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Civil War Series

The Battles of Wilderness & Spotsylvania

   

MAY 8: MEADE AGAIN ATTACKS LAUREL HILL

During the afternoon, Sedgwick's Sixth Corps tramped past Alsop's and extended Warren's line eastward. It was unseasonably hot and dusty and nothing seemed to be going right. One of Sedgwick's aides later explained that his "dim impression of that afternoon is of things going wrong, of much bloodshed and futility." Meade's staffer Theodore Lyman thought that "never were officers and men more jaded and prostrated."

By seven o'clock in the evening, Meade had managed to coordinate Sedgwick and Warren. Several New Jersey regiments punched forward near Brock Road only to be shredded by Anderson's firepower. Survivors sought refuge in dips and swales. Many waited until darkness before attempting to crawl to safety. East of the roadway, Crawford's Pennsylvanians and several Sixth Corps units charged ahead in hopes of slipping past Anderson's right flank. They received a nasty surprise. Ewell's Confederate Second Corps had left the Wilderness early that morning and arrived in time to shift next to Anderson. The Federals were repulsed and pursued to their works by Battle's Alabamians. Musketry sparked through the night as snipers fought nasty little battles in the no-man's land between the armies. Disappointment in the Union ranks was palpable. "The thing was so poorly executed that it does not amount to much" a Northerner wrote home.

RICHARD EWELL COMMANDED LEE'S SECOND CORPS. (NA)

THE CONFEDERATE DEFENSES CONSISTED OF LOGS AND DIRT PILED HEAD HIGH. AS THE WAR WENT ON, LEE CAME TO RELY MORE AND MORE ON SUCH DEFENSIVE WORKS TO OFFSET GRANT'S SUPERIORITY IN NUMBERS. (LC)

Meade complained to his aide Lyman as they sat around the evening campfire. Sedgwick, he grumbled, was "constitutionally slow," but his real anger was directed at Warren. "I told Warren today that he lost his nerve," Meade explained, "at which he professed to be very indignant." Following a rancorous meeting with his corps commanders, Meade ordered them to rectify their lines and rest their men. Grant's offensive was assuming a decidedly defensive cast.

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