Thursday, September 29, 2016

Diary of 2nd Lieutenant Lemuel A. Abbott: Sunday, May 8, 1864

It has been very warm and sultry. Our forces commenced a flank movement last night. We withdrew from the enemy's front about 10 o'clock p. m. and marched, via the Chancellorsville turnpike — where we passed many trains, our wounded and Burnside's Corps — through the old battlefield of Chancellorsville of a year ago, as far as Piney Branch Church, when we left the pike at Alsop's house, and after marching southerly some time on the Todd's Tavern road formed line of battle near Alsop's farm about 3 o'clock p. m., our Division being on the right of the Sixth Corps. We advanced across the Ny river — a mere creek — but meeting with a sharp artillery fire from a rebel battery on the opposite ridge to us skirting the valley, we were ordered to halt. This was about three miles north of Spottsylvania Court House and is called the Battle of Alsop's Farm. Our regiment lost sixteen men here. Generals Robinson and Griffin's Divisions of the Fifth Corps took two thousand prisoners and lost about one thousand.

We continued to change position from one point to another till just after passing Spottsylvania when just before dark we found the enemy in our front in force. It had felled trees across the road which delayed us considerably, but our artillery soon opened the way for us. We proceeded about two miles and found the enemy strongly intrenched across an open slightly rising field from us in the edge of the woods which was fiercely charged by us but without effect except to be repulsed with the field covered largely with our killed and badly wounded. General Meade was in rear of our regiment which formed a rear line in our assaulting column, superintending the assault, and when jocularly reminded by a wag that he (Meade) was in a dangerous place, he graciously replied: “It's safe enough behind a Vermont regiment anywhere!” Which was a clever thing to say to the men and they appreciated it. We threw up breastworks after the assault, uncomfortably close to the enemy and are well fortified, but not in as naturally a strong position as the enemy. Assaulting in the dark is unsatisfactory and very demoralizing. It ought not to be done when it can be avoided, one is so apt to shoot his own men and straggle into the enemy's lines and be captured; it's very trying and nerve-taxing. It has been a strenuous day.

SOURCE: Lemuel Abijah Abbott, Personal Recollections and Civil War Diary, 1864, p. 50-1

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