Battle Of The Wilderness Essay Research Paper

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Battle Of The Wilderness Essay, Research Paper The Battle of the Wilderness Imagine, wrote a North Carolina officer named W.A. Smith, a great, dismal forest containing . . . the worst kind of thicket of second-growth trees . . . so thick with small pines and scrub oak, cedar, dogwood and other growth common to the country . . . [that] one could see barely ten paces (qtd. in Kennedy 203). This description is of the area known as the Wilderness, where over 135 years ago, one of the greatest Civil War battles occurred. The Battle of the Wilderness was the beginning of the end for the Confederate States of America. The region called the Wilderness is in Spotsylvania County, Virginia, just ten miles west of Fredericksburg. It is a natural wooded area that is twelve miles wide and

six miles deep along the southern bank of the Rapidan River. The Wilderness was described by Lieutenant Thomas F. Galwey of the 8th Ohio as a wild and formidable thicket, so dense that even at noon day the sun s light scarcely penetrated it (qtd. in Trudeau 44). In the early 1700 s, Alexander Spotswood, Virginia s governor during the time, tried to inhabit the Wilderness. He brought over German colonists to do so. They cut large amounts of timber from the forest to secure the mine tunnels, plank the roads, and fuel the iron-smelting operations. But when the plan failed and the area was abandoned, the forest grew back very quickly, creating a second-growth woodland (Kennedy 203). On May 5 and 6, 1864, two armies, the Army of the Potomac of the Union and the Army of Northern

Virginia from the Confederate States of America, engaged in a brutal battle known as the Battle of the Wilderness. The battle included over 160,000 men, with around 100,000 coming from the Union and close to 62,000 from the Confederacy ( Wilderness ). Lieutenant General Ulysses S. Grant and Major General George G. Meade led the Union s Army of the Potomac, and General Robert E. Lee commanded the Confederacy s Army of Northern Virginia. The Army of the Potomac was commanded by Major General George G. Meade, who received his orders from Lieutenant General Grant. Grant made his headquarters in the field with the army to ensure his orders were followed correctly. The Union army consisted of three corps and an independent corps commanded by Major General Ambrose Burnside, who

outranked Meade and reported directly to Grant (Graham and Skoch 68). The II Corps was led by Major General Winfield S. Hancock, the V Corps by Major General Gouverneur Warren, and the VI Corps by Major General John Sedgwick. The Army of Northern Virginia, commanded by General Robert E. Lee, consisted of three corps. The First Corps was commanded by Lieutenant General James Longstreet. The Second Corps was commanded by Lieutenant General Richard S. Ewell. The Third Corps was commanded by Lieutenant General A. P. Hill. Part of Grant s grand plan was to move quickly to the south through the Wilderness before the Confederates reacted. The Wilderness posed a serious threat of an ambush that could cause a severe setback to the Union s campaign. Grant knew that a battle in an open

field would be a sure victory for his army over Lee s out-numbered Army of Northern Virginia (Trudeau 44). All Grant s army needed was a half-day head start on Lee s army to cross the Rapidan River and gain the advantage (Davis 197). Even though he was outnumbered almost two to one, Lee possessed a few advantages, mainly his position south of the Rapidan River. The Army of the Potomac had to cross this river to get to him. Also, General Lee knew the land better than his opponents, Grant and Meade. However, his greatest advantage was the impenetrable vegetation of the Wilderness. Lee believed he could use the forest to hold off twice the number of his men (Davis 197). The Union began its movement into the Wilderness early on May 4, 1864, when it separated into two columns and