Diary of a Yankee Engineer: The Civil War Story of John H. Westervelt, Engineer, 1st New York Volunteer Engineer Corps

By John H. Westervelt; Anita Palladino | Go to book overview

Diary of an Engineer During the
Rebellion

No. 43

Aug 8, 1864

There is a great deal of wire pulling going on in regard to the Co certain parties are not satisfied that we should have such a good thing of it. I think that Capt Cruso is not aware of the fact that a new movement is being made to flank him. 9th I have to record a fearful accident to day. Just as we were going to dinner we were nearly thrown upon the ground by a fearful explosion which on the instant I took to be an earthquake and almost expected to be swallowed up the next moment. By some accident an ammunition boat lying at City Point was blown up with a fearful explosion.1 It is but a short distance across the river and I could see the whole plain. I shall not attempt to describe the scene here but you can imagine a column of smoke rising in the air suddenly larger and blacker than any mountain you ever dreamed of with thousands of pieces timber, plank, human limbs and bodys fling in every direction. I cannot tell you the number of lives lost. Some say as many as 400 but I do not believe but 150 or 200 will cover the number.210th In the evening Capt Lyons sent for a detail of 25 men to go and do some work up the James. They started at 9 P.M. to be gone 6 days, I am not among the number. 11th This morning the marines left us. An order came at 12PM to get the train in order to move at a moments notice. Something is brewing that will astonish somebody soon. 12th This morning Capt Lyons sent teams for the pontoon train and Capt

1.Originally thought to be an accidental explosion of stores of ammunition, the devestation at City Point actually resulted from a “horological torpedo” (time bomb) placed by rebel agents. General Grant, although covered with flying dirt and rocks, was unhurt. Denney, Civil War Years, p. 445; Long, Civil War Day by Day, p. 553.

2.The^explosion is generally credited with killing 43, wounding 126, and totally destroying two barges, a warehouse, and a good portion of the dock. Civil War Book of Lists, p. 60.

-157-

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Diary of a Yankee Engineer: The Civil War Story of John H. Westervelt, Engineer, 1st New York Volunteer Engineer Corps
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