150 Year Anniversary of Wilderness and Spotsylvania Courthouse
This past weekend we all packed up and headed over to the Spotsylvania Courthouse complex off of Courthouse Road in Spotsylvania, Virginia for the 150 Anniversary Re-enactment of the Battles of Wilderness and Spotsylvania Courthouse. Having never been to a re-enactment, we were really excited to see what all the craze was about. Of course to start off, we really wanted to get to know what these battles were really all about.
We live right around the area of Spotsylvania known as “Wilderness” just east of the now preserved Wilderness Battlefield. You can’t really drive too far in our area without the reminders of the battle via historical markers, statues and monuments. As the battle re-enactment approached we really wanted to wrap our brains around what has been touted “the bloodiest battles of The Civil War.”
The Battle of Wilderness started with a reluctant Union Campaign moving east from Culpepper to attack the Confederate Army which was stationed in the protection of the thick forested wilderness. Unsure about attacking through the wilderness, the army pushed forward and in it’s first attempt failed miserably as they met with the Confederate earthworks. The battle ensued back and forth over May 3rd and 4th, finally ending when the Union pulled back after massive casualties on both sides. Though the Union suffered more casualties than the Confederates (over 20,000 losses), they push towards Spotsylvania Courthouse, they were undeterred because they finally had a strong leader in Grant to continue.
On May 7th, the Battle was for Spotsylvania. This past weekend we viewed the re-enactment of a battle that raged for 22 hours in torrential downpours and claimed a total of 17,000 lives. It was remarkable to see all the re-enactors engage in battle to display how just a small portion of the war played out. The folks who prepared the field built large earthworks (much as Gen. Lee, a former engineer, had created throughout the battles during the Civil War) along the crest of the field and the Union re-enactors maneuver in various positions showing attacks, retreats, and breaches in the Confederate line.
Both battles were inconclusive, leading to continued war that raged south towards Richmond. What is left behind are the reminders of this war that once tore apart our Virginia landscape. Today, walking through the parks and battlefields in our area, you can clearly see remaining earthworks, not only in the Battlefield parks, but even in woodlands and forest just around us. Our own backyard (literally) is home to an abandoned railroad that that served to move artillery between the Mineral area towards Fredericksburg and south to Richmond.
Right now, our kids don’t fully appreciate the immensity of the battles that took place here, but one day we hope that they really will be able to see and understand exactly how important the land we live on it and what history it holds. I, for one, know that the history that has been made here is part of what has built the fabric of our community and nation.
Thank you to all the wonderful staff, volunteers and re-enactors that traveled this past weekend to Spotsylvania and prepared for and cleaned up after this event. You all are truly appreciated!