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Encyclopedia > Battle of Spotsylvania Court House
Battle of Spotsylvania Court House
Part of the American Civil War

Battle of Spottsylvania by Kurz and Allison.
Date May 8May 21, 1864
Location Spotsylvania County, Virginia
Result Inconclusive (Grant continued his offensive)
Combatants
United States of America Confederate States of America
Commanders
Ulysses S. Grant
George G. Meade
Robert E. Lee
Strength
100,000 52,000
Casualties
18,000 12,000

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. Combatants United States of America (Union) Confederate States of America (Confederacy) Commanders Abraham Lincoln, Ulysses S. Grant Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee Strength 2,200,000 1,064,000 Casualties 110,000 killed in action, 360,000 total dead, 275,200 wounded 93,000 killed in action, 258,000 total... Image File history File links Download high resolution version (900x628, 467 KB)TITLE: Battle of Spottsylvania--Engagements at Laurel Hill & NY River, Va. ... is the 128th day of the year (129th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. ... is the 141st day of the year (142nd in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. ... 1864 (MDCCCLXIV) was a leap year starting on Friday (see link for calendar) of the Gregorian calendar or a leap year starting on Sunday of the 12-day-slower Julian calendar. ... Spotsylvania County is a county located in the U.S. state — officially, Commonwealth — of Virginia. ... Motto Deo Vindice (Latin: Under God, Our Vindicator) Anthem (none official) God Save the South (unofficial) The Bonnie Blue Flag (unofficial) Dixie (unofficial) Capital Montgomery, Alabama (until May 29, 1861) Richmond, Virginia (May 29, 1861–April 2, 1865) Danville, Virginia (from April 3, 1865) Language(s) English (de facto) Religion... Ulysses S. Grant,[2] born Hiram Ulysses Grant (April 27, 1822 – July 23, 1885), was an American general and the eighteenth President of the United States (1869–1877). ... George Gordon Meade (December 31, 1815 - November 6, 1872) was an American military officer during the American Civil War. ... // For other uses, see Robert E. Lee (disambiguation). ... Ulysses S. Grant and Robert E. Lee, opposing commanders in the Overland Campaign The Overland Campaign, also known as Grants Overland Campaign and the Wilderness Campaign, was a series of battles fought in Virginia during May and June 1864, in the American Civil War. ... Combatants United States of America Confederate States of America Commanders Ulysses S. Grant George G. Meade Robert E. Lee Strength 101,895 61,025 Casualties 18,400 11,400 For the French and Indian War battle, see Battle of the Wilderness 1755. ... On May 11th, 1864, Confederate General Jeb Stuart was shot at Yellow Tavern by a Union sharpshooter at a distance of 30 feet (10 m). ... The Battle of Meadow Bridge (also known as the Battle of Richmond Heights) was an engagement on May 12, 1864, in Henrico County, Virginia, during the Overland Campaign of the American Civil War. ... Battle of Totopotomoy Creek Conflict American Civil War Date May 24, 1864 Place Charles City, Virginia Result Union victory The Battle of Wilson’s Wharf (also called Fort Pocahontas) was a battle in Union General Ulysses Grants Overland Campaign against Confederate Gen. ... Battle of Totopotomoy Creek Conflict American Civil War Date May 23–26, 1864 Place Caroline County and Hanover County, Virginia Result Inconclusive The Battle of North Anna (also called Telegraph Road Bridge, Jericho Mill ( May 23), and Ox Ford, Quarles Mill, Hanover Junction ( May 24)) was a battle in... Battle of Totopotomoy Creek Conflict American Civil War Date May 28, 1864 Place Hanover County, Virginia Result Inconclusive The Battle of Haws Shop (also called Enon Church) was a battle in Union General Ulysses Grants Overland Campaign against Confederate Gen. ... Battle of Totopotomoy Creek Conflict American Civil War Date May 28–30, 1864 Place Hanover County, Virginia Result Inconclusive The Battle of Totopotomoy Creek (also called Bethesda Church, Crumps Creek, Matadequin Creek, Shady Grove Road, and Hanovertown) was a battle in Union General Ulysses Grants Overland Campaign against... Battle of Old Church Conflict American Civil War Date May 30, 1864 Place Hanover County, Virginia Result Union victory The Battle of Old Church (also called Matadequin Creek) was a battle in Union General Ulysses Grants Overland Campaign against Confederate Gen. ... Combatants United States of America Confederate States of America Commanders Ulysses S. Grant George G. Meade Robert E. Lee Strength 108,000 62,000 Casualties 13,000 2,500 The Battle of Cold Harbor, the final battle of Union Lt. ... The Battle of Trevilian Station (also called Trevilians) was fought June 11–12, 1864, in Union General Ulysses Grants Overland Campaign against Confederate Gen. ... Battle of Totopotomoy Creek Conflict American Civil War Date June 24, 1864 Place Charles City, Virginia Result Inconclusive The Battle of Saint Marys Church (also called Nances Shop) was a battle in Union General Ulysses Grants Overland Campaign against Confederate Gen. ... Ulysses S. Grant,[2] born Hiram Ulysses Grant (April 27, 1822 – July 23, 1885), was an American general and the eighteenth President of the United States (1869–1877). ... 1864 (MDCCCLXIV) was a leap year starting on Friday (see link for calendar) of the Gregorian calendar or a leap year starting on Sunday of the 12-day-slower Julian calendar. ... Ulysses S. Grant and Robert E. Lee, opposing commanders in the Overland Campaign The Overland Campaign, also known as Grants Overland Campaign and the Wilderness Campaign, was a series of battles fought in Virginia during May and June 1864, in the American Civil War. ... Combatants United States of America (Union) Confederate States of America (Confederacy) Commanders Abraham Lincoln, Ulysses S. Grant Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee Strength 2,200,000 1,064,000 Casualties 110,000 killed in action, 360,000 total dead, 275,200 wounded 93,000 killed in action, 258,000 total... The Rapidan River is the largest tributary of the Rappahannock River in North-central Virginia. ... The Rappahannock at sunset The Rappahannock River is a river in eastern Virginia in the United States, approximately 184 mi (294 km). ... This article is about the U.S. state. ... This article is about 1862 . ... 1864 (MDCCCLXIV) was a leap year starting on Friday (see link for calendar) of the Gregorian calendar or a leap year starting on Sunday of the 12-day-slower Julian calendar. ...


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. is the 128th day of the year (129th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. ... is the 141st day of the year (142nd in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. ... 1864 (MDCCCLXIV) was a leap year starting on Friday (see link for calendar) of the Gregorian calendar or a leap year starting on Sunday of the 12-day-slower Julian calendar. ... The Army of Northern Virginia was the primary military force of the Confederate States of America during the American Civil War in the eastern theater. ... // For other uses, see Robert E. Lee (disambiguation). ... The 21st Michigan Infantry, a company of Shermans veterans. ... Generals Burnside, Hancock, Couch, Ferro, Patrick, Wilcox, Cochrane, Buford and others. ... US Lieutenant General insignia In three branches of the United States Army, United States Marine Corps and United States Air Force, a Lieutenant General is also called a three-star general, named for the three stars worn on the uniform. ... Insignia of a United States Air Force Major General German Generalmajor Insignia Major General is a military rank used in many countries. ... George Gordon Meade (December 31, 1815 – November 6, 1872) was a career U.S. Army officer and civil engineer involved in coastal construction, including several lighthouses. ... Combatants United States of America Confederate States of America Commanders Ulysses S. Grant George G. Meade Robert E. Lee Strength 101,895 61,025 Casualties 18,400 11,400 For the French and Indian War battle, see Battle of the Wilderness 1755. ... Some Confederate soldiers The Confederate States Army (CSA) was organized in February 1861 to defend the newly formed Confederate States of America from military action by the United States government. ...


==Background 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). Motto Deo Vindice (Latin: Under God, Our Vindicator) Anthem (none official) God Save the South (unofficial) The Bonnie Blue Flag (unofficial) Dixie (unofficial) Capital Montgomery, Alabama (until May 29, 1861) Richmond, Virginia (May 29, 1861–April 2, 1865) Danville, Virginia (from April 3, 1865) Language(s) English (de facto) Religion... Nickname: Motto: Sic dic Itur Ad Astra (Thus do we reach the stars) Location in the Commonwealth of Virginia Coordinates: , Country State County Independent City Government  - Mayor L. Douglas Wilder (I) Area  - City 62. ... is the 127th day of the year (128th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. ... is the 128th day of the year (129th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. ... Gouverneur Kemble Warren (January 8, 1830 – August 8, 1882) was a civil engineer and prominent general in the Union Army during the American Civil War. ... The V Corps (Fifth Corps) was a unit of the Union Army of the Potomac during the American Civil War. ... James Ewell Brown Stuart (February 6, 1833 – May 12, 1864) was an American soldier from Virginia and a Confederate Army general during the American Civil War. ... Richard H. Anderson Richard Heron Anderson ( October 7, 1821 – June 26, 1879) was a career U.S. Army officer and a Confederate general in the American Civil War. ... James Longstreet (January 8, 1821 – January 2, 1904) was one of the foremost Confederate generals of the American Civil War, the principal subordinate to General Robert E. Lee, who called him his Old War Horse. ...

Contents

Battle

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 its successful March 1918 offensive during World War I. is the 129th day of the year (130th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. ... is the 129th day of the year (130th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. ... The VI Corps (Sixth Corps) was a corps of the Union Army during the American Civil War. ... Major General John Sedgwick John Sedgwick (September 13, 1813 – May 9, 1864) was a teacher, a career military officer, and a Union Army general in the American Civil War. ... For other uses, see Sniper (disambiguation). ... Horatio G. Wright Horatio Gouverneur Wright ( March 6, 1820 – July 2, 1899) was an engineer and officer in the Union Army during the American Civil War. ... Enfilade and defilade are military tactical concepts used to describe a fighting units exposure to enemy fire. ... In military terms, a salient is a battlefield feature that projects into enemy territory. ... is the 130th day of the year (131st in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. ... Portrait of Emory Upton during the Civil War Emory Upton (August 27, 1839 – March 15, 1881) was a U.S. Army general and military strategist. ... A Brigadier General, or one-star general, is the lowest rank of general officer in the United States and some other countries, ranking just above Colonel and just below Major General. ... The Spring Offensive (Operation Michael) was a German offensive along the Western Front during the First World War which marked the deepest advance by any side since 1914. ... “The Great War ” redirects here. ...

Actions at Spotsylvania Court House, May 10, 1864.
Actions at Spotsylvania Court House, May 10, 1864.
Actions at Spotsylvania Court House, May 12, 1864.
Actions at Spotsylvania Court House, May 12, 1864.

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. Image File history File links Download high-resolution version (844x653, 37 KB) National Park Service map of the American Civil War Battle of Spotsylvania Court House, actions on May 10, 1864. ... Image File history File links Download high-resolution version (844x653, 37 KB) National Park Service map of the American Civil War Battle of Spotsylvania Court House, actions on May 10, 1864. ... is the 130th day of the year (131st in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. ... 1864 (MDCCCLXIV) was a leap year starting on Friday (see link for calendar) of the Gregorian calendar or a leap year starting on Sunday of the 12-day-slower Julian calendar. ... Image File history File links Download high-resolution version (844x621, 36 KB) National Park Service map of the American Civil War Battle of Spotsylvania Court House, actions on May 12, 1864. ... Image File history File links Download high-resolution version (844x621, 36 KB) National Park Service map of the American Civil War Battle of Spotsylvania Court House, actions on May 12, 1864. ... is the 132nd day of the year (133rd in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. ... 1864 (MDCCCLXIV) was a leap year starting on Friday (see link for calendar) of the Gregorian calendar or a leap year starting on Sunday of the 12-day-slower Julian calendar. ... There were five corps in the Union Army designated as II Corps (Second Corps) during the American Civil War. ... Portrait of Winfield S. Hancock during the Civil War Winfield Scott Hancock (February 14, 1824 - February 9, 1886) was born in Montgomery Square, Pennsylvania and named after the famous general Winfield Scott. ... IX Corps (Ninth Corps) was a corps of the Union Army during the American Civil War that distinguished itself in combat in multiple theaters: the Carolinas, Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Mississippi. ... Portrait of Ambrose Burnside by Mathew Brady, ca. ... Richard S. Ewell Richard Stoddert Ewell (February 8, 1817 – January 25, 1872) was a career U.S. Army officer and a Confederate general during the American Civil War. ...


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. is the 133rd day of the year (134th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. ... is the 138th day of the year (139th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. ...


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 20May 21, the two armies were on their way to take positions along the North Anna River, another dozen miles closer to Richmond. is the 140th day of the year (141st in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. ... is the 141st day of the year (142nd in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. ... Battle of Totopotomoy Creek Conflict American Civil War Date May 23–26, 1864 Place Caroline County and Hanover County, Virginia Result Inconclusive The Battle of North Anna (also called Telegraph Road Bridge, Jericho Mill ( May 23), and Ox Ford, Quarles Mill, Hanover Junction ( May 24)) was a battle in...


Aftermath

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. The following table summarizes estimates from a variety of popular sources:

Casualty Estimates for the Battle of Spotsylvania Court House
Source Union Confederate
Killed Wounded Captured/
Missing
Total Killed Wounded Captured/
Missing
Total
National Park Service       18,000       12,000
Bonekemper, Victor, Not a Butcher 2,725 13,416 2,258 18,399 1,467 6,235 5,719 13,421
Eicher, Longest Night       17,500       10,000
Esposito, West Point Atlas       17–18,000       9–10,000
Fox, Regimental Losses 2,725 13,416 2,258 18,399        
Smith, Grant 2,271 9,360 1,970 13,601        

Portions of the Spotsylvania Court House battlefield are now preserved as part of Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park. A cannon on Maryes Heights at the Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park is a unit of the National Park Service in Fredericksburg, Virginia, and elsewhere in Spotsylvania County, commemorating four major battles in the American Civil War. ...


See also

The following Confederate States Army units and commanders fought in the Battle of Spotsylvania Court House of the American Civil War. ... The following Union Army units and commanders fought in the Battle of Spotsylvania Court House of the American Civil War. ...

References

  • National Park Service battle description
  • Bonekemper, Edward H., III, A Victor, Not a Butcher: Ulysses S. Grant's Overlooked Military Genius, Regnery, 2004, ISBN 0-89526-062-X.
  • Eicher, David J., The Longest Night: A Military History of the Civil War, Simon & Schuster, 2001, ISBN 0-684-84944-5.
  • Esposito, Vincent J., West Point Atlas of American Wars, Frederick A. Praeger, 1959.
  • Fox, William F.: Regimental Losses in the American Civil War, Albany Publishing, 1889 (online text)
  • McPherson, James M., Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era (Oxford History of the United States), Oxford University Press, 1988, ISBN 0-19-503863-0.
  • Smith, Jean Edward, Grant, Simon and Shuster, 2001, ISBN 0-684-84927-5.
  • U.S. War Department, The War of the Rebellion: a Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, U.S. Government Printing Office, 1880–1901.

For the Civil War General of a similar name see James B. McPherson James M. McPherson (born October 11, 1936) is an American Civil War historian, and is the George Henry Davis 86 Professor Emeritus of United States History at Princeton University. ... Jean Edward Smith is an accomplished educator and biographer having authored such works as Grant, John Marshall: Definer of a Nation, and Presently he is the John Marshall Professor of Political Science at Marshall University. ... The Official Records of the American Civil War or often more simply the Official Records or ORs, constitute a unique, authentic, and comprehensive collection of first-hand accounts, orders, reports, and correspondence drawn from War and Navy Department records of both Confederate and Union governments during the American Civil War. ...

External links


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