The struggle over the fortified Confederate position known as Spotsylvania's Mule Shoe was without parallel during the Civil War. A Union assault that began at 4:30 A.M. on May 12, 1864, sparked brutal combat that lasted nearly twenty-four hours. By the time Grant’s forces withdrew, some 55,000 men from Union and Confederate armies had been drawn into the fury, battling in torrential rain along the fieldworks at distances often less than the length of a rifle barrel. One Union private recalled the fighting as a "seething, bubbling, soaring hell of hate and murder." By the time Lee's troops established a new fortified line in the predawn hours of May 13, some 17,500 officers and men from both sides had been killed, wounded, or captured when the fighting ceased. The site of the most intense clashes became forever known as the Bloody Angle.
Here, renowned military historian Jeffry D. Wert draws on the personal narratives of Union and Confederate troops who survived the fight to offer a gripping story of Civil War combat at its most difficult. Wert’s harrowing tale reminds us that the war’s story, often told through its commanders and campaigns, truly belonged to the common soldier.
Jeffry D. Wert is author of many previous books, including most recently Civil War Barons: The Tycoons, Entrepreneurs, Inventors, and Visionaries Who Forged Victory and Shaped a Nation.
“Wert has produced a beautifully written and dramatically detailed narrative of the fighting at the Mule Shoe. Grounded in impressive research into the primary sources, The Heart of Hell goes deeper than any other book before it.”—Caroline E. Janney, Ends of War: The Unfinished Fight of Lee's Army after Appomattox
“Jeff Wert’s latest masterpiece is the most complete treatment of the fighting on May 12, 1864, at Spotsylvania Court House ever written. Mining an extensive volume of eyewitness accounts, Wert’s narrative puts readers in the midst of Spotsylvania’s bloody trenches—indeed, in the heart of hell.”—A. Wilson Greene, author of A Campaign of Giants—The Battle for Petersburg