“Stonewall Brigade” lines out in the McCoull Field – updated 6/01/17

For the Stonewall Brigade they had initially halted in a very uncomfortable position. The three leading regiments were halted on a chalky hillside where they waited while the engineers selected a position for the line to be formed. The last two regiments, the 33rd and 2nd Virginia regiments were forced to halt in a swampy area behind them. Their officers moved them back to a more comfortable position without getting permission to do so. This caused some angry exchanges between some of the general officers as well as their staffs.  This was forgotten as the march to the position chosen by the engineers began. It took some time for the units to reach and form on the desired position. Even though it was late in the evening the men were ordered to begin to fortify at once. Drawing on their recent experience at the Wilderness they were able to quickly create a strong breastwork of rails and earth. When they arose from their slumber in the morning they were able to examine the position they had created. Their section of the line began a short distance to the right of the apex of the pine grove. There the ridge had ended  roughly where the farm lane from Harrison’s forked. Dole’s people had taken in the end of the ridge and placed their line with the lane in front of their line. It was only natural then that the Stonewall would do the same. Their line would parallel the lane, running across an open field until it entered another woods and crossed the lane from McCoull’s and climbed onto the ridge. From there the remainder of the brigade as well as the rest of the division followed the ridge to the north. While the two left hand regiments were in the open ground of the McCoull field, making connection with Doles extreme right,  the rest of the division took position either in front of, or just inside the woods along the ridge.


A =parapet of the Stonewall’s line B= berm by the bed of the farm lane C= Doles Salient = the sloping ground that Upton’s men charged across E heavily traversed section of the Stonewall’s line

The two left regiments, the 2nd and the 33rd were the most exposed units in the brigade. The 2nd was out in the open McCoull field with its left on Doles right. The 33rd to its right had a thick “neck” of second growth pines extending out in front of its lines. This provided cover for the skirmishers from their opposite numbers. To the rear of the two regiments the field ran back as far as the McCoull house and its outbuildings. These were visible on a bit of high ground several hundred yards to the rear. There was a narrow strip of woods running rearward behind a section of the line. This would provide cover from sharpshooters for people going to and from the rear area of the brigade.  . According to members of the brigade the works were constructed by building something similar to a crib from trees cut down using whatever tools which were available. A series of vertical posts were placed in the ditch some distance apart. Then rails, if available, or similar post were laid horizontally between them. The gap between the inner and outer stakes would be filled with dirt, sticks and rocks as protection from incoming projectiles. A shim was then placed along the top and finally a “head log” (A) was laid on top of the shims and secured. The space created by the shims created a loophole for the men to fire from.

The first serious attempt by the Federals to break the 2nd Corps line did not come until 6 PM on the 10th. Emory Upton sent 12 regiments across the field in front of Dole’s Salient and  the left of the Stonewall Brigade. The regiments of the Stonewall poured a heavy fire into the left flank of the attacking column. but they quickly broke the line and advanced into the McCoull field. Outflanked, the men of the 2nd and 33rd Va. fell back up the line until halted by Gen. Walker near the West McCoull lane. There they rallied and along with the rest of the brigade, as well as other units, fought until Upton’s people withdrew to the safety of their own lines.

That evening the brigade returned to its original positions. Not only did those stricken have to be cared for but positions had to be cleared of debris and the men resupplied. In addition an officer led a detail of men armed with axes out to cut down the trees in front of the works. (B)


a view of some of the works manned by the Stonewall. Note water standing in the ditch behind the parapet. There would have been no grass in or on the trenches during the battle. So rainfall such as on the 12th would have made this a miserable place.


from behind the parapet you can see the bed of the farm lane out in front. The visitors parking lot in the distance.


looking toward the West Angle, note the parapet being below the high ground beyond the visitors. Ramseurs men trying to hold these works on the 12th suffered from federals on the high ground being able to fire over their traverses.


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 1864, American Civil War, artillery in the Overland Campaign, Battle of Spotsylvania Courthouse, Bloody Angle, Cutshaw's Battalion, Doles Salient, Earthworks and trenchs, field fortifications, Hancock's assault on the Muleshoe, Johnson's Division, May 12, Mule Shoe, Overland Campaign 1864, Upton's Charge, West Angle and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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