Thursday, May 8, 2014
"Literally Shot To Pieces" The Mortal Wounding of Corporal Emerson Rude - May 7, 1864
Around 3:00 P.M., on Saturday, May 7th, 1864, the men of the 1st New York Dragoons dismounted about a mile south of Todd's Tavern, along the Brock Road. Pressure was being applied to Confederate forces blocking the direct path to Spotsylvania Courthouse. Additional units from Colonel Alfred Gibbs' Reserve Brigade also pressed forward with the Dragoons, at the double quick. A mile ahead of them, rebel cavalry had built a substantial log barricade covering the intersection with Piney Branch Church Road. By the time evening fell, a fierce encounter had ensued with Wickham's Virginia Cavalry Brigade, leaving heavy casualties in the ranks of blue, including Corporal Emerson Rude of Company I, just three days into his 23rd year. In the unit's postwar memoir, an officer recalled the severity of Rude's wounding, describing him as "literally shot to pieces." The wounded were removed from the field by their comrades and taken to the Union Cavalry Corps Hospital in Fredericksburg. Emerson Rude succumed to his wounds on May 10.
On October 20, 2012, I accompanied Robert Emerson Rude, at left, to this slight elevation on the Brock Road. He had come to Spotsylvania to witness the ground where his great grand uncle gave his life for his country. We gazed down the quiet corridor, southeast, toward the intersection where the fighting took place, roughly 240 yards beyond where we stood. Cars now freely come and go where once the torrent of war was so horrifically played out. Although a memorial exists for Emerson in the Oakwood Cemetery, in Nunda, New York, all indications suggest he is buried in the Fredericksburg National Cemetery, in an grave listed as "Unknown".
Here is a prewar portrait of Emerson Rude, from his family's collection.
Aerial map of the intersection of Brock Road and Piney Branch Church Road. The approximate site of the barricade is indicated by the red line.
A 1930's photograph of the intersection of Brock and Piney Branch Church Road, looking northwest, from a position behind the location of the Confederate barricade. Photo from collection of the Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park.