The Battle of Spotsylvania: May 8 to 21, 1864
The Race to Spotsylvania Court House

Laurel HillThe Battle of the Wilderness cost the Union Army of the Potomac nearly 7,000 more casualties than their Southern counterpart. Confederate General Robert E. Lee had successfully withstood and repelled the Union assaults that would begin the bloodiest campaign of this already bloody war. Although Lee lost 11,000 to Grant's 18,000, the question was how long Lee's Army could withstand similar losses.  While the Federals could replace the men lost during such fights, Lee could not. Despite the scale of death and injury, Ulysses S. Grant would not repeat the pattern of previous eastern generals. He refused to withdraw, reorganize, refit, and plan. Grant ordered his Army to move around Lee's right and push south, guaranteeing another collision with his veteran gray nemesis. Despite the horrific casualties and scenes of mutilation, with wounded men burning alive amidst the Wilderness fires, men in blue cheered when Grant ordered the move towards Richmond. They understood their new leader was determined to finally finish this fight.

Although the Army of Northern Virginia's losses tallied thousands less that the Union Army, CSA Lt. General Richard S. Ewell's report offered an indication of the disarray as commands changed due to casualties, the largest of which occurred when General Anderson's assumed command of Longstreet's Corps. The prayers of the Confederate Army lay with Longstreet now recovering from a grievous wound to the throat. General Ewell would report, "On the night of the 7th the general commanding sent me word to extend to the right, in conformity to the movements of the troops there, and if at daylight I found no large force in my front to follow General Anderson toward Spotsylvania Court-House. This was done. On the march orders were received placing General Early in command of Hill's corps, transferring Hays' brigade to Johnson's division, and consolidating both Louisiana brigades under General Hays, and assigning R. D. Johnston's brigade to Early's division, of which General Gordon came in command. After a very distressing march through intense heat and thick dust and smoke from burning woods, my troops reached Spotsylvania Court-House about 5 p.m., just in time for Rodes to repel an attempt to turn Anderson's right..." [9]

General Lee, his aggressive instincts intact, had ordered his forces, with cavalry and General Anderson in the vanguard, to advance to Spotsylvania Court House and take possession of the crossroads before Grant's troops arrived. This they did leading to still another sanguinary clash of determined armies.  On May 8, 1864, Lee's men entrenched blocking Grant's advance across the Brock Road, extending their line east, following the contours of the terrain around what would be called the Mule Shoe Salient. Major General Warren led his Union 5th Corps against Ewell's entrenched forces at Laurel Hill, expanding the ever-lengthening tally blue-clad casualties. General Lee would report laconically, "After a sharp encounter with the Fifth Army Corps (Warren's) and Torbert's division of cavalry, General R. H. Anderson, with the advance of the army, repulsed the enemy with heavy slaughter and took possession of the Court-House. I am the more grateful to the Giver of all victory that our loss is small." [9] He would not have the luxury of making the latter comment often during this campaign.