There would be no turning back.
By the morning of May 7, and after two days of slaughter in the thick Virginia wilderness, Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant determined that instead of the army falling back to lick its wounds, that it would side-step to the left, move to the south and, hopefully, get in between Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia and the Confederate capital of Richmond. That way, he reasoned, Lee could be drawn out in the open and forced to attack. His immediate objective was the crossroads village of Spotsylvania Court House. So, on the morning of May 7, with the Wilderness still aflame, Grant famously directed army commander George Meade to “Make all preparations during the day for a night march” to Spotsylvania.
Gouverneur Warren’s Fifth Corps led the way. Moving on a parallel track further to west, however, was Confederate General Richard Anderson’s First Corps, Army of Northern Virginia. Anderson’s men won the race to Spotsylvania and Grant’s way south was once more blocked. The stage was now set for a sanguinary two-week struggle at Spotsylvania. Tens of thousands in blue and gray would fall. For the 48th Pennsylvania, the upcoming butchery at Spotsylvania would prove to be one of their worst battles of the war, in terms of numbers lost. In the upcoming days--and especially on May 12--dozens of 48th PA soldiers would be killed or mortally wounded, dozens more would be injured.
|From The Wilderness To Spotsylvania|
For the moment, however, the soldiers of the 48th remained encamped on a portion of the old Chancellorsville battlefield through Sunday, May 8. It was not until the afternoon of Monday, May 9, before the regiment marched away from Chancellorsville, leaving the burning embers of the Wilderness behind. Further ahead, elements of the Union Fifth and Sixth Corps had already become engaged with Confederate forces, along the Brock Road and atop Laurel Hill near Spotsylvania.
Piece-by-piece—corps by corps and division by division—the opposing armies arrived and took up their new battle formations.
On May 9, the 48th and the Ninth Corps arrived near Alsop’s House. The march continued through May 10 and May 11, as Burnside positioned his corps on the army’s far left, crossing, recrossing, and again crossing the Ny River and approaching to within a half mile of the Spotsylvania Court House, taking up a position to the left of Winfield Hancock’s Second Corps.
Grant attacked on May 10. He planned to strike again on the morning of May 12, and the 48th would be called into action.
|Spotysylvania Court House|