Black Troops Near Petersburg
U.S. Colored Troops sit in front of a bombproof shelter dug out of a hillside in the lines in front of Petersburg. This photograph was made on August 7, 1864, just a week after the disastrous Battle of the Crater, during which many African American soldiers were massacred. Trapped in the so-called Crater—a huge opening in the ground created by a massive underground explosion—the Colored Troops turned into easy prey for Confederate soldiers standing above them. During intense fighting, Confederate soldiers slaughtered both armed and unarmed black soldiers and ignored their pleas to surrender. The events of that day constituted one of the worst battlefield atrocities of the Civil War.