It’s been a rainy few days to be out on the battlefield, but 152 years ago on May 9, the Federal army moved into the area that is now Stevenson Ridge, so of course, I had to go out onto the field, rain or shine!
Fortunately, I had some great company: three fellow historians who had never had the opportunity to explore Spotsylvania before. One was colleague from Emerging Civil War, James Brooks from the University of Nottingham in England. He’s been in the States for a few days on a research trip, but he took some time out Monday to do a little battlefielding. With him were two friends, a librarian with the Virginia Historical Society and a historian from Henrico County, Virginia.
We started with a tour of the works here at Stevenson Ridge, then we moved to National Park Service property to talk about the battle in a larger context. We walked through the battle chronologically,
We took the time to look at some spots off the beaten path (although Spotsy itself often feels off the beaten path!), and we enjoyed the sublime beauty of the Bloody Angle, where the hand-to-hand fighting was among the most horrific scenes of the war. I still find it hard to believe a place so awful is now so beautiful.
We also took the time to pay our respects to Maj. Gen. John Sedgwick, killed in action 152 years prior. Sedgwick was the highest-ranking Federal officer killed during the war. His loss, said General in Chief Ulysses S. Grant, was equitable to the loss of a division.
The battle of Spotsylvania Court House spanned May 8-20, 1864. It remains with us every day here at Stevenson Ridge, though.