Wednesday, March 10, 2010
Bloody Angle 1938 – by the numbers
Taken seventy-two years ago, this photograph demonstrates how time marches on, and how even subtle differences can add up. Visitors to the scene of the “Bloody Angle” at Spotsylvania will recognize some of the numbered items as they survive today. In their absence, the items that are no longer there have helped to restore the area to its wartime appearance.
Reading left to right, number 1 points out two oak trees, one that still thrives, and the other which today appears to be in declining health. Today, they flank the path leading to a wooden bridge that brings visitors to the Federal side of the earthworks.
Number 2 is a Ranger Contact Station that was built in the early days of the park to shelter an on-site member of interpretive staff during open hours. As of this writing it is not certain when this and similar shelters around the park were dismantled, but it was most likely just prior to the Civil War Centennial’s start in 1961.
Number 3 is the postwar incarnation of the “Landram” house, built to replace the war-time residence that stood approximately 870 yards northeast at 52 degrees from the structure shown. The antebellum home was destroyed by fire around 1897. I am not certain, at this writing, when the postwar home was removed by the Park Service, but again I’d estimate just prior to the Centennial observance. It stood in the middle of the field, about 281 degree northwest of the northern side of the current bridge, near the tip of the Union leg of the angle, close to 57 yards out.
Item number 4, seen right above the number as a white square, is a long gone, stone marker that indicated the point of the “Bloody Angle” where Union and Confederate earthworks formed the obtuse angle itself. That spot is immediately to the left of the center of the bridge when facing number 5 on the Union held side of the trench.
Number 5 is the monument dedicated to the 49th New York Infantry in 1902 by veterans of that unit. It is still one of the dominant features placed on the landscape to this day.
Number 6, at the extreme right edge of the photograph, is a tree that is no longer standing but was just west of an orientation compass, currently in place. Other images of this tree show it to have had a large, gnarled trunk.
As a footnote, the orientation compass mentioned, and similar ones at other stops in the park, are destined for removal in the near future, as the National Park Service endeavors to modernize and improve the visitor’s experience.