Introduction Battle of the WildernessFrom May 5th through the 6th of 1864, in an area of Virginia typified by tangled brush and thick woods, the Union Army and Confederate Armies clashed at the Battle of the Wilderness; one of the bloodiest battles of the American Civil War. Union General Ulysses S. Grant had just been promoted to lieutenant general, and President Lincoln had just given him command of the entire Union army. As part of a coordinated plan Grant was determined to destroy the Army of Northern Virginia led by the legendary Confederate General Robert E. Lee. On this page we list interesting facts about the Battle of the Wilderness including information about who won and what effect it had on the war. This is followed by a timeline of the battle.
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Interesting Battle of the Wilderness Facts
- The Wilderness battlefield is located in Spotsylvania County, Virginia south of the Rapidan River approximately ten miles west of Fredericksburg Virginia.
- The Battle of the Wilderness was the first battle of General Grant's offensive dubbed the Overland Campaign. This campaign resulted in a series of battles between the Union Army and Confederate Army fought in Virginia in May and June of 1864. This campaign would result in driving the Confederate forces back to their capital of Richmond Virginia.
- The Battle of the Wilderness pitted 102,000 Union soldiers up against 61,000 Confederate soldiers.
- Commanding the Union Army was General Ulysses S. Grant. The Confederate Army was commanded by General Robert E. Lee.
- The battles casualties were 18,400 for the Union and 11,400 Confederate soldiers.
- General Robert E. Lee wanted to engage Grant's Union Army in the thick woods where the Battle of the Wilderness took place. He knew this would make it difficult for Grant to maneuver his huge army and make Grants artillery basically useless.
- The battle was a tactical draw with no winner.
- The Union Army suffered massive casualties at the Battle of the Wilderness and were unsuccessful at dislodging the Confederate forces from their positions. However unlike Union commanders before him General Grant did not withdraw after an unsuccessful attack. Grant moved his army south marching on towards the Confederate capital of Richmond.
Battle of the Wilderness Timeline
- The Union Army crossed the Rapidan River in Northern Virginia heading south on May 4th of 1864.
- General Lee moved his forces into the dense forest area dubbed the Wilderness where he planned to confront the advancing Union Army.
- On the morning of May 5th of 1864 Union forces launched an attack against the Confederates on the Orange Turnpike.
- Fierce fighting went on throughout the day on May 5th; by nightfall neither side had gained an advantage.
- By the morning of May 6th both sides had rushed reinforcements to the battlefield.
- On the morning of May 6th the Union Army launched an attack along the Plank Road which was at first successful but then halted by Confederate reinforcements. This was followed later in the day by a Confederate attack and then a second Union attack; all of which were unsuccessful at breaking through the enemy's lines.
- On May 7, General Grant disengaged the Confederates and moved his army southeast setting the stage for the Battle of Spotsylvania Courthouse which would take place the next day; May 8th, 1864.