Wilderness and Spotsylvania 1864: Grant versus Lee in the East (Campaign)
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Grant and Lee fought near Chancellorsville, VA in a confusing series of battles amidst brush thickets and wildfires. Unlike previous campaigns, Grant simply kept flanking Lee, trying frontal assaults at Spotslvania's 'mule-shoe' and Cold Harbor along the way to laying seige to Richmond and Petersburg.
In May 1864 the Union Army of the Potomac under General George Meade had been in a leisurely pursuit of the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia for nearly a year after the defeat of the Rebels at Gettysburg. Confederate commander General Robert E. Lee still retained his awe-inspiring reputation for wrecking Union armies that got too close to Richmond and Meade was still cautious. His tactics at Gettysburg were defensive and he was unsure that he was able to take the offensive against Lee. However, things changed when President Abraham Lincoln appointed General Ulysses S. Grant to command all Union armies. Grant came east and laid out a comprehensive strategy for the rest of the war.
In the deep South, General William T. Sherman would march out of Tennessee to cut the Confederacy in half by taking Atlanta. Grant would lead the Army of the Potomac across the Rapidan River and march on Richmond. He had the manpower and equipment to accomplish his objective, easily outnumbering Lee. Lee, on the other hand, was far from beaten and saw Grant as just another Union general to be sent packing, much as he had sent McClellan, Burnside, Pope and Hooker away two years before. As Grant's army slowly entered the tangle of woods beyond Fredericksburg known as the Wilderness, Lee planned to pin him there and destroy him as he struggled to emerge. The stage was set for the campaign that would forever dictate the terms of the Civil War in the East.
brought low by Lee. Supply wagons began to trundle across newly constructed wooden bridges after 5pm and the Union Army seemed content. Grant was especially pleased that the first day’s objectives had been reached without serious loss of life. For his men, surrounded by the dark, deep curtains of dense growth, it was a different story. Staring at the empty eye sockets of skulls that they dug up while making preparations, the Union troops were uneasy, falling asleep with the belief that Lee was
against Robert E. Lee. (Library of Congress) 8 Ulysses Simpson Grant (Commander of the Union Army). Appointed to the newly created rank of lieutenant-general, Ulysses S. Grant would soon find himself Commander in Chief of all Union armies and on a collision course with the Confederacy’s star general. Grant was not a favorite with many generals, but Lincoln saw in this man a kindred spirit. Grant served in the Mexican War, then resigned his captaincy and went into a series of failed business
Roa XXX urg d ksb VI oa Tyler iver Ny R kR XX Landrum House XXX oc eric Br ph Roa Hancock Fred Go rdo r oad nR Snell’s Bridge AFTERMATH The next day was gray and sullen, rain sluicing away blood from the churned ground. The exhausted living lay as still as the dead, heedless of the muddy ground or soaking showers. Their respite was short. Lee pulled his men back from the Mule Shoe to his newly prepared line. Union troops advanced cautiously as II and VI Corps tried to
Note the “bull’s-eye” canteen and slouch hat popular with Confederate troops. (Library of Congress) 89 UNION FORCES 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 XXXX II Corps – Hancock IX Corps – Burnside V Corps – Warren VI Corps – Wright Russell’s Division 2nd Brigade – Upton Ricketts’s Division Neill’s Division GRANT 1 1 GORDON ROAD 2 3 UNION TRENCH LINE 2 4 BROCK ROAD D C CONFEDERATE TRENCH LINE 3 B A BLOCK HOUSE BRIDGE 7 SHADY GROVE CHURCH ROAD OLD COURTHOUSE ROAD PO RIVER Note: Gridlines are shown
Adams 5th United States, Battery M Capt. James McKnight IX CORPS MAJ. GEN. AMBROSE E. BURNSIDE Provost Guard 8th US Infantry Capt. Milton Cogswell 1st Division Brig. Gen. Thomas G. Stevenson 1st Brigade Col. Sumner Carruth 35th Massachusetts Maj. Nathaniel Wales 56th Massachusetts Col. Charles E. Griswold 57th Massachusetts Col. William F. Bartlett 59th Massachusetts Col. J. Parker Gould 4th United States Capt. Charles H. Brightly 10th United States Maj. Samuel B. Hayman 2nd