Fredericksburg & Spotsylvania NMP has offered a myriad of events to commemorate the Sesquicentennial of the Wilderness and Spotsylvania. Work has been pretty busy in recent weeks, so I had to be selective. Given the prominent place of the Bloody Angle in the narrative of the Overland Campaign, I opted to attend some of Monday's activities at the battlefield.
I headed down I-95 under an early morning sky. Arriving at the battlefield, I couldn't help but notice the difference in weather compared to the same time 150 years ago. The combat at the Mule Shoe Salient took place in foggy, rainy, and muddy conditions. By contrast, the sun on Monday was strong and bright as the day got underway. I was also struck by the number of cars parked along the road around the Bloody Angle stop. A couple hundred hardcore enthusiasts had already come to participate in the pre-dawn hike covering the Union attack, and high turn-out also characterized the tours that I attended. Don't let anyone tell you that the Sesquicentennial is suffering from a lack of interest!
Until Monday, I had never before visited Spotsylvania. I immediately felt chills as I looked out over the ravines and remnants of the earthworks at the Bloody Angle. Here I stood to ponder the enormity of what was happening at that very moment on that very ground 150 years ago. As I have come to learn during the Sesquicentennial, nothing can surpass the feeling of commemorating a battle on the anniversary day.
|Red and white carnations covered the remains of the Confederate earthworks at the Bloody Angle.|
|The National Park Service maintained a "silent sentinel" for 22 hours, May 12-13, to commemorate the 22 hours of non-stop combat at the Mule Shoe Salient.|
|Cars lined both sides of the road around the Bloody Angle.|
|Eric Mink discusses the role of Col. Simon Griffn's brigade (Potter's Division, IX Corps) in the Union attack on the east side of the Mule Shoe Salient. This picture gives a good idea of how large the tour groups were on Monday.|
Throughout my personal Wilderness and Spotsylvania tours I relied on the Civil War Trust's Overland Campaign Battle App, which I just installed on my iPhone last week. The app's GPS-enabled map was indispensable to making sure I didn't miss anything I wanted to see.
|Monument to Gen. John Sedgwick on the Spotsylvania Battlefield. The Union commander of the VI Corps was killed near here by a Confederate sharpshooter on May 9, 1864.|
|A visitor placed this lone flower on the monument to Union Gen. Alexander Hays, who fell here on May 5, 1864 during the first day of the fighting in the Wilderness.|
|The critical intersection of the Brock Road and Orange Plank Road on the Wilderness Battlefield. My ancestor, William Baumgarten, first experienced combat near this spot on May 5, 1864. His regiment, the 102nd Pennsylvania, was part of Gen. Frank Wheaton's brigade of Gen. George Getty's VI Corps division. Getty's men played a key role in defending against Confederate Gen. A.P. Hill's advance on the intersection during the first day of the battle.|
|Monument dedicated to the First Vermont Brigade at the Wilderness Battlefield. In October 1861, the Vermont Brigade established Camp Griffin near the area where my home now sits in McLean, VA. The men spent the first winter of the war there before heading off to the front. At the Wilderness, the brigade, under the leadership of Col. Lewis A. Grant, also fought as part of Getty's Division at Brock Road. The unit experienced over 1,200 casualties in the battle.|
My visit to Spotsylvania on Monday was one of my most meaningful Sesquicentennial experiences. I am pleased that I could walk the hallowed ground at the Mule Shoe Salient to learn about and honor those who fought there 150 years ago. The personal side tour of the Wilderness also allowed me to commemorate the sacrifices that my ancestor made on that battlefield. All told, it was a trip to remember. And now on to Cold Harbor....