The Battle of Spotsylvania: Wednesday, May 11, 1864
Preparations for Battle

Landrum HouseOn May 11, 1864, the skies opened a drenching rain, soaking the two armies where they stood in the field. Tens of thousands endured the deluge while warily gazing across the deadly space between the opposing lines. Both sides now had an inkling that the war's character had suddenly changed. General Grant seemed willing to pay the human price to pursue the battering of the Southern army into submission.

No longer would the Union commander seek a lull between colossal battles. Along these lines, Grant would order Major General Hancock to shift his troops from the right to the left and prepare to assault the bulge in the Confederate line, the Mule Shoe Salient. Yet these simple words cannot relay the savagery and horror that would come beginning the morning of May 12. In massive numbers, Hancock's 2nd Corp men would charge the butternuts behind substantial, well formed breastworks. Men would charge, stab, beat, pound, maim, and kill each other for hours on end. Dead would fall upon dead, laying a top the immobile, suffering wounded. General Winfield Scott HancockPiles of men would writhe as the living desperately tried to extricate themselves from their ghastly human burial.

Major General Winfield S. Hancock, commanding the troops who would assault the Confederate lines, discussed their preparation. "The ground ascended sharply between our lines and the enemy's, and was thickly wooded, with the exception of a clearing about 400 yards in width extending up to the enemy's works in front of the Landrum house, curving to the right as it approached his position; a small water course ran parallel to and in front of our line. The troops were formed for the assault with the assistance of the information obtained from Lieutenant-Colonel Merriam, Sixteenth Massachusetts Volunteers, field officer of the day for Mott's division, who was somewhat familiar with the ground. They took position quietly and promptly, although it was an unusually dark and stormy night."

Union Perspective towards Confederate LinesA dense fog allowed the men in blue to organize and form under a cloud of secrecy. Of this cloudy obstruction, CSA General John Brown Gordon would relay, "The fog was so dense that I could not ascertain the progress of the enemy, except by the sound of his musketry and the direction from which his balls came." General Hancock would add, "A heavy fog decided me to delay the order for the assault to commence for a short time, until we should have sufficient light. I therefore waited until 4.35 a. m., when the order was given to advance." [9]