The Bloody Angle at Spotsylvania Court House, May 12, 1864

Frederick14Va

Sergeant Major
Joined
Oct 14, 2013
Location
Virginia
These two recent photos taken on May 10th of the Battle of Spotsylvania anniversary commemoration at Spotsylvania NPS.

This photo of three different NPS gun crews attending... fore and aft its Fredericksburg, Richmond, then Petersburg NPS guns on line in battery for firing demos that day. We were positioned at the apex of the Mule Shoe... at the edge of the level crest.. with a slight rise behind us... and lower ground with the rolly hills in front. One could see why good or bad that they chose that spot, and it follows the terrain features.... Our gun wheels are just feet away from the original trench line.. the line bends sharply just beyond us...one can see the curvature of the level line...
View attachment 37011
Another photo below taken the same day of our respective Petersburg NPS gun crew... but one can see the foreground beyond the entrenchment line immediately in our front... where the Federals approached across... the irregular small hills in the lower ground that are actually more pronounced and deeper than it may show in the photo... One of our gunners went walking across there later in the day and he would come up and over then completely disappear out of view as he walked across them... The photographer was up on a ladder in the edge of the woods behind us, so the field is actually much lower than it might appear... Provided for topography reference...
View attachment 37012
 

Delhi Rangers

First Sergeant
Joined
Nov 1, 2011
Location
Alabama
These two recent photos taken on May 10th of the Battle of Spotsylvania anniversary commemoration at Spotsylvania NPS.

This photo of three different NPS gun crews attending... fore and aft its Fredericksburg, Richmond, then Petersburg NPS guns on line in battery for firing demos that day. We were positioned at the apex of the Mule Shoe... at the edge of the level crest.. with a slight rise behind us... and lower ground with the rolly hills in front. One could see why good or bad that they chose that spot, and it follows the terrain features.... Our gun wheels are just feet away from the original trench line.. the line bends sharply just beyond us...one can see the curvature of the level line...
View attachment 37011
Another photo below taken the same day of our respective Petersburg NPS gun crew... but one can see the foreground beyond the entrenchment line immediately in our front... where the Federals approached across... the irregular small hills in the lower ground that are actually more pronounced and deeper than it may show in the photo... One of our gunners went walking across there later in the day and he would come up and over then completely disappear out of view as he walked across them... The photographer was up on a ladder in the edge of the woods behind us, so the field is actually much lower than it might appear... Provided for topography reference...
View attachment 37012
That is a good looking battery. I have also read that the reason the line made such a sharp turn I believe to the South was because of Union sharpshooters.
 

rickvox79

First Sergeant
Joined
Jan 27, 2011
Location
Pace, FL
View attachment 320933
A bird's eye view of the fight at the Mule Shoe by Richard Schlecht

[IMG]

Battle of Spotsylvania by Thure de Thulstrup
I love that bird's eye view painting! Not sure I have ever seen one like that before. Has that artist done anymore paintings from other battles like that?
 

Pat Answer

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“...somewhere between NY and PA”

AUG

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Texas
I love that bird's eye view painting! Not sure I have ever seen one like that before. Has that artist done anymore paintings from other battles like that?
There are a few more ACW bird's eye view type paintings in the link posted above. One looks like its another view of the Spotsylvania mule shoe, looking from south to north, and there's another that appears to be Malvern Hill.
 

Jamieva

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Midlothian, VA
There are a few more ACW bird's eye view type paintings in the link posted above. One looks like its another view of the Spotsylvania mule shoe, looking from south to north, and there's another that appears to be Malvern Hill.
#7 yes
 

CSA Today

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Honored Fallen Comrade
Joined
Dec 3, 2011
Location
Laurinburg NC
Sergeant Cyrus R. Watson of Company K, Forty-fifth North Carolina wrote of the Angle:
"It was a bright May day. There was no fighting on any part of the line, and by permission I went. The pickets permitted me to pass, and I went over the breastworks to that portion of the field which had been occupied by Ramseur's Brigade. On my arrival in this angle, I could well see why the enemy had withdrawn their lines. The stench was almost unbearable. There was dead artillery horses in considerable numbers that had been killed on the 10th and in the early morning of the 12th.

Along these lines of breastworks where the earth had been excavated to the depth of one or two feet and thrown over, making the breastworks, I found these trenches filled with water (for there had been much rain) and in this water lay the dead bodies of friend and foe commingled, in many instances one laying across the other, and in one or more instances I saw as many as three lying across one another. All over the field lay the dead of both armies by hundreds, many of them mangled by shells. Many of the bodies swollen out of all proportion, some with their guns yet grasped in their hands. Now and then one could be seen covered with a blanket, which had been placed over him by a comrade after he had fallen.

These bodies were decaying. The water was red, almost black with blood. Offensive flies were everywhere. The trees, saplings and shrubs were torn and shattered beyond description; guns, some of them broken, bayonets, canteens and cartridge boxes were scattered about, and the whole scene was such that no pen can, or ever will describe it. I have seen many fields after severe conflicts, but no where have I seen anything half so ghastly.

I returned to my company and said to old man Thomas Carroll, a private in the company, who was frying meat at a fire, You would have saved rations by going with me, for I will have no more appetite for a week."
 

Miles Krisman

Sergeant
Joined
Feb 15, 2012
Sergeant Cyrus R. Watson of Company K, Forty-fifth North Carolina wrote of the Angle:
"It was a bright May day. There was no fighting on any part of the line, and by permission I went. The pickets permitted me to pass, and I went over the breastworks to that portion of the field which had been occupied by Ramseur's Brigade. On my arrival in this angle, I could well see why the enemy had withdrawn their lines. The stench was almost unbearable. There was dead artillery horses in considerable numbers that had been killed on the 10th and in the early morning of the 12th.

Along these lines of breastworks where the earth had been excavated to the depth of one or two feet and thrown over, making the breastworks, I found these trenches filled with water (for there had been much rain) and in this water lay the dead bodies of friend and foe commingled, in many instances one laying across the other, and in one or more instances I saw as many as three lying across one another. All over the field lay the dead of both armies by hundreds, many of them mangled by shells. Many of the bodies swollen out of all proportion, some with their guns yet grasped in their hands. Now and then one could be seen covered with a blanket, which had been placed over him by a comrade after he had fallen.

These bodies were decaying. The water was red, almost black with blood. Offensive flies were everywhere. The trees, saplings and shrubs were torn and shattered beyond description; guns, some of them broken, bayonets, canteens and cartridge boxes were scattered about, and the whole scene was such that no pen can, or ever will describe it. I have seen many fields after severe conflicts, but no where have I seen anything half so ghastly.

I returned to my company and said to old man Thomas Carroll, a private in the company, who was frying meat at a fire, You would have saved rations by going with me, for I will have no more appetite for a week."
Would it be possible to provide a source for this quote? I am interested in using a portion of it in a project I'm working on. Thank you.
 

18thmississippi

Corporal
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Mar 22, 2013
Location
confederacy
i was at the furtheist point of the angle during the reenactment this year. took on the first captain who charged his men over the trenches in a column of companies awesome time.
 

CSA Today

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Honored Fallen Comrade
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Location
Laurinburg NC
Would it be possible to provide a source for this quote? I am interested in using a portion of it in a project I'm working on. Thank you.
Original source: Source: Histories of the Several Regiments and Battalions from North Carolina in the Great War 1861-’65. Written by members of the Respective Commands, Edited by Walter Clark, Lieut. Colonel Seventieth Regiment, N.C.T. Vol. III. Published by the state. 1901. Pages 21-34

Long article—scroll down to “Horseshoe”
http://genealogytrails.com/ncar/mil_cw_45regthistory_bycbwatson.html

More on Sgt. Watson
http://ncpedia.org/biography/watson-cyrus-barksdale
 

AUG

Major
Retired Moderator
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Location
Texas
1565881788755.png

"The Bonnie Blue Flag" by Don Troiani
. Confederate Private Tisdale Stepp of Company F, 14th North Carolina Infantry sings "Bonnie Blue Flag," rallying the regiment during the fighting at the Mule Shoe at Spotsylvania Courthouse, May 12th, 1864. Brig. Gen. Stephen D. Ramseur can also be seen to the lower right having his wound treated.

Private Tisdale Stepp resided in Buncombe County and was by occupation a farmer prior to enlisting at age 20, May 3, 1861. In the middle of the fight at the Mule Shoe at Spotsylvania, Stepp struck up "The Bonnie Blue Flag" while stepping ahead, loading, firing, and singing at the same time. Soon the whole company was singing while fighting. Unfortunately Pvt. Tisdale Stepp and his brother, Pvt. Jesse Stepp, were both killed in action at Spotsylvania.
 
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Delhi Rangers

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Location
Alabama
View attachment 320934
"The Bonnie Blue Flag" by Don Troiani. Confederate Private Tisdale Stepp of Company F, 14th North Carolina Infantry sings "Bonnie Blue Flag," rallying the regiment during the fighting at the Mule Shoe at Spotsylvania Courthouse, May 12th, 1864. Brig. Gen. Stephen D. Ramseur can also be seen to the lower right having his wound treated.

Private Tisdale Stepp resided in Buncombe County and was by occupation a farmer prior to enlisting at age 20, May 3, 1861. In the middle of the fight at the Mule Shoe at Spotsylvania, Stepp struck up "The Bonnie Blue Flag" while stepping ahead, loading, firing, and singing at the same time. Soon the whole company was singing while fighting. Unfortunately Pvt. Tisdale Stepp and his brother, Pvt. Jesse Stepp, were both killed in action at Spotsylvania.
I believe that he was shot in the back of the head by friendly fire.
 

AUG

Major
Retired Moderator
Joined
Nov 20, 2012
Location
Texas
I believe that he was shot in the back of the head by friendly fire.
From the original description:
There, "as fine a specimen of physical manhood as there was in the brigade" he struck up "The Bonnie Blue Flag" while stepping ahead, loading, firing, and singing at the same time, when according to I. Clark's (Bennett) "Fourteenth Regiment" in Histories of the Several Regiments and Battalions from North Carolina", he was "shot dead by an awkward soldier in our rear rank."Brother of Jesse Steppalso of Company F and also killed in action at Spotsylvania.
http://screamneagle.com/product_info.php?products_id=2375
 

ErnieMac

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Pennsylvania
Excerpt from an account titled From the Wilderness to Spottsylvania by Brevet Colonel R. S. Robertson as recorded in Sketches of War History, 1861-1865, Papers Read Before the Ohio Commandery of the Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States, 1883-1886, Volume 1 starting on page 281. At the time of the Battle of Spotsylvania Court House First Lieutenant Robertson was serving as an aide to Colonel Nelson Miles who commanded the 1st Brigade of Barlow's Division of Hancock's 2nd Corps, Army of the Potomac.

.... "At half-past four we started up the slope with silent but rapid tread. We reach the crest, to find a mistake has been made, and there is another valley and another slope to climb, and our premature cheers have awakened the foe. We sweep in their picket line, capturing nearly every man. We are fired on by the reserve picket, but drive it in.

Enthusiasm can no longer be controlled. The arms had been carried at a " right shoulder shift." Now they are brought to a " charge," and the charging column, with cheers which might almost wake the dead, and were omens of victory, breaks into a double-quick.

We see the frowning earth-works in our front lined with the now thoroughly aroused enemy, whose every eye was taking deadly aim over the long line of glittering muskets resting beneath the logs which crowned the rampart. We tear away or crawl through the abatis. The first line seems to melt before the terrific volley which salutes us.

Gallant Colonel Seviers, of the Twenty-sixth, is among the first to fall, shot through the breast, but still living. A dear friend crosses over to my side, and begins to speak, but his sentence is finished in eternity, for he falls with the words half uttered, shot through the head.

They fall too fast to notice who is gone, but the places of the stricken ones are filled at once, and the mad mass surges on over the intrenchments, in a resistless terrible wave which sweeps all before it. Here a savage hand to hand conflict ensues, between men maddened with the battle fury, so that they fight with muskets clubbed, with bayonets and with swords. Our onset is too strong for resistance, and we sweep in General Ed. Johnson with four thousand men and thirty stands of colors. As we press on, a park of artillery is encountered. The brave artillerists sullenly stand by their guns, fighting to save them, with rammers used as clubs, and every weapon in their reach; and many of the gallant fellows are slain at their guns, disdaining to surrender. Onward sweeps the resistless mass, with cheers and yells of exultation, sending twenty-five cannon to the rear, as further trophies of its valor. We reach an open space where the houses of Spottsylvania can be seen, and louder grow the exulting cheers. But, there is a lion in our path. Lee is massing all his army in a second line of works, and, as we strike that, the hammer rebounds. A deadly continuous blaze of musketry and a raking fire of artillery check our further advance. Still, if fresh troops, full of ardor, could now take the place of our broken and disorganized mass, it may yet accomplish the work.

None come, however, and we labor to organize our broken and shattered column in line to hold the position we have reached. We have no regimental or company organizations left, but a disorganized and shattered line devoid of organization.

The Confederates pour out over their intrenchments and drive us back. Again we advance, and again are compelled to retire, but do it fighting the way inch by inch. At last we have fallen back in successively advancing and receding waves, until we form again on the outside of the breastworks we had so fairly and yet so dearly won.

Behind them, or rather, in front, we can breathe again, holding this line until fresh troops can be sent up. Column after column attempted to charge beyond the line, but none succeeded in passing beyond us. There is a point in battle beyond which flesh and blood can not pass, and we had found that point.

The " Horse-shoe " was a boiling, bubbling and hissing caldron of death.

Lee's army was hurled against us as we lay hugging the slope of the earth-work, loading and firing at will, in five successive waves, in his effort to retake this, the key to his position ; but our fire was too hot, and the waves of gray were successively beaten back with terrible loss. Once a few hundred, with a stand of colors, in their furious charge, reached the inside of the works. To advance was impossible, to retreat was death, for in the great struggle that raged there, there were few merely wounded. The bullets sang like swarming bees, and their sting was death. As a charge would be made we would rise to our feet to meet the shock. Clubbed muskets and bayonet thrusts were the mode of fighting for those who had used up their cartridges, and frenzy seemed to possess the yelling, demoniac hordes on either side, as soft-voiced tender hearted men in camp, sought like wild beasts, to destroy their fellow men.

The dead were piled in swaths and winrows both outside and inside the line of works.

Outside, the harvest was of blue — inside, of mingled blue and gray — peaceful enough as they lay there, unmindful of the pitiless storm which rages round them. The living out side the breastworks, and they inside, are not so quiet, for they try to probe each other with bayonets, and if a hand is raised, a hundred bullets assail it.

Once the rebel colors floated out with the wind, until it could be grasped by one of our boys. The brave color-bearer rose to his feet, clinging to the staff. Our brave boy also rises, clinging to the flag, and, with disengaged hands, they seek to grasp each others' throats in a deadly struggle for the flag. Thus they stand over the very rampart, both determined to win the flag. By common consent, firing ceased at that point, and both sides eagerly watch and encourage the fray. Finally, the flag is torn from its staff, and its proud captor, with a shattered arm, is hailed with shouts of applause. I wish I knew his name, that I might hand it down to the future to be honored in history.

All that forenoon the battle raged thus fiercely over that small space, where the musketry fire was so hot and fierce that the ground was bared of bushes, as with a scythe, and a white-oak tree, twenty-two inches in diameter, was cut down wholly by bullets. Its stump was exhibited at the Centennial, and is now in the Ordnance Museum at Washington.

The ground drank its full of blood, and grew slippery to the foot. Fresh troops from the other corps were continually being pushed up to the salient, in vain endeavors to make a new assault upon the enemy's line within. But the heaps of dead, the pools of blood, and the terrific volleys of musketry, were too much for man's endurance. To advance was impossible, to hold our position was grand." ....
 
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