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The ‘Horseshoe’ or ‘Bloody Angle.’

While I am writing on the subject, I hope you and your readers will pardon me, if I write a little more.

Major Stiles, page 263, touches upon the subject of faulty formation in our lines, with an implied query about what was known as the ‘salient,’ or ‘bloody angle.’

In the first place, the line both to the right and left of the ‘salient’ was on a considerable ridge overlooking the low grounds between it and the Ny river. On the march from the wilderness on May 8, Johnson's division, which followed Rodes' division reached the Spotsylvania field late in the afternoon, and was ordered to form on Rodes' right, and extend it. When Rodes had gotten his men in line, and the head of our column had reached his right, upon which we were to form, it was nearly dark. Rodes' right rested on the edge of the woods, and to extend his line, we had to go through the woods. We had no guides and no lights, and General Johnson, at the head of his divison, in column of four, or double file, I think the latter, began to get his men in line, as best he could. I was riding by his side, and soon after we entered the woods, with the division following, we came upon a thicket, mostly pine, so thick that the darkness was almost impenetrable.

I remember well that I kept my hands before my eyes, which were really of no use to me at that time, to protect them, and that more than once I was nearly dragged off my horse by the trees with which I came in contact. Our progress, under such circumstances, was necessarily very slow. We knew nothing of the topography of the country, but soon we came to the end of the thicket through which we had been passing for formation, and saw camp fires before us, almost directly in the line of our march.

This was the first light which we had seen. The ground was [21] examined and General Johnson found we were on the brow of a ridge, which turned somewhat shortly to the right. The camp fires in our front seemed to us to be considerably below the plane of our position, as they were in fact. It was now quite late in the night, and General Johnson deflected his line and followed the ridge, so far as it could be distinguished in the darkness. Up to the point of deflection there was room for Walker's brigade, our left, the Louisiana brigade, and the greater part of Jones' brigade, so that Steuart's brigade, which occupied our right, extended to the right of this turning point. If it had been extended in a straight line, Steuart's right would have been very close to, and rather in front of the camp fires which we had seen. It was under these circumstances that Johnson's division was placed in line, and fortified it. And so painfully slow was our movement, on account of the woods and darkness and ignorance of the topography of the ground upon which we were forming, we were in our saddles all night.

When daylight came General Johnson found his division was on the ridge, and except some slight changes in Steuart's formation, it so remained, and the enemy was in our front and to our left and rear, so that we were enfiladed, especially Steuart's brigade. Breastworks had already been thrown up, especially along the line of the brigade which had first gotten into position, and every Confederate soldier knows how soon this could be done, as if by magic, but General Johnson had the toe of the horseshoe fortified for artillery, in the form of a salient, and this was done, as I recall it, under the supervision of some of our engineer officers, and it was well done. General Steuart had traverses built in the rear of his line, as he was much enfiladed, and General Walker and General Hays also threw up traverses in their rear for the same reason, though their brigades did not suffer as much as General Steuart's—(Hays' brigade of Early's, and Stafford's brigade of Johnson's division were consolidated under General Henry T. Hays on the march from the wilderness, on May 8th, General Stafford having been killed on May 5th.)

My recollection is that on the 9th of May the engineer officers, with General M. L. Smith at their head, went over the line and considered it safe with artillery, and with this we were at once supplied —two batteries of four guns each.

On May 10 Sedgwick's corps broke through Rodes' line to our left, and penetrated some distance in our rear, but after severe fighting the enemy was driven back and our lines were restored. I was [22] not present on that occasion, as General Johnson had sent Major Ed. Moore and myself back to get our headquarter wagon which had broken down and been abandoned on the march from the Wilderness on the 8th. On May 1, however, General Lee, with General Smith visited our lines, and were of opinion, as I was informed that they could be held with our artillery. On that day General Johnson, with several members of his staff, including myself, went in front of our lines beyond the Landrum house, which was outside of our skirmish line, and no signs of the enemy were seen in our front nor did there appear to be any activity in the enemy's line in our front, until late in the afternoon of that day.


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