May 8, 1864: Laurel Hill

Warren rallies his men at Laurel Hill

On the night of May 7 Grant and Lee raced each other from the Wilderness battlefield southeast toward Spotsylvania Court House. Traffic tangles delayed the Union advance, while the Confederates made an extra effort to evade the forest fires and managed to fight a successful delaying action against Union cavalry at Todd’s Tavern.

Map by Hal Jespersen

Warren’s Fifth Corps pushed forward at Laurel Hill along the Brock Road northwest of Spotsylvania Court House, only to discover that the Confederates resisting him were infantry, not cavalry. Soon Sedgwick’s Sixth Corps came up to assist, but before lone the Confederates were present in force, and Lee had secured his hold on the crossroads for the moment. At Todd’s Tavern Hancock’s Second Corps fended off attacks that otherwise would have threatened Warren’s rear.

Laurel Hill takes a back seat to the events of the next several days, but the Confederate success here led to what would happen next, as Grant and Lee looked to find (or to create) a weakness in their foe’s position. As with the Wilderness, what in retrospect looks like a mindless slugfest upon closer examination offers the Civil War’s finest generals engaged in a duel, each hampered by handicaps that called upon them to do their best under less than ideal circumstances.

6 thoughts on “May 8, 1864: Laurel Hill

  1. jfepperson May 8, 2014 / 6:20 am

    Couple of questions:

    1. What’s the best account of Todd’s Tavern?

    2. Where’d you get the maps?

    • Roger E Watson May 9, 2014 / 7:37 am

      Great questions ! I couldn’t get the one above to enlarge.

      • jfepperson May 9, 2014 / 10:27 am

        I was able to answer my own first question: Rhea has a more-than-decent discussion of Todd’s Tavern and the surrounding Meade-Sheridan blow-up in his book on Spotsylvania.

  2. John Foskett May 9, 2014 / 7:01 am

    By the way, this is a great series of posts. Since the armies were never out of contact into June, hopefully you will emulate.🙂

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