During the early hours of the battle, Col. John Brown Gordon promised Robert E. Lee, "These men are going to stay here, General, till the sun goes down or victory is won." The Confederate troops that Gordon commanded were part of a well protected line of over 2,200 men hunkered down behind piled-up fence rails in this well worn sunken road.
When the Federal attacks shifted south at approximately 9:30 a.m., the Confederates held their fire until the last possible second. Then, as Gordon remembered, "My rifles flamed and roared in the Federals' faces like a blinding blaze of lightning...the entire line, with few exceptions, went down in the consuming blast."
For more than three hours thousands of men blazed away at each other at point-blank range. Eventually the overwhelming Union numbers and confusion in the Confederate ranks forced the defenders back. When the fighting subsided, 5,500 soldiers lay dead or wounded on the field and in the road. That number included Col. Gordon, who had been hit five different times. After the deadly struggle for this sunken road, soldiers who fought here described it as the "road of death" and a "ghastly flooring." From that day forward, the road has been known as Bloody Lane.