For nearly five months, thousands of soldiers and African-American laborers worked around the clock to build Fortress Rosecrans - digging, shaping, and compacting the works. It was backbreaking, highly unpopular duty.
"Feb. 1, 1863. [Building fortifications] may be valuable and necessary in a military view, but our men had three objections to it today: because it was Sunday, because it was muddy and greatest because it was work.... We did not enlist to get a job of working. We expected just a big picnic with good clothes, good rations, regular pay and glory, not work and mud."
-Lyman S. Widney, 34th Illinois Infantry
The curtain wall of Fortress Rosecrans, designed to be used by infantry, included a dry ditch on its outward side and a firing step for infantrymen on the inward side. The works perpendicular to the curtain wall (running toward you) are called traverses. These were designed to prevent flanking fire from sweeping the length of the fort.
During the first four months of 1863, nearly 40,000 fighters like these men of the 21st Michigan cast aside weapons and took up shovels to help construct Fortress Rosecrans.