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

Hell Itself

The Battle of the Wilderness

— Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park —

Hell Itself Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Craig Swain, February 16, 2008
1. Hell Itself Marker
The Wilderness of today looks different than it did in 1864. Then it was a patchwork of second-growth forest. Brush obscured, briars grabbed, and thickets disrupted the battle lines. One solder described the combat here as "bushwhacking...on a grand scale." For men accustomed to fighting in open woods and fields, the tangled landscape of the Wilderness translated into sheer horror.

Smoke from thousands of rifles hovered motionless in the air, choking the combatants. Enemy lines rose up, fired a volley, then disappeared into the haze. Many men never even saw their foes; they simply fired at muzzle flashes in the undergrowth. When the dry leaves caught fire, wounded soldiers burned to death. To a Union officer it seemed that "Hell itself had usurped the place of earth."

The woods would light up with the flashes of musketry, as if with lightning, while the incessant roar of the volleys sounded like the crashing of thunder-bolts. Brave men were falling like autumn leaves, and death was holding high carnival in our ranks."
Lieutenant Robert Robertson, Union staff officer.
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National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior.
Topics. This historical marker is listed in this topic list: War, US Civil. A significant historical year for this entry is 1864.
Location. 38° 18.009′ N, 77° 42.568′ W. Marker is near Spotsylvania Courthouse, Virginia, in Spotsylvania County. Marker can be reached from the intersection of Orange Plank Road (County Route 621) and Brock Road (County Route 613), on the right when traveling east. Located at stop eight (Brock Road-Plank Road Intersection) of the driving tour of the Wilderness Battlefield. The marker is along a half-mile loop trail at the tour stop. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 10809 Orange Plank Rd, Spotsylvania VA 22551, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. The Vermont Brigade (a few steps from this marker); Echoes Homeward (within shouting distance of this marker); Valuable Crossroads (within shouting distance of this marker); Horror on the Orange Plank Road (within shouting distance of this marker); The Climax (about 300 feet away, measured in a direct line); No Turning Back (about 400 feet away); On to Richmond! (about 400 feet away); 12th Regiment New Jersey Volunteers 1862 - 1865 (about 400 feet away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Spotsylvania Courthouse.
More about this marker. The marker features two drawings. One depicting the infantry fighting as described in the text, the other showing casualties removed from the burning woods. The caption reads: Soldiers often broke from battle lines to fight from behind trees. During lulls in combat, men from both sides helped rescue the wounded from the flames that consumed the undergrowth.
Also see . . .  Wilderness Battlefield.
The Second Wayside on the Loop Trail image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Craig Swain, February 16, 2008
2. The Second Wayside on the Loop Trail
The Vermont Brigade monument stands in the background.
National Park Service site. (Submitted on May 1, 2008, by Craig Swain of Leesburg, Virginia.) 
The Wilderness image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Craig Swain, February 16, 2008
3. The Wilderness
Wintertime photos do not do justice to the terrain. This section of the park retains some of the original look of second-growth forest. With large amounts of dead fall, even in winter it is not hard to imagine the confusion of fighting within such a space where visibility is limited.
Credits. This page was last revised on July 9, 2021. It was originally submitted on May 1, 2008, by Craig Swain of Leesburg, Virginia. This page has been viewed 1,527 times since then and 59 times this year. Photos:   1, 2, 3. submitted on May 1, 2008, by Craig Swain of Leesburg, Virginia.

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Sep. 28, 2023