By May of 1864, the Civil War, now in its fourth year and showing no signs of abating , had reached a whole new level of intensity. Around the sleepy Virginia village of Spotsylvania Court House, Robert E. Lee’s Confederates dug-in, defending the road to Richmond, while the Federals under Ulysses S. Grant and George Gordon Meade pounded on them relentlessly.

Tactics changed at Spotsylvania–innovations in earthworks and how to attack them had evolved to a new level by this point–all of which led to the single worst bloodletting of the tragic Overland Campaign.

Come join us as Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park Lead Historian Frank O’Reilly takes us back to the Battle of the Bloody Angle and the prelude attack at the Mule Shoe that set the stage for this incredible white-heat moment of combat. Spotsylvania became a life-and-death struggle for the Union and the Confederacy which created a profound legacy that endures to this day.


Frank A. O’Reilly received both his BA and MA in American History with a concentration in Early American Military History and Civil War Studies. After graduating from Washington & Lee University in 1987, he joined the National Park Service at the Fredericksburg & Spotsylvania National Military Park. Later he worked with the Park Service at Independence Hall in Philadelphia before returning to Fredericksburg in 1990 as the park’s permanent historian. He has also served as an historical consultant for the City of Fredericksburg. O’Reilly, who has lectured extensively on military history to audiences around the world, has written numerous articles on the Civil War and Mexican War and has appeared on CSPAN and in several video documentaries.

He is the author of Stonewall Jackson at Fredericksburg and The Fredericksburg Campaign: Winter War on the Rappahannock which garnered several awards including a nomination for the Pulitzer Prize in Letters. Currently he is researching a book on the Battle of Malvern Hill and the Seven Days’ Campaign around Richmond.