From John Hennessy:
In 1895, journalist J.H. Beadle paid a visit to the battlefield at Spotsylvania Court House. He spent part of his time with Edward L. Landram, who was 13 at the time of the battle and still lived on the field. Beadle recorded his conversation with Landram carefully, and so has left us by far the best record of that family’s experience during and after the battle.
The Landram home stood about 800 northeast of the Bloody Angle. Indeed, the 170-acre Landram farm comprised much of the area covered by the Union advance on May 12, 1864, and the house was Hancock’s headquarters for some hours that day. The house suffered severely–it was virtually uninhabitable afterwards.
At the outset of the war, Edward lived there with his parents, Willis (67) and Lucy (49), and his siblings Bettie, Cornelius, and Lucy. Theirs was a common farm operation, producing a bit for market, but more for their own sustenance–a place like thousands of others, redefined by the events of a single day.
I found Beadle’s account in the [Knoxville] Daily Journal and Tribune, July 21, 1895 (it was published elsewhere as well at about the same time). It includes a number of interesting details, including the collapse of the local tourism industry in the 1890s, coinciding with a (you guessed it) recession.
Beadle recorded that the family sensed battle was imminent and “ran down to the Court House.” “I was only 12 years old then,” remembered Edward:
Our house was first taken for a Confederate hospital, and when the Confederates fell back and the Federals came on the whole place was swept clean. All the horses were run off or killed, and a big heard of cattle were killed and everything else in the live stock line. Our house was shot all to pieces, and the furniture destroyed and the fragments taken to build breastworks, but the strangest thing was about the feather beds. When my sister and I came back, we walked along the breastworks, and she saw a piece of the ticking sticking out, so we went to work and dug and pulled and got every one of our seven feather beds out of the breastworks. What the Yankees put them in for I can’t imagine, but right along there, although it wasn’t the hardest fighting, you could walk 100 yards or so on dead bodies. This pine thicket was then an open field, but it has grown up thick since. All this field was a graveyard. The first years I worked the farm I plowed up six skeletons. Visitors from the north took them away as relics. It is a little curious that where visitors used to come at the rate of 1,000 a year or more they stopped all at once a few years ago, and now there is hardly ever one. I thought some of making a sort of tavern and trying to entertain visitors, but it won’t do now. The man who had the place the first year after father’s death plowed down all the breastworks in the fields, and some that was timber then has been cleared and the lines plowed down, and I am now very sorry that was done. Now you can’t follow the lines unless you have one who knows them well…..”
Varina Brown (A Colonel at Gettysburg, 1931, p. 256-257) also recorded a visit to the field with Edward Landram and his boyhood neighbor George Perry, who was perhaps the most famous of the Spotsylvania guides. “Mr. Landrum has cultivated his land on the crest, between the angle in the breastworks, and the west end of the hollow, every year since the battle. Mr. Perry for many years cut down trees in the Salient for his saw mill. Through their boyhood and youth they continually passed and repassed the trenches where they had seen the dead. They could not forget….”
The Landram house site today: