This text is part of:
Table of Contents:
The first great battle of the campaign was the battle of the Wilderness (May 5-7, 1864), and it was, very fortunately, almost unique of its kind. It was not, like the later contests, an affair of entrenchments; cavalry had no important share in it, artillery little; it came as near as the invention of gunpowder permitted to the earliest form of hand-to-hand fighting. No description of the merely confused and chaotic side of war by Tolstoi or Zola or Crane equals the simplest soldier's narration of the Battle of the Wilderness. It was, in Swinton's phrase, ‘a collision of brute masses.’1 Once begun, it soon lost almost the semblance of military formation. Men could not see their own officers, keep in their own ranks or even know whom they were fighting. In the dense woods portions of regiments fired into one another. Badeau describes the region as ‘one tangled mass of stunted evergreen, dwarf chestnut, oak and hazel, with an undergrowth of low-limbed bristling shrubs, making the forest almost impenetrable.... A wrestle as blind as at midnight; a gloom that made manoeuvres impracticable; a jungle where regiments stumbled on each other and on the enemy ’
1 Decisive Battles of the War, p. 383.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.
An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.