The Battle of Harris Farm Then and Now!!!

Tomorrow marks the 142nd anniversary of the Battle of Harris Farm. Harris Farm was the last action of the Spotsylvania Campaign and tends to get overlooked although Gordon Rhea has provided a very detailed account of the battle in his book To the North Anna River, Grant and Lee May 13 -25, 1864 (LSU Press, 2000). To me what most stands out about this battle is the experience of the Heavy Artillery Regiments. To summarize the reconnaissance in force of Richard Ewell’s Veteran Confederate Corps was stopped by the determined resistance of the rookie 2nd NY, 4th NY, 7th NY, 8th NY, 1st Massachusetts and 1st Maine Heavy Artillery Regiments. This battle is unique in that by most accounts both sides stood toe to toe and blasted away at each other which sound more like 1861 then 1864. The green Heavy Artillery regiments are described as standing as if on parade firing at Ewell’s men while they absorbed volley after volley. For 2hrs each side blasted into each other. Eventually veteran Union regiments came up to relive the Heavy Artillery Regiments during the last phases of the battle and both sides decided against pushing their assaults any further.

The casualties of the Heavy Artillery Regiments especially in the 1st Maine and the 1st Massachusetts were very heavy. Over 400 killed or wounded in each regiment. Years later when the 1st Massachusetts veterans decided to place a monument to their service they placed it at Harris Farm. For the 1st Maine this amount of casualties would be surpassed less then a month later at Petersburg. For some of the New York Heavy Artillery regiments the casualties at Harris Farm would also be exceeded by the engagement at Cold Harbor.

Today only 1 ½ acreas around the 1st Massachusetts Monument at Harris Farm are protected. As this battlefield is not part of the Spotsylvania National Military Park the rest of the battlefield including were the 1st Maine went into action around the Alsop house is under threat from development. As the picture shows some of the battlefield has already been bulldozed over to make way for housing development.


Anonymous said…
I was down in the vicinity of this site a few weeks ago, and took a detour not to Harris Farm but to Saunders Field, where an ancestor of mine was part of the 146th NY which along with its sister regiment sustained massive casualties here in the opening phase of the Wilderness. The development pressure on unprotected portions of these battlesfields defines description.

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