SOURCE: Pamplin Historical Park

December 28, 2015 11:00 ET

Pamplin Historical Park Shares Little-Known American Civil War Facts

Civil War Site of Pivotal Events in 1865 Offers Cache of Trivia to Stump Even the Most Avid Civil War Buffs

PETERSBURG, VA--(Marketwired - Dec 28, 2015) -  Commemorating the 150th anniversary of the end of the Civil War this past year, Pamplin Historical Park and park founder and owner Dr. Robert B. Pamplin Jr. have delved into the archives to unearth unique facts about this erstwhile battleground. From trivia about weaponry and explosives to communications and noteworthy individuals, the trove of findings enriches the experiences and stories contained at Pamplin Historical Park.

The site of the battle where Gen. Ulysses S. Grant's Union forces broke through Gen. Robert E. Lee's defensive line on April 2, 1865, the grounds of Pamplin Historical Park are remarkable for their place in ending the nine-month Richmond-Petersburg campaign. The breakthrough triggered the evacuation of Petersburg and Richmond and the westward retreat that would ultimately lead to Lee's surrender at Appomattox Court House on April 9, 1865.

"The Civil War was a defining event in America's history, and preserving our battlefields and their stories is critical to communicating the principles and sacrifices of that time to future generations," said Pamplin. "We're pleased to be able to continuously add to our country's collective knowledge, whether by offering experiences at the park or by sharing forgotten anecdotes that come to light."

Petersburg's thunderous past
Petersburg, Virginia, is a natural site for Pamplin Historical Park, but few may know just how much action took place in the area:

  • The 48th Pennsylvania, largely comprising coal miners from Schuylkill County, was responsible for digging the 500-ft long Petersburg tunnel that permitted blowing up Confederate trenches.
  • The first mammoth use of gunpowder as an explosive took place in Petersburg, where 8,000 pounds were detonated forming the Crater and earning its title as the biggest explosion of the Civil War.
  • Ulysses S. Grant called this explosion "a stupendous failure."
  • Gunners at the Petersburg Campaign pounded the Confederate lines with a 13-inch mortar mounted on a railway flatcar that they named "The Dictator."
  • Prisoners in Petersburg renamed the town "Castle Thunder" due to the constant thunder of big guns during the campaign.
  • Southern snipers using the Whitworth rifle were greatly feared; at Petersburg, it was demonstrated that the projectile fired more than a mile away with a 12-foot accuracy range.

A very different transportation, communication reality
Transportation routes and communication methods in the Civil War era were a far cry from what we think of today:

  • Petersburg was a transportation center, serving as a hub for every railroad linking Richmond with the Eastern Confederacy.
  • With photo technology in its infancy, the news media illustrated battlefield dispatches with woodblock engravings of artist sketches.
  • After studying Indian smoke signals, deaf-mute alphabets and Morse code, U.S. Army surgeon Albert J. Myer developed the "WigWag" signaling technique, relying on flags by day and torches by night.
  • American Express Letter Company didn't appear to pick sides, delivering mail in the North and in the South during the war.

War by the numbers
Although time marches on, nothing illustrates the impact of an event like raw numbers that can so clearly represent the magnitude of destruction or the breadth of inequity:

  • 44,000: The number of U.S. soldiers whose death could be attributed to dysentery, the most common of all camp maladies.
  • $13: The monthly pay of Union soldiers during the war.
  • $25,000: President Abraham Lincoln's annual salary during the war.
  • 6,000,000: The number of horses -- essential to battle -- held in the U.S. at the start of the war.
  • $300: The payment that pacifists, such as Quakers, could make in lieu of fighting; the funds were allocated for the relief of sick and wounded soldiers.

Final fun facts
In war, North and South were forced to be innovative and to capitalize on the resources available. Despite the challenging times, individuals would emerge to find opportunity during and after the war:

  • Burning Springs, Virginia, was the target of the first military attack ever made on an oil installation.
  • Richmond, Virginia, was the only Confederate city to have a gas works capable of inflating observation balloons.
  • Andrew J. Hamilton, named military governor of Texas, began exporting cotton during the war.
  • Private Jacob Parott was the first recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor.
  • While most southerners accepted their fate after the war, a colony of former Confederate slave owners was established in Sao Paolo, Brazil.

About Pamplin Historical Park
One of "Virginia's Best Places to Visit," according to the Travel Channel, and designated as a National Historic Landmark, Pamplin Historical Park & The National Museum of the Civil War Soldier is a 424-acre Civil War campus located in Dinwiddie County, Virginia, offering a combination of high-tech museums and hands-on experiences. The park has four world-class museums and four antebellum homes. It is the site of the Petersburg Breakthrough battle of April 2, 1865, and hosts America's premier Civil War participatory experience, Civil War Adventure Camp. For more information, please call 804-861-2408 or visit

About Robert B. Pamplin Jr.
Robert B. Pamplin Jr. has earned eight degrees -- including two doctorates -- in business, economics, accounting, education and theology. He has been honored nationally as a businessman, philanthropist, ordained minister, educator, historical preservationist and author of 16 books and comic books, including two book-of-the-month club selections. Pamplin's business interests include media (the Portland Tribune and 25 community newspapers), textiles, construction and agriculture. He has been awarded many honorary degrees and featured in national magazines, in newspapers and on television. He has served on presidential and state commissions, and he has been chairman of the board of trustees of three colleges. Pamplin is widely recognized as America's leading historical preservationist and foremost diversified entrepreneur. For more information, visit For more information about Pamplin's preservation efforts, visit

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