In the Forbes drawing (above), soldiers of
Hancock's II Corps clear a field of fire along the Brock Road on May 10,
1864, a position they held only with hard fighting and heavy losses. Two
days later his Union infantry massed for the dawn attack on Lee's
salient (below). The fighting there was some of the toughest of the
entire war. At one point, wrote Hancock, the two battlelines were so
close that the Confederate 'flags stood on one side of the intrenchments
while ours stood on the other, only separated by the parapet, the two
lines firing into each other's faces.' The Confederate below lies at the
foot of a barricade he had defended during Ewell's attack on the Union
right on May 19.
Courtesy, Library of Congress
As in the Wilderness, there had been no victory and
no defeat only mud, blood, and death. But one fact was becoming clear
Grant would not turn back under any circumstances. Despite his heavier
losses, he was slowly but methodically destroying Lee's ability to wage
offensive war. Death, disease, and desertion were slowly dissolving the
proud Army of Northern Virginia.
So, 2 days later, the armies marched away from the
fields of Spotsylvania. Yet for the men of Lee and Grant, now grappling
southward in a twilight struggle, even more glory and agony lay ahead.
Another year's fighting at Cold Harbor, Richmond, and Petersburg would
follow before peace drifted in with the spring tide of 1865 at a dusty
village called Appomattox Courthouse