The Civil War, Day by Day

The Bloody Angle

Battle of “Bloody Angle” at Spotsylvania Court House

Grant’s thrust out of the Wilderness was blocked at Spotsylvania Court House, where desultory fighting turned the battlefield into a maze of trenches. One section of Lee’s line around the village was in the shape of a giant “mule shoe,” as the soldiers called it. After an early attempt to break through the mule shoe failed, on May 12, Generals Grant and Meade committed two entire corps to another attack. In rain and dense fog, Union soldiers overran the Confederates in their earthworks, severing Lee’s line. Desperate moments followed until a Confederate counterattack drove back the attackers, and the fighting became perhaps the most intense and bloodiest of the war. With only a log and earthen wall separating them, the combatants shot, stabbed and clubbed each other for almost eighteen hours. The most furious fighting centered around a slight angle in the earthworks, where the intense rifle fire was enough to chip away the trunk of an oak tree. Lee’s Southerners held on while engineers built a new line behind them. Darkness finally ended the fighting, and the next morning a Union officer crept up to the “Bloody Angle” to find: “Hundreds of Confederates, dead or dying, lay piled over one another in those pits. The fallen lay three or four deep in some places….The trenches were nearly full of muddy water. It was the most horrible sight I had ever witnessed.” Few episodes were ever to equal the horrors of Spotsylvania.

June's Archived Features:

Monday June 1, 2020
Tuesday June 2, 2020
Wednesday June 3, 2020
Thursday June 4, 2020



All illustrations by Mort Künstler. Text by Michael Aubrecht, Dee Brown, Henry Steele Commager, Rod Gragg, Mort Künstler, Edward Lengel, James McPherson, and James I. Robertson, Jr. - Copyright © 2001-2019. All Rights Reserved. No part of the contents of this web site may be reproduced or utilized in any form by any means without written consent of the artist.