Wilderness, VA
 
 

WILDERNESS, VA
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.

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