This Day (Yesterday’s Edition, Part Deux)

Published:October 11, 2011 by Brendan Wolfe

Still catching up with yesterday’s business: on that day in 1885, United States Army Corps of Engineers, commanded by the Norfolk-native John Newton, detonated 300,000 pounds (150 tons) of explosives in order to clear a rocky area of the East River in New York known as Hell Gate. It was a big bang, in other words, that sent water 250 feet in the air, as can be seen in the picture above. In fact, it was the biggest explosion of the century, beating out the Battle of the Crater (1864), which featured a mere 4 tons of powder. Combine those two blasts, however, and you don’t equal even half of the TNT used (455 tons) at the Battle of Messines during World War I. (You might recall “This Day [Kablooie Edition].”) The atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima, by the way, was the equivalent of 15,000 tons of TNT.

As for John Newton, he fought at Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, and Gettysburg—but for the Union.

IMAGE: Flood Rock explosion, Hell Gate, N.Y., Oct. 10, 1885 (Library of Congress)