Recently I was back out at Spotsylvania with the camera. If you’re like me, fascinated by the earthworks, and the story they can tell us, the Stonewall Brigades line across the McCoull field is quite interesting. At first glance it appears to be no more than a line of dirt connecting two more famous places.After all it runs in an almost perfectly straight line. At its southern end we have Doles Salient, famous for its part in Upton’s charge on May 10, 1864. At the other end we have the west McCoull Lane and the “Bloody Angle”. So what is there of interest here?
First, its quite accessible, right alongside the park road which runs between Doles Salient and the vicinity of the West Angle. But yet for most of the year little but the parapet is really visible. Certainly most of the details that a self proclaimed “trench nerd” are hidden by the vegetation. Mainly because of the fact that its poorly drained, water stands in the low spots there, and once things start to grow its quickly concealed by tall grasses
The area shown in the picture above depicts the junction between Rodes right hand brigade, Doles and the left, Stonewall, Brigade of Johnson’s division. Such spots are generally viewed as weak points in a defense because of command and control problems as well as tendency to “let the other guys do it”. Maj. Gen. Robert Rodes or his engineers evidently felt that way about this point. Particularly so as the disposition of the artillery did not provide any coverage of this ground, at least not until the 11th. So they had to find an alternative way to provide security for his flank. The solution was to construct a reentrant line on the plateau near where the ridge came to an end. Roughly perpendicular to the main line the trench ran back about 80 yards in a slight curve to follow the crest.
When the units of Rodes division settled into position on the evening of the 8th they generally speaking followed a ridge which went northward roughly perpendicular to the Brock road and in front of the Harrison House. This ridge came to an end in front of a large pine grove. This grove was dissected by a farm lane which ran out to a point in front of the grove of pines. There it forked. The left fork leading roughly westward toward the Shelton House, the right running northward until it to was joined by a lane leading from the McCoull House to the east. The combined lane then continued to run northward toward the Landran House.
After Rodes went into position the units of Johnson’s division marched northward to uncover themselves from Rodes line. The lead elements of this division found that after about 400 yards they climbed onto another low ridge which, despite some slight bends generally ran northward as well. They followed this ridge until the entire division was able to, by making a left face form a continual line. Of course minor adjustments had to be made but basically the line was formed.