Battle of Spotsylvania

What was happening in 1864?

The American Civil War had started in 1861. The War started over differences between the southern states and the northern states. One of the major issues was slavery – the southern states supported slavery while the northern states wanted to end it completely.

These differences came to a head when Abraham Lincoln was elected President in early 1861. The southern states then decided to break away from the Union which led to war between the two sides.

Background of the Battle of Spotsylvania Court House

In 1863, the war had started to turn in favor of the Union. The Union armies were able to score many important victories, including the Battle of Gettysburg.

President Abraham Lincoln then tasked General Ulysses S. Grant with pursuing the main Confederate army under General Robert E. Lee. General Grant and his Union army marched into the Confederate territory of Virginia and fought a number of battles against the Confederate army. The Battle of Spotsylvania Court House was one of these.

Commanders on both sides

In the Battle of Spotsylvania Court, the Union army was led by General Ulysses S. Grant. Another important commander who was part of the Union army was Major General George Meade. The Union army numbered at around 100,000 soldiers and included the Army of the Potomac as well as a part of the Army of the Ohio.

The Confederate army was led by General Robert E. Lee. This army was much smaller, numbered at around 60,000 men and was called the Army of Northern Virginia.

When and where was the battle fought?

This was a long battle which started on May 8, 1864 and continued until May 19, 1864. It took place in the Spotsylvania County of Virginia.

The Fighting

The basic position before the battle was that the Confederate army had formed defensive lines, expecting the Union army to attack. The Union army attacked on May 8, 1864. The Confederate army turned back the attacks of the Union army but both sides suffered heavy casualties.

On May 12, Union army launched another major attack and was able to break through the defense lines of the Confederate army but the fighting continued. For many subsequent days, the Union army kept launching attacks and the Confederate army kept defending them. Although both sides lost a lot of soldiers, neither side retreated from the battlefield or gave way to the other side. On May 19, 1864, General Ulysses S. Grant finally moved the Union army away from the battlefield.

Result and Aftermath

The Battle of Spotsylvania Court House had no clear winner. It was pretty much a draw since neither side had actually won. However, both sides had suffered heavy casualties. The Union army suffered 2700 deaths and a total of around 18,000 casualties.

The Confederate army suffered around 1500 deaths and a total of around 13,000 casualties. These losses were more severe for the Confederate army because the Confederate army was much smaller in size. General Ulysses S. Grant continued to attack General Robert E. Lee’s Confederate army in the subsequent months.

Learn More about The Battle of Spotsylvania Court House 1864 at Wikipedia