Bloody Lane Trail-Stop 3

Stop 3 - Uphill to the Sunken Road

You are standing at the center of the Union battle lines that were over 700 yards wide. French’s Division advanced first and was mostly to the right, Richardson’s Division followed and extended the line to the left. Every step taken, from here to the Sunken Road, will be in the footsteps of Union soldiers who made this advance to their unknown fate. In French’s Division, 70% of the men had never experienced the horror of combat.
 
Gen. William French
Gen. William Henry French was born in Baltimore, Maryland and graduated from West Point in 1837. He served in the Seminole and Mexican-American Wars. A career solider, French survived the Civil War, retired in 1880 and died a year later in Washington, D.C. He is buried there in Rock Creek Cemetery.
One of the soldiers in French’s Division remembered how,“an occasional shell whizzed by or over, reminding us that we were approaching the debatable ground. The compressed lip and set teeth showed that nerve and resolution had been summoned to the discharge of duty. A few temporarily fell out, unable to endure the nervous strain which was simply awful.”

General French reported that upon “encountering the enemy’s skirmishers, charged them briskly, and, entering a group of houses on Roulette’s farm, drove back the force, which had taken a strong position for defense.” Captain Sumner, son of the Second Corps commander, arrived carrying orders for French “to press the enemy with all my force.” The General ordered his three brigades forward and his soldiers “soon crowned the crests of the hills on our left and right, flaunting the regimental banners in defiance to those of the rebels who, flushed with a supposed victory, dared to face us.

It is on the crest of the hill in front of you where both French and Richardson’s men would meet the determined Confederates, deeply ensconced in the Sunken Road. Their advance was checked and for over three hours the blue and gray would blast away at each other at point blank range.
 
“Directly on my front, in a narrow road running parallel with my line, and, being washed by water, forming a natural rifle-pit between my line and a large corn-field, I found the enemy in great force. … As my line advanced to the crest of the hill, a murderous fire was opened upon it from the entire force in front. My advance farther was checked, and for three hours and thirty minutes the battle raged incessantly, without either party giving way.”
Brig. Gen. Nathan Kimball

Battle Map at Approximately 9:30 a.m.
 
Bloody Lane Battle Map 1
 

Last updated: February 20, 2021

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