We're so used to viewing the shambles created by this war that these images might seem a little tame, if not uninteresting. BOY are they neither. City Point, Virginia, August 9th, 1864. An ordinance ship rained death.
August 9, 1864. Mrs. R.h. Spencer, Sanitary Commission agent ( which means nurse, first responder and general saint ) sat her horse overlooking the organized confusion that was City Point's wharf. Wounded, supplies, ammunition loaded, unloaded, wagons, steamers, schooners, tugs, barges, house boats and floating relief stations. Then it all went to heck. Elvina Spencer remembered human body parts splattering around her. Ammunition barge J.E. Kendrick vanished along with the crew.
So many images depicting wharves at City Point, Belle and White House Landings, Aquia Creek and a few others look so much like an explosion has already created chaos, easy to miss what this one tells us.
Lt. Col Theodore Lyman wrote that as shock reverberated, the single man running towards the scene, through the dust hanging in the air was Grant. " ( @Cavalry Charger , thought you'd like that. 88 year old mother's a huge Grant follower too, must remember to show her this )
Later thought to have been an enemy ' torpedo ' ( bomb ) and an act of sabatoge, think that wasn't know until post war? Tom Elmore's excellent thread on the shambles created when munitions went poof sounds similar.
Grant to Halleck " Five minutes ago an ordnance boat exploded, carrying lumber, grape, canister, and all kinds of shot over this point. Every part of the yard used as my headquarters is filled with splinters and fragments of shell. I do not know yet what the casualties are beyond my own headquarters. Colonel Babcock is slightly wounded in hand and 1 mounted orderly is killed and 2 or 3 wounded and several horses killed. The damage at the wharf must be considerable both in life and property. As soon as the smoke clears away I will ascertain and telegraph you. "
In the interests of ' photo examinations ', this is what I mean when I say it can be tough ascertaining which images depict an explosion's aftermath? Snipped this from an LoC " City Point " photo- and still can't tell. Just a day or post August 9th?
Chief Ordnance Officer Cpt. Morris Schaff
" From the top of the bluff there lay before me a staggering scene, a mass of overthrown buildings, their timbers tangled into almost impenetrable heaps. In the water were wrecked and sunken barges, while out among the shipping — where were many vessels of all sizes and kinds — there was hurrying back and forth on the decks to weigh anchor, for all seemed to think that something more would happen. I at once went down to the ruined building, a large frame structure six hundred feet long, under the charge of my Sergeant, Harris, an old regular and one of the gentlest and most faithful and honest men I ever knew. I could hear the cries of some of the men, and soon heard Corporal Bradley call out, "For God's sake, Captain, come and help me out." He was pinned down under some heavy timbers with one of his legs crushed. It was amputated, and I saw him after the war at West Troy, New York. Later, I found Sergeant Harris lying on his back dead, with the smiling expression of a sleeping child. I had his body sent back to Watervliet Arsenal, and there his gallant clay is lying. I have met men and soldiers of high rank and proud birth, but I do not believe I ever met Sergeant Harris's superior in the qualities that go to make a soldier and a man. "
-From an excellent book in Hathi I can't link because there's 3 lines of code, will try to discover the briefer version
Wider view of Nettie dockside, men in the rubble.
" Among the flower beds of the garden behind my office one of my clerks fell, with a large piece of his skull torn off by the fuse of a shell that had burst over him. It was the most singular wound I ever saw, in this, that the substance of the brain apparently was not touched, but stood in place, a firm, white convoluted mass. We carried him back into the office from which he had fled when the projectiles that were hurled in every direction began to enter it. "