17 June 2007 by Published in: General musings 7 comments

To say the least, it’s been a LONG weekend.

Here’s what the last two days have entailed. We will get some photos posted over the next couple of days, once I get home.

The bus picked us up at 7:45 AM yesterday morning. We headed out to the Wilderness. It’s a little over two hours from Harrisonburg to the Wilderness. The ride went quickly. Gordon Rhea did a lot of introduction to the campaign and I did a little on the cavalry.

We got to the Wilderness and unloaded. We walked the Saunders Field fights and then headed back out. Since we were tight on time, we drove from there down to the Widow Tapp Farm, site of the famous “Lee to the rear” incident. We walked the trail there, and Gordon did quite a bit of interpretation. The rest of the Wilderness interpretation was done from the bus. It included seeing the spot where Longstreet was wounded, the site where Wadsworth was killed, and several other sites. From there, we went to the visitor center at Chancellorsville for a boxed lunch. While there, I had a chance to visit with Mac Wycoff, who is a ranger and historian there.

We then drove past the Chancellor house site and down the Brock Road to Todd’s Tavern. When we got there, I interpreted the cavalry fight that occurred there and discussed the violent confrontation between Meade and Sheridan that triggered the May Richmond raid. From there, we went on to Spotsylvania Court House. We unloaded the bus at the Sedgwick monument (the spot where Uncle John got popped). Gordon interpreted the opening of the battle, and then we walked out and toured the Laurel Hill loop. It was beastly hot, and it was a long walk. From there, we hiked Upton’s attack against the west side of the Mule Shoe salient, which is a short but neat walk through the woods that ends at one of the few monuments on the battlefield at Spotsylvania. Next came the Bloody Angle assault, including walking the trail for Hancock’s assault. When we finished that, we did a final long hike of Lee’s last line, which features some absolutely spectactular earthworks through the woods. That was our last stop at Spotsylvania, although we saw a few more pertinent sites, such as Burnside’s attack against the Mule Shoe, from the bus. We finished the day’s touring with a stop at Massaponax Church. We must have walked four or five miles yesterday in nearly 90 degree heat, and boy, was I tired. We checked into the hotel and then had a nice dinner at a nearby Pizzeria Uno. I didn’t have a whole lot of trouble falling asleep last night.

This morning, it was another early start. We drove down to the nifty county park at the North Anna site. Gordon did more interpretation along the way, pointing out interesting sites from the movement south, and I showed the spot where Sheridan’s raid turned off the Telegraph Road to head toward Beaver Dam Station, which was a stop on the Virginia Central Railroad. We got to the North Anna park and Bobby Krick joined us. The group walked the trail to the apex of Lee’s position. For those who have never visited this site, these are, without doubt, the best earthworks I’ve ever seen in Virginia. They’re just spectacular, and they’re extremely well preserved. After reaching the apex, there’s a side trail you can take that takes you to an overlook of Ox Ford, and you can hear the North Anna rushing 100 feet below. The place reminded me a great deal of Ball’s Bluff, with the notable exception being that there were no earthworks at Ball’s Bluff and the Potomac is a bit wider and deeper than the North Anna. ๐Ÿ™‚

After hiking back out of there, we then loaded back up into the buses. We went from there to see some spots along the Pamunkey River, where Grant crossed the river to head toward Cold Harbor. From there, we went to Haw’s Shop. Unfortunately, Enon Church, which is an active congregation, had services in session when we got there, and the parking lot was completely full, so I had to interpret the battle from the bus. We then continued another mile or so along the Atlee Station Road on to the Stafford house–where Patrick Henry was married–to see the Totopotomoy Creek actions of May 28 and 29. The National Park Service just acquired this house and its surrounding grounds, which include some impressive earthworks thrown up by men of Winfield Scott Hancock’s Second Corps of the Army of the Potomac, last year when the elderly owner of the property died, and it’s going to serve as NPS headquarters for a new unit on the Totopotomoy Creek fighting. I’d never seen the Stafford house, so it was very cool.

From there, we went to have lunch on the Cold Harbor battlefield. After lunch, it was now in the 90’s and quite warm, with building humidity. We went to the little visitor’s center there (where I finally got around to buying a copy of Brian Burton’s book on the Seven Days, which I’d been meaning to do for some time) and then started interpreting the battle. We walked the big loop from the visitor’s center through the woods to Bloody Run and then back to the second ravine, which Gordon named Muddy Run. From there, we went to the Adams farm site, which actually is two different battlefields in one. It was the right end of the Union line in the Gaine’s Mill fight of 1862 and also was Hancock’s sector during Cold Harbor. The interesting thing about this site is that the axis was different for each. The Gaine’s Mill fight was a north/south fight, while the Cold Harbor fight covered the same ground from an east/west axis. I’d never seen this field before, and it’s in private hands. But for Bobby Krick, we wouldn’t have been able to get on the field. After loading back up and a potty stop at the Cold Harbor visitor center, we went out to the Stuart monument at Yellow Tavern. I interpreted the Battle of Yellow Tavern there, and that was the end of the day’s touring. Bobby left us–he lives near there–and we loaded up the bus and headed back to the Valley. After dinner, it was back to Harrisonburg and this hotel.

I’ve probably hiked between eight and nine miles in the last two days in some beastly heat. Once again, I’m beat. Tomorrow morning is the closing session, a farewell luncheon, and then I get to drive 7 hours home to Columbus. I should be home by this time (9:00) tomorrow night. My own bed is going to look good.

After discussing things with Gordon and Bobby, I’ve decided to tackle a book project that covers the cavalry operations of May 27-30, which will feature the Battle of Haw’s Shop and the taking of the critical road intersection at Old Cold Harbor. They’ve both offered to help, and I think it’s going to be an interesting project. Stay tuned.

For now, though, I’m tired.

Scridb filter

Comments

  1. Don H.
    Mon 18th Jun 2007 at 8:03 am

    Hello Eric

    Enjoyed your posts about the Overland Campaign. I’ve heard Gordon Rhea speak 3-4 times on the subject and enjoy listening to him very much. Sounds like it was a very enjoyable time. Did he happen to mention when his last volume in his study is expected?

    Regards
    Don

  2. Randy Sauls
    Mon 18th Jun 2007 at 10:10 am

    Eric:
    Sounds like an exhausting but fun tour. I’ve led tours of battlefields all around the Wilderness but that’s one I have not tackled yet. The nature of the terrain and the lack of widely familiar battlefield icons (stone bridges, copse of trees etc.) have given me pause. Most of the groups I take on tours are long on interest but short on familiarity and I have yet to find a way to traverse and explain the Wilderness in a way that the more casual CW traveler can relate to. On the other hand I’m taking a group of friends to Gettysburg this weekend and that’ll be a snap. That place just seems to capture the imagination a little better for most folks. In light of your description though I think I need to give the Wilderness a second look.

    Randy

  3. Jack Dempsey
    Mon 18th Jun 2007 at 11:41 am

    Having just been at several May 27-30 sites this spring I’m happy to see about the book project!

  4. Mon 18th Jun 2007 at 8:57 pm

    Don,

    Gordon, Bobby, and I were discussing it yesterday. He’s five chapters into the fifth volume. He says he expects to finish the draft this year. He and I are planning to get together in the fall so I can show him the battlefield at Trevilian Station. My guess is either late 2008 or early 2009.

    Eric

  5. Mon 18th Jun 2007 at 8:58 pm

    Exhausting it was. So, I’m glad to be home after a very long drive.

    Jack, it’s going to be a while, so please don’t hold your breath. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Eric

  6. Michael Aubrecht
    Mon 25th Jun 2007 at 11:08 am

    So glad to hear that you had a great time and equally bummed out that I couldn’t join you guys. You could have walked to my house from Massaponax Church. Well, there’s always the next time. ๐Ÿ™‚

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