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Robert E. Lee and Ulysses S. Grant fight a battle in “no-man’s land” without result.
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
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.
Fighting at the Wilderness was inconsequential except for one casualty
The fighting on May 4, 5, and 6 provided no result, no change in position, though there was one very important casualty. 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.
The Union and the Confederates finally had all forces reach the field.
Lee’s Confederate forces held the high ground at Spotsylvania and both flanks extended to the Poe River, where they dug entrenchments covered in front by trees they cut down .
A.P. Hill occupied the Confederate Right, Richard Ewell held the center and Richard H. Anderson held the Left
Grant sends the Cavalry, led by Philip Sheridan towards Richmond
Ulysses S. Grant gave Philip Sheridan permission to “break loose” and move towards Richmond.
Lee sent J.E.B. Stuart and his own cavalry to chase Philip Sheridan.
Two days later, J.E.B. Stuart was mortally wounded in the liver at a clash at Yellow Tavern. Robert E. Lee considered Stuart irreplaceable.
J.E.B. Stuart died on May 12, 1864 from a wound in the liver.
Fighting within the Bloody Angle on May 12, 1864
“ It was chiefly a savage hand-to-hand fight across the breastworks. Rank after rank was riddled by shot and shell and bayonet-thrusts, and finally sank, a mass of torn and mutilated corpses; then fresh troops rushed madly forward to replace the dead, and so the murderous work went on. Guns were run up close to the parapet, and double charges of canister played their part in the bloody work.... Wild cheers, savage yells, and frantic shrieks... formed a demoniacal accompaniment to the booming of the guns.” –Colonel Horace Porter, staff officer under Grant
The battle finishes without a clear winner and Ulysses S. Grant leaves the area again to Move Southeast towards Richmond, in another flanking motion against the Confederate lines, as Robert E. Lee continues to try to cut him off.
Sherman’s Army numbered 100,000 and his adversary for the beginning would be Joseph Johnston, whose army numbered only 50,000.
As well, Jefferson Davis was beginning to become angered at the passivity of Joe Johnston as many of his corps commanders were as well.
It was said that when Johnston went duck hunting, “The bird flew too high or too low- the dogs were too far or too near- things never did suit exactly.” And this is the way that Johnston fought. He never was willing to commit his troops to battle unless the preparations were absolutely perfect.
Sherman continued to split up his army and attack small pickets around Atlanta and the railroad lines on each Geographical direction heading into Atlanta to lay siege to it, though little direct fighting did take place.
On September 1, William Tecumseh Sherman was on the outskirts of Atlanta as John Bell Hood evacuated Atlanta after destroying everything of military value in the city.
When he entered Atlanta, Sherman issued an order requiring all the people to leave within five days. Hood protested against this order, and the mayor and council of Atlanta appealed to Sherman to withdraw it, pointing out that most of the inhabitants were women and children, who would suffer greatly if compelled to leave their homes.
When all preparations for the southward march had been made and the people had been forced to depart, Sherman burned Atlanta to the ground.
The daytime of the summer of 1864 was for fighting, but the nighttime was for trench-digging. Little sleep would be had as many men became shell-shocked and even A.P. Hill and Richard Ewell suffered mental breakdowns in this fighting.
Despite the losses felt by Grant at Cold Harbor, Grant still decided to move forward, and, for the first time, tricked Lee as he kept sending feints towards Richmond while destroying the rail lines leading to Richmond, along with looting the towns in Western Virginia.
Grant’s Railroad destruction operations after the loss at Cold Harbor
Lee felt that Grant was going to make a direct attack upon Richmond, but instead he decides to attempt to trick Lee by flanking around Richmond down to Petersburg, South of Richmond, while destroying the Western Virginia rail lines with a dispatch of his army.
Lee is finally outsmarted, for the first time in the war.
What ensues is a 9 month long siege by the Union on the Confederate entrenchments from June 15, 1864 through March 25, 1865.
After nine long months of defending Richmond from Petersburg, just south of the Confederate capitol, Lee orders the evacuation of Richmond on April 2, 1865, and the Confederates start to flee to the western part of Virginia.
Lee surrounded and Lee and Grant decide to meet in Appomattox
Lee finds himself surrounded by Union soldiers on all fronts on April 8, 1865, and he sends a dispatch to meet with Grant at the Wilmer McLean house in Appomattox on April 9…