MAY 8: WALSON OCCUPIES SPOTSYLVANIA COURTHOUSE
While Warren sparred south along Brock Road, Wilson's Union cavalry
division trotted toward Spotsylvania Court House on an easterly route
along the Fredericksburg Road. Wilson's troopers entered the hamlet
around 8:00 A.M. and found it unprotected. The young cavalry commander
recognized that he was superbly located. By sweeping north on Brock
Road, he could take the Confederates on Laurel Hill in the rear.
Wilson dispatched a brigade under Colonel John B. McIntosh up Brock
Road. Stuart had a single regiment to spare, which bravely but
unsuccessfully attempted to detain McIntosh. Meanwhile, Anderson
learned of Wilson's threat and dispatched infantry above and below
Spotsylvania Court House to catch the Union cavalry division. At the
last moment, a courier arrived from Sheridan and directed Wilson to
withdraw. With Rebels lashing his rear guard, Wilson retired up the
Fredericksburg Road as he had come.
HOT-TEMPERED PHIL SHERIDAN CHAFED FOR AN OPPORTUNITY TO FIGHT JEB
STUART'S CONFEDERATE CAVALRY IN A PITCHED BATTLE HE WOULD SOON GET HIS
The confrontation ended with Sheridan proclaiming that he could
whip Stuart if Meade would only let him, then stomping out of the
Wilson's near capture brought Meade's and Sheridan's simmering feud
to a boil. In Meade's opinion, Sheridan had thoroughly botched his
assignment to clear the road to Spotsylvania. As Sheridan saw it, Meade
had meddled in his management of the cavalry and had nearly gotten
Wilson captured. Sheridan stormed over to Meade's tent in a hot rage.
According to an aide who witnessed the encounter, Meade had "worked
himself into a towering passion regarding the delays encountered in the
forward movement." Another witness described Sheridan's language as
"highly spiced and conspicuously italicized with expletives." The
confrontation ended with Sheridan proclaiming that he could whip Stuart
if Meade would only let him, then stomping out of the tent.
Meade walked to Grant's tent and repeated the conversation, including
Sheridan's remarks about beating Stuart if Meade would only let him.
"Well, he generally knows what he is talking about," Grant answered,
and added: "Let him start right out and do it."
At 1:00 P.M., Sheridan received orders directing him to concentrate
his command and "proceed against the enemy's cavalry." During the rest
of the afternoon, he gathered his units at Alrich's and provisioned
them for an early march.