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A Little Autumn History & Lots of Gratitude

Civil War Autumn

We're so grateful for your support and interest in battlefield preservation and this is a perfect season to remember and count moments of thankfulness.

The chilly autumn days are here in Central Virginia, and we're looking back to the history at Mine Run, Native American volunteers, and Thanksgiving.


Mine Run: The Central Virginia Battle...That Never Happened

Rebel earthworks commanding the passage at Germanna Ford, abandoned on the approach of Meade's army

(Library of Congress)

Pressured from authorities in Washington, Union General George G. Meade started maneuvering in late November 1863. He planned to cross the Rapidan River and arrive on the Army of Northern Virginia's flank. With Longstreet's Confederate First Corps still absent in the western theater, hopes ran high for a Union success.

Delays at the river crossing slowed Meade, and he was angry about the "lost day" which cost him the element of surprise. Meanwhile, Lee had time to mobilize his army and a battle erupted at Payne's Farm. The fight ended at sunset, halting the Union advance before its objective point.

The next morning the Confederates met the Union advance with solid trenches built in the night. After examining the ground and route of attack, Meade waited. Artillery boomed and small probes were the only actions. Instead of ordering a likely-costly assault, Meade decided to withdraw. The Battle of Mine Run never happened. Still, the casualties from Payne's Farm and the campaign totaled 1,272 for the Federals and 680 for the Confederates.

Both armies went into winter quarters following the Union's retreat.


Native American History at Spotsylvania Battlefield

November is Native American History Month, and we wanted to give a salute to the warriors from the Ojibwa, Odawa, and Potawatomi tribes who enlisted in Company K of the 1st Michigan Sharpshooters and fought in the Overland Campaign. Mustered on July 7, 1863, this company won a victory by enlisting since they had been rejected and turned away from enlisting until that year. Company K's first time in battle came in The Wilderness, then at the Battle of Spotsylvania Court House, they attacked near Heth's Salient. The Federal line, advancing with a cheer met the charging enemy in a dense thicket of pines, and in the hand to hand struggle that followed, the Union forces were slowly driven back. On a little rise of ground the Fourteenth New York battery supported by the Second and Twenty-Seventh Michigan Infantry and the First Michigan Sharpshooters, was doing its best to hold the ground. Every now and then the Confederates would fight their way up to the battery and lay hold of the cannon to turn them upon the Union forces. But to touch one of those guns meant instant death at the hands of the sharpshooters. In this desperate encounter, the little band of Indians was commanded by Lieutenant Graveraet…. Under a perfect storm of lead their number seemed to melt away, but there was no sign of faltering. Sheltering behind trees, they poured volley after volley at the zealous foe, and above the din of battle their war-whoop rang out with every volley. At dusk the ammunition gave out, but with the others the Indians ran forward at the shout of “Give them steel boys!” from the twice wounded but still plucky Colonel Deland. When darkness came to end the bloody day, Lieutenant Graverat was among the one hundred and seventeen wounded sharpshooters, and a few months later he died of his wounds.

Union Wounded at Brompton (Marye's Heights, Fredericksburg); injured from Company K are believed to be in this photograph. (Library of Congress, cropped)


Happy Thanksgiving...Civil War Style

Private Walter G. Dunn had been wounded at the Battle of Chancellorsville in May 1863 and by November, he was still at Jarvis General Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland. He followed the war news with great interest and also noted how he spent the holiday:

The Army of the Potomac is again on the move. It has crossed the Rapidan in three columns and ere long we may expect to hear something from that quarter. . . . Thanksgiving day passed off very pleasantly. The Ladies of the Union Relief in this City gave the soldiers in this Hospital an excelent[sp] dinner. Yesterday morning, one of the City Police, an acquaintance of mine gave me an invitation to dine with him, which I very willingly did and a better dinner I could not ask for.


Parting Shot

Autumn colors at McLaws Wedge, Chancellorsville Battlefield.


Central Virginia Battlefields Trust's mission is to preserve, protect, and educate about Civil War hallowed ground at Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, The Wilderness, and Spotsylvania Court House.

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