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

At daylight the answer became apparent. The warning was given that the Federals were attacking in force. The misty rain and low overcast limited vision to about a hundred yards. Even so they watched as the Federals methodically broke through the abatis and overwhelmed the defenders to their right. Then a substantial body began to work down the trenches held by the brigade from right to left. Attacked from front and rear at the same time the regiments were successively overwhelmed. While some men say the danger and got out while they could most stayed and fought on or surrendered.

Most of the men from the extreme left regiment, the 2nd Virginia, did have time to get out. Hayes men on their left also had time to retreat up the hill, only losing 38 men from their extreme right who were captured. These men formed a new line along Rodes reentrant line facing down the hill. They were supported by Garber’s battery of Cutshaw’s battalion which Rodes had ordered to move the guns by hand out of the pits to positions facing down the hill. The combined forces stopped the federal advance up the slope toward Doles Salient.  As other units were pulled from further to the left the line became more secure. Then counterattacks could begin to drive the Federals back. Ramseurs brigade of North Carolinian’s reached the second line and then drove forward to the main line to the left of the west McCoull lane. Some of Perrin’s Alabama brigade may have joined them. Under a galling fire from Federals on the higher ground around the west Angle there was some doubt whether they could hold on to what they had gained.

Fortunately the arrival of several other brigades which cleared the Federals off of that position relieved the pressure. So they stayed in that position the remainder of the day, fending off sporadic attacks and providing what help they could to their comrades to the right. Finally that evening they were, along with the rest of the defenders, withdrawn to a new line which had been under construction all day behind the Harrison House.

With that the usefulness of this line during the battle of Spotsylvania Courthouse came to an end. The Federals may have taken cover there during their abortive attack on the 18th. However for all intents and purposes its time had passed. Farmers probably salvaged wood and whatever else they may have had use for after the armies moved on, but evidently made no effort to tear it down. It still existed in 1916 along the same lines that we see in 2016 although it surely has deteriorated. Still it remains a monument to the efforts of brave men fulfilling their duty.

(A) Head logs were an important addition to field works. When firing at the enemy the only exposed portion of the body was the head and neck. Not only was this a physiological issue with many men, the mortality rate for wounds was extremely high. So the head log gave not only real protection but a feeling of security.

(B) Lt. Dozzle of the 33rd Virginia.

(C) This move while understandable since there had not been a major assault, Mott’s on the 10th and a lesser one on the 11th hardly qualify as major, on the apex of the salient. Still it removed roughly 800 muskets from the very point that Hancock struck as well as extending the line which Johnson held by several hundred yards. The effect may have been even more if Stafford’s old brigade and Hayes had been both picketing out in front and Jones brigade had assumed that responsibility.

(D) Recollection 1861-1865, Randolph Barton, page 54. Barton was a staff officer for Brig. Gen. Walker. He claimed that it was “about dusk” when the order came down and that he happened to have been standing very nearby when the arrangements were being made. Also that Terry was very serious when given his assignment, and was greatly relieved when it was cancelled.


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.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s