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Civil War Series

The Battles of Wilderness & Spotsylvania

   

MAY 8: HANCOCK DEFENDS TODD'S TAVERN

During the morning of May 8, Hancock's Federal Second Corps formed across Catharpin Road immediately west of Todd's Tavern to guard against a Confederate attack from the rear. Late in the afternoon, the Rebel Third Corps approached Hancock's pickets on Catharpin Road. Hill, who suffered from a recurrent malady, had become too sick to command and had been temporarily replaced by Major General Jubal A. Early, one of Lee's more flamboyant lieutenants. Early decided to probe toward Todd's Tavern and gave the assignment to Mahone.

Mahone's division, assisted by Confederate cavalry, encountered Brigadier General Francis C. Barlow's division, which had thrust west along Catharpin Road. A vicious fight flared along the roadway as Barlow retired to entrenchments near Todd's Tavern. Early, however, decided against pressing the matter and withdrew west to Shady Grove Church, where he camped for the night. "And so the Second Corps stood to arms," one of Hancock's aides wrote, "all the afternoon and into the early evening, believing that another of its great days of battle had come." But the expected onslaught never arrived. As the aide later put it, "darkness came on, and the great battle of Todd's Tavern was never fought."

ON MAY 8, WHILE THE REST OF THE UNION ARMY ENGAGED LEE AT LAUREL HILL, HANCOCK'S CORPS GUARDED THE FEDERAL REAR AT TODD'S TAVERN BEHIND BARRICADES SUCH AS THOSE PICTURED HERE. JUBAL EARLY'S CORPS PROBED HANCOCK'S POSITION, BUT FINDING IT STRONG, PROCEEDED TO SPOTSYLVANIA BY AN ALTERNATE ROUTE. (LC)

WILLIAM MAHONE TOOK COMMAND OF ANDERSON'S DIVISION ON MAY 7 AND LED IT THROUGHOUT THE BATTLE OF SPOTSYLVANIA. (LC)
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