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“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
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 —

 
Seeing the Elephant Marker image. Click for full size.
By Craig Swain, July 6, 2008
1. Seeing the Elephant Marker
Water damage to the marker has obscured some of the photo captions.
Inscription. Union heavy artillery regiments serving as infantry shouldered the brunt of the fighting at Harris Farm. The "Heavies," as the members of the heavy artillery units were called, had been pulled from forts protecting Washington, D.C., to make up for the losses Grant had suffered in the Wilderness and at Spotsylvania Court House. Veteran soldiers jibed the green troops in their fresh uniforms, calling them "bandbox soldiers."

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. Federal losses totaled 1,535, nearly 400 of whom belonged to the 1st Massachusetts Heavy Artillery. The battle gained the "Heavies" the army's respect. After Spotsylvania, wrote one officer, "I
Battle Map image. Click for full size.
By Craig Swain, July 6, 2008
2. Battle Map
never heard a word spoken against the heavy artillerymen."
 
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. Touch for map. 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. Marker is in this post office area: Spotsylvania VA 22553, United States of America.
 
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 (about 500 feet away, measured in a direct line); Engagement at Harris Farm (Bloomsbury)
The 1st Massachusetts Monument and Interpretive Markers image. Click for full size.
By Craig Swain, July 6, 2008
3. The 1st Massachusetts Monument and Interpretive Markers
(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
The "Heavies" Form image. Click for full size.
By Craig Swain, July 6, 2008
4. The "Heavies" Form
Looking to the east from the marker location. The "Heavies" formed between Courthouse Road and the Harris Farm before engaging in their first battle.
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).
 
Also see . . .  Harris Farm. Details of the CWPT site and the battle. (Submitted on July 10, 2008, by Craig Swain of Leesburg, Virginia.) 
 
Categories. War, US Civil
 
 
Credits. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016. This page originally submitted on July 9, 2008, by Craig Swain of Leesburg, Virginia. This page has been viewed 1,592 times since then and 96 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.
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