On this date, May 24, 1864, a drunken Brig. Gen. James Ledlie led his brigade against heavily fortified Confederate works at Ox Ford on the North Anna River. Today, much of that area is preserved and maintained by Hanover County. To commemorate the anniversary, take a video tour of North Anna Battlefield Park with me:
In a video I posted earlier this week, I talked about the many missed opportunities the both army commanders let slip through their fingers on their way to the North Anna River. On the early evening of May 24, Robert E. Lee let yet another pair of opportunities slip through his fingers. Most people familiar with the action along the North Anna think of the isolated Federal Second Corps, which had wandered into the jaws of a perfectly laid trap. However, on the other side of the battlefield, the repulse of Ledlie’s brigade also offered Lee an opportunity to destroy an isolated portion of Grant’s army.
However, Lee was too sick to “strike them a blow,” as he urged his subordinates to do even without empowering them to. With the armies as numerically close as they were—Lee had between 53,000 and 54,000 while Grant had around 68,000—North Anna offered Lee the best chance at making a decisive strike against Grant. It would, instead, turn into the campaign’s greatest “What If.”