The Bloody Angle 1866

From John Hennessy:

Union graves near the Bloody Angle.

That the Civil War was central to the generation of men who trod the battlefields is evidenced by the fact that so many of them sought to return to the battlefields in the years and decades following the war. One of the earliest visits was by former Colonel Theodore Lyman, who served on George Gordon Meade’s staff during the Overland Campaign. Lyman visited Spotsylvania on April 15, 1866–less than two years after the fighting at Spotsylvania. He wrote vividly of his walk along the Confederate works from the East Angle to the Bloody Angle.

From Lyman: We followed the salient northward, towards its apex [the East Angle] and traced the way in which our men had turned the works; – there was open country all about this part of the works; and the scattered graves marked where men had fallen as they advanced from the edge of the wood to the assault. At the very apex (which is obtuse) we had a good view over the country and I saw the Landrum house, only 600 yards off, where Hancock had his headquarters; and to the left and a little to the rear, the hollow, where Wright was, and where the missiles of all kinds were so plenty. The point termed “Death Angle” is still more to the left where the west face of the salient begins to slope and where the captured portion is connected with the prolongation of our line. The Quartermaster’s party has done its work on this field partially. Not only are the remains not collected in a common cemetery, but many marked graves have been overlooked. But, after all, the graves give little idea of the carnage here. Piles of men were thrown into the deep holes behind the entrenchments (built for cover by the enemy) and simply buried by digging down the parapet upon them. Only the scattered dead are marked and of those probably only a portion. It is here that the background of large oaks is completely dead; the trees girdled by bullets; and the red oak, 23 inches in diameter was cut down by bullets only. Nailed to a tree is a board with this verse: –

“On Fame’s eternal camping ground

Their silent tents are spread,

And Glory guards, with solemn round,

The bivouac of the dead”

It is a scene of waste on a barren slope; an oak wood, dead; the long, half ruinous intrenchments; and the graves and the scattered debris of battle! We turned from here, crossed a field strewn with the sabots of a rebel 12-pounder battery and passed through a wood of small pines all scarred by rifle balls.

5 thoughts on “The Bloody Angle 1866

  1. Great post. I look forward to John’s publication of all the pictures of the battlefield post war.

    Lyman’s comment regarding the 12 lb sabots has always fascinated and frustrated me. As I have spent a bit of time of the Confederate artillery there I have tried to place the location he was referring to. Then it might be possible to GUESS who fired those rounds.

    Again great post.

  2. Oddly enough, I was watching the 1950 film “Magnificent Yankee” about Oliver Wendell Holmes and while disappointed that it did not cover his civil war service, it had a wonderful sequence in which he takes his wife to visit this battlefield. I have not been able to determine where the location was at which they filmed this scene, but Holmes is in full splendor as he indicates where Upton’s men were, the trenches, etc. to his wife. In the film, his wife prompts the visit after he expresses doubt that such a visit would have any interest for her and she replies that “I was the girl you left behind” and that she wanted to see where he was while he was away at the war.

  3. John Cummings led the Trench Nerds here today and shared the bounty of his photographic research. Thank you, John. We all shared notes on why the Mule Shoe ended up the Mule Shoe and actually (mostly) all agreed. We thought that wood shavings (and/or mulch) as a cover for the earthworks worked well and much preferable to bare earth. Rule of Thumb: Bare Earth Equals Erosion Equals Loss of Resource. Apply this simple equation to the park and see what happens. It can only be good.

  4. Thank you for posting these photographs. I live across the street from the spotsylvania courthouse battle field, aka bloody angle and I lived in wilderness a neighborhood built at the cross roads where the battle of wilderness was fought. These 150 year old pictures still look like my’s like time traveling to see these images.

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