MAY 19: EWELL STUMBLES AT HARRIS'S FARM
Before Grant could spring his trap, Lee seized the initiative by
sending Ewell on a reconnaissance in force to locate Grant's northern
flank. On the afternoon of May 19, Ewell took the larger part of Rodes's
and Gordon's divisions up Brock Road, past corpses moldering on the
Spindle field, then northeast on the Gordon Road toward Fredericksburg.
Around five o'clock that afternoon, he stumbled upon several heavy
artillery regiments serving as infantry. For some of the "Heavies,"
this was their first exposure to combat. As fighting heated up, they
were reinforced by the First Maryland returning from furlough. Meade
pumped Birney's division into the fray, and a confused and bitter round
of combat ensued.
ON MAY 18 GRANT STRUCK AT THE BASE OF THE MULESHOE. EWELL'S MEN,
FIGHTING BEHIND EARTHWORKS LIKE THESE, EASILY REPULSED THE ATTACK. (LC)|
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THE ARMIES ABANDON SPOTSYLVANIA: MAY 21|
Unable to crack Lee's entrenched line at Spotsylvania, Grant determines
to pry him out of position by dispatching Hancock's corps to Milford
Station. Before he can implement this plan, however, Ewell leads his
depleted corps in a reconnaissance toward the Fredericksburg Road,
resulting in a sharp fight on May 19 at the Harris farm (inset). When
Ewell falls back to his previous position, Hancock starts for Milford
Station, compelling Lee to abandon Spotsylvania and retreat south along
the Telegraph Road.
Lee became increasingly concerned as Ewell became drawn into a major
engagement far from the rest of the army. When firing sputtered out
around 9:00 P.M., Ewell's soldiers immediately began working their way
back to their former position. Many lost their way and were captured.
The engagement at Harris's farm was a pointless and costly skirmish, and
the "Heavies" had acquitted themselves well. Ewell lost over nine
hundred men collecting intelligence that a cavalry squad could just as
well have gathered.