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This Day in Georgia Civil War History

May 12, 1864

Battle of Spotsylvania Courthouse; Gordon’s Heroics

In Virginia, the Battle of Spotsylvania Courthouse continued. On this day the Union forces almost broke through the Confederate lines, until their attack was stopped and reversed by troops under the command of native Georgian General John B. Gordon. Gordon’s actions may well have saved the life, or at least the capture of, General Robert E. Lee. But the Confederates did suffer one major loss on this day, as cavalry leader J.E.B. Stuart was killed in the fighting.

A Georgia soldier in Virginia wrote home to his parents, telling them of the battle raging nearby, and of the death of General Stuart.

“… we have heavy fighting in 6 miles of us - at 6-in the morning- Three heavy columns, of Grants cavalry which Genls Stuart & Fitz Lee, fought them, & drove them down, & to day, we were roused at 4 in the morning- I counted over 100 cannon reports, in one half hour- I staid up until 5- & as I had passed a very restless night, went back to bed & to sleep- They have kept it up until now - 3 PM - tho at longer intervals, they are only 4 miles from us now- 7 report say we have them surrounded (the Raiding party) entirely, & they are fighting despesately - Poor Genl Stuart, is mortally wounded & while protecting us from these very creatures. He is lying only a few doors from us- & they (the Surgeons) say his strong constitution, is all they keeps him alive, even for a few hours…” Source: T.H. Galloway (ed.), Dear Old Roswell: Civil War Letters of the King Family of Roswell, Georgia (Mercer University Press, Macon, Georgia, 2003), p. 60.