1999 Road Trip: Spotsylvania Court House

The fourth and final Civil War battle fought near Fredericksburg, VA is known as the Battle of Spotsylvania Court House, after the tiny community south of Fredericksburg. It occurred from May 8 - 21, 1864 and resulted from Confederate General Robert E. Lee racing his troops south from the Wilderness to intercept Union General Ulysses S. Grant's troops who were marching toward the Confederate capital of Richmond, VA.

Gen. Lee's forces arrived at Spotsylvania Court House first, and they quickly entrenched and managed to temporarily stop the Union forces' advance. The Union forces had substantial numerical superiority and taking advantage of a thick fog managed to overwhelm a portion of the Confederate defenses.

The Confederate counterattack resulted in the most viscious hand-to-hand fighting of the war. The area the combat took place is today called the "Bloody Angle"; for over twenty hours soldiers from the two sides struggled, stabbing each other with bayonets and clubbing each other with rifle butts in addition to shooting one another.

Combat around Spotsylvania was so intense a twenty-two inch thick tree was cut down by small arms fire. It stalled Union forces long enough for Confederate forces to build better defensive earthworks. Gen. Grant's response was similar to what he had done at the Wilderness; he moved his troops out and continued their southward march.

Today the Spotsylvania Battlefield contains a few monuments and the ruins of buildings that were present during the war. Much of the terrain remains now as it was then.

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