Tuesday, May 20, 2014

May 9, 1864

May 9, 1864

Battle of Spotsylvania

May 8-21, 1864


Day 2:  During the night, the Confederates have extended their entrenchments much farther, nearly four miles, and the rest of Lee’s army has arrived and are in the process of taking up their positions.  The Rebel lines follow Laurel Hill, and meander across the landscape, taking advantage of the lay of the land, making a large horseshoe turn, and then turn south to cover the Brock Road behind their lines.  There is spotty skirmishing along the lines today, but no major attacks.


Gen. Hancock, commanding Grant’s II Corps, reports some enemy movement on the Confederate left, and Grant orders Hancock to push forward.  Hancock’s men cross the Po River and drive forward, pushing through the Rebel’s former position, with Early’s Rebels in front of them, bending their flank back.  But as the evening falls, Hancock hesitates to cross the Ni River, and thus loses the opportunity.

Maj. Gen. John Sedgwick, USA

Maj. Gen. John Sedgwick, commander of the Army of the Potomac’s VI Corps, is killed by a sniper’s bullet seconds after chastening a soldier for trying to dodge Confederate bullets.  Horatio Wright is given command of the VI Corps.


Meanwhile, on the Federal left, Gen. Burnside approaches with his IX Corps, Orlando Willcox’s division leading.  Burnside sees the Confederate earthworks extend this flank, too, and so stops his corps and has them dig in.  As the evening falls, Gen. Lee sends Mahone’s division to the left to line up with Early, and then Heth’s division on a wide sweep to hook up with Mahone and overshadow Hancock’s right flank, thus setting up a flanking attack on the Federals in the morning.


---George Michael Neese, a Confederate artilleryman serving in the Army of Northern Virginia, gives a quick assessment of Grant’s strategy from a soldier’s view, on the Rebel side:

General Grant, who is in command of all the Yankee forces in the army of the Potomac, is getting out of the Wilderness by moving to his left and toward tide-water. His first forward march to Richmond through the Wilderness went up in death, defeat, and frustration, and the next move will be by the Wilderness, on toward the Rebel capital. But before he fights another week he will learn that he is not fooling with General Pemberton at Vicksburg. Our army is moving rapidly to the right, trying to keep up with General Grant’s flanking process and base-changing business. General A. P. Hill’s corps passed us at Shady Grove, marching rapidly toward Spottsylvania Court House.


---Atlanta Campaign, Georgia:  Today, after routing a small force of Rebels at Snake Creek Gap, Grenville Dodge’s corps of McPherson’s army pushes toward the railroad town of Resaca, where Dodge made contact with Rebels.  There is inconclusive skirmishing through the day, but because of Dodge’s lack of resolution, he does not push his troops harder to take the railroad there and thus cut off Johnston’s escape route. 


---Further advances today by Butler’s troops in the Bermuda Hundred area along Swift Creek result in the Rebels repulsing every gain made by Federal forces.


---In Louisiana, the construction of the dam that should allow the Red River flotilla under Porter to continue safely downstream continues.  This morning, four vessels are able to float over the spillway, but part of the dam gives way, so efforts are combined to re-build and alter the design.

---A crowd of admirers pay a visit to President Lincoln at the White House and, after the music, the President comes out to speak to the group, including comments on the campaigning in Virginia:


MAY 9, 1864.


FELLOW-CITIZENS:—I am very much obliged to you for the compliment of this call, though I apprehend it is owing more to the good news received to-day from the Army, than to a desire to see me. I am indeed very grateful to the brave men who have been struggling with the enemy in the field, to their noble commanders who have directed them, and especially to our Maker. Our commanders are following up their victories resolutely and successfully. I think, without knowing the particulars of the plans of General Grant, that what has been accomplished is of more importance than at first appears. I believe, I know (and am especially grateful to know) that General Grant has not been jostled in his purposes, that he has made all his points, and to-day he is on his line as he purposed before he moved his armies. I will volunteer to say that I am very glad at what has happened, but there is a great deal still to be done. While we are grateful to all the brave men and officers for the events of the past few days, we should, above all, be very grateful to Almighty God, who gives us victory.

 There is enough yet before us requiring all loyal men and patriots to perform their share of the labor and follow the example of the modest General at the head of our armies, and sink all personal consideration for the sake of the country. I commend you to keep yourselves in the same tranquil mood that is characteristic of that brave and loyal man. I have said more than I expected when I came before you. Repeating my thanks for this call, I bid you good-bye.

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