Near Spotsylvania in Spotsylvania County, Virginia — The American South (Mid-Atlantic)
Testing the Line: May 8-10
Spotsylvania Exhibit Shelter
—West Wall —
Grant's failure to win the race to Spotsylvania led to two weeks of brutal combat. Aggressive and impatient, the Union commander relentlessly hammered away at the entrenched Confederate line, looking for weakness.
Less well known than the fighting at the Bloody Angle but no less costly, the combat at Laurel Hill produced upwards of 5,000 casualties. On three different days - May 8, 10, and 12 - Union troops charged across the fields surrounding Sarah Spindle's farmhouse in an effort to break Lee's entrenched lines. Each time they suffered defeat. "It was charge and fall back 6 to 8 times. We could get our men only so far," complained one officer.
"One good rush and their bayonets would have silenced our guns. But they could not face that hail of death any longer."
Private William M. Dame,
1st Company, Richmond Howitzers
The problem was terrain. In order to reach the Confederates, Union soldiers had to cross several hundred yards of open ground, all the while exposed to the bursting shells and whizzing bullets of the enemy. "The moment we rose from the
Faced with six miles of powerful Confederate earthworks, Grant at first sought to turn Lee's flanks. When, on May 10, those efforts encountered resistance, Grant mistakenly concluded that Lee had weakened the center of his line. That evening, Grant ordered an attack against the Confederate center.
At 6 p.m., 5,000 men commanded by Colonel Emory Upton dashed across 200 yards of open ground and breached the center of Lee's line. Although Southern counterattacks eventually recaptured the works, Upton's success gave Grant an idea. If 5,000 men could break the Confederate line, what might 20,000 men do?
"The struggle lasted only a few seconds. Numbers prevailed, and like a resistless wave, the column poured over the works...The column of assault had accomplished its task."
Colonel Emory Upton, USA
Location. 38° 13.147′ N, 77° Click for map. Located at stop one (The Exhibit Shelter) on the driving tour of Spotsylvania Battlefield unit of the Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park. Marker is in this post office area: Spotsylvania VA 22553, United States of America.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. A Different Kind of War (here, next to this marker); The Battle of Spotsylvania (here, next to this marker); No Turning Back (here, next to this marker); Grant Finds an Opening: May 12 (here, next to this marker); The Death of Sedgwick (about 300 feet away, measured in a direct line); Spotsylvania Campaign (about 400 feet away); a different marker also named Spotsylvania Campaign (about 400 feet away); Sedgwick (about 400 feet away). Click for a list of all markers in Spotsylvania.
More about this marker. The background of If it Takes All Summer panel is a collage of soldiers in camp. For the Laurel Hill panel, a scene of the fighting is shown.
Related markers. Click here for a list of markers that are related to this marker. Battle of Spotsylvania - Exhibit Shelter and Tour Stop One Trails
Also see . . . The Exhibit Shelter. National Park Service virtual tour stop. Note photos of the shelter with older markers on the walls. (Submitted on August 25, 2008, by Craig Swain of Leesburg, Virginia.)
Categories. • War, US Civil •
Credits. This page originally submitted on , by Craig Swain of Leesburg, Virginia. This page has been viewed 861 times since then and 2 times this year. Photos: 1, 2, 3, 4. submitted on , by Craig Swain of Leesburg, Virginia. 5. submitted on , by Craig Swain of Leesburg, Virginia. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016.