previous next
[438] soldiers, during all this campaign, never fought from behind breastworks, or had breastworks to fall back to when defeated.

Concealed by a dense forest of pines, of young growth, extending to the right and left from the turnpike, with skirmishers in advance, Heth's division, strengthened on both flanks, but especially on the left to keep touch with Ewell, and with Poague's battalion of artillery in the roadway, awaited Hancock's attack, which was in preparation but a few hundred yards in advance. Shortly after reaching the scene of conflict, at about half past 4, Hancock strengthened Getty's waiting division with portions of Gibbon's and Owens', and four Federal divisions, with other troops in reserve, advanced to engage with Hill's two. A furious combat followed, in which the contending lines met each other, face to face. Hill's men, crouching behind their slight breastworks, sheltered themselves as best they could, as a storm of Federal bullets, cutting off the tops of the dense growth in front, sped to the Confederate line, which met the Federal advance with deliberate aim and drove it back, although held to its work by a strong line of bayonets in its rear.

The battle continued until after nightfall, and the darkness was lighted up by the flashes of the opposing musketry and artillery. Nearly half of Grant's army took part in this attempt to drive Hill's two divisions from safeguarding Lee's right. To relieve the pressure of the unequal combat, Lee ordered Ewell to assume the offensive, drive the Federals from his front, take possession of the Germanna road, and cut Grant's line of communication. Ewell promptly sent two brigades to attack Sedgwick's center, followed by a supporting force; but Sedgwick was found too well protected, by a heavy breastwork of logs, for a successful assault, so Ewell merely held him in combat.

Not content with merely holding his position on the right, Lee ordered a counterstroke from Hill's center and captured a Federal battery, but lost it when forced back by a vigorous Federal repulse, which Hancock followed up with repeated and desperate but unsuccessful assaults on Hill's line. Stuart, on the extreme right, drove back the charges of Sheridan's cavalry. After this first day of Wilderness battle was over, Lee telegraphed to Richmond, ‘By the blessing of God we maintained our position ’

Creative Commons License
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.

hide Places (automatically extracted)

View a map of the most frequently mentioned places in this document.

Download Pleiades ancient places geospacial dataset for this text.

hide People (automatically extracted)
Sort people alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a person to search for him/her in this document.
A. P. Hill (5)
W. H. F. Lee (4)
Richard S. Ewell (4)
Hancock (3)
Sedgwick (2)
U. S. Grant (2)
J. E. B. Stuart (1)
Philip H. Sheridan (1)
Poague (1)
Owens (1)
Henry Heth (1)
John Gibbon (1)
Getty (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: