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 in those gloomy woods. There is something horrible, yet fascinating, in the mystery shrouding this strangest of battles ever fought—a battle which no man could see, and whose progress could only be followed by the ear, as the sharp and crackling volleys of musketry, and the alternate Union cheer and Confederate yell told how the fight surged and swelled. The battle continued two days; yet such was the mettle of each combatant that it decided nothing. It was in every respect a drawn battle; and its only result appeared in the tens of thousands of dead and wounded in blue and gray that lay in the thick woods. The Union loss exceeded fifteen thousand, and the Confederate loss was about eight thousand.1 That this result was a grievous disappointment to General Grant will be readily understood, if account be take of the expectation with which he set out upon the campaign. General Grant at this time shared an opinion commonly entertained in that part of the country where his own successes had been won—the opinion that the Army of the Potomac had never been fought to the uttermost. This belief was, perhaps, natural under the circumstances; for there was much that, to one at a distance, where the peculiar nature of the task given the Army of the Potomac to do was little understood, might inspire this belief. Nevertheless it was fallacious. Sharing this view, General Grant hoped at one blow to finish the troublesome, and seemingly invulnerable, adversary. And to achieve this end, he made little account of those arts that accomplish results by the direction and combination
1 This estimate of loss is inferential respecting both sides. The tabular statement of casualties in the Army of the Potomac, embodied in the report of General Meade, gives an aggregate of twenty-nine thousand four hundred and ten killed, wounded, and missing, for the whole period between the 5th and 12th of May. But as the losses in the actions subsequent to the Wilderness, and previous to the 12th of May (which was the date of the main battle at Spottsylvania Courthouse), were probably not much over ten thousand, the aggregate of casualties in the Wilderness might perhaps be safely carried up to nearer twenty thousand. In estimating Lee's losses at eight thousand, I proceed on the basis of the aggregate of Confederate casualties during the entire campaign.
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