Article 103

Sherman's Troops Encounter Land Mines

Well, Sherman finally stepped in it!

“On the 8th, as I rode along, I found the column turned out of the main road, marching through the fields. Close by, in the corner of a fence, was a group of men standing around a handsome young officer, whose foot had been blown to pieces by a torpedo planted in the road. He was waiting for a surgeon to amputate his leg, and told me that he was riding along with the rest of his brigade-staff of the Seventeenth Corps, when a torpedo trodden on by his horse had exploded, killing the horse and literally blowing off all the flesh from one of his legs. I saw the terrible wound, and made full inquiry into the facts.

“There had been no resistance at that point, nothing to give warning of danger, and the rebels had planted eight-inch shells in the road, with friction-matches to explode them by being trodden on. This was not war, but murder, and it made me very angry. I immediately ordered a lot of rebel prisoners to be brought from the provost-guard, armed with picks and spades, and made them march in close order along the road, so as to explode their own torpedoes, or to discover and dig them up. They begged hard, but I reiterated the order, and could hardly help laughing at their stepping so gingerly along the road, where it was supposed sunken torpedoes might explode at each step, but they found no other torpedoes till near Fort McAllister.”

The man behind the Confederate Land Mines was Gabriel James Rains, born in June 1803 in New Bern, North Carolina to cabinetmaker Gabriel Manigault Rains and Ester Ambrose. His younger brother, George Washington Rains, was also a brigadier general in the Georgia Militia, and the two were known as "the Bomb Brothers" for their creation and use of land mines, torpedoes, booby traps, and other explosives. Rains graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York in 1827, 13th in his class. Among his classmates were Leonidas Polk, Napoleon Bonaparte Buford, and Philip St. George Cooke.

The development of the first modern mechanically fused high explosive anti-personnel land mines was attributed to Rains during the Battle of Yorktown in 1862. (As a Captain, Rains had earlier employed explosive booby traps during the Seminole Wars in Florida in 1840. Both mechanically and electrically fused "land torpedoes" were employed, although by the end of the war, mechanical fuses had been found to be generally more reliable. Many of these designs were improvised in the field, especially from explosive shells, but by the end of the civil war, nearly 2,000 standard pattern "Rains mines" had been deployed.



Page last modified on December 09, 2014