Battlefield Guide Services

Thursday, April 17, 2008

What we see daily...

Here's a postcard dated August 27, 1918. The building is something that is seen in the course of many Spotsylvanians' day to day routine. It is the old hotel that was once owned by local big shot Joseph Sanford. The balcony/porch on the second floor did not exist at the time of the Civil War and has been removed since the latter part of the 20th century. Early screen actress and travel enthusiast Louise Closser Hale visited the area and stayed here in 1916. Part of her recollection goes like this:

"When we arrived at Spottsylvania it was suggested by the old inn keeper that he accompany us to the 'Bloody Angle' to tell us of the dreadful slaughter, but I was so distressed that the Illustrator (her husband Walter Hale) rescued me. We had come upon the old gentleman very agreeably. I was going around to the side door of his beautiful old hotel for I knew it had a history, and there is more history at the side door than the front---like the inside of people's lives. The old gentleman was inviting a solitary chick into the Summer kitchen for its evening meal. Now I come to think of it he was the third or fourth nice person I met who was looking after poultry---if poultry can be a single chick.

He admitted that it had been headquarters, 'his' headquarters while he planned the battle of this vicinity; he had slept in one of the great rooms above. I knew that he meant Lee, of course. The old gentleman wasn't running the hotel then. He was only sixteen and was carrying a musket at the Bloody Angle. He had stayed with his mother for a while but he couldn't endure it. They lived in the country that Sheridan raided, and after he swept past them the boy went into the army."

After additional regaling of the innkeeper's war experience, Hale described the old jail nearby. "Some negroes laughed in the little 'calaboose' opposite. An order was painted over the jail door: 'No talking with prisoners allowed under penalty of law.' Children passed in a farm wagon with jingling bells at the mules' heads. 'He's gassing about the war,' one of the girls said. They knew his weakness--or mine."

The above quotes came from Hale's book We Discover The Old Dominion, published by Dodd, Mead & Company of New York.

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