Chapter 33: battles around Spottsylvania.
's Corps was composed of Heth
's and Mahone
's (formerly Anderson
's) division of infantry and three battalions of artillery under Colonel Walker
When I took command of it, the infantry numbered about 13,000 muskets for duty.
's orders to me were to move by Todd's Tavern
along the Brock
road to Spottsylvania CourtHouse as soon as our front was clear of the enemy.
In order to get into that road, it was necessary to reopen an old one leading from Hill
's right, by which I was enabled to take a cross-road leading into the road from Shady Grove
to Todd's Tavern
The wagon trains and all the artillery, except one battalion, were sent around by Shady Grove
About a mile from the road from Shady Grove
to Todd's Tavern
, the enemy's cavalry videttes were encountered, and Mahone
's division was thrown forward to develop the enemy's force and position.
encountered a force of infantry which had moved up from Todd's Tavern
toward Shady Grove
and had quite a brisk engagement with it, causing it to fall back rapidly towards the former place.
At the same time General Hampton
, who had communicated with me, after I left the Plank Road
, moved with his cavalry on my right and struck the enemy on the flank and rear; but on account of want of knowledge of the country on our part, and the approach of darkness, the enemy was enabled to make his escape.
This affair developed the fact that the enemy was in possession of Todd's Tavern
and the Brock
road, and a continuation of my march would have led through his entire army.
We bivouacked for the night, at the place from which Mahone
had driven the enemy, and a force was thrown out towards Todd's Tavern
, which was about a mile distant.
Very early next morning (the 9th), I received an order from General Lee
, through Hampton
, to move on the Shady Grove
road towards Spottsylvania Court-House, which I did, crossing a small river called the Po
After reaching the rear of the position occupied by the other two corps, I was ordered to Spottsylvania CourtHouse, to take position on the right, and cover the road from that place to Fredericksburg
No enemy appeared in my front on this day, except at a distance on the Fredericksburg
Early on the morning of the 10th I was ordered to move one of my divisions back, to cover the crossing of the Po
on the Shady Grove
road; and to move with another division to the rear and left, by the way of Spottsylvania
Old Court-House, and drive back a column of the enemy which had crossed the Po
and taken possession of the Shady Grove
road, thus threatening our rear and endangering our trains which were on the road leading by the Old Court-House to Louisa Court-House.
Our line was then north of the Po
, with its left, Fields
' division of Longstreet
's corps, resting on that stream, just above the crossing of the Shady Grove
The whole of the enemy's force was also north of the Po
, prior to this movement of his. Mahone
's division was sent to occupy the banks of the Po
on Fields' left, while with Heth
's division and a battalion of artillery I moved to the rear, crossing the Po
on the Louisa Court-House road, and then following that road until we reached one coming in from Waite's Shop on the Shady Grove
After moving about a mile on this road, we met Hampton
gradually falling back before the enemy, who had pushed out a column of infantry considerably to the rear of our line.
This column was in turn forced back to the posi tion on Shady Grove road which was occupied by what was reported to be Hancock
Following up and crossing a small stream just below a mill pond, we succeeded in reaching Waite's Shop, from whence an attack was made on the enemy, and the entire force, which had
crossed the Po
, was driven back with a loss of one piece of artillery, which fell into our hands, and a considerable number in killed and wounded.
This relieved us from a very threatening danger, as the position the enemy had attained would have enabled him to completely enfilade Fields' position and get possession of the line of our communications to the rear, within a very short distance of which he was, when met by the force which drove him back.
In this affair Heth
's division behaved very handsomely, all of the brigades (Cook
's and Walker
's) being engaged in the attack.
General H. H. Walker
had the misfortune to receive a severe wound in the foot, which rendered amputation necessary, but otherwise our loss was slight.
As soon as the road was cleared, Mahone
's division crossed the Po
, but it was not practicable to pursue the affair further, as the north bank of the stream at this point was covered by a heavily entrenched line, with a number of batteries, and night was approaching.
On the morning of the 11th, Heth
was moved back to Spottsylvania Court-House and Mahone
was left to occupy the position on the Shady Grove
road from which the enemy had been driven.1
My line on the right had been connected with Ewell
's right, and covered the Fredericksburg
road, as also the road leading from Spottsylvania Court-House across the Ny
into the road from Fredericksburg
to Hanover Junction
was on my left, uniting with Ewell
, and Heth
joined him. The enemy had extended his lines across the Fredericksburg
road, but there was no fighting on this front on the 10th or 11th, except some artillery firing.
On the afternoon of the 11th, the enemy was demonstrating to our left, up the Po
, as if to get possession of Shady Grove
and the road from thence to Louisa Court-House. General Hampton
reported a column of infantry moving up the Po
, and I was ordered by General Lee
to take possession of Shady Grove
, by light next morning, and hold it against the enemy.
To aid in that purpose, two brigades of Wilcox
's division (Thomas
' and Scales
') were moved from the right, and Mahone
was ordered to move before light to Shady Grove
; but during the night it was discovered that the movement to our left was a feint and that there was a real movement of the enemy towards our right.
Before daybreak on the morning of the 12th, Wilcox
's brigades were returned to him, and at dawn Mahone
's division was moved to the right, leaving Wright
's brigade of that division to cover the crossing of the Po
On this morning, the enemy made a very heavy attack on Ewell
's front, and the line where it was occupied by Johnson
A portion of the attacking force swept along Johnson
's line to Wilcox
's left, and was checked by a prompt movement on the part of Brigadier General Lane
, who was on that flank.
As soon as the firing was heard, General Wilcox
' and Scales
' brigades to Lane
's assistance and they arrived just as Lane
's brigade had repulsed this body of the enemy, and they pursued it for a short distance.
As soon as Mahone
's division arrived from the left, Perrin
's and Harris
' brigades of that division and, subsequently, McGowan
's brigade of Wilcox
's division were sent to General Ewell
's assistance, and were carried into action under his orders.
Brigadier General Perrin
was killed and Brigadier General McGowan
severely wounded, while gallantly leading their respective brigades into action; and all the brigades sent to Ewell
's assistance suffered severely.
Subsequently, on the same day, under orders from General Lee
's brigade of Wilcox
's division and
's own brigade (under Colonel Weisiger
) were thrown to the front, for the purpose of moving to the left, and attacking the flank of the column of the enemy which had broken Ewell
's line, to relieve the pressure on him, and, if possible, recover the part of the line which had been lost.
's brigade commenced the movement and had not proceeded far, when it encountered and attacked, in a piece of woods in front of my line, the 9th corps, under Burnside
, moving up to attack a salient on my front.
captured over three hundred prisoners and three battle flags, and his attack on the enemy's flank taking him by surprise, no doubt contributed materially to his repulse.
's brigade did not become seriously engaged.
The attacking column which Lane
encountered got up to within a very short distance of a salient defended by Walker
's brigade of Heth
's division, under Colonel Mayo
, before it was discovered, as there was a pine thicket in front, under cover of which the advance was made.
A heavy fire of musketry from Walker
's brigade and Thomas
' which was on his left, and a fire of artillery from a considerable number of guns on Heth
's line, were opened with tremendous effect upon the attacking column, and it was driven back with heavy loss, leaving its dead in front of our works.
This affair took place under the eye of General Lee
In the afternoon another attempt was made to carry out the contemplated flank movement with Mahone
's brigade, and Cook
's brigade of Heth
's division, to be followed up by the other troops under my command; but it was discovered that the enemy had one or more entrenched lines in our front, to the fire from which our flanking column would have been exposed.
Moreover the ground between the lines was very rough, being full of ragged ravines and covered with thick pines and other growth; and it was thought advisable to desist from the attempt.
The two brigades which were to have commenced the movement were then thrown to the front
on both sides of the Fredericksburg
road, and passing over two lines of breastworks, defended by a strong force of skirmishers, developed the existence of a third and much stronger line in rear, which would have afforded an almost insuperable obstacle to the proposed flank movement.
This closed the operations of the corps under my command on the memorable 12th of May.
Between that day and the 19th, there was no serious attack on my front, but much manoeuvring by the enemy.
made two or three reconnaissances to the front, which disclosed the fact that the enemy was gradually moving to our right.
In making one of them, he encountered a body of the enemy which had got possession of Gayle's house, on the left of the road leading from our right towards the Fredericksburg
and Hanover Junction
road, at which a portion of our cavalry, under Brigadier General Chambliss
, had been previously posted, and drove it back across the Ny
Another reconnaissance, handsomely made by Brigadier General Wright
, who had been brought from the left, ascertained that a heavy force of the enemy was between the Ny
and the Po
, in front of my right, which was held by Mahone
, and was along the road towards Hanover Junction
To meet this movement of the enemy Field
's division was brought from the left and placed on my right.
On the 19th, General Ewell
made a movement against the enemy's right, and to create a diversion in his favor, Thomas
' brigade was thrown forward, and drove the enemy into his works in front of the salient, against which
's attack had been made on the 12th, while the whole corps was held in readiness to co-operate with Ewell
, should his attack prove successful; but as he was compelled to retire, Thomas
Subsequently, the enemy retired from Heth
's and Wilcox
's fronts; and on the afternoon of the 21st Wilcox
was sent out on the road leading from Mahone
's front across the Ny
with two of his brigades to feel the enemy, and found him still in force behind entrenched lines, and had a brisk engagement with that force.
was absent, an order was received by me, from General Lee
, to turn over to General Hill
the command of his corps, as he had reported for duty.
I did so at once and thus terminated my connection with this corps, which I had commanded during all the trying scenes around Spottsylvania Court-House.
The officers and men of the corps had all behaved well, and contributed in no small degree to the result by which Grant
was compelled to wait six days for reinforcements from Washington
, before he could resume the offensive or make another of his flank movements to get between General Lee
's army and