The following is the culmination of a project I began over sixteen years ago, brought out again currently by the expressed desire of others to place a historical marker pertaining to the death site of Brigadier General Thomas Greeley Stevenson. Since early 2004 I have studied the terrain around which he was killed and the documentation that exists detailing the incident. Many thanks to historian Eric Mink of the Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park for providing access to copy documents within their holdings. Also, in remembrance of the late historian Greg Coco, I want to acknowledge his kind generosity in fielding my questions back in 2007, and his providing copied pages from his book, Through Blood and Fire. They served as the first strong clue supporting my assertions herein.
All images can be tapped for enlarged viewing.
Around 8:30 on the morning of May 10, 1864, Brigadier Thomas Greely Stevenson was relaxing under a tree behind an advanced defensive position on the south side of the Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania Courthouse Road, modern Route 208. The general and some fellow officers had just finished breakfast and he was reclined on his right elbow, smoking his pipe. Several eyewitness accounts of the details behind this incident exist. Some are confusing, others contradictory and easily dismissed, leaning toward hearsay, while others, taken together, paint the scene vividly. Numerous pedestrian terrain surveys, accompanied by the maps of topographical engineers Nathaniel Michler and James Duane, as well as a vivid, on-location sketch of the landscape by newspaper Special Artist, Alfred Waud, helped to verify, for me, the vicinity in relation to the written accounts.
Stevenson's Arrival On The Field
At the conclusion of the costly two-day fight in the Wilderness, the Union Army started its way toward the Spotsylvania Courthouse during the evening of May 7, 1864. In the morning hours of May 8, the 5th and 6th Corps arrived northwest of the village on the edge of the Spindle Farm, while the 2nd Corps made an a extension of the Union right, nearly three miles to the west, crossing the Po River. Over May 8 and 9, the 9th Corps approached along the Fredericksburg Road, heading southwest, having made a circuitous route, part of a plan desiring to trap Lee's army in a bag, but this was ultimately due to fail as delays along the path curtailed the left wing's part of the action.
The 9th Corps' had established a foothold south of the Ni River (spelled Ny in 1864, and the cause of some confusion, with erroneous speculation that it stood for the "New York" River). The Third Division, under General Willcox, had engaged Confederates on the Beverly Farm, known as Whig Hill, in the morning hours of May 9, along with scattering units atop the rise coming out of the Ni River valley on the Couthouse Road. The Confederates withdrew after a strenuous firefight. Near noon, the First Division, under General Stevenson, arrived, pressing forward, beyond Whig Hill, to an advanced position within a half mile of the entrenched Confederates on the rise around Spotsylvania Courthouse. For the remainder of the day skirmishers exchanged fire, the Confederates having advanced theirs near 300 yards to the front of their main line. At some point, newspaper artist Alfred Waud witnessed, and sketched, advancing 9th Corps troops, engaging the Confederate pickets semi-concealed in a line of "dwarf pine".
The ground in front of the Spotsylvania Courthouse advance