The following is the Letter from the Editor from the Mule Shoe issue, Volume 26, #1.

The Bloody Angle

The fighting at Spotsylvania Court House, Virginia, in 1864 was some of the bloodiest of the war. The authors of this issue’s feature article are Kristopher D. White, a fine young historian at Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park (FSNMP), and Chris Mackowski, an associate professor of journalism and mass communication at St. Bonaventure University in New York, who also serves part-time on the interpretive staff of FSNMP.

They describe Ulysses S. Grant’s strategic view of the Wilderness and Spotsylvania as not two separate battles, but “a single long conflict” that the new commanding general of all United States armies was eager and determined to prosecute to the fullest. It was a change in Union strategy in the Eastern Theater that became brutally evident to Robert E. Lee as the armies moved south.

Nothing was more brutal than the attacks along the Confederate salient called the “Mule Shoe” on May 12. The Union attack was spearheaded by the II Corps under Maj. Gen. Winfield Scott Hancock and was a reprise of the May 10 attack by Col. Emory Upton, except on a grander scale, involving 20,000 men. Unknown to the attackers, but surely to their benefit, on the eve of the planned assault the Confederates thought Union forces were withdrawing, and Lee in turn had ordered most his guns removed from the Mule Shoe in anticipation of another march. All of the ingredients for a major disaster for either, or both, sides were present.

The attacks of May 12, which included hand-to-hand fighting in muddy trenches during a driving rainstorm, occurred all along the infamous Mule Shoe. Troops from other Union corps were fed into the action, and Lee responded by pulling reinforcements from other parts of his position. There were also several supporting attacks at various points along the opposing lines. The West Angle of the salient, however, became known as the “Bloody Angle,” and that term has generally come down through time as the all encompassing title for the action at Spotsylvania on May 12, 1864.

The author duo is at work on another Spotsylvania feature for Blue & Gray. I’m happy to welcome them to our growing cast of fine historians who not only provide superb scholarship, but also enjoy tramping battlefields and, as I like to call it, “getting their boots muddy for you.”


editor