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Battle of the Wilderness Robert E. Lee and Ulysses S. Grant fight a battle in “no-man’s land” May 4-7, 1864
When did Ulysses S. Grant take over as the Union Commander and why?
Ulysses S. Grant took over as the Union Commander on March 9, 1864. Before taking over, he had a track record including a great amount of success in the West with the capture of Forts Henry and Donelson, Shiloh, and Vicksburg, and Chattanooga
Meade was somewhat disliked by Lincoln and other Washington Politicians since he did not chase the Confederates after Gettysburg.
Plan of Attack for Grant in the remainder of the War
Ulysses S. Grant wanted to attack the Confederacy on two fronts
Attack the Deep South (Georgia, Tennessee, Alabama) with William Tecumseh Sherman
Pressure deep into Virginia and take over Richmond with the Army of the Potomac under George Gordon Meade.
William Tecumseh Sherman
How did the fight end up occurring in the Wilderness area of Virginia?
Grant was inching George Meade’s Army of the Potomac closer to Richmond, stationed on May 4, 1864, just West of the Fredericksburg battlefield and North of the Chancellorsville Battlefield
Grant sent the Army east, downriver on the Rapidan River to cross and make a flanking maneuver on the Confederacy and pressure Richmond
Officers under Ulysses S. Grant and George Meade- Army of the Potomac Winfield Scott Hancock Governeur K. Warren Ambrose Burnside
Officers under Robert E. Lee at the Battle of the Wilderness Ambrose Powell (A.P.) Hill James Longstreet Richard Ewell
Robert E. Lee sent Richard Ewell to collide with the Union forces that were crossing the Rapidan and heading for Richmond
Lee also sent A.P. Hill to set himself up 1 mile South of Ewell, also in a collision course with Union Soldiers
Why wasn’t Robert E. Lee deterred by the 118,000 Union soldiers?
Despite the fact that the Confederates were losing soldiers to desertion every day, Robert E. Lee knew that numbers did not matter when you are fighting in a no-man’s land like the Wilderness.
Just a side-note, when the fighting began, Winfield Scott stated that you could not see more than 100 paces ahead of you in the Wilderness, and your only sense of direction for moving to attack was the sound of muskets in the distance.
What was fighting like in the Battle of the Wilderness?
The initial fighting included a lot of bayonet charging and soldiers swinging the butts of their muskets as it was simply hand-to-hand fighting.
Eventually the Union soldiers took position behind a farm fence and created makeshift Entrenchments.
Longstreet’s attempt to turn the Union Flank was partially successful, as the Confederates were able to remove them from their front-line entrenchments, but, unlucky for the Confederates, the Union troops had set up 3-4 more lines of Entrenchments behind the Front Line.
While setting up his troops on the Afternoon of May 6, 1864 at the Battle of the Wilderness, James Longstreet was shot in the neck and shoulder by his own men, but slowly recovered to rejoin the War six months later.
End of the Battle of the Wilderness and the Results
When the morning of May 7, 1864 had arisen, both Lee and Grant knew that any further fighting at the Wilderness would be inconsequential as they both simply sat and waited for the other to make a move
Ulysses S. Grant abandoned all usual methods of retreating from a Civil War Battlefield after this battle as he headed further South instead of returning to the North.