Traces of the Bloody Struggle: The Civil War at Stevenson Ridge, Spotsylvania Court House

Traces of the Bloody Struggle-coverIn my capacity as the historian-in-residence at Stevenson Ridge, one of my projects this summer has been to compile some information about the property’s role during the Civil War. Many of our guests are interested in the Civil War, and they stay here because we’re smack-dab in the middle of central Virginia’s Civil War landscape, right on the Spotsylvania battlefield. The array of earthworks and fortifications on the property are amazing. One NPS historian called them the best-preserved earthworks in private hands.

Well, just in time for next week’s Third Annual Civil War Symposium at Stevenson Ridge, we’ll have a special limited-edition booklet available as part of our Emerging Civil War Series: Traces of the Bloody Struggle: The Civil War at Stevenson Ridge, Spotsylvania Court House.

At 60-pages, the booklet looks like a mini version of the usual books in our Emerging Civil War Series, complete with one of Ian Hughes’s fantastic covers and five original maps by cartographer Hal Jespersen. Instead of being perfect-bound—that is, instead of a flat spine—the booklet is saddle-stitched, which means it’s stapled in the middle.

From the back cover:

As the 1864 Overland Campaign shifted from the Wilderness toward Spotsylvania Court House, Confederate commander Robert E. Lee successfully bottlenecked the Federal army just outside the village. Undeterred, Union commander Ulysses S. Grant sent part of his forces on a wide flanking maneuver to attack Confederates from the east. Lee scrambled to block them.

Thus the Civil War came to the property now known as Stevenson Ridge.

Traces of the Bloody Struggle: The Civil War at Stevenson Ridge tells the story of Spotsylvania’s forgotten front: the fighting along the Fredericksburg Road. During the two-week battle, three-fourths of the Union army occupied and crossed over Stevenson Ridge as Grant looked for ways to break Lee’s defenses.

Today, Stevenson Ridge is one of the most historic properties in Spotsylvania County. Extensive earthworks crisscross the landscape. Traces of the struggle remain everywhere.

Inside are chapters on the May 9, 1864 “Battle of the Ny,” which opened the eastern front at Spotsylvania Court House; the May 10 death of Brig. Gen. Thomas Greeley Stevenson, whom the property is named after; the use of the property as a staging area for attacks against the Mule Shoe and Heth’s Salient; the occupation of the property by the V Corps; and the construction of Stevenson Ridge’s earthworks. Plus there’s a chapter that traces the history of a pair of doors once own by U. S. Grant and William T. Sherman that now hang in Stevenson Ridge’s events center, the Lodge.

In a cooperative effort with our friends at Savas Beatie, Traces of the Bloody Struggle will soon be available in a digital format, but hard copies will be available only through Stevenson Ridge and Emerging Civil War (and I’ll have copies with me when I go on the road). The booklet will be available beginning at the Emerging Civil War Symposium at Stevenson Ridge beginning Aug. 5. For ordering information, give me a shout at

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