7th Vermont Infantry
The Battle of Blakely, Alabama
April 9, 1865
At daybreak of the 9th (Sunday), we were able to look over the ground embraced within the enemy's lines, for which we had so earnestly contended. Early that morning I received orders to report back to our brigade, which I did. Shortly before noon the entire Thirteenth corps, except Bertram's brigade, left to garrison Spanish Fort, was on its was to Blakely, which, since April 2d, had been besieged by Major-General Steele's forces from Pensacola. As we drew near Steele's line, towards evening, we noticed that there was very heavy firing going on. In a little while an order came down the line for us to prepare to take part in an assault. Before we could reach ground proper to form upon, Steele's men had gallantly stormed and carried the rebel works, and we were therefore deprived of participating in that honorable affair.
The assaulting column suffered greatly from torpedoes. The rebels had planted them in front of their works at Blakely, even more extensively than at Spanish Fort, and it was unsafe to approach the fortification, even during daylight. Gen. Andrews says: 'All the forepart of the night, there were explosions of torpedoes, and some were killed by them while searching for the dead and wounded.' Here, as at Spanish Fort, the enemy had pathways through these beds of explosives, regularly staked or marked out. The next morning Gen. Steele very properly set the rebel prisoners at work clearing the ground of these torpedoes. This was done by spreading brush over the ground and setting fire to it, which caused many of them to explode. As a space was burnt over the prisoners would spread more brush over an equal distance in front, and so on until a roadway of sufficient width was obtained. Of course some of the torpedoes did not go off, and it was hazardous business walking upon the ground, even after it had been burnt over, and hence the rebels were indignant that they should be set to do such dangerous work. But Gen. Steele was inexorable, taking the ground that if such a system of warfare was resorted to they should be the first to suffer from it.
We remained at Blakely until the morning of the 11th, when our division and another of the Thirteen Corps, under Granger, marched back toward Spanish Fort to Stark's Landing, where we embarked on transports. During the march we received intelligence of the fall of Richmond.
Sources: Photographs, entitled "Earthworks" and "Union Line," courtesy of Erick Bush. Text from William C. Holbrook, "A Narrative of the Services of the Officers and Enlisted Men of the 7th Regiment of Vermont Volunteers (Veterans) from 1862 to 1866," (American Bank Note Co, New York, 1882), pp. 192-3.