Saturday, May 10, 2014

Battle of Laurel Hill

Tuesday, May 10, 1864

As the Twentieth Massachusetts advanced along the Brock Road in their approach toward Spotsylvania Court House they encountered the main Confederate line along a ridge known as Laurel Hill. Confederate General Robert E. Lee had won the race to Spotsylvania, as Laurel Hill blocked the path to Spotsylvania.

Around 11:00 A.M. General Alexander's Webb brigade, of which the Twentieth Massachusetts was a part, received orders to attack Confederate sharpshooters positioned along the Po River. Companies A and C charged the Confederate position by rifle fire across the river, which was too deep to ford. The Twentieth Massachusetts successfully drove off the Confederate sharpshooters but at a high price. Three men were killed and eight were wounded. Lieutenant Henry Sturgis was shot through the heart in the ill-fated fray. His body was recovered by his men and he was buried in a spot along the Po River near where he fell.

At 3:00 P.M. the Twentieth Massachusetts arrived at Laurel Hill and formed breastworks while assessing the Confederate position. The Confederates were secure in an entrenched position. The Twentieth was faced with poor chances in driving the Confederates successfully from their position. At 5:00 P.M. the Twentieth was ordered to charge the Confederate position and were immediately cut down with a killing fire. The survivors returned to their entrenchments and made another attempt in the evening with similar results. At night the Twentieth Massachusetts relived the nightmare of the Wilderness, as the rapid rifle fire caused a blaze in the forest, consuming the dead and injured. The Twentieth Massachusetts reported between 15 to 20 casualties from the two assaults on Laurel Hill. Among those killed was First Lieutenant Lansing Hibbard. 1

1Richard F. Miller, Harvard's Civil War: A History of the Twentieth Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry (Lebanon, New Hampshire: University Press of New England, 2005), 350-355.

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