The Battle of Spotsylvania

As the Army of the Potomac pushed forward, it moved around Lee's right flank and drew near a small Virginia village called Spotsylvania. But Lee quickly mobilized his troops and launched a night march that enabled the Confederates to reach the village first. The rebel army immediately prepared a system of trenches and other fortifications, then settled in to await the arrival of the Union Army.

Lee's troops did not have to wait very long. Grant's Union forces attacked Lee's defenses on May 8, and for the next several days the two sides repeatedly clashed together in deadly fighting. On May 12, the Union forces managed to break through the Confederate defenses at a point that came to be called Bloody Angle. But rebel troops rushed forward to close the breach (opening), and for eighteen solid hours the two sides struggled for control of the trenches. Their desperate rushes often ended in brutal hand-to-hand combat. By midnight, when the Confederate forces finally withdrew to newly built defenses to their rear, the trenches at Bloody Angle were piled with dead bodies. "I never expect to be fully believed when I tell what I saw of

Who Embalmed Abraham Lincoln
The corpse of a Civil War soldier is embalmed.

the horrors of Spotsylvania," admitted one Union officer after the war.

The fight for Spotsylvania lessened somewhat after the nightmarish struggle at Bloody Angle, but skirmishes continued for another week before Grant decided to move on. He resumed his march southward, pushing for Richmond while simultaneously looking for an opportunity to smash Lee's army, which escaped Grant's efforts to trap them in open-field combat.

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