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“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Near Spotsylvania Courthouse in Spotsylvania County, Virginia — The American South (Mid-Atlantic)
 

No Turning Back

Spotsylvania Exhibit Shelter

— North Wall —

 
 
No Turning Back Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Craig Swain, July 6, 2008
1. No Turning Back Marker
Inscription.  
No Turning Back
Defeated but undeterred, Grant abandoned Spotsylvania's blood-soaked fields on May 21 and continued south -- toward Richmond and ultimate victory. In his wake he left a scarred landscape pitted with thousands of graves.

The Awful Arithmetic
If considered as one engagement, the fighting at Wilderness and Spotsylvania Court House constitutes the bloodiest single battle in American history. Some 36,000 Union soldiers and 24,000 Confederates were killed, wounded, captured, or missing during the period of May 5 to May 21, 1864 -- a staggering 30 percent of those engaged.

The tremendous loss of life outraged many in the North, some of whom labeled Grant a butcher. But the general understood his arithmetic. He could replace his losses, Lee could not. In time he would grind the Confederate army down to a point where it could no longer resist. Grant had engaged Lee in a war of attrition -- a war
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the South could not win.

"...In the long run, we ought to succeed, because it is in our power more promptly to fill the gaps in men and material which this constant fighting produces."
General George G. Meade, USA

Grant Leaves Spotsylvania
While the struggle for the Bloody Angle marked the apogee of fighting at Spotsylvania, it did not signify the battle's end. More than a week of combat still remained. On May 14, 18, and 19 the armies clashed again without decisive results. Although victory eluded him, Grant remained optimistic. Convinced the Confederates were "very shaky," he looked for an opportunity to deliver a blow that would shatter the Army of Northern Virginia beyond repair.

That blow would not come at Spotsylvania. His opportunities here exhausted, Grant on May 21 ordered the Army of the Potomac to leave Spotsylvania and march south toward the North Anna River, toward Richmond. Lee followed. The contest -- already the deadliest of the war - would go on.

A Hard Road to Travel
Wilderness and Spotsylvania were opening battles in a yearlong campaign that only ended with Lee's surrender at Appomattox Court House. Before
No Turning Back Panel image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Craig Swain, August 24, 2008
2. No Turning Back Panel
reaching Appomattox the armies would clash again at North Anna River, Cold Harbor, Petersburg, and places in between. Thousands more would die before the fighting ceased.

"The great battle is not yet over, there is only a lull -- the first for twenty-five days, the sullen roar of artillery even now reminds us that the last act of the bloody tragedy is yet to be enacted."
Captain Andrew J. McBride,
10th Georgia Infantry

Those Left Behind
Casualties at Spotsylvania were appalling. "The question became, pretty plainly, whether one was willing to meet death, not merely run the chances of it," wrote one Confederate soldier. These are the faces of just a few of the 4,000 Union and Confederate soldiers who died in the battle. The graves pictured at the bottom of this panel belonged to Mississippi soldiers killed at the Bloody Angle.
 
Topics. This historical marker is listed in this topic list: War, US Civil. A significant historical month for this entry is May 1879.
 
Location. 38° 13.149′ N, 77° 36.861′ W. Marker is near Spotsylvania Courthouse, Virginia, in Spotsylvania County. Marker is on Grant Drive, 0.1 miles north of Brock
Awful Arithmetic Panel image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Craig Swain, August 24, 2008
3. Awful Arithmetic Panel
Road (County Route 613), on the left when traveling north. Located at stop one (The Exhibit Shelter) on the driving tour of Spotsylvania Battlefield unit of the Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 9550 Grant Dr, Spotsylvania VA 22553, United States of America. Touch for directions.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. The Battle of Spotsylvania (here, next to this marker); Grant Finds an Opening: May 12 (here, next to this marker); Testing the Line: May 8-10 (here, next to this marker); A Different Kind of War (here, next to this marker); Spotsylvania Court House (here, next to this marker); The Death of Sedgwick (about 400 feet away, measured in a direct line); Spotsylvania Campaign (about 400 feet away); a different marker also named Spotsylvania Campaign (about 400 feet away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Spotsylvania Courthouse.
 
More about this marker. The background of the No Turning Back panel shows a pontoon bridge. At the bottom of the An Awful Arithmetic panel is a photograph of Confederate soldiers, killed in the May 19 fighting near Alsop house, lie in rows awaiting burial.

The
Grant Leaves Spotsylvania Panel image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Craig Swain, August 24, 2008
4. Grant Leaves Spotsylvania Panel
bottom of the Grant Leaves Spotsylvania panel is a photograph of Grant and staff at Massaponax Church. Photographer Timothy O'Sullivan snapped this image at Massaponax Church on May 21 as the Union army was leaving Spotsylvania. Meade is seated on the pew at left, holding a map, with Grant leaning over his shoulder.

On the lower left of the A Hard Road to Travel panel is a photo of a bridge over the North Anna, captioned The armies' next collision was twenty-five miles south of Fredericksburg, on the banks of the North Anna River. Unwilling to attack Lee there, Grant again shifted south and headed for Cold Harbor. To the right is a map of the Overland Campaign. On the Those Left Behind panel are portraits of those killed during the Overland Campaign, seen superimposed over a photograph of a Confederate cemetery at Spotsylvania.
 
Also see . . .  Spotsylvania Battlefield Exhibit Shelter. National Park Service website entry (Submitted on December 15, 2022, by Larry Gertner of New York, New York.) 
 
A Hard Road to Travel Panel image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Craig Swain, August 24, 2008
5. A Hard Road to Travel Panel
Those Left Behind Panel image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Craig Swain, August 24, 2008
6. Those Left Behind Panel
Overland Campaign Map image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Craig Swain, August 24, 2008
7. Overland Campaign Map
The Spotsylvania Exhibit Shelter image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Craig Swain
8. The Spotsylvania Exhibit Shelter
To the left is the south wall, with the A Different Kind of War marker. In the center are the Testing the Line: May 8-10, The Battle of Spotsylvania, and Grant Finds and Opening: May 12 markers along the west wall. To the right is the north wall with No Turning Back.
 
 
Credits. This page was last revised on December 15, 2022. It was originally submitted on August 25, 2008, by Craig Swain of Leesburg, Virginia. This page has been viewed 1,370 times since then and 27 times this year. Photos:   1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7. submitted on August 25, 2008, by Craig Swain of Leesburg, Virginia.   8. submitted on August 24, 2008, by Craig Swain of Leesburg, Virginia.

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Apr. 21, 2024