MAY 17-18: GRANT TESTS LEE AGAIN
On May 17, the Virginia sun finally peeked from behind the clouds.
Soldiers hung their clothes out to dry and Grant pondered where to
strike next. One school of thought held that Grant's buildup along the
Fredericksburg Road must have induced Lee to weaken his line near the
former salient. Grant found this argument persuasive and ordered the
Second and Sixth Corps to attack there at sunrise the next morning.
During the night, Hancock's men retraced their steps to the Landrum
house, across from the Bloody Angle. By 4:00 A.M., they had formed to
attack, supported by Sixth Corps elements to the right and Ninth Corps
elements to the left.
Ewell's troops occupied the opposing works and had used the rainy
interlude to perfect their entrenchments. In front of their position
spread an extensive clearing, strewn with abatis and dominated by
artillery. And this time, unlike on the twelfth, Ewell was ready.
Blue-clad soldiers swarmed into the clearing to a now familiar story.
Abatis and entanglements pinned them in place while Ewell's artillery
blistered the field with a devastating barrage. The charge was
destroyed by ordnance alone. Afterward, Confederate foot soldiers
congratulated the artillerists and affectionately patted their guns.
GENERAL ULYSSES S. GRANT (NA)|
Lee's decisive repulse of Hancock persuaded Grant to seek a new field
of combat. As he had done after the Wilderness, Grant resorted to
maneuver to extract Lee from his near impregnable position. Hancock was
to march to the rail line between Fredericksburg and Richmond, then turn
south. Grant hoped that Lee would follow. "If the enemy make a general
move to meet this" Grant explained, "they will be followed by the three
other corps . . . and attacked if possible before time is given to