A North Carolinian’s Experience During the Overland Campaign, Part 2

The second letter in the George W. Pearsall collection which chronicles his experiences in the Overland Campaign takes us to May 11 and the initial battles around Spotsylvania Court House. Pearsall and his regiment, the 55th North Carolina, had marched out of the carnage of the Wilderness with Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia on a southwesterly course to block the flanking maneuver of Grant and Meade’s Army of the Potomac.

After initially being positioned on Lee’s right flank, Pearsall and his division were moved to Lee’s far left flank to thwart an attempt by Barlow’s division of Hancock’s Union Second Corps to cross the Po River.  Although Barlow managed to cross unmolested, Pearsall and his division savagely attacked his division and drove it back across the river.  Once again, Pearsall testifies to the heaviness of the fighting, describing the scene of battle as the “oflest site I ever saw” and that he “never saw as meney ded yanks in my life”.  Pearsall observed that dead Yankee soldiers stretched two miles through the woods.  Additionally, Pearsall again becomes separated from his regiment but finishes up the engagement with the 11th Mississippi of his own brigade.  Even though Pearsall was no longer in the confines of the Wilderness, confusion and disarray still reigned supreme on the chaotic battlefield of Spotsylvania.

To add a bit of humor to the proceedings, Pearsall says that even more Yankees would have been killed but “they [the Yankees] can out run eney folks I evor saw”.  Pearsall also believes that Grant and the Union army are fought out and ready to retire.  Ironically enough, two days later, Grant would launch his massive attack on the horseshoe salient in Lee’s center, leading to 24 hours of desperate and continuous combat.

Pearsall’s letter of the 11th can be found in the link below:

http://digital.ncdcr.gov/cdm/ref/collection/p15012coll8/id/13514

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