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|Posted: Tue Jan 23rd, 2007 02:44 am||
|May 11, 1864, Spotsylvania County, VA: Grant has planned a massive attack on Lee's salient called the "Mule Shoe." It's dark, it's raining, and nobody has a map.
"Mud a la Virginia, and as dark as Erebus," a Federal wrote in his diary.
Brig. Gen. Francis C. Barlow is trying to keep his exhausted division in formation.
"As we staggered and stumbled along in the mud and intense darkness," Barlow recalled, "and I vainly sought for information, the absurdity of our position -- that we were proceeding to attack the enemy when no one even knew his direction, and we could hardly keep on our own legs -- appealed to me very strongly." Soon he was snickering with the rest. "It was an exquisitely ludicrous scene," Barlow recounted, "and I could hardly sit on my horse for laughter." He ended up pleading with the staffer Charles Morgan, "For heaven's sake, at least face us in the right direction so that we shall not march away from the enemy and have to go round the world and come up in their rear."
The next day, the salient is captured, and there's a lot of hand-to-hand fighting.
A Yankee and Herman Seay, of the 23rd Virginia, popularly known as Hickory-hat, locked bayonets, struggled to impasse, then tried to brain each other with their gun butts. "Damn your soul," Seay cried, "put down that gun and I'll be damned if I can't throw you down!" Pitching their weapons aside, the men began wrestling. Seay, renowned in Louisa County, Virginia, for his prowess at the sport, jammed his thumbs into the Federal's eyes. "I surrender," his antagonist screamed, but Seay's victory was short-lived. Yankees marched Hickory-hat and the remainder of his command away at gunpoint, with everyone laughing heartily over the incident.
Copied from The Battles for Spotsylvania Court House and the Road to Yellow Tavern, May 7-12, 1864, by Gordon C. Rhea (1997).