Wilderness, VA

Post date: Aug 30, 2010 5:9:14 PM


MAY 5TH - 7TH, 1864

Wilderness, Va., May 5-7, 1864. Army of the Potomac. On

March 9, 1864, Maj.-Gen. U. S. Grant was raised to the rank of

lieutenant-general and placed in command of all the United

States armies in the field. The interval from that time until

the 1st of May was spent in planning campaigns, and in

strengthening, organizing and equipping the several armies in

the different military districts. Grant remained with the

Army of the Potomac, which was under the immediate command of

Maj.-Gen. George G. Meade, and which had for its objective the

destruction of the Confederate army under command of Gen.

Robert E. Lee. On May 1, the Army of the Potomac lay along

the north side of the Rapidan river and was organized as

follows: The 2nd corps Maj.Gen. W. S. Hancock commanding, was

composed of four divisions; the 1st commanded by Brig.-Gen. F.

C. Barlow, the 2nd by Brig.-Gen. John Gibbon, the 3rd by Maj.-

Gen. D. B. Birney, and the 4th by Brig-Gen. Gershom Mott. The

5th corps, commanded by Maj.-Gen. G. K Warren, consisted of

four divisions, respectively commanded by Brig Gens. Charles

Griffin, J. C. Robinson, S. W. Crawford and J. S. Wadsworth.

The 6th corps under command of Maj.-Gen. John Sedgwick

included the three divisions commanded by Brig.-Gens. H. G.

Wright, G. W. Getty and James B. Ricketts. The 9th corps,

Maj.-Gen. A. E. Burnside commanding, was composed of four

divisions, each of which was commanded by a brigadier-

general-the 1st by T. G. Stevenson, the 2nd by R B. Potter,

the 3rd by O. B. Willcox and the 4th by Edward Ferrero. The

cavalry corps, under command of Maj.-Gen. P. H. Sheridan,

consisted of three divisions, the 1st commanded by Brig.-Gen.

T. A. Torbert, the 2nd by Brig.-Gen. G. A. Custer and the

3rd by Brig-Gen. J. H. Wilson. With the 2nd corps was the

artillery brigade under Col John C. Tidball; the artillery of

the 5th corps was in charge of Col. C. S. Wainwright; that of

the 6th corps under Col. C. H. Tompkins, and the artillery

reserve, composed of Kitching's, J. A. Tompkins' and Burton's

brigades, was commanded by Brig.-Gen. Henry J. Hunt. Burnside

had 14 light and 2 heavy batteries. During the campaign the

18th corps, commanded by Maj.-Gen. W. F. Smith, was

transferred from the Army of the James to the Army of the

Potomac. This corps was composed of three divisions,

commanded by Brig.-Gens. W. T. H. Brooks, Godfrey Weitzel and

E. W. Hinks, and the cavalry division under Brig-Gen. August

V. Kautz.

Lee's army-the Army of Northern Virginia-consisted of the

1st, 2nd and 3rd corps, respectively commanded by Lieut.-Gens.

James Longstreet, R. S. Ewell and A. P. Hill, and the cavalry

corps of Maj.-Gen. J. E. B. Stuart. Longstreet's corps

included the divisions of Kershaw and Field, and the artillery

brigade under Brig.-Gen. E. P. Alexander. Ewell's corps was

made up of the divisions of Early, Edward Johnson and Rodes,

and the artillery brigade of Brig.-Gen. A. L. Long Hill's

corps was composed of the divisions of R. H. Anderson, Heth

and Wilcox, and his artillery was commanded by Col. R. L.

Walker. Stuart's cavalry embraced three divisions, commanded

by Wade Hampton, Fitzhugh Lee and W. H. F. Lee, and the horse

artillery under Maj. R. P. Chew. The Union army numbered

about 120,000 men of all arms, exclusive of Smith's corps.

Lee's army numbered about 61,000 not including the forces

under Beauregard on the Petersburg lines and the troops left

in the defenses of Richmond, about 30,000 in all. Ewell's

corps was intrenched along the south side of the Rapidan, his

right resting near Morton's ford a short distance above the

mouth of Mine run. The upper half of the intrenched line was

held by Hill's corps, the left extending to Barnett's ford,

about 5 miles west of the Orange & Alexandria railroad.

Longstreet's command was at Gordonsville, the junction of the

Orange & Alexandria and the Virginia Central railroads. Lee's

headquarters were at Orange Court House, about half way

between Longstreet and the line along the Rapidan, from which

point he could easily communicate with his corps commanders,

and detachments of cavalry watched the various fords and

bridges along the river.

Grant's plan was to cross the Rapidan at the fords below

the Confederate line of intrenchments move rapidly around

Lee's right flank and force him either to give battle or

retire to Richmond. As soon as this movement was well under

way, Gen. Butler, with the Army of the James, was to advance

up the James river from Fortress Monroe and attack Richmond

from the south. The region known as the Wilderness, through

which the Army of the Potomac was to move, lies between the

Rapidan the north and the Mattapony on the south. It is about

12 miles wide from north to south and some 16 miles in extent

from east to west. Near the center stood the Wilderness

tavern, 8 miles west of Chancellorsville and 6 miles south of

Culpeper Mine ford on the Rapidan. A short distance west of

the tavern the plank road from ermanna ford crossed the Orange

& Fredericksburg turnpike, and then running southeast for

about 2 miles intersected the Orange plank road near the

Hickman farmhouse. The Brock road left the Orange &

Fredericksburg pike about a mile east of the tavern and ran

southward to Spottsylvania Court House, via Todd's tavern.

The first iron furnaces in the United States were established

in the Wilderness, the original growth of timber had been cut

off to furnish fuel for the furnaces, and the surface, much

broken by ravines, ridges and old ore beds, was covered by a

second growth of pines, scrub-oaks, etc., so dense in places

that it was impossible to see a man at a distance of 50 yards.

Between the Orange plank road and the Fredericksburg pike ran

a little stream called Wilderness run, and north of the latter

road was Flat run the general direction of both streams being

northeast toward the Rapidan into which they emptied. On the

Orange plank road, about 4 miles southwest from the Wilderness

tavern, was Parker's store.

From the Confederate signal station on Clark's mountain,

near the right of Ewell's position, the Federal camps could be

plainly seen. On May 2nd Lee, accompanied by several of his

generals, made a personal observation, saw the commotion in

the Union lines, and rightly conjectured that an early

movement of some kind was in contemplation. He accordingly

directed his officers to hold their commands in readiness to

move against the flank of the Federal army whenever the orders

were given from the signal station. It was on this same day

that Meade, by Grant's instructions, issued his orders for the

advance. Knowing that his every movement was observed by the

enemy, he determined to cross the Rapidan during the night.

At midnight on the 3rd the 5th and 6th corps, preceded by

Wilson cavalry division, began crossing at Germanna ford. The

2nd corps, preceded by Gregg's cavalry, crossed at Ely's ford

farther down the river. On the evening of the 4th Warren's

corps went into bivouac near the Wilderness tavern, Sedgwick

was between Warren and the Rapidan; Hancock was near the

cross-roads at Chancellorsville and Burnside, with the 9th

corps, was moving by a forced march from the Rappahannock

river toward Germanna ford in response to a telegram from

Grant. Wilson's cavalry covered both the plank road and the

turnpike west of Warren's camp, the main body of the division

being at Parker's store and a small force at Robertson's

tavern on the pike. The orders issued that evening for the

movements of the army on the 5th would indicate that both

Grant and Meade believed that Lee would fall back toward

Richmond upon finding his flank turned by a superior force.

In this they were mistaken. Lee had outgeneraled Hooker on

the same ground a year before, and he now decided to make an

effort at least to drive the Federals back across the Rapidan.

Therefore, as soon as he learned on the morning of the 4th

that Meade's advance had crossed the river, Ewell was directed

to move by the Orange turnpike, Hill by the plank road, and

Longstreet was ordered to bring up his corps with all possible

despatch. That night Ewell was bivouacked about 5 miles from

Warren's camp, Hill was at Verdiersville, about 3 miles in the

rear of Ewell, and Longstreet was at Brock's bridge, 10 miles

east of Gordonsville.

During the night Lee sent word to Ewell to "bring on the

battle now as soon as possible," and ordered Hill to move

forward at the same time as Ewell. Warren's orders were to

move at 5 a.m on the 5th to Parker's store and extend his

right toward the Wilderness tavern to connect with the 6th

corps. He moved on time, Crawford's division in advance,

Wadsworth's in the center and Griffin's in the rear. About 7

o'clock Meade received a despatch from Warren, announcing that

the Confederates were in some force on the pike about 2 miles

west of the tavern. Meade hurried to the front and directed

Warren to attack with his entire corps to develop what part of

Lee's army was there. Hancock, who was moving to take a

position on Warren's left, was ordered to halt at Todd's

tavern and await further orders. Sedgwick was ordered to move

by a cross-road that left the Germanna road at Spottswood,

attack any Confederate force he might find in his way, and

connect with Warren's right on the pike. Grant joined Meade

soon after these orders were issued and the two generals

established their headquarters on the knoll around the Lacy

house, a little west of the Wilderness tavern.

At 8 o'clock Crawford was in a strong position on the

Chewning farm, where he was directed to halt until Griffin and

Wadsworth were ready to move against the enemy on the

turnpike, when he was to send one of his brigades to join in

the attack. About noon Griffin attacked vigorously striking

Jones brigade of Johnson's division and driving it back in

some confusion through the supporting line, after which he

advanced against Battle's and Doles' brigades of Rodes'

division. Wright of the 6th corps, was to have moved forward

on Warren's right, but owing to the dense thickets and the

uneven surface of the ground, he was unable to connect with

Griffin's line in time to carry out the original plan of

attack. As Griffin advanced, his right therefore became

exposed and Ewell hurled the brigades of Gordon and Daniel

against his flank forcing Ayres' brigade back across the pike.

Seeing that his line was in danger of being broken, Griffin

then gave the order to fall back. In executing this order his

line was so closely pressed by the Confederates that he was

compelled to abandon 2 pieces of artillery. Wadsworth, in

moving forward through the thickets, lost his direction and

exposed his left flank to Gordon and Daniel, just after they

had forced Griffin to retire. These two brigades now attacked

Wadsworth and drove back his left in disorder. The

Confederates then poured through the gap thus formed and

struck Dennison's brigade of Robinson's division in the flank

as it was moving to Wadsworth's support. Pursuant to orders

Crawford had sent McCandless' brigade to join Wadsworth's

left, but the latter had begun his advance before McCandless

could reach the position assigned him. The brigade was moved

forward, however, in the direction that McCandless supposed

would bring him into the desired place, and came up just in

time to be engaged by Gordon's victorious forces after

Dennison's defeat. A sharp fight ensued, but McCandless was

greatly outnumbered and was finally forced to withdraw with a

severe loss in killed and wounded and the capture of several

hundred of his men. Ewell then reformed his line on the

ground where he was first attacked and intrenched his

position. Warren fell back about 300 yards and formed a new

line with his right resting on the pike.

Early in the morning Wilson left Col. Hammond, with the

5th N. Y. at Parker's store and pushed on with the rest of his

command toward the Craig meeting-house. Soon after Wilson's

departure Hammond became engaged with Hill's advance and

Crawford threw forward a skirmish line of his infantry to

support the cavalry. This line soon encountered Kirkland's

brigade of Heth's division and with Hammond's regiment was

slowly forced back along the plank road toward the Wilderness

tavern. Getty's division was hurried forward to the

intersection of the Brock and Orange plank roads, and a

despatch was sent to Hancock directing him to move up on the

Brock road to Getty's support. Getty reached the cross-roads

just in time to secure that important position, and formed his

division in two lines of battle at right angles to the plank

road, Wheaton's brigade in the center, Grant's on the left and

Eustis' on the right. Hill advanced against this line, but

received such a galling fire that he speedily retired and for

the next two hours everything was quiet, except for the almost

constant firing of the skirmishers. When Hancock received the

order at 9 a.m. to halt at Todd's tavern his advance was

already some 2 miles beyond that point, and this caused some

delay when, two hours later, he was ordered to move to the

support of Getty. At 2 p.m. Birney's division came up on the

Brock road and formed on Getty's left in two lines of battle

along that road. The divisions of Mott and Gibbon followed in

order, as fast as the narrow road and dense undergrowth would

permit, and also formed in two lines on the left of Birney.

Barlow's division, on the extreme left, was thrown forward to

some high, clear ground, which was the only place along the

line where artillery could be used to advantage. Here Hancock

massed all his batteries except Dow's and one section of

Ricketts', the former of which was placed near Mott's left and

the latter on the plank road. As fast as the different

commands fell into position breastworks of logs and earth were

thrown up. The second line also threw up works in the rear of

the first, and later a third line was constructed behind the

divisions of Mott and Birney. Before his troops were in

position Hancock received orders to attack, and a little after

3 p.m. Getty was directed to attack at once, without waiting

for Hancock. During the lull of two hours Hill had been

industriously pushing his men into position and forming a

junction with Ewell's right. He was anxiously awaiting and

expecting the arrival of Longstreet, but that officer had

delayed his advance, because he was unwilling to take the road

assigned him by Lee, and waited for permission to select his

own route. The result was that when darkness fell on the 5th

he was still miles away from Hill's right.

Although Getty received orders about 3 o'clock to attack

at once, his advance was delayed an hour, as he was engaged in

shifting Wheaton's brigade to the right of the plank road to

make more room for the 2nd corps. At 4:15 he moved forward

down the plank roads, but had not proceeded more than 300

yards when he encountered Heth's division. Ricketts' guns had

advanced with the line of infantry and did good service in

forcing back the enemy's center, but Hill's line overlapped

Getty's flanks and the slight advantage gained in the center

was more than offset by the severe losses on both the right

and left, where the Federal attacks were repulsed, Grant

losing nearly 1,000 men, about one-half of his brigade.

Seeing that Getty had met the enemy in force, Hancock ordered

Birney's and Mott's divisions to his support, and a little

later sent Carroll's brigade of Gibbon's division to the right

of the plank road to support Eustis. About 5:30 the enemy

charged and forced back the Union line for 50 yards. One of

Ricketts' guns had to be abandoned on account of the horses

being killed. Some of the Confederates reached this gun and

planted their colors on it, but they were driven away before

they could withdraw it. About the time that this charge was

made Hancock had completed the formation of his line and

attacked Hill's right with great vigor, Smyth's "Irish"

brigade driving back the enemy's line for some distance. In

his report Hancock says: "The battle raged with great severity

and obstinacy until 8 p.m. without decided advantage to either

party." While this was apparently true at the time an hour

more of daylight would have witnessed Hill's defeat. He had

extended his lines to the southward to cover the ground that

had been assigned to Longstreet. This thin line was now

shattered and disjointed, and had it been severely pressed for

an hour longer it must inevitably have been broken at some

point and the whole corps driven from the field. During the

action Gen. Hays' commanding one of Hancock's brigades, was

killed; Col. Carroll and Gen. Getty were both severely

wounded, but neither left the field until the fighting was

over for the day.

In the afternoon some heavy skirmishing took place on the

Federal right. About 5 p.m. Ricketts' 2nd brigade, under the

command of Brig.-Gen. Truman Seymour, who had relieved Col. B.

F. Smith that morning, Neill's brigade of Getty's division,

and part of Wrights's 1st brigade, under Col. W. H. Penrose,

attacked the Confederate brigades of Hays and Pegram in a

strongly intrenched position on the ridge south of net run.

Pegram placed some artillery on his left, the fire from which

enfiladed Neill's line, forcing him and Penrose to retire from

the field with considerable loss. Seymour continued the

contest until dark, but was unable to dislodge the enemy from

his position. The Federal loss in killed and wounded was

heavy on this part of the field, Col. Keifer, commanding

Seymour's first line, being severely wounded. On the other

side Gen. Pegram was wounded and compelled to leave the field.

While these different infantry engagements were going on

the cavalry was not idle. At the Craig meeting-house

Chapman's brigade of Wilson's division encountered Rosser's

brigade of Hampton's cavalry and drove it back about 2 miles.

Rosser was then strongly reinforced and Chapman fell back on

the 1st brigade at the junction of the Parker's store and

Catharpin roads. Soon after this Wilson ordered his whole

command to Todd's tavern, where he had been directed by

Sheridan to meet Gregg's division. On the way to Todd's he

was closely pressed by the Confederate cavalry. Gregg arrived

at the tavern about the same time as Wilson, when the two

divisions immediately assumed the offensive and drove the

enemy beyond Corbin's bridge across the Po river.

Immediately after the fighting ceased on the 5th,

Hancock, Warren and Sedgwick received orders to attack at 5

o'clock the next morning. Burnside, then in the vicinity of

Germanna ford, was instructed to march at 2 a.m., with

Stevenson's, Potter's and Willcox's divisions, and be in

position to join in the general advance at the hour

designated. From prisoners captured during the day it was

learned that Longstreet was hourly expected and Hancock was

notified to keep a close watch on his left. Barlow's

division, with all the artillery of the 2nd corps, was

therefore placed in position to protect the left flank and a

strong skirmish line was thrown out on the Brock road. The

Federal attack was anticipated by the enemy, who began firing

on both the left and right a few minutes before 5 o'clock.

Soon after the firing commenced, Hancock attacked in two

lines, extending across the plank road, Getty's division, with

Eustis on the right, Wheaton in the center and Grant on the

left, supporting the divisions of Mott and Birney, the latter

being in command of Hancock's right wing. The Confederates

were pushed back about a mile and a half from the cross-roads

when Wadsworth's division came sweeping in from the right,

which threw the enemy into confusion and resulted in the

capture of several hundred prisoners. The whole line then

pressed on after the almost routed enemy for nearly a mile

farther; Lee's trains and headquarters were in full view and

the battle was nearly won, when a heavy artillery fire was

opened on the Union lines from Poague's batteries masked in

the shrubbery on the south side of the road, and it was

learned that one of Longstreet's divisions had finally

connected with Hill's right. In the impetuous advance

Hancock's line had become somewhat disordered and he ordered a

halt to readjust his lines before engaging the fresh troops.

Getty had been wounded during the action and turned over the

command of the division to Wheaton. He was now relieved by

Webb's brigade of Gibbon's division and formed his command

along the original line of battle on the Brock road. At 7

a.m. Gibbon, commanding the left wing, was directed to attack

the Confederate right with Barlow's division, but owing to the

expected attack by Longstreet the order was but partially

carried out. Frank's brigade only was thrown forward to feel

the enemy's position and after some sharp fighting it

connected with Mott's left. About 8 o'clock Stevenson's

division of Burnside's corps reported to Hancock. Burnside,

with his 2nd and 3rd divisions, had been expected to move by a

cross-toad toward Parker's store, on Birney's right, and

attack simultaneously with the rest of the line. About the

time of Stevenson's arrival at the Brock road, Hancock

received word from Meade that Burnside had then pushed forward

nearly to the store and was ready to attack. This information

proved to be erroneous and was in a measure contributory to

the disaster that overtook Hancock later in the day. Burnside

was delayed by a lack of definite information regarding the

ground over which he was to move and the dense thickets he

encountered, so that it was 2 p.m. before his attack was

commenced. A few minutes before 9 o'clock Birney, Mott and

Wadsworth, with part of Stevenson's division and three

brigades of Gibbon's, resumed the attack along the plank road

and were soon furiously engaged with the enemy. Just previous

to this, rapid firing was heard in the direction of Todd's

tavern, which Hancock supposed to be the threatened flank

attack by Longstreet, and this caused him to send Brooke's

brigade of Barlow's division out on the Brock road to occupy a

line of breastworks there to hold Longstreet in check.

Leasure's brigade of the 9th corps and Eustis' of the 6th were

held in readiness to support Barlow. As a matter of fact

Longstreet was at that moment in Hancock's front, the firing

at Todd's being an engagement between Sheridan and the

Confederate cavalry. In his report Hancock says: "The

arrangements made on my extreme left to receive Longstreet

prevented me from pushing my success at the time when Gen.

Birney was driving Hill on the plank road."

South of the plank road and nearly parallel to it was the

unfinished Gordonsville & Fredericksburg railroad. About 10

o'clock Longstreet sent Gen. Mahone with four brigades to move

along the line of this railroad and gain Hancock's flank and

rear, while the brigades of Law, Gregg and Benning engaged the

Federals in front. Mahone first encountered Frank's brigade,

which had nearly exhausted its ammunition and was therefore

compelled to retire before the vehement flank attack. He then

struck the left of Mott's division, which in turn was forced

back in some confusion. Heroic efforts were made to rally the

men and reform the line along the plank road by throwing back

the left, but the troops had been engaged all morning under a

heavy fire in the dense forest and their formation was too

irregular for such a movement. At Birney's suggestion the

whole line was then withdrawn and reestablished in the

breastworks along the Brock road. When Longstreet saw that

Mahone's attack was successful he ordered a general advance

along the plank road, hoping to crush Hancock's line.

Mahone's men, upon seeing the head of the Confederate column,

mistook it for a fresh body of Union troops and fired a

volley, killing Gen. Jenkins and wounding Longstreet. Lee

then assumed command of his right wing in person and ordered

the attack to be postponed, although the Confederate line was

then within a short distance of the Union works. About half

an hour before Mahone struck the left of Hancock's line

Cutler's brigade of Wadsworth's division was driven back to

the open ground near the Lacy house, but Birney sent two

brigades and recovered the lost ground, though at considerable

loss. During this part of the battle Gen. Wadsworth was

mortally and Gen. Baxter severely wounded.

From 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. all was comparatively quiet along

Hancock's front. About 2 o'clock Robinson's 1st brigade,

under Col. Lyle, and two regiments of heavy artillery reported

to Hancock and were massed near the cross-roads in reserve.

At this time Burnside made an assault on the enemy's line near

the Tapp house, north of the plank road, and drove it back in

disorder, but part of Heth's division and Wofford's brigade of

Kershaw's came up as reinforcements and regained all the lost

ground. At 3 p.m. Hancock and Burnside both received orders

to attack at 6 o'clock. They were not permitted to wait until

that hour, however, for at 4:15 the enemy advanced against

Hancock in force, pressing up to the edge of the abatis, less

than 100 yards from the first line of works, where they halted

and opened a fierce fire of musketry. This was continued for

half an hour, during which time the Union line held firm.

Then a portion of Mott's division and Ward's brigade of

Birney's gave way. Concerning this break, Hancock says in his

report: "The confusion and disorganization among a portion of

the troops of Mott's and Birney's divisions on this occasion

was greatly increased, if not originated, by the front line of

breastworks having taken fire a short time before the enemy

made his attack, the flames having been communicated to it

from the forest in front (the battle-ground of the morning),

which had been burning for some hours. The breastworks on

this portion of my line were constructed entirely of logs, and

at the critical moment of the enemy's advance were a mass of

flames which it was impossible at that time to subdue, the

fire extending for many hundred paces to the right and left.

The intense heat and smoke, which was driven by the wind

directly into the faces of the men, prevented them on portions

of the line from firing over the parapet, and at some points

compelled them to abandon the line."

As soon as Mott's men gave way the Confederates advanced

And, some of them reached the breastworks and planted their

colors thereon. But their victory was of short duration, for

Carroll's brigade moved by the left flank, advancing at the

double-quick with fixed bayonets, and drove the enemy back

with heavy loss in killed and wounded, some of the dead being

afterward found inside the works. Dow's battery, one section

of which was near the plank road and the others in the second

line near Mott's left, did good service in firing on the

enemy, both during his advance and retreat. After the repulse

of the Confederates by Carroll, Lee withdrew his troops from

the contest, and there was no more fighting along the Brock

road that day, the order for the attack being countermanded

because Hancock's men were almost out of ammunition and it was

too late to replenish the supply. When Burnside heard the

firing in Hancock's front he advanced against the enemy before

him, but his attacks were isolated and unsupported and the

only important result attained was to prevent Heth and Wilcox

from moving to Lee's support

When the attack began in the morning Wright's division

vigorously assaulted Early's intrenchments in his front, but

was repulsed with heavy loss. A second attack met with no

better success, and as the withdrawal of Burnside's corps had

left Sedgwick's right exposed he was ordered to intrench his

position and act on the defensive. Warren's attacks on Ewell

were also unsuccessful, as the enemy's lines here had been

strengthened during the night and several pieces of artillery

added. During the day Sedgwick was reinforced by Shaler's

brigade, which had been guarding the trains, and Johnston's

brigade was sent to Early. Both sides were thus reinforced

and some sharp fighting occurred during the afternoon, the

attacks of Warren and Sedgwick serving to keep Lee from

concentrating his entire force against Hancock. Just before

sunset Gordon's brigade, supported by Johnston's, made an

attack on Sedgwick's right flank, while Pegram engaged the

Federals in front. Shaler's brigade was engaged in building

breastworks and the sudden descent of the enemy threw it into

confusion, rolling it back on Seymour's brigade, which also

fell into some disorder. Seymour and Shaler, with several

hundred of their men, were captured. Johnston passed to the

left of Gordon and gained Wright's rear, where he captured a

few prisoners. Wright promptly restored order among the

troops and repulsed the attack of Johnston. Gordon's men were

thrown into confusion and Early ordered both brigades to

withdraw. In his Memoir Early says of this flank attack: "It

was fortunate, however, that darkness came to close this

affair, as the enemy, if he had been able to discover the

disorder on our side, might have brought up fresh troops and

availed himself of our condition." This flank attack of

Early's was the last important event in the day's contest,

and, in fact, closed the battle of the Wilderness, for when

Federal pickets and skirmishing parties were sent out the next

morning no trace of the enemy could be discovered on the field

of the day before. The Army of Northern Virginia had retired

to its line of intrenchments and the redoubtable Lee had

evidently abandoned his offensive campaign.

The Union loss in the battle of the Wilderness was 2,246

killed 12,037 wounded and 3,383 captured or missing. No doubt

many of the wounded were burned to death or suffocated in the

fire that raged through the woods on Hancock's front.

Concerning the enemy's casualties Badeau, in his Military

History of U. S. Grant, says: "The losses of Lee no human

being can tell. No official report of them exists, if any was

ever made, and no statement that has been put forth in regard

to them has any foundation but a guess. It seems however,

fair to presume that as Lee fought outside of his works as

often as Grant, and was as often repelled, the slaughter of

the rebels equalled that in the national army. The grey coats

lay as thick as the blue next day, when the national scouts

pushed out over the entire battle-field and could discover no

living enemy "

Source: The Union Army, vol. 6

Source Information:

Historical Data Systems, comp. American Civil War Battle Summaries [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: MyFamily.com, Inc., 1999. Original data: Data compiled by Historical Data Systems of Kingston, MA from the following list of works. Copyright 1997-2000