Spotsylvania, Virginia, May of 1864

“The most singular and obstinate fighting that I have seen during the war, or ever heard or dreamed of in my life, was the fight last Thursday.  Hancock had charged and driven the enemy from their breastworks, and from their camps, but the enemy rallied and regained all but the first line of works, and in one place they got a portion of that.  The rebels were on one side of the breastwork, and we on the other.  We could touch their guns with ours.  They would load, jump up and fire into us, and we did the same to them.  Almost every shot that was made took effect.  Some of our boys would jump clear up on to the breastworks and fire, then down, reload and fire again, until they were themselves picked off.  If ancient or modern history contains instances of more determined bravery than was shown there, I can hardly conceive in what way it could have been exhibited.  This firing was kept up all day, and till five o’clock next morning, when the enemy retreated.  Gen. Russell remarked that it was a regular bull-dog fight; he never saw anything like it before.  I visited the place the next morning, and though I have seen horrid scenes since this war commenced, I never saw anything half so bad as that.  Our men lay piled one top of another, nearly all shot through the head.  There were many among them that I knew well, five from my own company.  On the rebel side it was worse than on ours.  In some places the men were piled four or five deep, some of whom were still alive.  I turned away from that place, glad to escape from such a terrible, sickening sight.  I have sometimes hoped, that if I must die while I am a soldier, I should prefer to die on the battle-field, but after looking at such a scene, one cannot help turning away and saying, Any death but that.” – Wilbur Fisk, Hard Marching Every Day (eds. E. and R. Rosenblatt)

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