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SPOT_031122_02.JPG: Marker to Union General John Sedgwick. During the battle of Spotsylvania, his men were trying to hide from Confederate sniper fire. Sedgwick stood in front of his men and said, "Listen boys, these snipers couldn't hit an elephant at this dis..." He never finished the sentence; a sniper bullet hit him in the head and went out his eye.
SPOT_031122_20.JPG: Spotsylvania Campaign
May 12, 1864. About 6am, Wright's VI Corps, advancing to support Hancock's attack, occupied the area in front of the Confederate works on the west face of the Salient. Here at a slight bend in the line, the area ever after known as Bloody Angle, occurred the most savage, long-sustained hand-to-hand combat of the War. The opposing troops fired muzzle-to-muzzle and bayoneted and clubbed one another across the logs of the parapet. Musketry fire slashed the springtime greenery and toppled trees, one an oak almost two feet in diameter. Rain poured down and the dead piled up in the mud. Before daylight on the 13th, the exhausted Confederates withdrew to a better line.
SPOT_031122_33.JPG: Landram House
These stone chimneys are all that remain of the Landram House, a prominent landmark during the Spotsylvania campaign. The Confederate picket reserve stood here shivering in the early morning fog on May 12, 1864 when the silence was suddenly shattered by the assault of 20,000 Federals of the II Corps. The sentries were quickly engulfed and the blue wave swept over the 550 yards of rolling open terrain, crashing into the surprised rebels at the salient. Shortly after 7:00am, General Hancock, commanding the II Corps, moved his headquarters forward to the Landram House in plain view of the day-long fighting. Unlike so many soldiers who passed it, the Landram House survived the battle only to fall prey to fire in the more peaceful times of 1905.
SPOT_031122_40.JPG: The killing fields that Union forces advanced across before hitting the salient. The Landram House stood behind the camera.
SPOT_031122_49.JPG: This cannon is standing where a Confederate gun would have been on May 12, 1864. It faces the direction that Hancock's corps attacked from. We're roughly in the middle of the Bloody Angle. Sign:
The Bloody Angle -- May 12, 1864
Hancock's thrust penetrated the Salient as far as the secondary line south of the McCoall House. Counterattacks drove Hancock's men back to, but not beyond, the top of the Salient. Wright's VI Corps was then thrown into action along the west face of the Salient, and here ensued the struggle of the Bloody Angle. Though Warren and Burnside could not shake the Confederate flanks, Lee knew that his desperately renewed hold on the Salient was bound to weaken. Thus, while his soldiers here fought grimly on, other troops were constructing a new line to which the weary defenders could retreat.
Situation -- May 13, 1864
Lee has now evacuated the "Mule Shoe" and pulled his defenders back to the new line. The new center and the old flanks present a more defensible position. The top of the old Salient has been incorporated into the shifting Federal trench system. During the next several days, Grant will continue to maneuver by his left, farther eastward and southward.
SPOT_031122_65.JPG: The marker on the far left indicates that this was the "site of 22-inch oak tree felled by small arms fire." The stump from that tree is in the Smithsonian American History Museum. The little ridge that the bridge goes over are remnants of Confederate trenches.
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Wikipedia Description: Battle of Spotsylvania Court House
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
The Battle of Spotsylvania Court House, sometimes simply referred to as the Battle of Spotsylvania, was the second battle in Lieut. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant's 1864 Overland Campaign of the American Civil War. It was fought in the Rapidan-Rappahannock river area of central Virginia, a region where more than 100,000 men on both sides fell between 1862 and 1864.
The battle was fought from May 8 to May 21, 1864, along a trench line some four miles (6.5 km) long, with the Army of Northern Virginia under Gen. Robert E. Lee making its second attempt to halt the spring offensive of the Union Army of the Potomac under the command of Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant and Maj. Gen. George G. Meade. Taking place less than a week after the bloody, inconclusive Battle of the Wilderness, it pitted 52,000 Confederate soldiers against a Union army numbering 100,000.
After Lee checked the Union advance in the Wilderness, Grant decided to take advantage of the position he held, which allowed him to slip his army around Lee's right flank and continue to move south toward the Confederate capital of Richmond, Virginia. He already had troops on the move by the night of May 7, just one day after the Wilderness fighting ended, and on May 8, he sent Maj. Gen. Gouverneur K. Warren and his V Corps to take Spotsylvania, 10 miles (16 km) to the southeast. Lee anticipated Grant's move and sent forces to intercept him: cavalry under Maj. Gen. J.E.B. Stuart and the First Corps, commanded by Maj. Gen. Richard H. Anderson (its usual leader, Lieut. Gen. James Longstreet, had been wounded in the Wilderness).
The Confederates won the race to Spotsylvania, and on May 9, each army began to take up new positions north of the small town. As Union forces probed Confederate skirmish lines on May 9 to determine the placement of defending forces, Union VI Corps commander Maj. Gen. John Sedgwick was killed by a sharpshooter; he was succeeded by Maj. Gen. Horatio G. Wright. Lee deployed his men in a trench line stretching more than four miles (6.5 km), with artillery placed that would allow enfilade fire on any attacking force. There was only one major weakness in Lee's line—an exposed salient known as the "Mule Shoe" extending more than a mile (1.6 km) in front of the main trench line. Lee recognized this weakness during the fighting of May 10, when twelve Union regiments under the command of Col. Emory Upton followed up a concentrated, intense artillery attack by slamming into the toe of the Mule Shoe along a narrow front. They actually broke the Confederate line, and the Second Corps had a hard time driving them out. Upton's attack won him a promotion on the spot to brigadier general, and it became a staple of military textbooks on how to break an enemy trench line. Similar tactics were used by Germany in Operation Michael, its successful March 1918 offensive during World War I.
Seeing the danger, Lee began to lay out a new defensive line across the heel of the Mule Shoe that night, but before he could get it finished, Grant sent his entire II Corps of 15,000 men, commanded by Maj. Gen. Winfield S. Hancock, to attack the position in the same manner Upton had. This time, the breach in the Confederate line was complete, thanks in large part to an order from Lee that had already pulled much of the Confederate artillery back to the new line. The II Corps took close to 4,000 prisoners and probably would have cut the Army of Northern Virginia in half if the IX Corps (Maj. Gen. Ambrose E. Burnside), supporting it with an assault on the Confederate right flank, had pushed its attacks home with force. Instead, Lee was able to shift thousands of his men to meet the threat. Because of ineffective leadership displayed by Lt. Gen. Richard S. Ewell, Lee felt compelled to personally lead Second Corps soldiers in the counterattack. His men realized the danger this would pose and refused to advance until Lee removed himself to a safer position in the rear. The battle in the Mule Shoe lasted for an entire day and night, as the Confederates slowly won back all the ground they had lost, inflicting heavy losses on the II Corps and the reinforcing VI Corps in the process. The angle between the II and VI Corps became known as the "Bloody Angle of Spotsylvania," where perhaps some of the most savage fighting of the whole Civil War took place. Whereas bayonet battles usually are very short, at the Bloody Angle, Union and Confederate troops fought with bayonets for hours in the same trenches.
By 3 a.m. on May 13, just as the Confederates had completed expelling the II Corps from the Mule Shoe, the new line was ready, and Lee had his battered men retire behind it. More than 10,000 men fell in the Mule Shoe, which passed to the Union forces without a fight. On May 18, Grant sent two of his corps to attack the new line, but they were met with a bloody repulse. That convinced Grant, who had vowed to "fight it out on this line if it takes all summer," that Lee's men could not be dislodged from their Spotsylvania line.
Grant, checked by Lee for a second time, responded as he had two weeks earlier. He shifted the weight of his army to the right flank and again moved to the southeast along roads Lee was unable to block. By May 20–May 21, the two armies were on their way to take positions along the North Anna River, another dozen miles closer to Richmond.
Once again, Lee's tactics had inflicted severe casualties on Grant's army. This time, the toll was over 18,000 men, of which close to 3,000 were killed. In two weeks of fighting, Grant had lost 35,000 men, and another 20,000 went home when their enlistments ended. In fact, Grant at one point on the North Anna had fewer than 65,000 effectives. But Lee did not come out of these battles unscathed, either. At Spotsylvania, he lost another 10–13,000 men, and the Confederates had to pull men away from other fronts to reinforce him. Making matters worse, the army was taking heavy losses among its veteran units and its best officers. This may have saved Grant from a disaster on the North Anna, when his decimated army was positioned badly and was ripe to be attacked. Lee never did, because the Army of Northern Virginia was unable to do so. In fact, Lee's army would never regain the initiative it lost in those two weeks of May 1864.
Estimates vary as to the casualties at Spotsylvania Court House. ...
Portions of the Spotsylvania Court House battlefield are now preserved as part of Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park.
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