Learning Lincoln On-line


21 Readings About the Great Battles of the Civil War #15-- Battle of the Wilderness


Return to the Great Battles Home Page

From Wikepedia at: Battle_of_the_Wilderness


       The Battle of the Wilderness, fought May 57, 1864, was the first battle of Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant's 1864 Virginia Overland Campaign against Gen. Robert E. Lee and the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia. Both armies suffered heavy casualties, a harbinger of a bloody war of attrition by Grant against Lee's army and, eventually, the Confederate capital, Richmond, Virginia. The battle was tactically inconclusive, as Grant disengaged and continued his offensive.

       Grant attempted to move quickly through the dense underbrush of the Wilderness of Spotsylvania, but Lee launched two of his corps on parallel roads to intercept him. On the morning of May 5, the Union V Corps under Maj. Gen. Gouverneur K. Warren attacked the Confederate Second Corps, commanded by Lt. Gen. Richard S. Ewell, on the Orange Turnpike. That afternoon the Third Corps, commanded by Lt. Gen. A.P. Hill, encountered Brig. Gen. George W. Getty's division (VI Corps) and Maj. Gen. Winfield S. Hancock's II Corps on the Orange Plank Road. Fighting until dark was fierce but inconclusive as both sides attempted to maneuver in the dense woods.

       At dawn on May 6, Hancock attacked along the Plank Road, driving Hill's Corps back in confusion, but the First Corps of Lt. Gen. James Longstreet arrived in time to prevent the collapse of the Confederate right flank. Longstreet followed up with a surprise flanking attack from an unfinished railroad bed that drove Hancock's men back to the Brock Road, but the momentum was lost when Longstreet was wounded by his own men. An evening attack by Brig. Gen. John B. Gordon against the Union right flank caused consternation at Union headquarters, but the lines stabilized and fighting ceased. On May 7, Grant disengaged and moved to the southeast, intending to leave the Wilderness to interpose his army between Lee and Richmond, leading to the bloody Battle of Spotsylvania Court House.

From Wikepedia at:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_the_Wilderness

Battle of the Wilderness

Battle of the Wilderness.png
Battle of the Wilderness by Kurz and Allison.
Date May 57, 1864
Location Spotsylvania County and Orange County, Virginia
Result Inconclusive (Union offensive continued)
 United States (Union)  CSA (Confederacy)
Commanders and leaders
Ulysses S. Grant
George G. Meade
Robert E. Lee
Units involved
Army of the Potomac, IX Corps Army of Northern Virginia
101,895 61,025
Casualties and losses
(2,246 killed
 12,037 wounded
 3,383 captured/missing)


(1,477 killed
  7,866 wounded
 1,690 captured/missing)


A leaf from S.  B. Cummins Diary 1864

Campayne of the 151st N.Y.V.

Through the Wilderness in VA.

Army of the Potomac

Commencing May 4th 1864

We were in winter quarters near Brandy Station, VA.  Our Bugler sounded the revilee and long role which caused a comotion in camp knowing full well the time had arrived for the Army of the Potomac to start on the summer campaign.   We arose at 4 oclock, struck tents, packed our knapsacks, got our breakfast and fell into line.  At 6 oclock in the morning we started south crossing the Rapidan river on a pontoon bridge.  Marching all day.  We encamped for the night in a pine woods.  Marching about 15 miles.  Was very tired & foot sore.

May the 5th

Arose at daybreak, got our breakfast and fell into line, then resumed our march southward.  Saw Gen. Grant for the first time.  Marching very slow.  Very warm.  Fighting commenced at 11 oclock A.M.  and continued all day untill after dark.  Saw Gen. Burnside.  He is here with 6,000 men.  We captured 500 men to day.  The picket firing lasted all night.  Slept on the ground with my knapsack for a pillow and the canopy of heaven for a tent.

In the Wilderness, May 6th 1864

The fighting commenced at daylight.  The canons roared like thunder.  Several charges were made but very little was accomplished on either side.  Capt Billings of my own company, & Nicholas Beck, by old bunk mate were both killed by the same shell, and several more comrades belonging to Co F of our Regt.  were killed & wounded.  The Provose Guard were deployed as skirmishers in the rear of line of battle to take charge of the prisioners if any taken & to hold the straglers in check.  Our lines were broken.  The Rebels made a grand charge on the first Division of the Old 6th Corps & after a hard struggle our line was broken & driven back but the Provost Guard fixed bayonets & stoped every man.  Our line was soon formed again and at dark the Old 6th Corps charged on the Rebels and drove them out of the breast works they had taken from us before l0 o'clock in the evening.

May the 7th 1864 

Arose at daylight, we had our breakfast about half cooked when the battle commenced.  The rebels came out of the woods in 4 lines of battle, then Our artilery opened on them with Grape & Canister causing them to retreat in confusion & were glad to get out of sight.  Very heavy fighting down the left of the line near Chancelorsville.  It was reported we had captured between 4 & 5000 prizoners today.  Heared good news about dark and Great Cheering prevailed the whol length of the line.  We recd orders to be ready to move at dark.  We marched 3 or 4 miles and halted untill 2 O clock in the morning by the side of the road.  We slept with our knapsacks on our backs.  Was aroused from our slumbers by a pack of mules running away.  We sprung to our feet, grabbed our muskets & got ready for action.  We considered it an attack from the rebels.  In a moments time we were all quiet and down we laid until daybreak.

May the 8th

Arose at daylight and marched about 8 miles very fast.  Very warm today.  We passed our ambulances loaded with our wounded comrades & saw lots of men laying by the road side that were wounded.  Some with a leg off, some with an arm off, some a hand, some a foot.  I tell you it was a hard sight to behold.  We passed through Chancelersville and also through a dense pine forest.  We saw lots of dead & wounded all along the roadside.  Canonading in the morning but not much fighting today but at dark we made a charge on the Rebel Breastworks and drove them from their position.  We cut them down dreadfully.  The ground was covered with the dead and dieing.  They laid like sheaves of wheat in a harvest field.  Our men slept in the Breastworks & rifle pits they had captured.

May 9th 1864 

Arose at daylight ate breakfast and got ready to march. Not much fighting today.  A little canonading & skirmishing.  Gen.  Sedgwick our Corps Commander was killed near our Regiment by Rebel sharp shooters.  Some of the boys would dodge when the balls passed their heads & the General said: "boys don't dodge.  They could not hit an elephant." And in less than 5 minutes he was hit and soon died on the field.  Gen.  Morris of our brigade was wounded about the same time in the leg.  The rebel sharp shooters were soon discovered up in a tree, 9 of them, when the officer in command called for a piece of artilery from the rifle batery and opened on them and the first shot cut the tree off about 40 feet from the ground & down came Mr.  sharp shooter head first.  That ended the sharp shooting at this time.  It was very warm today.  Some of the men were sun struck.  The sick & wounded are being sent to Fredericksburg in ambulances and general wagons.  Had a brisk fight at dark of musketry & artilery.  

May 10th 1864 
All was quiet at daylight, except now & then a random shot was fired.  Heavy skirmishing commenced at 6 Oclock A.M.  This has been the hardest days fighting that has been done.  Have fought al1 day and hard at it yet.  Reported that Gen Butler had taken Petersburg & was advancing on Richmond.  We see hundreds of wounded by the sides of the road and the wounded in the ambulances are screeching as they are moved off the field.  But we don't mind it.  We are so tired & worn out by marching & fighting & being without sleep.  We don't care for any one but ourselves.  We don't realize the horrors of war.  Our men made a charge at dark & captured about l000 rebels.  So ended this days fighting.  

From http://pasty.com/book/diary.html

Return to the Great Battles Home Page

16th President Topic Index

Learning On-Line Home Page