American Civil War: The Battle of the Wilderness
Aug 20, †Ј As the Army of the Potomac crossed the Rapidan River on May 4, Confederate General Robert E. Lee determined that his Army of Northern Virginia would confront the enemy in the dense Virginia woods Estimated Reading Time: 5 mins. Battle of the Wilderness, (May 5Ц7, ), in the American Civil War, the first battle of Union General Ulysses S. GrantТs "Overland Campaign," a relentless drive to defeat once and for all Confederate Gen. Robert E. LeeТs Army of Northern Virginia and capture the SouthТs capital at Richmond, Virginia.
Grant to lieutenant general and gave him command of all Union armies. Grant elected to turn over operational control of the western armies to Major General William T. Sherman and shifted his headquarters east to travel with Major General George G. Meade's Army of the Potomac. For the coming campaign, Grant planned to attack What annuals will deer not eat Robert E.
Lee's Army of Northern Virginia from three directions. First, Meade was to cross the Rapidan River east of the Confederate position at Orange Court House, before swinging west to engage the enemy. Badly outnumbered, Lee was forced to assume a defensive position. Hill's Third Corps in earthworks along the Rapidan. Lieutenant General James Longstreet's First Corps was positioned to the rear at Gordonsville from which it could reinforce the Rapidan line or shift south to cover Richmond.
In the pre-dawn hours of May 4, Union forces began departing their camps near Culpeper Court House and marching south. To the west, Major General Gouverneur K. While Sedgwick's men occupied the road back to the ford, Grant and Meade established their headquarters near the tavern. Not believing that Lee could reach the area until late on May 5, Grant intended to use the next day to advance west, consolidate his forces, and bring up Major What is dermalone ointment for dogs used for Ambrose Burnside 's IX Corps.
As Union troops rested, they were forced to spend the night in the Wilderness of Spotsylvania, a vast area of thick, second-growth forest that negated the Union advantage in manpower and artillery. Their situation was further imperiled by a lack of cavalry patrols on the roads leading towards Lee. Alerted to the Union movements, Lee quickly ordered Ewell and Hill to begin moving east to meet the threat. Orders were also issued for Longstreet to rejoin the army.
As a result, Ewell's men camped that night at Robertson's Tavern on the Orange Turnpike, only three miles from How to send group text message on iphone 4s unsuspecting corps. Moving along the Orange plank road, Hill's men made similar progress. It was Lee's hope that he could pin Grant in place with Ewell and Hill to allow Longstreet to strike at the Union left flank.
A daring scheme, it required him to hold Grant's army with fewer than 40, men to buy time for Longstreet to arrive. Instructed to engage by Grant, Warren began moving west. Reaching the edge of a clearing known as Saunders Field, Ewell's men began digging in as Warren deployed the divisions of Brigadier Generals Charles Griffin and James Wadsworth on the far side. Studying the field, Warren found that Ewell's line what are the prices for herbalife products beyond his own and that any attack would see his men enfiladed.
As a result, Warren asked Meade to postpone any attack until Sedgwick came up on his flank. This was refused and the assault moved forward. Surging across Saunders Field, Union troops quickly saw their right shattered by Confederate flanking fire. While Union forces had some success south of the turnpike, it could not be exploited and the assault was thrown back. Bitter fighting continued to rage in Saunders Field as Wadsworth's men attacked through the thick forest south of the field.
In confused fighting, they fared little better. By PM, when Sedgwick's men arrived at the north, the fighting had quieted. The arrival of VI Corps renewed the battle as Sedgwick's men unsuccessfully attempted to overrun Ewell's lines in the woods above the field Map. Reaching the crossroads, Getty was able to fend off Hill. As Hill prepared to assault Getty in earnest, Lee established his headquarters a mile to the rear at the Widow Tapp Farm. Around PM, Getty was ordered to attack Hill.
Aided by Hancock, whose men were just arriving, Union forces increased pressure on Hill forcing Lee to commit his reserves to the fight. Brutal fighting raged in the thickets until nightfall. With Hill's corps on the point of collapse, Grant sought to focus Union efforts for the next day on the Orange Plank Road.
To do so, Hancock and Getty would renew their attack while Wadsworth shifted south to strike Hill's left. Burnside's corps was ordered to enter the gap between the turnpike and plank road to threaten the enemy rear.
Lacking additional reserves, Lee hoped to have Longstreet in place to support Hill by dawn. As the sun began to rise, the First Corps was not in sight. Around AM, the massive Union assault began. As the Confederate resistance was about to break, the lead elements of Longstreet's corps arrived on the scene. Quickly counterattacking, they struck Union forces with immediate results. Having become disorganized during their advance, the Union troops were forced back.
As the day progressed series of Confederate counterattacks, including a flanking attack utilizing an what is depression with psychotic features railroad grade, forced Hancock back to the Brock Road where his men entrenched.
In the course of the fighting, Longstreet was severely wounded by friendly fire and taken from the field. Late in the day, Lee conducted an assault on Hancock's Brock Road line but was unable to break through. Gordon found that Sedgwick's right flank was unprotected.
Through the day he advocated for a flank attack but was rebuffed. Towards nightfall, Ewell relented and the attack moved forward. Pushing through the thick brush, it shattered Sedgwick's right forcing it back the Germanna Plank Road.
Darkness prevented the attack from being exploited further Map. During the night a brush fire broke out between the two armies, burning many of the wounded and creating a surreal landscape of death and destruction. Feeling that no additional advantage could be had by continuing the battle, Grant elected to move around Lee's right flank towards Spotsylvania Court House where the fighting would continue on May 8.
Union losses in the battle totaled around 17, while Lee's were approximately 11, Accustomed to retreating the wilderness campaign was fought in what state bloody battles, the Union soldiers cheered and sang when they turned south upon leaving the battlefield. How to write reports faster Flipboard Email.
Kennedy Hickman. Military and Naval History Expert. Kennedy Hickman is a historian, museum director, and curator who specializes in military and naval history. He has appeared on The History Channel as a featured expert.
Facebook Facebook. Updated January 06, Cite this Article Format. Hickman, Kennedy. American Civil War: Battle of Antietam. American Civil War: Battle of Chancellorsville.
American Civil War: Battle of Petersburg. American Civil War: Battle of the Crater. American Civil War: Battle of Chickamauga.
Battle of the Wilderness: Union Offensive Begins
Grant's Army of the Potomac, numbering approximately , men, advanced across the Rapidan River into a place in Virginia known as the Wilderness. It was called the Wilderness due to the large number of trees and dense ground cover in the area. Lee met Grant's army, in the Battle of the Wilderness on May 5 and 6, The Wilderness Campaign is the moniker given to the various battles and skirmishes of The Civil War in the state of Virginia. The Union army under the expert watch of General Grant would prove to be enduring adversaries if not suitable man-to-man freedatingloves.comted Reading Time: 2 mins. Jan 06, †Ј Updated January 06, The Battle of the Wilderness was fought May , , during the American Civil War (). In March , President Abraham Lincoln promoted Ulysses S. Grant to lieutenant general and gave him command of all Union armies. Grant elected to turn over operational control of the western armies to Major General William T. Sherman and shifted his Estimated Reading Time: 6 mins.
Ulysses S. Grant , general-in-chief of all Union armies, directed the actions of the Army of the Potomac , commanded by Maj. George G. Meade , and other forces against Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee 's Army of Northern Virginia. Although Grant suffered severe losses during the campaign, it was a strategic Union victory. It inflicted proportionately higher losses on Lee's army and maneuvered it into a siege at Richmond and Petersburg, Virginia , in just over eight weeks.
Crossing the Rapidan River on May 4, , Grant sought to defeat Lee's army by quickly placing his forces between Lee and Richmond and inviting an open battle. Lee surprised Grant by attacking the larger Union army aggressively in the Battle of the Wilderness May 5Ч7 , resulting in heavy casualties on both sides.
Unlike his predecessors in the Eastern Theater , however, Grant did not withdraw his army following this setback, but instead maneuvered to the southeast, resuming his attempt to interpose his forces between Lee and Richmond. Lee's army was able to get into position to block this movement.
At the Battle of Spotsylvania Court House May 8Ч21 , Grant repeatedly attacked segments of the Confederate defensive line, hoping for a breakthrough, but the only results were again heavy losses for both sides. Here, Lee held clever defensive positions that provided an opportunity to defeat portions of Grant's army, but illness prevented Lee from attacking in time to trap Grant.
The final major battle of the campaign was waged at Cold Harbor May 31 Ч June 12 , in which Grant gambled that Lee's army was exhausted and ordered a massive assault against strong defensive positions, resulting in disproportionately heavy Union casualties. Resorting to maneuver a final time, Grant surprised Lee by stealthily crossing the James River , threatening to capture the city of Petersburg, the loss of which would doom the Confederate capital.
The resulting siege of Petersburg June Ч March led to the eventual surrender of Lee's army in April and the effective end of the Civil War. The campaign included two long-range raids by Union cavalry under Maj. Philip Sheridan. In a raid toward Richmond, Confederate cavalry commander Maj. Stuart was mortally wounded at the Battle of Yellow Tavern May In a raid attempting to destroy the Virginia Central Railroad to the west, Sheridan was thwarted by Maj.
Wade Hampton at the Battle of Trevilian Station June 11Ч12 , the largest all-cavalry battle of the war. In March , Grant was summoned from the Western Theater , promoted to lieutenant general, and given command of all Union armies.
He chose to make his headquarters with the Army of the Potomac, although Meade retained formal command of that army. William Tecumseh Sherman succeeded Grant in command of most of the western armies. This was the first time the Union armies would have a coordinated offensive strategy across a number of theaters.
Although previous Union campaigns in Virginia targeted the Confederate capital of Richmond as their primary objective, this time the goal was to capture Richmond by aiming for the destruction of Lee's army.
Lincoln had long advocated this strategy for his generals, recognizing that the city would certainly fall after the loss of its principal defensive army. Grant ordered Meade, "Wherever Lee goes, there you will go also. He meant to "hammer continuously against the armed force of the enemy and his resources until by mere attrition, if in no other way, there should be nothing left to him but an equal submission with the loyal section of our common country to the constitution and laws of the land.
Despite Grant's superior numbers, he had manpower challenges. Following their severe beating at the Battle of Gettysburg the previous year, the I Corps and the III Corps had been disbanded and their survivors reallocated to other corps, which damaged unit cohesion and morale. Because he was operating on the offensive in enemy territory, Grant had to defend his bases of supply and the lines extending from them to his army in the field; it was principally for this reason that Grant chose to maneuver repeatedly around Lee's right flank during the campaign, relying on waterborne supply lines instead of the railroads, such as the Orange and Alexandria, in Virginia's interior.
Furthermore, since many of his soldiers' three-year enlistments were about to expire, they were naturally reluctant to participate in dangerous assaults. To deal with these challenges, Grant supplemented his forces by reassigning soldiers manning the heavy artillery batteries around Washington, D. Grant's objective was to force an engagement with Lee, outside of his Mine Run fortifications, by either drawing his forces out or turning them. Lee, displaying the audacity that characterized his generalship, moved out as Grant desired, but more quickly than Grant anticipated; Union forces had insufficient time to clear the area known as the Wilderness, a tangle of scrub brush and undergrowth in which part of the Battle of Chancellorsville had been fought the previous year.
By forcing a fight here, Lee effectively neutralized the Union's advantage in artillery. Meade halted his army and directed Warren to attack if the Confederates were a small, isolated group. Ewell's men erected earthworks on the western end of the clearing known as Saunders Field. Warren requested a delay from Meade so that Sedgwick's VI Corps could be brought in on his right and extend his line. The brigade of Brig. Romeyn B. Ayres had to take cover in a gully to avoid enfilading fire.
Joseph J. Bartlett made better progress to Ayres's left and overran the position of Brig. John M. Jones , who was killed. However, since Ayres's men were unable to advance, Bartlett's right flank was now exposed to attack, and his brigade was forced to flee back across the clearing. To the left of Bartlett, the Iron Brigade , commanded by Brig. Lysander Cutler , struck a brigade of Alabamians commanded by Brig.
Cullen A. Although initially pushed back, the Confederates counterattacked with the brigade of Brig. John B. Gordon , tearing through the line and forcing the Iron Brigade to flee. Near the Higgerson farm, the brigades of Col.
Roy Stone and Brig. James C. Rice attacked the brigades of Brig. George P. Doles 's Georgians and Brig. Junius Daniel 's North Carolinians. Both attacks failed under heavy fire, and Crawford ordered his men to pull back. Warren ordered an artillery section into Saunders Field to support his attack, but it was captured by Confederate soldiers, who were pinned down and prevented by rifle fire from moving the guns until darkness.
In the midst of hand-to-hand combat at the guns, the field caught fire and men from both sides were shocked as their wounded comrades burned to death. Sedgwick attacked Ewell's line in the woods north of the Turnpike and both sides traded attacks and counterattacks that lasted about an hour before each disengaged to erect earthworks. George W. Getty to defend the important intersection with the Brock Road.
Getty's men arrived just before Hill's and the two forces skirmished briefly, ending with Hill's men withdrawing a few hundred yards west of the intersection. As the Union men approached the position of Maj.
Henry Heth , they were pinned down by fire from a shallow ridge to their front. As each II Corps division arrived, Hancock sent it forward to assist, bringing enough combat power to bear that Lee was forced to commit his reserves, the division commanded by Maj. Cadmus M. Fierce fighting continued until nightfall with neither side gaining an advantage.
Lee had assured Hill that Longstreet's Corps would arrive to reinforce Hill before dawn, but moving cross-country in the dark, they made slow progress and lost their way at times. Ewell's men on the Turnpike had attacked first, at a.
Before a total collapse, however, reinforcements arrived at 6 a. John Gregg 's man Texas Brigade , the vanguard of Longstreet's column. General Lee, caught up in the excitement, began to move forward with the advancing brigade. As the Texans realized this, they halted, refusing to move forward unless Lee remained in the rear.
Longstreet counterattacked with the divisions of Maj. Charles W. Field and Brig. Joseph B. The Union troops fell a few hundred yards back from the Widow Tapp farm. At 10 a. Longstreet's aide, Lt. Moxley Sorrel , and the senior brigade commander, Brig. William Mahone , struck at 11 a. At the same time, Longstreet resumed his main attack, driving Hancock's men back to the Brock Road, but the momentum was lost when Longstreet was wounded by his own men, putting him out of action until October.
At the Turnpike, inconclusive fighting continued for most of the day. Early in the morning, Brig. Gordon scouted the Union line and recommended to his division commander, Jubal Early, that he conduct a flanking attack, but Early dismissed the venture as too risky and did not approve it until that evening.
Gordon's attack made good progress against inexperienced New York troops, but eventually the darkness and the dense foliage took their toll as the Union flank received reinforcements and recovered. On the morning of May 7, Grant chose maneuver instead of further attacks. By moving south on the Brock Road, he hoped to reach the crossroads at Spotsylvania Court House, which would interpose his army between Lee and Richmond, forcing Lee to fight on ground more advantageous to the Union army.
He ordered preparations for a night march on May 7 that would reach Spotsylvania, 10 mi 16 km to the southeast, by the morning of May 8. Unfortunately for Grant, inadequate cavalry screening allowed Lee's army to reach the crossroads before sufficient Union troops arrived to contest it.