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  • The Crater, Petersburg
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Rare maker-marked pocketknife, dug at the "Crater"


Product Description

This is another neat piece being offered, it is a maker-marked Civil War soldier’s pocketknife. It measures 3 14” x ¾” and is marked on both sides with “New York Knife Co.”.  It was recovered in the area of the “Crater” at the Petersburg, Virginia Battlefield.

In Petersburg, Virginia at 4:45 a.m. on July 30, 1864, the earth below the rebel strongpoint bulged and broke with an enormous mushroom cloud. One soldier recalled that it was “full of red flames and carried on a bed of lightning flashes, mounted towards heaven with a detonation of thunder”. The explosion blasted a hole 130 feet long, 75 feet wide and 30 feet deep, with nearly sheer walls of jagged clay. He went on to say it was “filled with dust, great blocks of clay, guns, broken carriages, projecting timbers, and men buried in various ways.” This would be known as “The Battle of the Crater”.

The explosion of 8000 pounds of black powder had killed one-third of the South Carolina brigade defending the strongpoint, but behind it was a maze of communication trenches where rebel infantry rallied.

When Mahone’s Confederates finally closed in, the battle degenerated into a massacre. Rebels killed many of the wounded black troops as they retreated to the crater. By noon, the Union soldiers lost all the ground they’d gained, aside from the soldiers stuck in the crater. The Confederates threw bayonets and lit and threw artillery shells into the hole, creating more carnage.

The New York Knife Company was founded in 1858 and produced quality knives at their factory in Walden, New York. Although the blades of this knife are rusted in place, the sides remain very readable (a thin coat of varnish was applied for preservation). In “Relics of the Civil War”, by Stanley Phillips, there is another excavated example of this knife (see pictures). The rare pocketknife comes in the glass top display case pictured.

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$5.50 (Fixed shipping cost)