Saturday, May 21st the opposing lines across from Hill's men seemed unusually quiet. Lee had received intelligence that part of Grant's army was moving south, and he had dispatched part of his forces to block them. Now it appeared the entire Union army was gone, and after confirming, Lee put Hill's Corps on the march again about nine that evening. Lee was now convinced the Grant was going to try to cross the North Anna River at Hanover Junction.

Sunday May 22nd was a beautiful sunny day, the first in nearly two weeks. Constant rain had made the Spotsylvania battle even more miserable than most, and the roads were thick in mud. By early morning, the first of Lee's troops, Ewell's Corps had moved into Hanover Junction. Now it was a waiting game to see what Grant would do. Grant, with an overwhelming numerical advantage, tried to keep Lee off guard by having his corps approach the river at different locations. Early that morning, Lee himself investigated reports of a possible crossing at Jericho Mills, but had decided it was a ruse by Grant. He had ordered Hill to leave his men in camp, 3 miles away at Anderson's Station. Lee was concerned, but convinced Grant would cross farther south and east.

Jericho Mill from the Union (north) side of the river. It was this pontoon bridge that saved the Union forces from collapsing under Wilcox's attack. Photo taken day after battle. Battle field in distance, over ridge.  

At 1 pm, factions of General Governeur Warren's 5th Corps began crossing the river near Jericho Mill. Within a few hours, they were discovered by the 1st South Carolina Rifle's who gave the advancing Federal's a momentary fire fight. Warren, with his forces split on either side of the river, and with the pontoon bridges not yet complete, trapping his artillery on the north bank, was nervous. Hill, upon receiving word of Warren's situation, saw a chance to strike a devastating blow against his enemy. By 4:30 pm, Cadmus Wilcox's Division, including Thomas' Georgian's were marching to intercept. At that very moment, Union artillery began crossing the river on the completed pontoon bridge.

After the initial engagement with McGowan's 1st South Carolinian's, the area had grown quiet. Convinced now that the Confederate Army was not going to attack them, the Federal units already across the river, began to relax and cook their dinners. A mile away, Wilcox's Division was already in battle line and advancing quietly on their unsuspecting foe. By 5:30 pm, Union scouts reported the dust of a heavy column approaching. Wilcox placed three of his brigades in a single line perpendicular to a dirt road leading into the Union line. Lane's North Carolinian's were to the right of the road. On the left was Brown's South Carolinian's (McGowan having been injured at Spotsylvania), and Thomas' Georgian's. The plan was to assault the Union right, which was weakened by a gap in the semi-circular shaped Union line. Scale's brigade was to swing around Thomas' brigade, and attack the Union right. In the Union center, Gen Charles Griffin's men were well entrenched in a stand of trees, while fresh Union forces hurried across the river to fill in the gap on the right.

At 6 pm, Wilcox advanced. The initial attack successfully took the Union forces off guard. The Union right quickly collapsed, while Griffin's men in the center were staggered but held. Lane's brigade on the far right, facing an entire division under Gen Samuel Crawford, advanced but was held at bay. Thomas' Georgian's did not perform as well in this attack. Early on, as Scales men swung around them to hit the Union flank, the Georgian's were staggered by cross fire, and the entire brigade broke and fled. Had they not fled, it is possible the attack on the right flank would have been more successful. As it was, Union artillery was rushed into the area vacated by the fleeing Union soldiers, and beat back the assault. Without support, Wilcox's division fell back after a few hours fighting.

Hill had faced over 15,000 Union soldiers, some well entrenched, with about 6,000 and failed to push the Union Army back across the river. Everyone was angry after this battle. One South Carolina soldier later grumbled, "It could hardly be expected that one small division, of four brigades, should rout these." Lt George Mills of the 16th North Carolina wrote that "General Wilcox cursed out Thomas and the others who failed to come up." Wilcox was also angry that his division had received no support from Heth. Lee, upon hearing of the debacle, was extremely agitated. In a rare incident where he compared one of his officer's to Stonewall, he is said to have asked Hill "Why didn't you do as Jackson would have done - thrown your into force upon those people and driven them back?"

Although Thomas' Georgian's had performed poorly in the overall battle, the 35th still lost 10 killed, 28 wounded and 21 missing. These were high casualties, so their retreat did not come quite as early in the battle as some reported.

The next morning, Hill's men had retreated. Private August Sesier of the 140th New York wrote of the Confederate dead on the battlefield "Miserably clad and dirty, resembling skeletons, the bodies look more like lumps of flesh than human beings. Oh mankind, why doest thou destroy thyself?"...My heart is bleeding and yet perhaps I myself helped to kill.'

Warren's Official Report was short and to the point "May 23.--General Cutler's division leading, got off promptly at 5 a.m. Reached forks, where one road goes to the ford and one to the bridge, at 9 a.m. Cavalry skirmishing a little in advance. A deserter says it is Rosser's cavalry; says there is artillery and infantry on the other side. Turned back to give that road to Hancock and got possession of crossing at a mill at l p.m. By 3.10 p.m. General Griffin's division had nearly all forded, and at 3.10 bridge train began to arrive. About 4.30 bridge was completed and last of General Cutler's division crossed. About 6 a.m. enemy assaulted us. My right gave way and the artillery drove back the enemy. We repulsed them everywhere."

35th Georgia Index