Sunday, May 11th
While most folks were home celebrating Mother’s Day, an intrepid group of 90 people went on a long 6.5 mile hike to explore the hidden sights of the Spotsylvania battlefield. We explored the lesser known, but important aspects of Spotsylvania, including its complex and often confusing earthworks. The following are selected photos from that event.
Monday, May 12th
The National Park Service (NPS) staff conducted a continuous 22-hour Silent Tribute at the Bloody Angle mirroring the 22 hours of continuous combat in 1864. This was in tribute to the brave men who fought so desperately on May 12, 1864. In addition, there were several real time events conducted by the NPS staff. These featured programs included walking that happened at the same time as the real events 150 years ago. The group sizes varied from 125 to 250. (see photos below):
Mayhem at Dawn – The Union onslaught: This followed in the footsteps of the initial Union breakthrough on May 12, 1864.
Confederate Crisis – Lee to the Rear: The confederates respond to disaster, and General Lee threw himself into battle.
The East Face of the Salient – Stemming the Tide: Walking the ground of the forgotten fighting of May 12.
Union Footsteps – The Bloody Angle: Exploring the stories of Union soldiers and the subtle ripples and dips in the ground that meant life or death for them during the fighting on May 12, 1864.
Confederate Footsteps – The Bloody Angle: Walking the ground made famous by defenders of the Bloody Angle.
Candlelight Vigil: A time of reflection on the tragic destruction at Spotsylvania.
Saturday May 17th and Sunday May 18th.
The final events of the National Park Service 1864 Overland Campaign Remembered centered on the first use of the US Colored Troops (USCT) in combat in the east. NPS historian John Hennessy talked about The Rise of the USCT. This was followed by a walk to the location of that first combat in Northern Virginia and dedication of a monument to that event. On Sunday NPS historians Frank O’Reilly and Greg Mertz led a group to look at the Battle of Lee’s Last Line. Beginning at the Bloody Angle, they went to Lee’s Line of Entrenchments, known as Lee’s Last Line. The outcome of this battle on May 18, 1864 convinced General Grant and the Union army that they could not break the stalemate at Spotsylvania Court House. Shortly thereafter, the Union army departs for points further south which ultimately leads to the battle of Petersburg and finally to Appomattox Court House and Lee’s surrender in April of 1865.
Information on the NPS continuing program covering the Overland Campaign of 1864 may be found at http://www.nps.gov/rich/planyourvisit/150th1864.htm and at http://www.nps.gov/pete/planyourvisit/150th-anniversary-events.htm.