Quadrilateral – an unintended result

quadrilateral at spotsy

quadrilateral at spotsy

Sometimes you get results that you really don’t expect. Guess that’s true in every type of endeavor.

This past Sunday a group of knowledgeable people got together and went back into the Mule Shoe to try to interpret those positions around and behind the West Angle. In particular we were looking for the positions of all eight of the guns known to be there the morning of May 12.The group included David Lowe, widely known for his expertise on Civil War fortifications, Phil Sherman another person with great knowledge of the subject, John Cummings, who brings a great deal of knowledge on Spotsylvania and the area to the table, David White, who has a depth of knowledge about Perrin’s brigade, my brother and myself.

As to how that went I must admit we were only partially successful. We were successful in verifying all four of the positions held by Carrington’s Battery the morning of May 12. That was low hanging fruit if you will because it was generally known. As far as Tanner’s battery we were not completely successful. While we know the general area they were in we could not completely identify the positions. War  On the other hand we have eliminated all but one area, that of the second line west of the McCoull Lane. Which is where we will look next.


View of the quadrilateral as it exists today.

View of the quadrilateral as it exists today.

Of course we couldn’t just stop there. We visited what is possibly a quarry used by the CCC while building the roads within the park. We say possibly because of the number of stones stacked adjacent to the pit.

Then we went across to the other side of the salient to look at the route some of Perrin’s brigade took while counterattacking the morning of May 12.

Almost as an afterthought I asked David Lowe about a feature in the Confederate works that has been troubling me for some time. “What and where is the quadrilateral?”. This is prominently featured in the accounts of Pegram’s/Hoffman’s brigade. The answer surprised me in that it was so patently obvious. Just where the Confederate line turns back eastward from what we call the East Angle, that turn created a four-sided arrangement. (see map)

Surviving earthworks as of 2004 - courtesy David Lowe

Surviving earthworks as of 2004 – courtesy David Lowe – note that this for the battle at its completion. Also that the interior of the “Muleshoe” has not been mapped.

The identity of this feature changes several things. It tells us about the limit of the counterattack that morning. It gives us the location of several units during the day. It tells us about the location of some guns that the Confederates recaptured and used all day, only to allow them to fall into the hands of the Federals again. And it causes us to rethink several of the beliefs, that I for one, had held. These of course will be the source of future articles.

And it was just the result of a throwaway question as we were getting ready to leave the field.


About Russ

Avid student of military history as well as amateur historian. Has a keen interest in archaeology. Founded his company Roadraceparts.com in 2004.
This entry was posted in Battle of Spotsylvania Courthouse, Bloody Angle, Hancock's assault on the Muleshoe, Mule Shoe, Steuart's Brigade and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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