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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.


Anonymous said...

How could Emerson Rude be buried as Unknown. He was shot to pieces May 7,1864,survived for three more days where he received medical attention as did Edwin M.Carpenter,
and John Hare both at Fredericksburg, VA Hospital.
Carpenter and Hare were shipped home and buried, as I believe Emerson Rude was....Tom

John Cummings said...

Thank you for your question. The grave marker in the family's section of Oakwood Cemetery in Nunda,New York, clearly states "Died and buried at Fredericksburg, VA". Records for the Fredericksburg National Cemetery do not list him has having a marked grave by name. It is the sad assumption that he is in one of the nearly 13,000 unknowns buried there.

Gil Dickens said...

To the left of that red line, in the topographical photo of the land, representing the barricade at the intersection of Brock and Piney Branch is my property, 8700 Brock Rd. You can see the small house and further back the Barn and metal garage w the trailer next to it. I wish Mr. Rude, the descendant of Emerson Rude had come by to see me. Would like to put a marker there if possible. It sounds like the meeting w Col Wickham (Virginia) and Col Alfred Gibbs (Federal) was the first major engagement in the Battle of Spotsylvania, as that was the primary route of the Federals to get to Laurel Hill. I've walked that way many times. My Great Grandfather 2x was William Norman Dickens of Caroline County, Company K, CSA