The Battle of the wilderness was fought from May 5-7 in 1864 and it took almost two days. This battle was between two Generals of the Civil war namely Ulysses S. Grant and Robert Lee. The battle was the beginning of U. S. Grant’s overland operation in opposition to Richmond. Actually it was his first war in the Virginia region as well as his first war in opposition to Robert Lee. The war was fought near the town of Richmond town which was being protected by General Robert Lee. The major objective of Grant was to capture this town which was the capital city of the Confederate by slaughtering as many of General Robert Lee’s soldiers as he could, (Graham, Johnson, Sauers & Skoch, 2004). The major conflict was that General Robert Lee was protecting Richmond town which made him seem to be more powerful while on the other hand Grant’s major objective was to seize it from General Lee. It is important to note that the two opposing sides were well set and they faced each other from opposite sides of the River of Rapidan which was the battle ground.
On his arrival at the east, Grant found that the two armies were colliding with each other along the Rapidan River. This was the same sites they had secured for most of the period of the war. Early on, Grant tried to move through the impenetrable underbrush of Spotsylvania wilderness. Grant had split his army into different categories which were to attack Lee’s army from different sides. He hoped that by so doing, he would drive out his rivals to the south of the Wilderness where the fight was to take place. unfortunately, three of his soldiers was intercepted by two of Lee’s corps and grants plan could not work out as the War block out in the wilderness and not in the South of the wilderness as he had planned.
According to the plan of Grant, the mechanism of 1864 engrossed three categories of armies. To start with, Richmond General Butler had already established a territory on the James River to the south-east region. According to his plan, the army of James was to proceed up this River to terrorize Petersburg. On the other hand, General Sigel was to attack from the Shenadoah valley. Arguably, this was one of the best sources of supplies for Lee, (McPherson, 1994). If General Sigel attacked from this region, the Confederates were to be cut from using this valley. Lastly, Potamac army under the leadership of a general by the name Meade was to attack Lee’s soldiers from the northern sides. Actually, although General Meade was the leader of this group, he was accompanied by Grant himself.
In the wilderness, fighting was a torment because of the nature of the ground. Actually, the area was characterized by underbrush water that was blackish. This made it difficult for both sides to see their enemies. It is asserted that in most cases, the soldiers employed the use of a compass and the sounds of the fire of a gun from either side to find their direction. In this area, Grants army numbered nearly 70,000 while that of the side of Lee was about 40,000. However, because of the nature of the ground where the war was taking place, number did not matter much. The fighting ground in this area was characterized by dry timber which was easy to catch fire, (Rhea, 1994). It is argued that many of those wounded were not lucky because they were left behind by their colleagues only to be consumed by the fierce fire of the burning timber. The fog in the forest also made the war even more difficult.
A more organized fighting only came to start in May 6. On this day, Lee was nearly defeated and one of his commanders was nearly captured by Grants army when they came across his headquarters in the left wing. However, Lee was to be rescued from the disaster by Longstreet’s men who arrived in time. With the arrival of the Longstreet’s men, Lee was once again reinforced becoming more powerful to attack Grant’s army from the left wing, (Graham, Johnson, Sauers & Skoch, 2004). Unfortunately, Longstreet was injured during the war and had to leave the war with his men. On the same day, Lee’s men also had an upper hand in the war at the right wing. Grants men were overwhelmed by Lee’s men and it is said that some of Grant’s army had lost hope of defeating Lee.
On May 7, Grant had already lost more personnel than Lee. This forced Grant to withdraw his men from trenches where they were hiding to prepare to march. It was expected that by the end of the war, all the commanders in the army of Grant in Virginia would have located to the note. However, Grant ordered them to march to the south east region. Gallagher (1997) asserts that, General Grant hoped that he could reach the crossroads that are located in Spotsylvania. It is said that his main objective for this move was to try to get past Lee’s right border in the route of Spotsylvania; where he could be able to interject his soldiers between Richmond and Lee’s soldiers which could force Lee to embark in a battle with him on the ground where Grant’s had advantage over those of Lee’s. However, this was never to happen as the army of Lee was able to reach the crossroads first before Grant’s troops. Once again, Grant was forced to fight in this region and this came to be known as the Battle of Spotsylvania Court House.
For some reasons, the objective of Grant was misunderstood. This is because many say that it was not necessary for him to fight his way to capture Richmond. The use of the sea could have been a viable option because in this way he could not have lost the number of soldier he lost in the war. However, it should be realized that capturing Richmond was not the major objective that Grant had in mind. Grant’s desire was to reduce or rather destroy of the army of Lee. He took this strategy only because he did not want Lee to move back into the defences of Richmond because it could have been very costly for any physical attack on the members of his team.
Although General Grant had most personnel in the battle of the wilderness as compared to General Lee, he lost the war due to a number of reasons. First is the issue of the conditions of the battle ground in this area. As mentioned early, visibility was almost impossible in this region which made it very difficult for the soldiers to take any control. According to Blay (1958), attackers only relied on the gunshots for any movements that they could make. However, Lee’s army had an advantage in this region by the fact that they were used to this area as they were the woodsmen, hence they were familiar with these conditions. The other thing is that, although the number of Grants soldiers were said to be more than those of Lee’s, this was not the case because Grants soldiers included such people as cooks and servicemen. On the other hand, Lee’s army strictly comprised of trained soldiers. Therefore, Grant lacked enough personnel needed to win the battle.
In conclusion, the battle in the wilderness negatively impacted the opposing sides. Many people lost their lives in the course of the War. Actually, as previously mentioned most of the wounded people were left behind only to be destroyed by the wood fire adding to the number of those who were shot dead. Besides, there was a remarkable destruction of property in the areas where this battle took place.
Blay, John, S. (1958). The Civil War: A Pictorial Profile. New York: The Cornell Press.
Gallagher, Gary W. (1997). The Wilderness Campaign. Chapel Hill: the University of North
Graham, M., Johnson, C., Sauers, R. A., & Skoch, G. (2004). The Civil War Chronicle.
Licolwood: Publications International.
McPherson, James M. (1994). Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era. New York: Ballantine
Rhea, Gordon C. (1994). The Battle of the Wilderness, May 5-6, 1864. Baton Rouge: Louisiana
State University press.