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1864 August 6: Battle of the Crater, Burning of Chambersburg, Resignation of Hooker

August 6, 2014

Following is the weekly summary of the news from The Polk County Press of August 6, 1864.

The first item is a short description of the Battle of the Crater, which took place on July 30, 1864.  The Union army exploded a mine, which blew a gap in the Confederate defenses at Petersburg.  Unit after unit charged into and around the crater, where soldiers—many of them African Americans—milled in confusion.  The Confederates quickly recovered and launched several counterattacks, repulsing the Federals with severe casualties.  General Ambrose E. Burnside was relieved of command for his role in the debacle.

The middle item refers to the burning of Chambersburg, also on July 30, 1864, when Confederate troops entered the town in south central Pennsylvania.  General John McCausland demanded from the residents $100,000 in gold or $500,000 in cash. When the residents refused to pay, he ordered his troops to burn the town.

The News.

GRANT [Ulysses S. Grant] has made another attack upon Petersburg.  On Saturday last he sprung a mine, blowing a rebel fortification and a rebel regiment into atoms.  At the same time a charge was made by two brigades of negro troops and a brigade of white soldiers.  They carried the outer works, captured quite a large number of prisoners,—one report says 3,500—and then charged the main fortifications.  They failed to take them, however, and were forced to retire with heavy loss.  Altogether it was another failure to capture the Cockade city.¹  Our loss is set down at 2,500, mostly among the negroes.

The rebels have made a raid into Pennsylvania and burnt the city of Chambersburg.  Loss $2,000,000.  They are now retreating with another load of plunder.  They attacked our forces at Cumberland, Md., however, and got a good thrashing, loosing quite heavy in men and material.

Gen. HOOKER [Joseph “Fighting Joe” Hooker] has retired from the Army of the Cumberland, because he thinks the appointment of Gen. HOWARD [Oliver O. Howard] to succeed Gen. McPherson [James B. McPherson] is an indignity put upon him.  Hooker and Howard only commanded corps, while McPherson commanded three corps, Blair’s [Francis P. Blair], Logan’s [John A. Logan] and Palmer’s [John M. Palmer].  It is rather rough on Joe to have been overshadowed by Howard ;  but leaving the army in face of the enemy was not the best way of righting himself.—There is a rumor that Hooker will succeed Meade [George G. Meade] in command of the Army of the Potomac.  It will not surprise us to learn that this rumor is well founded.

The Atlanta Appeal admits the loss of 6,000 men in the battle of the 20th [Battle of Peachtree Creek],² and thinks that at the rate of fighting since Hood [John B. Hood] took command, the rebel army will be annihilated in three weeks.

Cockade, 18121.  President James Madison called Petersburg the “Cockade of the Union,” or “Cockade City,” in honor of the cockades worn by the Petersburg Volunteers on their caps during the War of 1812.
2.  Newspaper reports on the Battle of Peachtree Creek, in two posts: Part I, Part II.  Modern estimates for casualties are 1,900 Union soldiers and 2,500 Confederate soldiers.

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