Imagine, if you will, a rainy and humid night in late spring. A small log house with two cobbled chimneys sits on a small hill overlooking a large, rolling field; dotted with large trees and covered with thick, tall grass. With the crickets and toads chirping, along with the whippoorwill singing, it would seem a calm and soothing environment. But in the early morning hours of May 12th, 1864, calm was on nobody’s mind. Rain gave way to a thick mist around 4:30 AM and Major General Winfield S. Hancock began his assault on the Confederate’s Muleshoe Salient.
Twenty two hours of brutal fighting. Wave after wave of Union soldiers; Meade’s Army of the Potomac, Hancock’s II Corps, Warren’s V Corps, Sedgwick’s VI Corps, Burnside’s IX Corps, and Sheridan’s Cavalry Corps battered the Rebel’s fortifications for nearly two days. Longstreet, Ewell, Hill, and Stuart were expectedly outnumbered. The Union with a force of around 100,000 soldiers against the Confederacy’s some 60,000. The Rebel’s supply of gunpowder was damaged by the rain in the night but as The North broke through The Bloody Angle of the salient, the southerners fought like devils hand to hand, not ready for a second to even think about giving up their homeland.
Many Civil War battles of Central Virginia have a similar narrative to The Battle of Spotsylvania Courthouse, The North possesses greater manpower and better strategy but The South compensates with furious passion and lacking the ability to give in.
Now that the blood has been washed from the grass and the trees grow high without fear of cannonfire, the Spotsylvania Battlefield is peaceful once more. Beautiful fields and forests that are home to deer, groundhogs, hawks, mice, and any other fauna you would expect to find in Central Virginia. Spots of sunlight warm the ground through the canopy of leaves where small, delicate flowers grow amongst rotting logs.
Almost eight square miles of public land are at your disposal here in Spotsylvania. Small roads run throughout the park and lead you to various historical sites and to walking trails. The trails lead through the areas of battle, into the woods, and to old housing sites and the like. One of these housing sites is the Landrum House; a small farm on the north east corner of the main battlefield. The Landrums, unlike many Spotsylvanians in the days of The Civil War, did not own slaves. The Landrums in most ways were like their neighbors though. Growing their own food, raising a few cash crops for income, and making most things they needed in contrast to buying them.
Towards the western end of the main battlefield stand several statues and cannons that commemorate the great loss of life so long ago. In the same area you can find the still remaining dugout trench walls made by the confederates to fortify the salient. These sentinels of iron and stone stand watch over the battlefield, night and day, making sure tragedy such as The Civil War never fall on the land again.
The Spotsylvania Courthouse Battlefield is the perfect place to visit whether you’re looking to reconnect with nature for a moment, enjoy a peaceful place to exercise, or want to learn more about our nation’s history, up close and personally.
Article and photo credit: B. Edmisten Photography