previous next

[140] described as a series of seige operations, alternating with flank movements toward Richmond to turn the Confederates out of fortified positions too strong and too well defended to be broken through. But Lee, who was an able engineer officer, having always the inner line, found it easy again to interpose and throw up new defenses. This process was repeated four different times—first at Spotsylvania, then at the North Anna river, again at Cold Harbor, and finally in front of Petersburg.

It is not necessary to my purpose to discuss the Confederate losses in these operations further than to say that they also were quite heavy. There is no complete return of them, but subordinate reports leave no room for doubt that at the Wilderness, where Lee at first assumed the offensive, there were not less than 10,000, and perhaps as many as 12,000 killed and wounded; around Spotsylvania between 8,000 and 10,000; North Anna, Cold Harbor, etc., about 5,000. I think the total may be fairly stated at 25,000 men. The The fighting, it will be seen, was not all one-sided. Even the Confederate fortified lines were several times pierced by fierce attacks, and the safety of Lee's entire army momentarily imperiled.

The Wilderness is generally assumed to have been a drawn battle, but in fact it was a Union triumph. Grant had not actually driven Lee from the field, but he had maintained himself south of the river, offering, if not again delivering battle. While safely covering his own capital, Grant still menaced the enemy's, for he held the roads leading south, and at once actually proceeded to advance further into the interior of Virginia. He had held the enemy at bay, inflicting such staggering blows as to at last change the policy of that enemy from a hitherto generally successful offensive-defensive into a purely and very careful and timid defensive one. More, General Grant had destroyed the illusion in the Union army that Lee was absolutely infallible and that the Rapidan was a sort of Chinese wall which could not be successfully passed while Lee defended it. This was a victory in itself. Just one year previously Lee had boldly attacked Hooker on this same ground and disastrously defeated and driven him back across the Rappahannock. Hooker's forces in the Chancellorsville campaign were greater by 20,000 than Grant's in the Wilderness, while Lee's were about the same in both. At Spotsylvania Hancock broke through the Confederate breastworks and captured many prisoners. Feeble attempts of the Confederates at Spotsylvania, North Anna, and Bethesda Church to take the offensive were easily repulsed, and with considerable loss.

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.

Sort places alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a place to search for it in this document.
Spottsylvania (Virginia, United States) (3)
North Anna (Virginia, United States) (3)
China (China) (1)

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.
R. E. Lee (8)
U. S. Grant (4)
Old Joe Hooker (2)
Spotsylvania Hancock (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: