Welcome to the initial setup of my blog about what is known as the “Muleshoe”, or “the Salient” on the battlefield of Spotsylvania Courthouse. Here I hope to post some interesting historical bits, photos and observations by various people. Not only during the battle but some of the things that have happened since. So please bear with me as this could well be a long term project.
The Confederate line at Spotsylvania was unlike the popular perception not a straight line with the exception of a single salient. Rather it was composed of a series of bends and angles as it conformed to the land. Within the section held by the two divisions of Ewell’s Second Corps there are three salients and at least two angles. However these may all be considered to fall within the boundaries of the “Muleshoe” that section of earthworks made famous by the Battle of May 12th.
For our purposes we will consider that the “Muleshoe” will start on the left at the Brock Road and follow the line as it traces the high ground north and then eastward before descending to the branch below the McCoul spring.
Within the boundaries laid out above survive many of the original earthworks as well some that were reworked by the CCC or built by the National Park Service. These provide clues to what happened back in 1864, but also may raise new questions.
To this day some controversy exists about the ease with which the Federals captured the salient along with the bulk of Maj. Gen. Edward Johnson’s division, formerly commanded by Stonewall Jackson, on the morning of May 12th. Much has been made of the lack of artillery support and to this day is blamed for the near disaster.
What really happened? That question is the reason for this blog and maybe we can start towards figuring it out.
So lets start off with an excerpt from a letter from Thomas Carter to John Daniel in 1904 in it he expresses an opinion about what happened at the “Muleshoe”. Col. Thomas Carter had commanded the artillery in the salient until it was withdrawn on the afternoon of the 11th of May.
“ I never saw a long line of artillery with open ground in front as much as 400 yards, for double shotted canister to have its full sway, and put in its perfect work, carried by frontal attack. No matter how many lines of battle came against it: and my belief is that it would have been as impregnable against front attack as the Rock of Gibraltar with a pocket pistol.
Obviously Col. Carter, who was an exceptional artillerist, agreed with the conventional theory and felt that it was the removal of the artillery that was responsible for the loss.
But was it? Not all the artillery had been removed. In fact the afternoon before the attack an artillery had been sent into the salient.
But that is a subject for the next post. I welcome your comments.