93rd. at Spotsylvania
THE REGIMENT PARTICIPATES IN THREE CHARGES,
ON THE lOTH. 12TH.
18TH. OF MAY,1864 AT
SPOTSYLVANIA COURT HOUSE, VA.
AND HOLDS THE "BLOODY ANGLE,"
IT WAS A HAND TO
HAND STRUGGLE WHICH ENDED IN A CHARGE.
GEN. GRANT finding, upon sending out reconnaissances, that Gen. Lee had fallen
back upon stronger entrenchments, awaiting a further attack, and finding it useless to again bring on another engagement, determined to throw his army between Lee's army and Richmond.
The Regiment lay quiet on the 7th until ordered to march to Spotsylvania,which was reached too late to attack that day, and next morning preparations were made to make a general attack, but postponed until the 9th. and thus was
entered upon the first of that wonderful series of flank movements that have become the admiration of the world.
The Regiment, with the Sixth Corps, took the Chancellorsville road, reached
the old battlefield at daylight; and halted for breakfast near the ruins of
the old Chancellor House. Gen. Lee anticipating Gen Grant's flanking movements had hastened Ewell's and a part of Longstreets Corps. On an inner road to Spotsylvania, upon finding Grant had withdrawn from Wilderness Run.
The Sixth Corps reached Spotsylvania at 2 o'clock in the afternoon, and; by reason of the intense heat, exhausted by marching and fighting since May 4th, many men fell by the wayside. The Corps rested for two hours. when it was ordered to support Warren's Fifth Corps, which had become hotly engaged.
We pressed along a narrow road leading through a thick growth of timber until we came to where the Fifth Corps was engaged. Line of battle was formed, but an attack was delayed.A wooded ravine at a little distance from our front concealed a Rebel line of battle, and in our rear were dense woods, extending to the road, along which our line was formed.
The woods were on fire, and the hot blasts of air which swept over us, together with burning heat of the sun rendered our position a very uncomfortable one. Before long, however the Corps was ordered to the
left, and took a position on the left of
Warren's corps. our secound division was formed in three lines of battle, with the view of attacking the Rebels, and soon after dark, all things being ready,our Division moved forward to attack, but finding the Rebels too strongly posted, the attack was relinquished, although this was done after some desperate fighting by our Division.
There was brisk skirmishing along the whole line on the 9th, our Corps placed
in the left center. Our Second Division was formed in a clearing on the side
of a hill which sloped gradually until it reached a swamp,which however,
turned and passed our line at our left. About three hundred yards in front
of us was a strip of woods one-fourth of a mile wide, and beyond the woods
and open field where the Rebels was posted behind formidable earthworks.On
our right has a dense forest, along which the 93rd touched with its line.
Our whole line was strengthened with breastworks of rails and logs, as which were procured almost under the Rebel guns, while the heavy mists of the morning concealed the men from view. Over the rails and logs, earth was thrown to protect the men from shot and shell. There was little fighting
on the 9th, but on this day Gen. Sedgwick, the beloved Commander of the Sixth Corps was killed, and the Corps and army lost a most distinguished Soldier.
Gen. Sedgwick was struck by a ball while on foot, directly in rear of the
14th New Jersey, First Brigade, Third Division, Sixth Corps. Gen. Sedgwick
was, as was his custom, posting a battery—the First Massachusetts—then
earthworks at that point forming an angle, which he regarded as of great
importance. Gen. Sedgwick while posting the battery noticed a member of
Company G of that Regiment moving in a stooping position toward his company
in the breastworks. Gen. Sedgwick smiled, and playfully raised his foot toward
the cautious comrade, saying pleasantly and good humoredly: What are you
dodging for? They cannot hit an elephant that far."
Just then he recieved the fatal shot. below the left eye, the ball passed out at the back of his head, and he never uttered one word after receiving the fatal shot.
His body was placed in an ambulance and while passing to the rear the ambulance passed along the 93rd Regiment, and never had such a gloom rested upon the whole army on account of the death of one man as came over it as when the heavy tidings passed along the lines that the noble and beloved old Commander of the Sixth Corps had been killed.
There was some picket firing during this Monday night, but no attack and the
wearied and fatigued soldiers threw themselves upon the ground to rest.
Our position on Tuesday morning, the 10th, remained the same as on the 9th.
During this day both armies gathered their strength and perfected their plans
for a renewal of the contest, on a scale of magnificence seldom if ever
witnessed by any army before. This was destined to be a day of most fearful
carnage, and desperate attempts on the part of eaeh army to crush the other
by the weight of its terrible charges.
The activity of the skirmishing, along the line, early in the morning,
steadily increased in severity until it became a roll of battle. During all
the battles in the Wilderness artillery had been useless, except when here
and there a section could be brought in to command the road, like that at the
Brock Road and Orange Plank Road, where the 93rd.was stationed on May 6th,
but now all the artillery on both sides was brought into work. It was the
terrible cannonading of Malvern Hill, with the fierce musketry of Gaine's
Mill combined, that seemed fairly to shake the earth and skies. Never during
the war had the two armies made such a gigantic struggle for the destruction
of each other.
Hancock and Warrens Corps resisted the charges of the enemy, which were repeatedly hurled like an avalanche against our breastworks, hoping by the very momentum of the charge to break through our lines, but a most withering storm of leaden and iron hail would set the Rebels wavering,and finally send them back to the woods and their earth works in confusion,leaving the ground at each time with an additional layer of their dead.
In turn the Second and Ninth Corps made charges, and in turn they too would be forced to seek shelter behind their defenses Thus the tide of battle along our right rolled to and fro, While the horrid din of musketry and artillery rose and swelled as the storm grew fiercer..
Our Sixth Corps was not called upon until t' 6 o'clock in the afternoon,
then it was to make one of the most notable charges on record. Col. Upton
was given twelve regiments, which assembled on the open space in front of
our works, silently entered the strip of woods which was between our line
and that of the Rebels. Passing through to the further edge of the woods,
the twelve regiments were formed in columns of three lines, each line
consisting of four regiments. Our Second Division acted as support to that
At the time of forwarding our artillery from the eminences in the rear
opened a terrific fire, sending shells howling and shrieking over us and
the charging column, and plunging in the works of the Rebels. Col. Upton's
clear voice rang out: "Attention battalions ! Forward; doublequick; Charge !"
And with a cheer, which were answered by the wild yell of the Rebels, the
charging column forwarded, amidst a sheet of flame which burst from the rebel
line, and the leaden hail swept the ground over which the column was advancing,
while the grape and canister of the Rebel batteries came crashing through our
ranks at every step, and scores and hundreds of our brave fellows fell,
literally covering the ground.
But nothing daunted the noble fellows rushed upon the defenses, leaping over
the ditch in front, and mounted the breastworks. The Rebels made a determined
resistance, and a hand to hand fight ensued. until with their bayonets our
men had filled the rifle pits with bleeding Rebels. About two thousand of
the surviving Rebels surrendered and were immediately marched to the rear
under guard. Without halting, the impetuousately rushed toward the second
line of works, which was equally as strong as the first. The resistance
here was less stubborn than at the first line. Yet the Rebels refused to
yield until forced back at the point of the bayonet.
The noble heroes of the old Sixth Corps, which never failed to achieve the
possible, rushed from the woods, on to the third line of defences which was
also captured, although the ranks of the charging column had become fearfully
thinned. Finding that re-inforcements were reaching the Rebels, while our
column was every moment melting away, a retreat was ordered, and there
was not even time to bring away the six pieces of artillery which we had
captured,but were filled with sod and abandoned. The charging column returned
to our defenses, leaving the dead and most of the wounded in Rebel hands.
The night of the 10th was passed in quiet and the 11th was passed in making
new arrangements and although skirmishing was kept up along our line, no
general engagement resulted. During the night the Second Corps took up a
positiion between the Sixth and Ninth Corps,which was not before occupied.
This line made here a sharpe angle and by seizing this angle, it was hoped
to turn the right flank of Lee' s Army. Between the position of the Second
Corps and the Rebel works, the ground was covered with vines and underbrush,
and as it neared the defences ascended abruptly to a considerable height.
At the grey light of the morning of the l2th. the 93rd was moved from its
position in the woods in the front to an open field in the rear,and an
opportunity was given to boil coffee and for breakfast. Every officer and
veteran knew that more desperate work was on hand for the day, and while
partaking of the repast, Captain Riehard G. Rogers, of co. D came walking
along the line of co. I, and upon reaching co. D, said to the writer: I
would give my right arm if I had no need to go into battle this day. This
surely was a premonition of death, for it was followed by his being mortally
wounded and died two days afterward.
When all was in readiness, the Regiment with the Corps en-masse, rapidly
advaneed across the field, a thick fog concealing our movement. As our
column reached near the rifle pits of the Rebels, a storm of bullets met it;
but charging impetuously up the hill and over the vorks, the Rebels, surprised
and overpowered, gave way; those who could escaping to the second line in the
rear, though thousands were obliged to surrender on the spot, so complete had
been the surprise. Our victorious column now pushed forward on toward the
second line of works, but here the enemy by this time fully prepared for an
attack, the resistance became more stubborn, and the battle now raged with
The Sixth Corps occupied the works taken by the Second Corps, and the Rebels
made the most desperate efforts to retake them. by forming their troops in
heavy columns and hurling them against us with tremendous force. Our First
Division held the center of the line of our corps, at a point known
as "The Angle." This was the key to the whole position, and the Sixth Corps
held it- Our forces held the Rebel works from the left as far as this "Angle,"
and the Rebels still held the rest of the line. Whoever could hold "The Angle"
would be the victors; for with "The Angle," either party could possess
themselves of the whole line of works. Hence the desperate efforts to drive
us from this position.
The First Division of our Corps being unable to hold and maintain the position
alone, our Seeond Division was sent to its aid. And now, as we of the Second
Division took our places in the front, the battle became a hand to hand combat.
A breastwork of logs separated us from the Rebels. Our men would reach over
this partition and discharge their muskets in the face of the Rebels, and in
return would receive the fire of the Rebels at the same close range. Finally
the men began to use their muskets as clubs and then rails were used.
The men on both sides were willing thus to fight from behind the breastworks,
but to rise up and attempt a charge in the face of the Rebels, so near at
hand, and so strong in numbers, required unusual bravery. Yet the 93rd, with
its noble and brave comrades of the First Brigade, and with those of the rest
of our Second Division, Sixth Corps, did rise up, made the charge, and drove
the Rebels back and we held "the angle" ourselves-—known the world over as
"The Bloody Angle." Thus was verified those words which became famous of Gen.
Grant: "I propose to fight it out on this line if it takes all summer."
The trees in front of the position held by our Sixth Corps during this
remarkable struggle, were literally cut to pieces by bullets. Even trees
more than a foot in diameter were cut off by the constant action of the
bullets, and it was the long continued, fearful musketry battle between
our Sixth Corps and the Rebels, which cut down those trees.
The confliet now became more and more bloody, and soon the Fifth Corps.
joined the Sixth Corps, and at 10 o'clock the battle rolled along the whole
line, and the terrible fighting continued until 11 o'clock, when there was
a lull in musketry, but the artillery continued its work of destruction
Thus the second line of works of the enemy was taken, but not without fearful
loss to both armies.
The trophies of this famous charge, were
Our Sixth Corps had fought at close range for eight hours. Behind the works
the Rebel dead were lying, literally piled one upon another, and wounded men
were groaning under the weight of dead bodies of their companions On the
morning of the 13th, Captain Charles W. Eckman, of co. H. of the 93rd, and
the writer, made a close inspection of the Rebel breastworks at "The Bloody
Angle" and counted the dead and wounded five bodies deep, with living and
wounded Rebels beneath their dead, and the breastworks filled up with Rebels
to the very top of them.
Major General Edward Johnson with
his whole Rebel division,
Brig. Gen. George H. Stuart, a brigade of Gen.
a whole Rebel regiment and including between 3,000 and 4,000 prisoners.
We also captured between 30 and 40 guns in this charge in the
first assault in the morning by the Second and the Sixth Corps.
Gen.Wright, commander of the Sixth. Sorps. was wounded, but not severly.