May 8, 1864
Battle of Spotsylvania
May 8-21, 1864
Day 1: Not knowing where Grant is, Lee orders his subordinates to find out. Ewell’s scouts report that the Yankees are not crossing back over the Rapidan, so Lee’s task is to identify Grant’s intentions. Very quickly he surmises that Grant is going to strike south, to cut off the Confederates from Richmond; with this faith, Lee orders his troops on the road, south. Richard Anderson, now leading Longstreet’s Corps, leads out long before dawn.
Grant has Warren, Sedgwick, and Hancock all on the road, with Warren leading the race to the Spotsylvania Court House crossroads. Anderson’s Rebels, the First Corps, arrive at the crossroads early, and Stuart’s cavalry puts up a furious defense as a delaying action, while Anderson’s infantry digs to build earthworks. Warren finally pushes his divisions against the line, but infantry was bolstering Stuart’s troopers, and Warren could not prevail. As Hancock’s Corps passes past Todd’s Tavern, Gen. Early (now in command of the Third Corps) sends two division against Hancock, to try to get in the Federal rear, but Hancock’s II Corps beats off the attack.
After a dispute between Meade and Sheridan about the poor handling of the cavalry, Sheridan asks to be let go to pursue Stuart, and Meade lets him go. Soon, Sheridan and most of his 10,000 troopers are prepared to depart early on the morrow, to go “lick Stuart.”
Meade sends in Sedgwick to line up on Warren’s left, and by 7:00 PM, they are ready to move, with Sedgwick hoping to flank the Rebels. But as the two corps sweep forward, Sedgwick runs into the divisions of Johnson, Rodes, and soon Gordon, under Ewell, whose Second Corps just arrives in the nick of time to meet the Yankees. Kershaw, one of Anderson’s divisions, holds firm in the center, and the Yankees are fended off in a bloody repulse.
---On the march, McPherson’s Army of the Tennessee reaches Snake Creek Gap in northern Georgia this evening, and camps.
---John Beauchamp Jones, in Richmond, writes in his journal on several topics, including this rather hopeful assessment of what happened at the Wilderness:
The Secretary of War received a dispatch to-day from Gen. Lee, stating that there was no fighting yesterday, only slight skirmishing. Grant remained where he had been driven, in the “Wilderness,” behind his breastworks, completely checked in his “On to Richmond.” He may be badly hurt, and perhaps his men object to being led to the slaughter again.