1864 : Company K Participates in Battle of the Crater (Part 2)

July 30, 2024 all-day

On July 30, 1864, the Union forces detonated four tons of black powder in a tunnel that had been dug directly under the Confederate works at Petersburg. The blast cut out a crater in the earth around twenty-five feet deep and about 250 feet across. Four divisions of Union troops, rushed into what they thought was a break in the enemy earthworks, only to have 4400 of them killed that afternoon and evening as the Rebels counterattacked. As the day progressed, the Confederate forces surrounded the crater and poured round upon round of artillery into the hole, while the Union troops tried to fight their way out of the crater.

In the midst of this confusion the Sharpshooters charged the rebel works adjoining the crater but the enemy fought back, forcing the Sharpshooters to retreat as the rebels retook the works. One of the men who distinguished himself in the action was Sergeant Antoine Scott, an Ottawa Indian of Company K. He and a comrade refused to take cover and deliberately drew the enemy fire so their fellows might escape. Only when their troops were well out of the works did they make their withdrawal. Of Scott and his partner Major Asahel W. Nichols wrote:

Always brave and daring they particularly distinguished themselves in the battle of July 30, 1864, before Petersburg, Virginia. Where their conduct, in calmer moment, would be deemed rashness for refusing to screen themselves from the enemy’s fire behind the captured works, they stood boldly up and deliberately and calmly fired their pieces until the enemy was almost upon them, when instead of laying down their arms and surrendering, ran the gauntlet of shot and shell and escaped….

The remnants of the regiment was later among the first to enter Riohmond to share the great victory the North had won. Of the hundred men in Company K who left home to fight for their country, more than half were killed in battle and practically all the rest were wounded.

For more information about Company K, see January 12, 1863, mustered into the army, and May 9, 1864, Battle of Spotsylvania Court House, Virginia. Source: Twice Told Tales of Michigan and Her Soldiers in the Civil War, Michigan Civil War Centennial Observance Commission, 1966, p.47-48.

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