Spotsylvania Courthouse battlefield is part of Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park in Spotsylvania County, Virginia. Fought between May 8-21, 1864, Spotsylvania Courthouse was the second battle of Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant’s 1864 Overland Campaign against Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia in the American Civil War. The battle resulted in approximately 31,000 total casualties.
The Spotsylvania battlefield is located a few miles south of The Wilderness battlefield along Brock Road and is not as spread out as its neighbors. There is no visitors center here, only an exhibit shelter staffed part time. Most of the monuments are located at what became known as the “Bloody Angle” or “Mule Shoe,” but an extensive line of earthworks is still visible.
The worst fighting occurred at a salient in Lee’s line, where General Grant twice tried to break through with a relentless frontal assault. The first attempt, on May 10, was led by Colonel Emory Upton and 12 hand-picked regiments. Today, you can follow the path of his attacking column along a trail leading from the Union lines to the Confederate.
The largest attack occurred on May 12, when Grant tried to duplicate Upton’s limited success with Maj. Gen. Winfield S. Hancock’s II Corps. The fighting at the Bloody Angle was some of the most intense of the entire war. Union casualties numbered approximately 9,000. Confederate casualties, including 3,000 prisoners of war, were approximately 8,000.
In what was one of Lee’s worst mistakes of his military career, he ordered the withdrawal of most artillery from the salient, leaving it essentially indefensible. Confederate artillery chief Porter Alexander believed they could have used artillery to devastating effect against the Northern assault, perhaps stopping it altogether.
Eventually, the Confederates beat back the grand assault and established a new line of earthworks farther to the rear. Sporadic fighting continued for another eight days. Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park is open from dawn to dusk. The Spotsylvania open-air exhibit shelter is staffed weekends and holidays from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.