Spotsylvania Part VII: The dying groaned beneath the dead

As some 20,000 Union troops charged out of the fog and burst into the Mule Shoe salient at Spotsylvania Court House, Va. on May 12, 1864, Confederate resistance collapsed beneath the onslaught. Union soldiers swept up 3,000 prisoners, including the cane-wielding Maj. Gen. Edward Johnson and Brig. Gen. George Steuart, who led a mixed North […]

Spotsylvania Part VI: A rooster’s crow unleashed the slaughter

Wandering amidst hell on earth after sunrise on Friday, May 13, 1864, Pvt. John Haley and other survivors of the 17th Maine Infantry Regiment gazed upon “more dead than we had ever seen,” he later told his journal. Raised in summer 1862, the 17th Maine belonged that spring to the 2nd Brigade, 3rd Division, part […]

Spotsylvania Part V: Sloppy staff work dooms a successful charge

At the time when they should be eating supper on Tuesday, May 10, 1864, some 5,000 to 5,500 Union soldiers crouched in the piney woods opposite the Confederate-held Mule Shoe at Spotsylvania, Va. The nervous boys in blue belonged to 12 Sixth Corps regiments that Col. Emory Upton would momentarily lead in a charge to […]

Spotsylvania Part IV: Maine regiments joined a Union battering ram

Did a Confederate sharpshooter seal the fates of some 200 Maine soldiers — and another 800 other Union boys — during the Battle of Spotsylvania Court House? Possibly. Dawn on Monday, May 9, 1864 found Col. Clark S. Edwards and his 5th Maine Infantry Regiment camped behind the rapidly lengthening Union earthworks northwest of Spotsylvania, […]

Spotsylvania, Part III: Maine soldiers witnessed horrific reminders of war

As the battle-weary men of his 2nd Brigade shuffled through the Chancellorsville battlefield on Sunday morning, May 8, 1864, Col. Emory Upton could see the year-old carnage not yet concealed by Virginia’s brilliant spring growth. He could not foresee the similar fate awaiting four of his five regiments within the next 25 days. The 2nd […]

Spotsylvania Court House, Part II: “They were brutes”

  After Col. Charles Herring reached the expanding battlefield northwest of Spotsylvania Court House, Va. at 10 a.m. on Sunday, May 8, 1864, Union generals kept maneuvering his ad hoc brigade hither and yon throughout the day to meet threats imagined and real as fighting engulfed nearby Laurel Hill. At 6 p.m., according to Pvt. […]

Spotsylvania Court House, Part I : The rear guard marches to the sound of the guns

Union soldiers expected that after the savage fighting they had endured in The Wilderness in early May 1864, Ulysses Simpson Grant would withdraw the Army of the Potomac across the Rapidan and Rappahannock rivers and let his mauled divisions encamp to lick their wounds. Other generals — particularly Ambrose Burnside and Joseph Hooker — had […]

Great violence happened here in bucolic Spotsylvania County

Mainers visiting the Spotsylvania Court House battlefield will find no monuments dedicated to Pine Tree State regiments. A few Union monuments stand here; the first encountered by visitors is the John Sedgwick monument at the intersection of Brock Road and Grant Drive. The low-key monument marks the spot where the Sixth Corps commander offered himself […]

May 24 ceremonies honored 1st Maine Heavy Artillery

Spring peepers added a special touch to a ceremony held in Bangor Saturday, May 24 to honor a Maine regiment shattered during a tragic charge in Virginia almost 150 years ago. The Queen City was among 11 sites across the United States selected to participate in a National Park Service-sponsored program titled “Reverberations.” Specific Union […]

Preserve the battlefields where the Maine boys fought

  Of the many places where Maine soldiers and sailors fought 150 years ago, some sites no longer exist. The 9th Maine Infantry “went in” with the 54th Massachusetts Infantry on the failed nighttime assault on Fort Wagner near Charleston in July 1863. By war’s end, the sea was already claiming Fort Wagner and the […]