Near Spotsylvania in Spotsylvania County, Virginia — The American South (Mid-Atlantic)
Seeing the Elephant
The 1st Massachusetts Heavy Artillery at Harris Farm
— Harris Farm Battlefield Civil War Site —
The 1st Massachusetts Heavy Artillery was one of several regiments that "saw the elephant" here at Harris Farm ("Seeing the elephant" was a 19th century expression that denoted a soldier's first experience in battle.)
Forming ranks east of the house (behind you), the "Heavies" waded into battle against Ramseur's battle-weary veterans around 6:00 p.m. Here and in the fields to your right, the erstwhile artillerists stood their ground, loading and firing their muskets as they had been drilled. They "got a little mixed and didn't fight very tactically," a Union officer remarked later, "but they fought confounded plucky."
After four hours of fighting, the Confederates withdrew, having suffered 900 casualties.
Erected by Association for the Preservation of Civil War Sites, Inc.
Location. 38° 14.048′ N, 77° 34.212′ W. Marker is near Spotsylvania, Virginia, in Spotsylvania County. Marker is at the intersection of Monument Drive and Knob Hill Court, on the right when traveling north on Monument Drive. The marker is located on a small tract operated by the Association for the Preservation of Civil War Sites, Inc. The site is reached from Courthouse Road (CR 208), turning west on Bloomsbury Road. At the intersection of Bloomsbury Road and Monument Drive, continue straight. Park along the road only, and use marked path to the monument area. Adjacent properties are private residences. Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: Spotsylvania VA 22553, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within 2 miles of this marker, measured as the crow flies. Harris Farm (here, next to this marker); a different marker also named Harris Farm (here, next to this marker); First Regiment Heavy Artillery (a few steps from this marker); a different marker also named Harris Farm Engagement at Harris Farm (Bloomsbury) (approx. half a mile away); Landram Farm (approx. 1.3 miles away); Landram House (approx. 1.3 miles away); a different marker also named The Landram House (approx. 1.4 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Spotsylvania.
More about this marker. On the lower left is a photograph of some officers of the 1st Massachusetts Heavy Artillery. The caption reads, "Union officers of the 1st Massachusetts Heavy Artillery "saw the elephant" after they fought their first battle at Harris Farm, Virginia, 1864."
In the lower center a photo is captioned "Following the Battle of Harris Farm, soldiers of the 1st Massachusetts Heavy Artillery carry off a Confederate corpse near the Alsop House one mile to your right.".
In the upper center is a portrait of "Lieutenant General Richard S. Ewell, commander of the Second Corps, Army of Northern Virginia. After severe fighting in the Wilderness and at Spotsylvania Court House, Ewell could bring no more than 6,000 men into the battle of Harris Farm." Photo courtesy of the Museum of the Confederacy.
The right of the marker is a map detailing the battle with the following text, "Second/Final phase of the Battle of Harris Farm. From 6:30 pm on Federal units stand their ground against Ewell's Confederates, who withdraw around dusk. The battle of Harris Farm denies Grant's involvement until the night of May 21st, when he disengages his army and marches south. Grant and Lee will meet in battle again within the week at the North Anna River."
This marker was replaced by a new one named Harris Farm — Baptism of Fire (see nearby markers).
Categories. • War, US Civil •
More. Search the internet for Seeing the Elephant.
Credits. This page was last revised on February 13, 2020. This page originally submitted on July 9, 2008, by Craig Swain of Leesburg, Virginia. This page has been viewed 1,723 times since then and 16 times this year. Last updated on March 9, 2015, by J. Makali Bruton of Querétaro, Mexico. Photos: 1, 2, 3, 4. submitted on July 10, 2008, by Craig Swain of Leesburg, Virginia. • Bill Pfingsten was the editor who published this page.