Bloody Angle

A swale through an open field with tall grasses and woods in the distance.
Union and Confederate soldiers were caught in relentless fighting at the Bloody Angle.

NPS Photo

Quick Facts

Historical/Interpretive Information/Exhibits, Scenic View/Photo Spot, Trailhead

Having targeted the Muleshoe Salient on May 10 with 5,000 soldiers and some success Ulysses S. Grant and George G. Meade decided to attack it again on May 12 with almost 20,000 troops. Those Federal soldiers spent May 11 marching into position. A steady rain fell, blanketing the area in a heavy fog. Around 4:30 am on May 12, the 20,000 U.S. soldiers moved forward. They quickly captured the Confederate pickets and continued their attack into the main Confederate line, screaming and hollering.

The initial Confederate defenses shattered almost immediately, and the Federals captured thousands of prisoners. Realizing that with the Mule Shoe taken, his lines were dangerously split, Robert E. Lee ordered counterattacks to stabilize the position. Thus began nearly 24-hours of constant combat, some of the most infamous fighting of the entire war that left both armies stunned. Sometimes separated by just a few feet of dirt, the two sides battled through the day and into the night around a bend in the works that became known as the Bloody Angle. One Union soldier said the Mule Shoe was “a seething, bubbling, roaring hell of hate and murder.” Another soldier wrote, “I never expect to be fully believed when I tell what I saw of the horrors of Spotsylvania, because I should be loath to believe it myself, were the case reversed.”

After nearly a complete day of fighting, the Confederates pulled back. The counterattacks bought the time needed to dig new trenches and allowed Lee to restore his line. The cost came to nearly 17,000 casualties on both sides around the Mule Shoe.

While you're here...

Walk the Bloody Angle Trail

1.1 mi (1.8 km)
Walk a route around the Bloody Angle as a 1.1 mile loop, or as a part of the larger Spotsylvania History Trail. Interpretive waysides along the trail discuss the fighting that took place here. Monuments mark the locations of various units that fought on this ground. Please help preserve the earthworks by not walking on them.

Fredericksburg & Spotsylvania National Military Park

Last updated: October 25, 2022