Not leaves but broomstraw – part one.

These are a series of photos taken today to depict some of the defects in the “Mule Shoe” line. As a non professional photographer it is difficult to depict the subtilties of the ground. But I will try. Today though we had a combination of good fortune. Recent rain so water collected in some of the traverses along the left of the Stonewall Brigade’s line. The area was freshly bush hogged so you can see detail. Also there are no leaves, but that was not a factor today. So lets begin.

long distance photo showing Dole's line.

Long distance photo showing apex of Dole’s Salient and the line bent back, then running down the hill. Dole’s line has a ditch, seen as a dark line running in front of it.

Looking up the hill at the face of Dole's Salient.

Looking up the hill towards the apex of Dole’s Salient. From in front of the works held by the left regiments of the Stonewall Brigade

Looking up at the West Angle.

From the low ground just to the left of the previous picture. Looking along the line to the West Angle in the distance. Note the traverses.

small pen.

standing water helping illustrate one of the “pens” along the line as it runs along the low ground.

different type of traverse.

Just to the left of the previous photo. Water highlighting something different.

slightly different view of the same position.

slightly different view of the same position.


two things here. the traverses are made apparent by the water. But look closely and you can see a distinct “vee” in the works.just past the first puddle. Two sections of line joined?

Ditches in front of the line.

looking toward Dole’s Salient. My wife leaving the ditch in front of this section of the line. Notice further up, in front of the first park sign that this ditch ends and another more prominent ditch begins further out.


more traverses running partly up the hill toward Dole’s Salient.

two ditches

standing in the “lower” ditch. Parapet to the left, mound to the right. (“vee” is visible on the near left) Dole’s ditch distinctly visible slightly further out.

Or did the Stonewall Brigade move its left back slightly to align with Doles? Thus creating what appears to be a ditch in front of the works.

Dole's ditch.

standing in the ditch in front of Dole’s line. This was dug the night of May 10, 1864.

Across the field.

looking across the field toward the Confederate line below Dole’s Salient.

in front of Dole's works.

the undulations in the ground in front of the works to the right of the road Upton’s men guided on.

I hope you find these interesting despite my lack of photographic skills. More to come this evening.





About Russ

Avid student of military history as well as amateur historian. Has a keen interest in archaeology. Founded his company in 2004.
This entry was posted in American Civil War, Battle of Spotsylvania Courthouse, Battle of the Muleshoe, Doles Salient, Earthworks and trenchs, field fortifications, Mule Shoe, Uncategorized, Upton's Charge and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to Not leaves but broomstraw – part one.

  1. Larry G says:

    these are good Russ! thanks for taking the time to do them.

    Thinking about this – a little… photos are good but even better if they are identified with respect to a location on a map and have a label that indicates which cardinal direction they are pointed at!

    I also was thinking about you and your work the other day while walking in BA in the woods and thinking that maybe some day someone will create a phone/tablet app that has a map… shows where you are …but then also shows (in the woods) the locations of the trenches and other battle landscape forms.

    you’d need to start by finding each feature in the woods.. and capture it’s lat/long.

    you can come close to doing this with Google Maps… if you have captured the lat/longs of the features into a file with labels/ids for each lat/long.

    but I do thank you for all your fine efforts …and apologize for thinking up more things for you (or others) to do!



    • Russ says:

      Your point is well taken. In my defense I was rushing to try and get these out before I left for work. The plan is to plot them on Google Earth and put that, along with more photos from the East Angle out as an Addendum. Maybe by sometime tomorrow.

      The purpose of the trip was to get photos to accompany an article about how the “Mule Shoe” took shape and then to discuss some of its defects. Which are far from limited to its shape. That however seems to be taking far longer than I had expected.

      As to the APP, seems like a great idea, but I wonder could that be done privately? The NPS has a lot of the info, but would they be willing to share?

      But I really want to get to the overall picture of May 11th. I think that there are some interesting things to be told. Nothing that hasn’t been in print before, but its interesting I think.

      Thanks for the feedback, I appreciate it.


      • Larry G says:

        THANK YOU for all your hard work and efforts in pursuit of this worthy endeavor!

        re: the APP… I notice that a couple were done .. I think with VDOT money…so we know
        that it can be done… just a question of who, when and the money of course.


      • Russ says:

        I have seen some good stuff done by the CWT for various battlefields. I hope that at some point maybe I can participate in such a project. I believe that I have the idea of how to put the photos on a map. Will hope to get it done tomorrow. If it doesnt it wont be long. I need to finish the article I am working on first.

        But I cant help but drop this hint. When the 2nd Corps marched from the Wilderness. The night before the move, 3 battalions were assembled near Verdiersville. They would not march with the infantry but by a seperate route. Braxton and Page stayed with the infantry and marched to Spotsylvania.

        Remember the units took turns so no one unit always got the good or bad jobs.
        On the afternoon of the 11th, Cutshaw and Hardaway were in the infantry lines. Page, Nelson were withdrawn, while Braxton was not in the line but at camp.



  2. Larry G says:

    Russ.. you were talking about how better delineated the battlescape features are with standing water. As good or even better is a light snow! The problem is the gate is often closed when that happens unless conditions are right for the snow to melt on the road but stick to the fields.

    I’ve gone in on foot from the trail at Brock and Block Rd before when there was snow and the features really do stand out if a light snowfall… heavier and features get covered.

    As to your speculation about units taking turns at bad job, I must admit that I know very little about the specifics though I find them interesting.


    • Russ says:

      I have to agree that snow makes the folds in the terrain a bit more obvious. Certainly takes the distractions of leaves, other debris out. Water was welcome in this caue, because it combined with fresh mowing allowed clarity of some of the subleties. For example, along that section of the line near the parking lot, I had never clearly seen the traverses. Notice two bays side by side constructed differently. Also we can clearly see where Doles ditch ends. A better way of saying it would be that both water and snow give us a different view of the scene.

      The rotation issue I think is not a matter of speculation, its too well documented for that. Lets walk thru a couple, (2nd Corps examples all):
      The marching order, by division, for the approach march to the Wilderness – Johnson, Rodes, Early
      for the approach march to Spotsylvania – Rodes, Johnson, Early/Gordon
      so we can perhaps extrapolate that for the next march (the one Lee expected)it would be – Early/Gordon, Rodes, Johnson. (add in the fact that they would be moving to the right so you would think that the divisions would peel away left to right. Early/Gordon being in reserve would move first.)

      I’ve already given you the example of the way the artillery marched with the infantry.

      Thomas Carter, when writing about Page’s return to the Salient said “my brother Willie’s battery leading by turn”. Obviously hes describing a rotation system within the battalion. Dust, horse manure, ever deepening ruts in bad weather would have made the lead position quite coveted. No wonder they used it.

      It is my theory that it was Long’s intention to organize the march more than anything Lee did which removed the guns on May 11. Certainly he had given Hardaway and Cutshaw instructions to “move with the infantry, but do not move before the infantry moves”. So it could not have really been an issue of time, rather of organization.

      I welcome your thoughts on the matter.


      • Larry G says:

        Russ – agree – the water Combined with the mowing… changed the way the landscape looks and to the benefit of spotting human changes to it.

        I wonder if NPS did this on purpose for that purpose? I’ve noticed that they have begun a regime of proscribed, selected burns then mow the same area later ….

        in terms of who, what, why, where, and how for Civil War engagements, I’m as dumb as a stump – truly. Safe to say I’m not a scholar much less a student of such things.

        re: difference between snow cover and rain/mowing appearances…. Mr. Cummings has done some photo overlay things, right?



      • Russ says:

        I’ve seen the controlled burn at Cold Harbor, and to a lesser degree at Spotsy. Think the purpose is to remove all the debris and promote growth of a more natural cover.
        Mowing, as it has been done at Spotsy is a sore point. It has not been done well at all. In one case out in front of the works outside the east face, a Union lunette has almost been eradicated by the deck of the bush hog being drug over it for years.

        You may not be a student but you ask interesting questions. Thats the first step.

        I’m sure that John Cummings has done things that I’m not familiar with.



      • Russ says:

        BTW: Despite the rain, I am going back today to GPS the ditch in front of Doles salient.


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