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Chapter 24:

  • The Wilderness campaign against Grant.

Convinced by his failures that Meade could not lead the army of the Potomac to victory, Lincoln called Lieut.-Gen. U. S. Grant from the West, to the oversight of military operations in Virginia. Meade's army had not only been brought to a high degree of efficiency, by drill and discipline, during its winter encampment in Culpeper, but large numbers of fresh troops were added to it during the closing days of April Early in that month Grant arrived at Culpeper Court House, having in mind a definite plan of campaign toward Richmond, which he proceeded to put into execution by ordering an advance of Meade's army to the Germanna and Ely fords of the Rapidan, instructing him, ‘Lee's army will be your objective point. Wherever Lee goes, there will you go;’ and adding, that the characteristic of his campaign would be ‘to hammer continuously against the armed force of the enemy and his resources, until, by mere attrition, if nothing else, there shall be nothing left him but submission.’ His expressed desire was ‘to fight Lee between the Rapidan and Richmond, if he will stand.’

Sufficiently informed of what was going on in Meade's army, and expecting an early advance, now that the spring was fully opened, Lee rode, on the 2d of May, 1864, to the signal station on Clark's mountain, near Ewell's camps, to overlook for himself—from that grand point of observation, which took within its sweep more than a score of Virginia counties, and from which was plainly visible every Federal camp in the nearby county of Culpeper—any evidences of Meade's intentions. This trained master of the art of military reconnaissance, carefully studied, through his glasses, the field outspread before him, and soon concluded, from the bustle in the Federal camps, that an early movement was in contemplation. It was also evident to him that this movement [432] would be to his right, toward the old fields of unsuccessful Federal venture. Looking eastward, Mine run and Chancellorsville were in sight. Beyond, in mental vision, he could see Salem church and the twice-attacked and twice-defended Fredericksburg. He doubtless asked himself just where—in that historic region where his famous ancestor, Spotswood, had built the first blastfur-nace for making iron, in America—the impending conflict would begin, immediate preparations for which he took in hand on returning to his camp.

Lee was accompanied to his point of observation by Longstreet, just returned from his Tennessee campaign; Field, commanding Hood's old division, and Kershaw, that of McLaws; Ewell, and his division commanders, Early, Edward Johnson and Rodes; A. P. Hill, with his division commanders, R. H. Anderson, Heth and Wilcox. It is said that after his information-seeking overlook of the Federal camps, Lee turned to these officers, and pointing toward Chancellorsville, said, that in his opinion, the Federal army would cross at Germanna or at Ely's; and that he then bade them prepare to take up the line of march whenever orders were given from the signal station.

When Grant ordered his forward movement, on the 4th of May, there were 147,000 men under his command, in and near Culpeper, disposed in three grand army corps; the Second led by Hancock, the Fifth by Warren, and the Sixth by Sedgwick. Burnside held the Ninth, as a sort of rear guard, north of the Rappahannock. It took 20,000 men to care for Grant's vast army train, leaving about 120,000 for fighting duty. With these were 274 field guns, of the most improved kind; while Sheridan, with some 13,000 cavalry, guarded the advance and flanks of the movement. This, said one of Grant's subordinates, was ‘the best clothed and best fed army that ever took the field.’ Its supply train, if extended in single line of march, would have covered more than 100 miles of distance.

To meet this mighty host, which was about to pass his flank, Lee had, at the end of April, less than 62,000 men for battle; 22,000, under A. P. Hill, near Orange Court House; some 17,000, under Ewell, in the Mountain run valley; 10,000 in Longstreet's two divisions, encamped near Gordonsville; 224 guns in his batteries, manned by 4,800 artillerists; and 8,300 cavalrymen, under the leadership [433] of ‘JebStuart. The cavalry corps was in two divisions, of three brigades each; the First, led by Wade Hampton, of South Carolina; the Second, by Fitz Lee, of Virginia. Fitz Lee's three brigades, commanded by W. H. F. Lee, L. L. Lomax and Williams F. Wickham, were all from Virginia. At the opening of the campaign, Stuart's cavalry held the line of the lower Rapidan and of the lower Rappahannock, guarding Lee's right flank.

Stuart informed Lee of the arrival of Grant's army, on the north bank of the Rapidan, opposite the Germanna and Ely fords, on the 3d of May, and of the crossing of those fords by his advance on the next day. Knowing this, Lee, on the morning of the 4th, issued his usual precautionary orders against the destruction of private property of all kinds, and, at 9 a. m., when the signal officer from Clark's mountain waved that Grant's columns were in motion toward the Confederate right, he gave orders for his army to advance, as prearranged, to meet the Federal movement. Two parallel roads led from his camps toward the Wilderness. Ewell moved, at noonday, across to the Orange turnpike, then followed that eastward, toward ‘The Wilderness.’ At the same time two of Hill's divisions marched from Orange Court House, along the plank road, in the same direction. At 11, Longstreet was ordering his advance, under Field, followed by Kershaw, from Gordonsville, across the country, to the same objective point; but he did not get his march under way until 4 of the afternoon, because he was unwilling to take the direct road assigned him by Lee, and waited for permission to take one of his own choosing, which led to delay and later held him from the field of battle at a critical moment. Anderson's division, of Hill's corps, was left to guard the rear.

With the 28,000 men of Hill and Ewell, Lee hastened to the front, his artillery moving with his infantry, to support Stuart, who, in joyful combat, was already fighting back every step of the Federal advance. Lee rode with Hill at the head of the right-hand column, on the Orange plank road, sending message after message to hurry up Longstreet, to support the Confederate right when the battle should be joined.

At the close of the 4th of May, Grant telegraphed, from Germanna ford, to Halleck, chief of staff of the [434] army at Washington: ‘The crossing of the Rapidan effected. Forty-eight hours now will demonstrate whether the enemy intends giving battle this side of Richmond. Telegraph Butler that we have crossed the Rapidan.’ He then had with him not less than 127,000 men, that, almost without opposition, had reached the old fighting ground of ‘The Wilderness.’ He had told Butler that he would let him know when he had made this much progress in his campaign, and had ordered that he should make simultaneous movement from Fort Monroe, up the James, to an assault upon Richmond and Petersburg.

Hancock's corps, crossing at Ely's ford, had encamped on the battlefield of Chancellorsville, whence a good highway led southward, by way of Spottsylvania Court House, into the main roads leading directly to Richmond. Gregg's cavalry, moving along a parallel road to the southwest, toward Todd's tavern and Spottsylvania Court House, protected his flank from the incursions of Stuart's cavalry. Warren's corps had led the advance across Germanna ford and advanced to the valley of Wilderness run, a point where the old turnpike, on which Ewell was marching, crosses the road to Spottsylvania Court House, that Warren was following to the southeast. The Sixth corps, under Sedgwick, followed close behind the Fifth and encamped in the open fields just south of the Rapidan. Cavalry also watched the right of the movement, guarding it from Stuart. Grant's army was now well closed up, facing to the southward, along the Orange and Fredericksburg road, on the high watershed between the Rappahannock and the head branches of the Pamunkey.

In the evening of the 4th of May, Ewell established his headquarters near Locust Grove, on the old turnpike, with his advance but an hour's march from Grant's passing flank, on the same road, at the Wilderness run. Lee's second column, under Hill, which Lee accompanied, had its headquarters at Verdiersville, some four miles to the southwest from Ewell's, while Longstreet, that night, reached Brock's bridge, on the North Anna, on the old road that Lafayette had cut through the forest, to the northeastward, to Verdiersville, in order to form a junction with Wayne, and which, to this day, is known as the ‘Marquis' road.’ [435]

During the night of the 4th, Lee sent orders to Ewell to march upon the enemy at daylight of the 5th, desiring ‘to bring him to battle now as soon as possible.’ He ordered Hill forward at the same hour, and himself promptly rode to the front, along the plank road, and was with the pickets when the skirmish opened, at Parker's store, on that road, at the head of the Wilderness run, three miles south of the old Wilderness tavern, where Grant and Meade, accompanied by Assistant Secretary of War Dana, had established their headquarters. Stuart's cavalry were already skirmishing with those of Gregg, on the Brock road, in front of and far to Lee's right, toward Todd's tavern, while Ewell's skirmishers were in lively engagement with those of Warren, advanced to protect his flank on the Germanna road. Now and then a field piece opened from either side.

Lee sent word to Ewell to regulate his advance by that of Hill in the center, and his engineers reconnoitered the front, and the skirmish lines along the whole were soon made continuous. Lee reluctantly held back his two columns, unwilling to bring on general battle until his strong right, under Longstreet, was in position. He impatiently awaited the arrival of Longstreet until 8 in the morning (5th), maintaining, in the meantime, a vigorous skirmish, which held the Federals in check as Meade developed his lines of battle, along the fields bordering Wilderness run and fronting its wooded western watershed, which covered the deployment of Ewell and Hill.

Lee, Stuart and Hill, riding to near the pickets in advance of Parker's store, had halted to look down the open valley of Wilderness run, at the long lines of Federals drawn up in battle array, when Meade's skirmishers suddenly advanced from the pine thickets to the eastward. Hill's line sprang forward to meet these; he then reinforced that with Heth's division, and a general battle appeared to have begun on Lee's right Near the same time, about 11 of the morning, Ewell advanced Johnson's division, with Jones' brigade in skirmish front, pressed back Warren's skirmishers, and came in full view of his column, marching southward across the turnpike but ready to face to line of battle; which they promptly did and so forced an engagement before Lee was ready for it. Jones met the attack with a vigorous fire of musketry and [436] artillery, and had good promise that he would cut Meade's line of movement. Just then Ewell received Lee's warning not to bring on a general engagement, and ordered Jones to ‘fall slowly back, if pressed.’ Interpreting this as an order to fall back at once, Jones began to withdraw the field pieces in his skirmish line, which Griffin's division, of Warren's corps, took for a retreat, and so pressed upon Jones vigorously and drove his men back with the loss of their leader, who fell in trying to stem the tide of retreat. Ewell promptly moved forward the brigades of Gordon and Daniel, crushed Griffin's victory disordered advance, and fell on the flank of the divisions of Crawford and Wadsworth. These he routed, and captured four Federal guns and many prisoners. Warren closed up his corps front, with his left retired, through the forest, toward Wilderness run, and extended his right with Sedgwick's corps, through the woods to the westward, with its right retired toward Flat run, thus covering Ewell's front, which, as reformed, had Rodes' division on the right of the old turnpike with Johnson's on his left, followed by Early, extending the line to and beyond Flat run, where an open field furnished excellent positions for batteries, which were also placed along the cross road leading toward the Germanna plank road, in and near the old turnpike, and at the cross road near Ewell's right, whence A. P. Hill extended his lines to the southward, still covering the position that belonged to Longstreet. These lines of contending forces were now near together, at the center less than 500 yards apart, and each (not the Confederate alone, as Grant unfairly states, repeatedly, in his messages and report) hastened to make its position strong with rude breastworks of logs and earth, and whatever other material active veterans could lay hands on.

Ewell now held the Fifth and Sixth Federal corps in check, in desultory engagement, and forced Meade to hesitate in pressing an advance beyond Lee's right, or rather his center, where Heth had met and driven back Crawford, leading Warren to the southward. Heth pushed his advantage in driving Crawford back along the plank road, met Getty at the crossing of the Brock road, and forced him to halt on the direct way to Richmond, which Grant, in his order of march on the morning of the 5th, expected his army to traverse, having already [437] ordered Hancock to Shady Grove church, on the headwaters of the Po, and Warren to Parker's store, in the same general direction, and Sedgwick to close up at the Wilderness tavern. Hancock, obeying his orders, had reached Todd's tavern, on the Brock road, and was turning to the southwest, by the Catharpin road, toward Shady Grove church, scarcely three miles away, at 11 a.m., just as Ewell and Heth were in hot engagement with Getty, when he was ordered back to Getty's contest, on the Brock road, which he had only reached at 2 of the afternoon, and to aid in the work of throwing up formidable fortifications along that road, to hold back Hill.

Had Longstreet come to his assigned position, before this juncture of combat, with his 10,000 men, Lee could not only have crushed the advance of Crawford and Getty, as he did with Hill's men, but could have rolled it back into Ewell's battle, and to the probable discomfiture of most of Warren's and Sedgwick's corps. He could also, with the wide interval already made between Warren and Hancock, have struck the latter in flank, with good prospect for defeating him as he turned back from Grant's ‘on to Richmond.’ The three hours between 11 and 2 were quite enough for this work, had Longstreet's veterans been there to be directed by Lee. Longstreet wandered along the many roads that led through the great forests of Orange and Spottsylvania, making but 12 miles of easting during all the 5th, and halting at night at Richards' shop, miles away from Hill's right. Under Lee's orders of urgency, Longstreet marched again at midnight, and the morning of the 6th was well advanced when he appeared with his veterans to join in the hotly contested battle that had again begun.

When, in the afternoon of the 5th, Hancock halted on the Brock road, with his right near the plank road, he was not satisfied with having thrown up along that road one line of formidable breastworks, upon its western side, toward Lee's front, but he reared a second, equally formidable, on the other side of the road, making that a covered way—a sort of Spanish trocha. Not satisfied with these two, his busy men erected a third; so each of his triple lines of battle was well hedged in, behind a most formidable line of breastworks, awaiting Hill's attack from the rude line of slight defenses that his men had thrown up; although, according to Grant, the Federal [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 [439] against every effort until night, when the contest closed.’

During the night of the 5th, Hill's and Ewell's men held the lines from which they had fought during the day. Lee ordered Longstreet to make a night march, which he began at 1 a. m., expecting to have him in position, on his right, by daylight of the 6th, to help in an aggressive fight which he proposed to make at the dawn of day, advancing his entire battle line against Grant's. Ewell opened this battle, at 5 in the morning, by attacking Warren and Sedgwick. The engagement quickly extended to Lee's right, against which Hancock made prompt advance, again assaulting Hill's weak line (that Lee had expected to replace with Longstreet, before daylight), but which he could not force from its position. Wadsworth moved against Hill's left flank, at the same time that Hancock developed a large force around his right. Thus flanked, Hill was forced from the field, stubbornly fighting as he fell back to just behind Poague's artillery, which defiantly held the broad highway, and checked Hancock with canister and grape at short range. Near these guns Lee watched his broken right, which had courageously endured an hour of unequal contention, saying, again and again, to his surrounding staff, ‘Why does not Longstreet come?’

One division of Burnside's corps crossed Germanna ford on the morning of the 5th, and another on the morning of the 6th. Grant ordered these fresh troops to make attack on Lee's center, while Warren and Sedgwick assaulted the right and Hancock the left. Ewell's men strengthened their line, during the night of the 5th, with breastworks, and planted batteries all along it, and so were able to drive back the Federal assaults with heavy losses. Poague's guns, on the plank road, were able to give check to Hancock's advance, until Longstreet's corps, in double column, and well closed up, came down the plank road at a double-quick, Field's division on the left and Kershaw's on the right. Lee caught sight of these long-expected reinforcements and rode to meet them. ‘What boys are these?’ he asked, as he met the head of the column under Field. The word passed, as by electric flash, and the quick reply came, from the men of Hood, who had led many a brave assault, ‘Texas boys.’ When the voice of the great leader clearly rang out, ‘My Texas boys, you must [440] charge.’ , The response of the 800 present for duty was an answering cheer that gave assurance of victory when the charge should be ordered. A line of battle was promptly formed, and the men, rushing forward, passed Poague's battery, and were advancing on Hancock's men, when they heard behind them, and almost in their midst, from Lee himself, the shouted command, ‘Charge! Charge, boys, charge!’ Glancing back and discovering that Lee in person was joining in, if not leading the charge, the Texans shouted, ‘Go back, General Lee! Marse Robert, go back!’ Poague's men, from amid their guns, also called out, ‘Come back! Come back, General Lee!’ But Lee, waving his hat, rode on with the charge, while from every side, like a shout of command, the soldiers cried out, ‘Lee to the rear! Lee to the rear!’ Then a tall Texas sergeant stepped from the ranks, caught the bridle rein of ‘Traveler,’ and turned him to the rear. Lee reluctantly obeyed this order of his men, who, waving back to him a salute of gratification, rushed forward to meat the solid ranks of Hancock's oncoming host, and the most of them to meet death. Part of Poague's guns moved forward in the charge, and the men with them shouted back to their comrades, ‘Good-bye, boys!’

The Texas brigade, now led by Gregg, struck the masked front of Hancock's corps, in the plank road, and was soon fairly enveloped in a circle of fire; but it flinched not, and soon staggered the Federal column, and then, when Anderson and Benning brought up their Georgians and Law his Alabamians, in support, Hancock's line was forced to yield, not to numbers, but to courage, and was driven back toward his line of defenses, but not until the half of Gregg's men, in ten minutes of fighting, had fallen beside their successful comrades. Lee now deployed Field to the left and Kershaw to the right, and the combat surged back and forth through the tangled and marshy forest. The crisis of the engagement was at hand. Hill's rested men were again sent to the front. At 10 of the morning, Longstreet sent Mahone, with his four brigades, to turn Hancock's left, which they did, under shelter of the cuts and fills of the partially graded Orange railroad, and then, moving forward, struck Hancock's flank and rolled it up, as Hancock himself said, ‘like a wet blanket.’ By 10 o'clock, Lee's counterstroke, [441] on Hancock's front and flank, had driven back his brigades and broken up his right, under Wadsworth; and by noon, Grant's entire left had been defeated and disorganized. Hancock's chief of staff, the truth-telling Walker, says of this time: ‘Down the plank road from Hancock's center a stream of broken men was pouring to the rear, giving the onlooker the impression that everything had gone to pieces.’

Longstreet urged forward his men to press the enemy. The dried leaves of the preceding autumn took fire from blazing cartridges, and their smoke, joining with that of battle, clouded the day and concealed the combatants from each other. Forming Kershaw's division in line of battle, across the plank road, Longstreet, in person, led it against Hancock's retreating men, but failing to note, in the heat of pursuit, that his flanking brigades, under Mahone, had halted in line and were facing the roadway down which he was rushing. Mahone's men, mistaking Longstreet and his following for a Federal officer and his staff and escort, turned on them a full volleyed flank fire, which killed Jenkins and severely wounded Longstreet, thus checking an onset which promised to turn the Federal retreat into a disastrous rout.1

As Longstreet was carried to the rear, Lee rode rapidly to the front to reform his now disordered attack, and at 4 he again pressed forward his lines, through the smoking forest, to fall upon Hancock in the Brock road. Hill had already repulsed Burnside's feeble attack on Lee's center, and the time was opportune for renewing the attack on Grant's flanks. As Lee moved to assault the Federal left on the plank road, Ewell detached Johnson's and Gordon's brigades from his extreme left, under the leadership of Early, to wheel to the right, from their intrenchments, fall upon Sedgwick's right flank, and sweep the rear of his breastworks. The sun was low as this masterly movement began, but these men, that Stonewall Jackson had often led to flanking victory, knew what was in the air when the order to march was given, and they at once, with a wild yell, swung into line, fell upon Milroy's old brigade which they had routed in the Valley the preceding spring, just as its men were cooking their suppers, as was Hooker's right when struck at Chancellorsville, and quickly routed [442] a mile of Sedgwick's line, capturing 600 of his men and two of his brigadiers; and they were still sweeping on to victory, even through the gathering darkness, when Ewell called a halt.

Not knowing of the existence of Hancock's formidable intrenchments, Lee's right, consisting of the divisions of Field and Anderson, charged against Hancock, on the Brock road, to find themselves confronted by a wall of fire, made by the burning of the front line of Federal breastworks, which had been set on fire by the burning forest, and by a more dangerous, blazing line of infantry and artillery, that poured rifle ball and shot and shell into their ranks from behind Hancock's second line of breastworks, which he now held in force. The Confederates drove back the Federals, even from this double-fire line, and planted their flags on the front line of breastworks, but for a short time only. They were repulsed by the fierce artillery fire that was poured upon them, as night put an end to the fierce struggles of this 6th day of May. At the close of this day, Lee held, all along his lines, a position advanced from that held in the morning, and the great army of the Potomac found itself in the toils of a defensive struggle, in aid of which it was throwing up new lines of breastworks, along the positions to which it had been forced back on its right and along its center, and was grimly holding on to the triple line of defenses that guarded its left.

On the morning of the 7th, at 10, Grant telegraphed to Washington, from the Wilderness tavern:

We were engaged with the enemy nearly all day, both on the 5th and the 6th. Yesterday the enemy attacked our lines vigorously, first at one point and then another, from right to left. They were repulsed at all points before reaching our lines, except once during the afternoon on Hancock's front, and just after night on Sedgwick's front. In the former instance they were promptly and handsomely repulsed; the latter, Milroy's old brigade was attacked and gave away in the greatest confusion, almost without resistance, carrying good troops with them. Had there been daylight the enemy could have injured us very much in the confusion that prevailed; they, however, instead of getting through the break, attacked General Wright's division of Sedgwick's corps, and were driven back.

After confessing that his loss had been about 12,000, and mentioning his killed, wounded and captured generals, he added: ‘I think the loss of the enemy must exceed ours, but this is only a guess based upon the fact that they attacked and were repulsed so often’—a statement [443] that is rather remarkable, in the light of his subsequent reports, when he accounts for his enormous losses by saying that, during all the campaign, he had to attack Lee protected by breastworks. His dispatch concludes: ‘At present we can claim no victory over the enemy, neither have they gained a single advantage. The enemy pushed out of his fortifications to prevent their position being turned, and have been sooner or later driven back in every instance. Up to this hour the enemy have not shown themselves in force within a mile of our lines.’ He does not say that he had withdrawn his lines, in many places, and thus secured the mile of interval that he mentions.

Well-nigh exhausted by the desperate struggles of May 5th and 6th, each army was quite content to rest behind its defenses, care for its wounded and bury its dead, during the 7th; neither caring to again attempt to carry the breastworks of the other, each formidable with well-placed artillery. Grant, having now found out that Lee was still willing to give battle ‘this side of Richmond,’ for which information he had paid dearly by the loss of 17,000 men, now attempted, by a sidling movement to the left, to steal by Lee and renew his interrupted march toward the Confederate capital. To open the way for this, his cavalry, during the 7th, pressed southward on the Brock road, where Fitz Lee held them in sharp contention, and on the Catharpin road, where they were equally well met by Hampton's division. He also gave orders for a night march by the Fifth corps, under Warren, along the Brock road, in the rear of Hancock's well fortified line, which the latter was to continue to hold, to Spottsylvania Court House; while Sedgwick, withdrawing from Ewell's front after dark, was to march eastward to Chancellorsville, and then southward to Piney Branch church, and Burnside was to withdraw from Hill's front, and, marching to the eastward of Chancellorsville, then turn south, thus covering the road to Fredericksburg, in his rear, along which Grant was sending his wounded to Aquia creek, and by which he had communication with his base of supplies, which he had now shifted to the same point on the Potomac.

These movements, during the night of the 7th, would leave two corps in front of Lee and withdraw two farther to the east. Grant and Meade were apprehensive, during [444] all the 7th, that Lee might again attack them, as indicated by the dispatch Grant sent to Washington, about noon of the 8th, in which he said:

The army commenced moving south at 9 p. m. yesterday, and when closed up to the position assigned for the first day's march will stand thus: General Warren's corps at Spottsylvania Court House; Hancock at Todd's tavern; Sedgwick on the road from Piney Branch church to Spottsylvania, and General Burnside at Aldrich's. It is not demonstrated what the enemy will do, but the best of feeling prevails in this army, and I feel at present no apprehension for the result. My efforts will be to form a junction with General Butler as early as possible, and be prepared to meet any enemy interposing. The result of the three days fighting at the Old Wilderness was decidedly in our favor. The enemy having a strongly intrenched position to fall back on when hard pressed, and the extensive train we have to cover, rendered it impossible to inflict the heavy blow on Lee's Army I had hoped. My exact route to the James river. I have not yet definitely marked out.

These lame excuses for his failures in the Wilderness battles, are ample confessions that Lee had thoroughly deranged Grant's confident plan of campaign. He was no longer urging Meade to hunt for Lee, and was looking anxiously for co-operation with Butler and the army of the James. [445]

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