Battle of Spotsylvania Court House

Ulysses S Grant, Seventeenth President of the United States
Ulysses S Grant, Seventeenth President of the United States. Credit: Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, LC-USZ62-13018 DLC

Dates of the Battle of Spotsylvania Court House:

May 8-21, 1864

Other Names:

Laurel Hill and Corbin’s Bridge (May 8); Ni River (May 9); Laurel Hill, Po River, and Bloody Angle (May 10); Salient or Bloody Angle (May 12-13); Piney Branch Church (May 15); Harrison House (May 18); Harris Farm (May 19)

Location:

Spotsylvania County, Virginia

Key Individuals Involved in the Battle of Spotsylvania Court House:

Union: Lt.

General Ulysses S. Grant, Major General George G. Meade
Confederate: General Robert E. Lee

Outcome:

Inconclusive. 30,000 casualties of which 18,000 were Union soldiers.

Significance of the Battle of Spotsylvania Court House:

Lieutenant General Ulysses S. Grant decided to stop fighting and continue the overland campaign to Richmond. Each successive battle that Grant fought on his advanced resulted in large casualties. This earned Grant the nickname ‘Butcher Grant’. 

Overview of the Battle:

After fighting in the Wilderness, Grant and Major General George G. Meade advance to Richmond was stalled on May 8th at the Spotsylvania Court House. This was not ‘one’ battle, but a series of battles that occurred over two weeks along the Spotsylvania front.

The attack against the Confederates at Bloody Angle at dawn on May 12-13th almost cut the Confederate army in half. Grant was able to capture almost an entire division of General Robert E. Lee’s army.

However, the Confederate army was able to plug the gap through counterattacks. In fact, fighting continued without stopping for almost 20 hours in many have described as the most ferociously sustained combat during the entire war.

On May 19th, the Confederate army hit the Union at Harris farm, attacking the right flank.

However, they were unsuccessful with major casualties.

During the course of this campaign, Union generals John Sedgwick and James Clay Rice were killed. Confederate generals Edward Johnson and George Steuart were captured. Junius Daniel and Abner Monroe Perrin were mortally wounded. Finally on May 21st, General Grant decided to disengage and continued the Union advance on Richmond.