April 2, 1865: “As near as I can judge I expended about 1,000 rounds of ammunition” bombarding Petersburg’s lines

Victory at Five Forks on April 1, 1865 allowed Federal forces to sever the last major supply line – the South Side Railroad – into Petersburg from the west. With that, Lieutenant-General Ulysses S. Grant put in motion his plan to shatter the Petersburg defenses.  Shortly after receiving news from Five Forks, Grant ordered aContinue reading “April 2, 1865: “As near as I can judge I expended about 1,000 rounds of ammunition” bombarding Petersburg’s lines”

Mortars and shells wanted at the front: Importance of vertical fires at Petersburg

We often read the Petersburg siege demonstrated the emergence of “modern war” in some fashion.  The “coffee table book” history draws the the comparison between Virginia trenches of 1864-5 to French trenches of 1915-8.  There is some resemblance, but no more than any functional nature would derive.  Men can only dig a hole in theContinue reading “Mortars and shells wanted at the front: Importance of vertical fires at Petersburg”

Shrapnel from mortars: “far more effective than shell in… silencing batteries”

During the Civil War, as can be said for most of the “black powder” age, mortars usually fired one type of projectile – the shell.  There were a few variations, which were mostly incendiary shells.  The main disadvantage to the shell when fired vertically was the need to time the burst in order to achieveContinue reading “Shrapnel from mortars: “far more effective than shell in… silencing batteries””