A Rainy Day at the Bloody Angle, 153 Years Later

I stood today at Spotsyvlania’s Bloody Angle, at the site of the 22-inch oak tree felled by small-arms fire. Rain fell, as it did on this date in 1864 during most of the battle. For twenty-two hours, the fight raged across the Mule Shoe. Today, all I could hear was the sound of raindrops on the boughs of the oak tree I stood beneath.

Bloody Angle panorama

(see this image on our Facebook page as a true panorama)

Here’s what a few of the soldiers had to say about the weather that day:

“[T]he roads were simply awful, rained continuously and mud was almost knee deep in places,” said Capt. George A. Bowen of the 12th New Jersey. “The rain continued to fall all day and it has been the worst day I have as yet seen.”

A member of McGowen’s brigade said, “The rain poured heavily.” Another South Carolinian elaborated. “We marched in a torrent of rain, and through mud knee deep, and under a hail storm of shells and grape for a part of our way of a mile and a half,” he wrote. “It rained constantly and often copiously, and we were laid in mud kneed, and as soft as molasses, rising and firing as we could load.”

The weather had similar effect on the Federal side of the works. “The incessant firing in connection with the prevailing rain-storm soon choked and fouled our heated muskets till they were almost unserviceable, and as the line could not be relieved, weapons were exchanged with a regiment which marched up in the rear, and without a break the merciless fire was kept up. . . .” wrote James Bowen of the 37th Massachusetts. “[A]nd this in the midst of a continuous rain-storm.”

“The rain fairly poured down this forenoon,” wrote Henry Keiser, 96th Pennsylvania, in his diary, “but we kept up the fire and we were covered with mud from head to foot.”

The rain played havoc on the cannons, too. “In consequence of the mud caused by the rain which was falling nearly all day, it was exceedingly difficult to move and serve Artillery,” complained II Corps artillery comander John C. Tidball, who lamented “the miry nature of the ground, softened as it was by the falling rain.”

After the fight, Fred Larue of the 110th Ohio commented on the grisly result of the fight in such foul weather: “The face and parallel ditches were filled with water and blood, and the dead, from the rains, were bleached and ghastly.”

And look, today, how beautiful it was….

Spotsy 2017 01Spotsy 2017 02Spotsy 2017 03Spotsy 2017 04


2 Responses to A Rainy Day at the Bloody Angle, 153 Years Later

  1. Private Oney F. Sweet was there.

    The Battle of Spotsylvania Court House began on May 8, 1864, when General Hancock’s troops surprised the Confederate forces, which had built a U-shaped “Mule Shoe” breastworks. Hancock had attacked its apex, or salient, which the troops afterward called the “Bloody Angle.”

    Sweet wrote in his diary that is was “The awfullest sight I ever saw. Men were piled up 4 and 5
    deep on both sides.”

    In a retrospective piece, Sweet wrote about the battle’s aftermath , when he accompanied General Hancock: As we rode over the battlefield to view the terrible results wrought by his own shot and shell, his face wore an expression of pity and anguish. The sight after Gettysburg and Antietam had not been more grewsome. With the dead bodies lying all about, distorted and ghastly, his whole attitude changed from what it had been with the men shouting and the flags flying and the struggle for supremacy filling his veins. With an almost guilty air he turned away from the carnage sooner than the rest of the staff was willing. Evidently he was seconding the expression as made by a fellow officer that “war is hell.”

  2. Thanks Chris M, Monument there is to the 49 NY from up here Buffalo way . Always put a flag on it even thou im a seccush and a lost causer . LOL

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