Friday, June 18, 2010

Time Travelers: Battle of Spotsylvania Courthouse

In my Time Travelers Series, I share some of my favorite historical sites from my travels with my fellow history adventurer, my husband Erin.

Destination:  Spotsylvania, Virginia

So once again I'm cheating, since no travel was actually involved in the making of this post, but my husband and his reenactment unit took part in the 146th anniversary commemorations and we put together a video I think turned out pretty good! Erin shot the footage and I pieced it together. Check it out and let me know what you think!

The Battle of Spotsylvania Court House, sometimes simply referred to as the Battle of Spotsylvania, was the second major battle in Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant's 1864 Overland Campaign of the American Civil War. The battle 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.

Spotsylvania Courthouse, May 1864
It's still standing and is still used as a courtroom today, though it's surrounded by a lot of other government buildings now. But the Spotsylvania C.H. campus is lovely. If you're ever passing through stop by and then have lunch at the nearby Courthouse Cafe or the Snack Shack, a southern roadside burger stand that's been a local favorite for 30 years.

Excerpts from the Wikipedia overview:
The battle was fought May 8–21, 1864, along a trench line some four miles 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. 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.

Lee's tactics 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.

Click here to read the very interesting full article. Click here to visit the National Park Service website.

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