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1864 May 21: Thanks to God for Union Victories in Virginia

May 21, 2014

The Battle of Spotsylvania Court House—or Spottsylvania as it was usually spelled in the 19th century—was the second major battle in Union General Ulysses S. Grant’s 1864 Overland Campaign.  Following the bloody but inconclusive Battle of the Wilderness, Grant’s Army of the Potomac disengaged from Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia and moved to the southeast, attempting to lure Lee into battle under more favorable conditions.  Parts of Lee’s army arrived at the critical crossroads of Spotsylvania Court House before the Union army and began entrenching (or intrenching).  Fighting occurred on and off from May 8 through May 21, 1864, as Grant tried various schemes to break the Confederate line.  In the end, the battle was tactically inconclusive, but with almost 32,000 casualties on both sides, it was the costliest battle of the Overland Campaign.

The Prescott Journal led with news of victory in their May 21, 1864, issue.  At that point things were still looking pretty good, with two side battles—the Battle of Yellow Tavern (May 11) and the Battle of Meadow Bridge/Richmond Heights (May 12)—having ended in Union victories, and the inconclusive Battle of the Wilderness being claimed as a Union victory.



WASHINGTON, May 9, 1864. }

To the friends of Union and Liberty :

Enough is known of the army operations within the last five days to claim our special gratitude to God, while what remains undone demands our most sincere prayers to and reliance upon Him, without whom all human effort is in vain.

I recommend that all patriots at their homes, in their places of public worship, and wherever they may be, unite in common thanksgiving and prayer to Almighty God.


Congratulatory Order of Gen. Meade.


Dispatches dated headquarters Army of Potomac, May 13th, 12 o’clock noon, have been received, at which time the messenger to Associated Press left, contain the following :

May 13, 1864. }

SOLDIERS !—The moment has arrived when your Commanding General feels authorized to address you in terms of congratulation.  For eight days and nights, almost without intermission, in rain and sunshine, you have been gallantly fighting a desperate foe in positions naturally strong, and rendered doubly so by intrenchments.

You have compelled him to abandon his fortifications on the Rapidam [sic], and to retire, and attempt to stop your onward progress, and now he has abandoned the last entrenched position so tenaciously held, suffering in all, a loss of eighteen guns and twenty two colors and 8,000 prisoners including two general officers.

Your heroic deeds and noble endurance of fatigue and privation will ever be memorable.

Let us return thanks to God for the mercy thus shown us, and ask earnestly for its continuance.

Soldiers—your work is not over.—The enemy must be pursued, and if possible overcome.  The courage and fortitude you have displayed renders your commanding General confident that your future efforts will result in success.

While we mourn the loss of many gallant comrades, let us remember that the enemy must have suffered equally, if not greater losses.

We shall soon receive reinforcements, which he cannot expect.

Let us determine then to continue vigorously the work so well begun, and under God’s blessing, in a short time the object of our labors will be accomplished.

(Signed)     GEO. G. MEADE,
Major General Commanding.


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