May 23 to 27, 1864
Grant's assaults at Spotsylvania failed, and his attempts to flank the fortifications bogged down. To bait Lee into a battle in the open, he moved Hancock's II Corps south. Lee, however, moved his army south to an excellent position behind the North Anna River protecting his railroad supply lines. After a victory at New Market in the Shenandoah, Breckinridge joined Lee's army, bringing it up to a strength of 53,000 men to oppose Grant's 68,000 men.
Warren Crosses and is Attacked
On May 23rd, the Union army arrived at the North Anna River. Hancock's II Corps made a forced crossing on the eastern flank while Warren's V Corps crossed upstream to the west. A.P. Hill with his Third Corps attacked Warren late on the 23rd near the Fontaine house, which still survives with some modifications. With the river to his back, Warren's corps was in serious danger, but only part of Hill corps was near enough to attack. Artillery stopped the Confederates, who fell back to Ox Ford.
Lee had to protect this vital rail supply area at Hanover Junction. Here, the Richmond, Fredericksburg and Potomac crossed the Virginia Central which connected Richmond with the Shenandoah Valley. On the night of May 23rd, Lee met with his subordinates and outlined his plan. He would occupy and fortify an inverted V shaped line with the tip anchored on the bluffs above the river at Ox Ford. Grant's army would cross on either side, allowing Lee to defeat them in detail.
The Fortified Line
This is a recreation of the Confederate entrenchments at the Hanover County park which preserves the original earthworks of the western side of the V.
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