Kris and I have been finishing up article for Civil War Times about Spotsylvania–specifically, the often-overlooked attack of May 18, 1864. The battle at the Bloody Angle on May 12, being as horrific as it was, tends to overshadow other action that took place there during the two-week chess match between Grant and Lee.
Much of my work the past couple months has been focused on editorial duties, so I have been delighted for the chance to do some writing. “Kid in a candy shop” is not a bad metaphor for my delight–although that reflects the writing process, not the subject matter itself, which is actually quite grim. Federal infantry was so outmatched by Confederate artillery, supported by the most effective set of earthworks seen in East to that point, that there is little about the story itself to be excited about. Even Confederates, manning the works, were agape. “All were astonished,” one Confederate artillerist said, “and could not believe a serious attempt would be made to assail such a line as Ewell had, in open day, over such a distance.”
Because of the layout of Battlefield and the complexity of Grant’s maneuvers between May 8 and May 20, it is difficult to interpret the events that took place there because the geography and the chronology don’t match up. Grant did too much skipping around, particularly after May 12. Some of that land isn’t even protected today by Park Service.
As a result, stories like the one from May 18 tend to get overlooked. That is why I always consider it such a privilege to tell those stories, to keep them from getting forgotten. It is a kind of grim work of its own, but totally rewarding.
Look for the article this summer in conjunction with the sesquicentennial of the battle.