The Wilderness may 571864

^ May fk Gordon's Confederates overrun the Federals' unguarded nght [lank at dusk

Dunng their march through the Wilderness the men of Grant's and Lee's armies were reminded of Chancellorsville by the bones of the men who had died during the earlier campaign (left).

On May 4, 1864, the Federal Army of the Potomac, 120,000-strong, plunged across the Rapidan River and disappeared into the forbidding Wilderness. Federal generals Grant and Meade wanted to press southward using the dense undergrowth to screen their movements.

General Lee, however, had other plans: his 61,000 Confederates advanced into the Wilderness with the express intention of engaging the Federal column while it was in the confines of the woods. Lee also hoped that conditions in the Wilderness would negate the Federals' two-to-one numerical advantage.

On May 5, now aware of Lee's ap proach, Grant and Meade halted, and turned to meet the challenge. The Federal V Corps struck first, but were repulsed by Ewell's Corps at Saunders Field on the Orange Turnpike. The battle spread two and a half miles south of the turnpike; there, Federal troops thwarted A.P. Hill's thrust along the Orange Plank Road. Intense fighting raged into the night, but without any decisive result.

Attempting to break the stalemate, the Federals launched a massive attack at dawn on May 6. Federal troops broke Lee's lines along the Orange Plank Road, and assaulted the Confederate rear. All seemed lost for Lee until Longstreet's timely arrival paralyzed the Federal drive and re established Lee's lines. Lee and Longstreet now seized the initiative with a daring flank attack that surprised the Federals - as it had at Chancellorsville the previous year

- but it soon unraveled when Longstreet was accidentally wounded by his own men. The Confederates shifted their focus back to the north with another bold flanking attack led by Brigadier General John B. Gordon. But Gordon's initially successful attack gave way under swarms of Federal reinforcements, and the second day ended in deadlock.

After two days of fighting, the Federals had lost 18,000 men; the Confederates about 12,000. Raging fires, ignited by musket flashes, consumed many of the dead and wounded trapped in the thick undergrowth, adding a special horror to the battle.

Grant and Meade refused to retreat. Shortly after dark on May 7, the Federals abandoned their lines and, side-stepping Lee, continued their progress south.

Spoiswood ' w

Federal forces cross th^fapfdan-it Germanna aild Ely's foiids'

Confederates advaiiceio'ititercept doii advance usmg-tíáraM 'roads

The Federals launch the nrsj and are repulsed at

Hancock's FederaLII Gotps i the critical imerseetidivagaiñst, 0 o ill's Confederates jf

Saunden. Field l'artiirr'ißli.ir

The Army of the Potomac crossing the Rapidan on the pontoon bridges of Germanna Ford, May 4 {left/. Meade commanded the army, but Gran I accompanied ti on it's advance into the Wilderness.

g" -, May 6: The Federals crush A.P. Hill) " Confederate lim? in a massive assault'

May 6: tort|slrtiet's Confederate 1 Corps 'w' restore the line after Lee himself tries to lead a counterattack

May 6: Confederates under William Mahone use an unfinished railroad to fcsaií the Federal letiflanX

men of ad died

Union soldiers rescuing wounded from the burning woods of the Wilderness (right). Fire claimed many victims as it had done at Chancellorsville.

men of ad died

Union soldiers rescuing wounded from the burning woods of the Wilderness (right). Fire claimed many victims as it had done at Chancellorsville.

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