Symposium Spotlight: Chris Mackowski and the Fight for the “Bloody Angle”

ECW co-founder Chris Mackowski during a TV appearance on the Pennsylvania Cable Network on July 1
ECW co-founder Chris Mackowski during a TV appearance on the Pennsylvania Cable Network on July 1, 2013.

Dr. Chris Mackowski is one of the founders of Emerging Civil War, as well as a very popular speaker on the Civil War roundtable circuit. Chris is a professor of journalism and mass communications at St. Bonaventure University. Currently he serves as the editor-in-chief of Emerging Civil War, the managing editor of the Emerging Civil War Series, and co-editor of the Engaging the Civil War Series and Civil War Regiments Series. Chris is a former National Park Service Historian, and still volunteers his services to the NPS.

He is the author and co-author of numerous books. His titles include Hell Itself: The Battle of the Wilderness, Strike Them a Blow: Battle Along the North Anna River, Fight Like the Devil: The First Day at Gettysburg, July 1, 1863, among othersMackowski has penned articles for America’s Civil War, Armchair General Magazine, Blue and Gray Magazine, Civil War Times, and Hallowed Ground. He also serves as the historian-in-residence at Stevenson Ridge, which plays host to this years symposium.

The battle of Spotsylvania Court House was the second engagement of the now-famous 1864 Overland Campaign. The battle was also the second between Ulysses S. Grant and Robert E. Lee, and featured some of the most impressive fortifications as yet built in the Eastern Theater. Grant poked and prodded Lee’s lines until a major breakthrough took place on May 10th, 1864. That breakthrough led Grant to launch a massive, all out assault on Lee’s lines. 

Concentrating Winfield Scott Hancock’s vaunted 2nd Corps near the center of the Confederate lines, Grant planned a predawn assault for the morning of May 12th. The plan called for the Federals to apply pressure along the Rebel front, while Hancock’s 20,000 men keyed in on the most vulnerable point of the Confederate line, a salient point called the Mule Shoe.

By 7 o’clock in the morning, the Federal 2nd Corps was wreaking havoc in Confederate lines. Rebel counterattacks were stabilizing the situation, but the battle was far from over. One particular area of the salient turned into a meat grinder, today we know it as “The Bloody Angle.”

Mackowski’s talk is entitled “A Saturnalia of blood”: The Assault on the Mule Shoe at Spotsylvania Court House.

According to Mackowski:

“This is one of those great assaults of the Civil War that was thought to be a forlorn hope. An amazing combination of Mother Nature, human error, and a lot of luck came together on the Federal side. Then it all broke down. The fighting at the Bloody Angle was very close, and very personal. The stories and descriptions of this action are among the most vivid we have from any battle in the war. A 22-inch oak tree was felled simply by bullets. Men described the scene as a ‘Golgotha,’ and a literal Saturnalia of blood.’ It’s both a compelling and truly heart-breaking story of human endurance.”

Chris is one of the leading experts on the campaign and has co-authored a two volume issue of Blue and Gray Magazine on the actions at Spotsylvania, and the book A Season of Slaughter: The Battle of Spotsylvania Court House, May 8-21, 1864. He is currently working on an in-depth battle study of the actions around Spotsylvania Court House.

We hope that you will join us August 5-7, 2016 at the Third Annual Emerging Civil War Symposium at Stevenson Ridge. For more information, or to purchase tickets, click here.

Bloody Angle

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