Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The Testimony of Lt. Col Henry Pleasants before the Committee on The Conduct of the War 1865

Lt. Col. Henry Pleasants

Senator Benjamin Wade

Students of the American Civil War are well aware that General Ulysses Grant called the battle of the Crater the "saddest affair" he had witnessed during the war. On that July day in 1864, Union hopes for a breakthrough at Petersburg dissipated with a bungled and tragic attack on the Confederate lines that had been torn apart with the explosion of some 8,000 pounds of explosives. The battle was the culmination of one of, if not the, most daring and remarkable exploits of the war's eastern theatre: the tunneling under the Confederate lines by a regiment of Pennsylvania troops recruited from Schuylkill County and composed largely of coal miners…. John Hoptak

On January 13, 1865 at Washington, D.C. Lt. Col. Henry Pleasants of the 48th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry was sworn and examined by the Chairman of the Joint committee. Senator Benjamin “Bluff” Wade, a radical Republican who was highly critical of President Abraham Lincolns war policies. From 1861 to 1865 Senator Wade was chairman of the important Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War.
The Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War was a United States Congressional investigating committee created to handle issues surrounding the War. It was chaired throughout by Senator Benjamin Wade of Ohio, and became identified with the Radical Republicans who wanted more aggressive war policies than those of Abraham Lincoln. Its purpose was to investigate such matters as illicit trade with the Confederate states, medical treatment of wounded soldiers, military contracts, and the causes of Union battle losses.
At this hearing Senator Wade and the Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War will inquire into and report on the facts concerning the attack on Petersburg, on the 30th Day of July, 1864 and question the man who planned, built and executed the explosion of the mine under the confederate fortification and he is going to get answers to why this event failed so miserably.

On September 25, 2010, at 7:00 P.M. the Historical Society of Schuylkill County will present a living history program at the Soverign Majestic Theatre in Pottsville, Pa based on the testimony given by Lt. Col. Henry Pleasants of the 48th P.V.I.’s involvement in the great Petersburg mine fiasco. John Hoptak author, Antietam Park Ranger and historian will portray Lt. Col. Pleasants, Stu Richards author, actor and historian will portray Senator Benjamin “Bluff” Wade, Tommy Symons actor, historian will portray Representative Benjamin F. Loan along with other actors that will present a period portrayal of this important event of American Civil War history.
Also on hand for the program will be Historians Jim Corrigan author of The 48th Pennsylvania in the Battle of the Crater: A Regiment of Coal Miners Who Tunneled Under the Enemy. McFarland & Company (April 1, 2006)
With the 48th Pennsylvania in the Battle of Crater, author Jim Corrigan paints a thoroughly engaging and very fair portrait of the events that led up to the battle and the battle itself. The work is well-balanced in portraying both the Union and Confederate side. Corrigan has done a great job in telling of the remarkable feat performed by the 48th PA in the face of great disadvantage and has made sense of all the complicated military, social, and political factors that occurred both before and during the battle.
I highly recommend this book to anyone wishing to learn more about the war in the East and about the 48th Pennsylvania Regiment. This book is an excellent work of history told in a clear and easily understandable manner, despite the many complexities involved in the tunneling and in the battle. Very well-done.
Tom Shay, Civil War historian, Founder of the Schuylkill County Civil War Roundtable and Antietam Battlefield Guide, will be on hand for questions concerning all aspects of the Petersburg Campaign and mine.

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