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[456] cavalry opposed his march so stubbornly that the Confederates reached the coveted position first, and held it.

From the 8th to the 20th of May the vicinity of Spotsylvania Courthouse was the scene of many severe and some furious battles, the most memorable of which occurred May 12th, when Grant threw the half of his army, under Hancock and Burnside, against Lee's lines. Burnside was repulsed, but Hancock's attack on the Confederate centre was for a time successful, the Federals capturing a sallient position on Ewell's line with a number of guns and a large part of Johnson's division. All day long raged at this point the sanguinary contest. The ground was piled with dead. A dead tree, nearly two feet in diameter, was cut off some distance above the earth by the terrific hail of musket-balls. The fate of the Confederate army trembled in the balance. Only by the most strenuous efforts and the fiercest fighting was Lee able to force back the greatly superior numbers which had broken his lines and seemed on the point of overwhelming him. But he did it, and the subsequent attacks upon his position were bloody and fruitless to the Federals. The battles at Spotsylvania Courthouse cost the Federals, according to General Humphreys, 17,723 men, which number is almost certainly too small. On May 20th Grant tried the movement by Lee's right flank again, with the hope of being able to attack the Confederates before they could entrench, but he was again thwarted by his skilful antagonist, and in a day or two the armies once more confronted each other near Hanover Junction. Here the position taken up by Lee was so advantageous that Grant drew off without attack. The great disparity of strength prevented Lee from assuming the aggressive. The Union commander, continuing his former strategy, crossed the Pamunkey below the Confederate right. But when he advanced, Lee was again in his pathway, and continued to anticipate his movements until the lines of both armies crossed the famous field of Cold Harbor. Here, on June 3d, Grant having been joined by 16,000 or 18,000 of Butler's troops, made the most bloody and disastrous of his assaults upon the Confederate army. His assault was general, but he was everywhere repulsed with great slaughter, and at comparatively trifling cost to the Confederates. Nearly 6,000 Federal troops, according to General Humphreys (Swinton makes the loss twice as great), fell in this assault, while the Confederate loss was probably not as many hundreds. General Grant's Medical Director puts the Federal loss from the crossing of the Pamunkey to June 12th at over 14,000 men. So fearful was the carnage on June 3d that the Federal lines when ordered to renew the conflict refused to do it.

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