Located in the city of Fredericksburg and surrounding Spotsylvania County, Central Virginia, the Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Battlefield Park is home to the battle sites of four important American Civil War battles: Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, the Wilderness, and Spotsylvania Court House.
At over 8,000 acres, it’s the second largest military park in the world.
The Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Battlefield Park features many fascinating historical sites and historical sites.
One of the famous battles of the American Civil War and the second battle of Gen. Ulysses S. Grant’s Overland Campaign. This two-week battle is known for Gen. Robert E. Lee’s Mule Shoe defenses where intense hand-to-hand combat took place at the Bloody Angle.
On May 7, 1864, after two days of bloody but inconclusive fighting in the Wilderness, Gen. Ulysses S. Grant decided to disengage and move to the southeast. His plan was to reach the next road network to Richmond at Spotsylvania Court House, get between Gen. Lee and Richmond, and defeat him in an open area with his numerical superiority.
May 7-8, 1864, the Confederate cavalry fought a running delaying action allowing Gen. Lee’s army to get ahead of Gen. Grant and block the road to the village of Spotsylvania Court House. As both sides settled in, they established miles of defensive earthworks.
The Confederates established an enormous salient in their lines nicknamed the Mule Shoe due to its similar shape and stubborn defense. This was part of an endless network of extensive defensive breastworks, trenches, and artillery emplacements that would foreshadow the First World War.
An initially successful breach of the Mule Shoe by a daring charge led by U.S. Col Emory Upton on May 10, 1864, proved that the rebel salient wasn’t invincible.
At dawn’s early light on May 12, 1864, an enormous tidal wave of blue-coated soldiers assaulted the Mule Shoe further up the line in the rain.
They broke open an enormous breach in the salient where huge gains were made against its rebel-held defenders. A desperate Confederate counterattack would ensue which would lead to 22 hours of sustained hand-to-hand combat.
As both sides grappled over the muddy and bloodied earthworks, the most intense and insane fighting occurred at a place in the line known as the Bloody Angle. After midnight, Gen. Lee will establish a final line that will call off the gruesome desperate fight.
After days of heavy rains, further fighting will occur as Gen. Grant will look for weak positions in the Confederate-held line and attack to no avail.
On May 21, 1864, after finding no clear advantage to break the stalemate, Gen. Grant decided once again to withdraw and move to the southeast closer to Richmond. Days earlier he would cable Washington and say, “I propose to fight it out on this line if it takes all summer.”
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