MAY 13: THE ARMIES ASSESS THE FIGHT AT THE BLOODY ANGLE
Combat continued unabated at the Bloody Angle all day and into the
night. Not until 4:00 A.M, on May 13 did Lee inform his troops holding
the salient that the new earthworks had been completed. Unit by unit,
the exhausted gray-clad troops retired to new fortifications behind the
The sun rose on May 13 over a frightful scene. A soldier from New
York wrote his parents that "we have fought one of the greatest battles
ever fought. Neither party has been yet badly beaten, though I think the
Johnnies have had the worst of it." Curious to examine the battlefield,
he wandered into the salient, now in Union hands. Bodies sprawled
everywhere. "The rifle pits were literally chocked with them," he
observed, "some of them still breathing." He tried to explain his
emotions to his family. "My feelings while looking at the bodies of
our dead enemies were not of joy alone," he wrote. "I thought of how
many hopes were bound up in the lives of those men whose broken bodies
were lying helpless on that muddy field. I had no enmity towards those
men, not even any for their living companions who from the woods beyond
were even then occasionally sending a whistling bullet after us. They
are brave and believe in the cause they fight for."
GENERAL ROBERT E. LEE (LC)|
A 22-INCH-WIDE OAK TREE THAT STOOD DIRECTLY BEHIND THE BLOODY ANGLE WAS
LITERALLY CUT DOWN BY THE HAIL OF BULLETS. TODAY A SEGMENT OF THE TREE
IS ON EXHIBIT AT THE SMITHSONIAN INSTITUTION. (SMITHSONIAN)|
Grant's aide Horace Porter viewed May 12's handiwork in dismay. "Our
own killed were scattered over a large space near the 'angle,'" he
recounted, "while in front of the captured breastworks the enemy's dead,
vastly more numerous than our own, were piled upon each other in some
places four layers deep, exhibiting every ghastly phase of mutilation."
He added that "below the mass of fast-decaying corpses, the convulsive
twitching of limbs and the writhing of bodies showed that there were
wounded men still alive and struggling to extricate themselves from
their horrid entombment."
Lee's artillery chief Brigadier General William N. Pendleton wrote
his daughter that "in general, we have been quite successful against
General Ulysses." He conceded that "by accident night before last,
however, they gained an advantage which will partially encourage them."
The loss of the salient, he explained, "is the only mishap of
consequence," and he went on to conclude that "no army in the world was
ever in finer condition after two days continuous fighting." Captain T.
J. Linebarger gave his family a more candid appraisal. "Grant is not
like other Yankees," he warned. "Half such a whipping would have sent
McClellan, Hooker, Burnside, or Meade crossing to the other side of
the Rappahannock, but Grant may join us in battle at any moment." As
Captain Linebarger assessed the situation, "It seems that Grant is
determined to sacrifice his army or destroy Lee's."