The Man Who was Blown to Freedom
By Morgan Gates -
After the bloody repulse of two Union assaults against the city on May 19th and again of May 22, Union General U.S. Grant realizes his only chance at taking Vicksburg is by siege. Siege is a tried and true and extremely ancient form of warfare, Sieges are mentioned in the Bible and as of this writing the Syrian city of Aleppo is under siege. The basic element of a siege is the cut off of resupply, reinforcements, and escape. Leaving those under siege with little option other than surrender or starvation; however, they are seldom that passive, and have traditionally included offensive elements as well. Bombardment has been part of the equation as well since ancient times, at first with primitive siege engines such as catapults and trebuchet, and later artillery. Various methods of actually breaching the defenses around these fortresses, or in Vicksburg’s case “Fortress City” were also employed.
At Vicksburg the Union Army began pushing a series of trenches toward the Confederate lines. Known as approach trenches or simply “approaches” these zigzag trenches were often 6-8 feet deep and nearly as wide. Thirteen different approaches crept closer to Vicksburg’s fortifications each day allowing the Union to emplace sharpshooters and artillery in advantageous positions. General John Logan’s Illinoisans dug their approach right down the Jackson Road ending just yards form the parapet of the earthen fort known as the 3rd Louisiana Redan. The 45th Illinois “the Lead Miners Regiment” then sank a mine under the fort and packed a ton of explosives in it and lit the fuse. Massive amounts of dirt, artillery pieces weighing upwards of a ton, and bodies rained down (6 members of the 43 Mississippi had been countermining when the explosion went off). As the dust cleared the boys in blue charged into the fort only to find the 3rd Louisiana ready willing and able to meet any threat they could throw at them. The fighting lasted through the night, for 26 hours this bloody close range catfight went on. Eventually though the Union had to admit defeat and the assault was called off, but even before the fighting had ended, another regiment, this time composed of former coal miners, began sinking another mine, their aim was to complete the unfinished work of destroying this fortification.
Samuel Lockett the chief Confederate engineer, soon ordered another countermine sunk in an attempt to thwart the Union mine. The shorthanded Rebels were unwilling to sacrifice more fighting men, so this time the dangerous work was conducted by slaves. The second explosion on July 1st pretty much destroyed the fort, but no assault followed and the Confederates were able to somewhat seal the breach (battered and bruised Vicksburg would surrender three days later). As tons of debris rained down all around the crater, the body of a slave laborer landed behind the Union lines. As the Yankees sought to remove the body, they discovered that this was no lifeless corpse he was still alive, and though badly bruised, he did not have even a broken bone. Astonished the blue coats asked him how far he the thought he had traveled, he responded
“must a been bout three mile Massa”!
His name was Abraham and he was known thereafter as -
“The man who was blown to freedom”!
The Remains of Logan's Approach in VNMP