Torpedo Blast Felled Union Soldiers, 1864

On May 26, 1864, a deadly torpedo explosion occurred at Batchelor’s Creek, about eight miles west of New Bern. For the Union forces stationed there, the losses were devastating. Initial reports claimed that 40 soldiers were killed in an accident while unloading the last four of 13 torpedoes from a train car. The torpedoes were intended to complete the blockade of the Neuse River.

When the last of the four weapons was offloaded, a log struck the cap of one and it exploded, setting off a chain reaction. Newspaper accounts said it sounded like a thousand pieces of artillery firing and could be heard 20 miles away. Members of the 132nd New York Volunteers were waiting for mail to be unloaded at the time and took the brunt of the explosion.

Body parts were scattered for a quarter of a mile and two buildings were destroyed. Twenty-eight soldiers and about 20 former slaves, who were working civilian jobs, were killed. While they waited for coffins to be sent from New Bern, hardtack boxes were used to collect body parts.  Many of the dead are buried at New Bern National Cemetery.

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