to.
I claim that the battery commanded by me, and composed entirely of North Carolinians, is entitled to the credit of preventing the Federal army from entering Petersburg on the morning of the springing of the mine. The facts are these: The mine was sprung about daylight of the 29th (BTC Editor’s Note: 30th) of July, and was immediately followed by the capture and occupation of our line of breast-works by the enemy. They remained in the works until 8 o’clock before making preparations for the advance. About that time they reformed line of battle and began advancing toward the city. Flanner’s battery was posted in the main road near the Gee House, about two hundred yards in rear of the Confederate breast-works, immediately in rear of the mine, forming what might be considered a second line, but entirely without infantry support. Immediately upon the advance of the enemy we opened on them with shell and canister, and they soon sought shelter in their trenches. In a few minutes they again formed and commenced advancing. Again we opened on them with our six guns. The enemy pressed steadily forward, when our guns were double charged with canister, and a deadly fire poured into their ranks. Their lines were then broken, and they fled to the works and there remained until our infantry, composed of the brigades of Mahone, Girardy, and Sanders, all under the command of Mahone, arrived, and were placed in position preparatory to making the final charge, which resulted in the recapture of the works about 2 o’clock in the day.
The fire of the enemy, from nearly one hundred guns, was concentrated upon my company for two hours; but amid this terrible rain of deadly missiles these brave North Carolinians stood to their guns and repulsed every advance made by the enemy, hold-
We claim the honor of saving the day, and preventing what might have been a very serious disaster and probable loss of Petersburg.
No one save those who went through the fiery ordeal can form the slightest conception of the fury of this attack. Not less than fifty shell a minute were hurled at the company; and but for the protection afforded them by the sides of the road, they would have been swept off the face of the earth. There are those now living who can confirm my statement; and if this should meet the eye of the gentlemen cognizant of these details, they will doubtless do us this justice. The history of a battle cannot be truthfully written from the same stand-point of any one man, although present in the engagement. It is due, therefore, to the brave men who composed my command that they should be properly placed upon the record.
We do not wish to lessen the claims to which the valorous troops of other commands are entitled, but let us make such contributions as the future historian can work into a continuous narrative and do justice to all.
Henry G. Flanner,
Late Captain Flanner’s N. C. Battery.
- Flanner, Henry G. “Flanner’s North Carolina Battery at the Battle of the Crater.” Southern Historical Society Papers, Volume 5, pp. 247-248 ↩