In the midst of the Chancellorsville sesquicentennial, the 149th anniversary of the battle of the Wilderness slipped by unnoticed, and the anniversary of the battle of Spotsylvania Court House arrived without fanfare. But I’ve taken it upon myself as my personal mission to remember this particular place so, although still recovering from Chancellorsville, I took some time on Sunday to walk the ground at the Bloody Angle. It was the 149th anniversary of the fight there.
As I have written before, I walk around out here a lot. If the Jackson Shrine is one of my favorite places world, I told a friend who came with me, this certainly is my favorite battlefield. This is the ground keeps me grounded.
I had been out here on Saturday, too, hiking the Spotsylvania history trail. While crossing Landrum Lane, I got caught cloudburst. The history nerd in me was delighted. “Just like the Federal troops who were marching into position 149 years ago today for their attack on the Mule Shoe!” I thought.
On Sunday, I think about those men sweeping across the rain-soaked field, and I think of the Confederates preparing to meet them there rain-soaked rifles. Their muskets went “Pop, pop, pop,” gummed with wet gunpowder, as the Federals washed over the works.
As Federals pushed along the Confederate works in both directions, I think of beleaguered Brig. Gen. James Lane, desperately plugging the gap in the Confederate line along the east face of the Mule Shoe. I think of Brig. Gen. Junius Daniels, shot through the bowels, holding the line to the west. Near Doles’ Salient, I see below the monument to Stephen Ramseur’s brigade standing alone in the field, and think, “Those boys are about to have a rough time of it.”
One-hundred-and-forty-nine years ago, this place became “a Golgotha”–a place skulls. “A seething, roaring, bubbling hell of hate and murder,” one soldier said. Stories of the carnage sit deep in my bones.
My friend knows nothing of those details. She has lived in this area all
her life, yet she has not visited the battlefields–not even as part of a school trip once upon a time. Instead, she comments on how beautiful the landscape is–the very thing I always find so stirring here.
As I tell visitors during tours, We can be here today to enjoy this natural beauty because of the men who fought, and bled, and died here 149 year ago. I can never be reminded of that enough.
Teach me more, my friend said.
And so the remembering continues. It’s why I keep coming back.