Wilderness Battle Hero

The Wilderness

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The opening battle of Lieutenant General Ulysses S. Grant’s sustained offensive against General Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia, known as the Overland Campaign, was fought in an area of dense wooded undergrowth known locally as the Wilderness. On the morning of May 5, 1864, the Union Fifth Corps attacked Richard S. Ewell’s Corps on the Orange Turnpike, while A.P. Hill’s Corps during the afternoon encountered George W. Getty’s Division of the Sixth Corps and most of Winfield S. Hancock’s Second Corps on the Plank Road. Fighting was fierce but inconclusive as both sides attempted to maneuver in the dense woods. Darkness halted the fighting, and both sides rushed forward reinforcements.  At dawn on May 6th, Hancock attacked along the Plank Road, driving Hill’s Corps back in confusion. Lt. Gen. James Longstreet’s Corps arrived in time to prevent the collapse of the Confederate right flank. At noon, a devastating Confederate flank attack in Hamilton’s Thicket sputtered out when Longstreet was accidentally wounded by his own men. Ambrose E. Burnside's Ninth Corps moved against the Confederate center, but was repulsed. Union generals James S. Wadsworth and Alexander Hays were killed. Confederate generals John M. Jones, Micah Jenkins, and Leroy A. Stafford were killed. The battle was a tactical draw. Grant, however, did not retreat as had the other Union generals before him, instead promising Secretary of War Edwin Stanton to "fight it out on this line if it takes all summer". On May 7th, the Federals advanced southward toward the crossroads of Spotsylvania Courthouse, where the bloody campaign would continue.

Battle Facts

Result

Inconclusive
COMMANDERS
Forces Engaged
162,920

Union

101,895

Confederate

61,025
Total Estimated Casualties
29,800

Union

18,400

Confederate

11,400