‘Such is the death the soldier dies’: Confederates who fell in Ewell's attack on May 19, 1864 His musket dropped across him as he fell, its hammer down as it had clicked in that last unavailing shot—here lies one of the 900 men in gray and behind him another comrade, left on the last Spotsylvania battlefield. In the actions about Spotsylvania Court House, of which this engagement was the close, the Union army lost about fifteen thousand. With sympathy for the last moments of each soldier, such as Robert Burns Wilson has put into his poem opposite, the horror of war becomes all too vivid. Ewell's attack illustrates the sudden facing of death that may come to every soldier. The desperate fighting about Spotsylvania had been prolonged ten days and more, when General Lee thought the Union army was withdrawing to his right. To ascertain whether this was true he directed Ewell to feel out the Federal position. After a long detour through roads nearly impassable, Ewell came upon the enemy ready to receive him. The object of his movement thus accomplished, he prepared to return, but found himself fiercely attacked. It was necessary then to make a stand, for no effective fighting can be done in retreat. The late afternoon and the early evening were filled with the fierce encounter. Only when darkness came was Ewell able in safety to withdraw.
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