MEMORY OF THE DAY: PATRICK’S STORY

PATRICK’S STORY

A few weeks ago I posted a story about Newton Lawrence Huff, my great, great grandfather on the Huff side of the family. Newton was a captain in the Confederate Army, an infantry company commander and he, along with two of his sons fought the Yankees at Shiloh. So I figure that a balanced approach would be to give equal time to my other Civil War veteran ancestor.

Patrick Grant was my great, great grandfather on the Grant side of the family. He was a private in the Union army and I imagine a rifleman in his infantry company. His father came from Ireland in the early 1800s. We researched and determined he came over from Ireland, but couldn’t find where in Ireland. We think Patrick was born in Pennsylvania, likely in Giardville, Schuylkill County. He entered the Union Army when he was 18. We have copies of his enlistment papers where he made his mark because he could neither read nor write. Before that he had worked in the coal fields in Schuylkill County.

He was a part of the 48th Pennsylvania Volunteers and they were part of General Burnsides’ IX Corps during the war. He wasn’t in the corps at the beginning of the war because he didn’t enlist until 1864, but by the time the IX Corps came back from Tennessee to Virginia he would have been there. We think he was likely at The Wilderness, Spotsylvania Courthouse, North Anna, Cold Harbor, and Siege of Petersburg battles.

Don’t really know much about what Burnsides IX Corps did in the earlier battles, but we have a pretty good idea about what happened at the Siege of Petersburg. General Grant had been chasing General Lee all over the area around Richmond, but Lee managed to keep his forces between Grant and the Confederate capital in Richmond. [Side note: when we lived in Stafford, VA we visited most of the battlefields around us and always tracked where the IX Corps was during the battles. It wasn’t one of the more decorated units, but was around the action most of the time.] In the spring of 1864 the Armies were pretty much stalemated south of Petersburg. A form of trench warfare had taken over there. You can still see a lot of the trenches and fortifications at the battlefield.

While the Armies were locked in stalemate, the commander of the 48th had an idea that he took up the line to General Burnsides. He proposed to have his coal miners dig a mine (tunnel) from the Union lines under the Confederate lines, load it with powder and blow a breach in the Confederate defenses. Then a Union regiment held in reserve would be able to pour through and roll the two sides back to allow a larger attack to get in. PVT Patrick Grant would have been with the miners. The 48th was not the designated unit to make the attack. Burnsides took the plan to General Grant and he approved it. Some think he approved it just to give the troops something to keep them busy during the siege. It could be argued that General Grant did not really expect this plan to work.

The miners first stuck a pick into Virginia soil on June 251864. Not long after that Patrick was wounded in his leg and evacuated to the field hospital where, as was the practice at the time, they amputated the leg. My guess is that whatever wounded him hit the bone and shattered it.  At any rate, he was out of the fight after that. When we visited the battlefield, the ranger told us that there was nothing in particular going on that day so it was likely that Patrick had been on picket or guard duty and was shot by a sniper. We’ll never really know for sure.

General Grant had planned on sending an all black regiment through the breach and they trained for the attack for months. When they finally got the tunnel finished and the powder in place they blew it up. Someone had miscalculated and instead of just breaching the Confederate fortifications, they blew a huge crater with very steep sides. Just before they were going to attack Grant decided that it would be a mistake to send in a regiment of blacks. He reasoned that the Confederates would fight all the harder and if it failed and he lost a whole regiment of blacks he would be crucified in the press so they sent in another regiment cold. They had never really trained for this mission. Sadly, this regiment never made it out of the crater. The whole thing was a huge failure so they just continued the siege until Lee couldn’t keep going and broke out north. The war ended a bit later in April 1865 at Appomattox Court House.

Patrick was released with a pension for his lost leg. We have a copy of his pension papers with his mark. Not sure I know how he made a living except for the pension, but he managed to marry and have children, one of which was Earl Grant’s (my grandfather) father and Lewis Grant’s (my father) grandfather.

We have copies of Patrick’s enlistment papers and discharge papers and a few other items. They are pretty hard to read because they are all in longhand cursive, but with some study we can make out what they say. Patrick died in 1888 and would have been about 42 at the time. His wife, Mary, filed for and was approved to receive survivor’s pension from the government in 1890.

Patrick was the last soldier in the Grant family until my father and his brother Harold entered WW II. My grandfather Grant did not serve during WW I. Not sure why. He would have been pretty young, but we think the real reason he was deferred was that he worked in the coal fields and that was a strategic resource during WW I so they probably kept the miners working at home for the most part.

My dad, Lewis, tried to enlist in the Marines at the beginning of WW II, but they rejected him because he was too small. I never knew my father to weigh more than about 115 pounds, though he said he got up to 130 in the Army. He also tried to enlist in the other services and was rejected. However, as the war carried on and casualties mounted they finally drafted dad toward the end of the war. I was born while he was still on active duty. All of that, however, is for another story.

This picture shows the entrance to the “mine” at Petersburg Battlefield. You can see this and follow the path of the mine by following the holes where it has caved in over time. The crater looks pretty much as it did when so many Union soldiers died in the pit.

Petersburg tunnel

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