Battle of the Wilderness

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Battle of the Wilderness: Virginia and the Civil War

Union Army Report for Battle of the Wilderness

Wilderness, Va., May 5-7, 1864. Army of the Potomac. On March
9, 1864, Maj.-Gen. U. S. Grant was raised to the rank of lieutenant-
general and placed in command of all the United States armies in the
field. The interval from that time until the 1st of May was spent in
planning campaigns, and in strengthening, organizing and equipping the
several armies in the different military districts. Grant remained with
the Army of the Potomac, which was under the immediate command of
Maj.-Gen. George G. Meade, and which had for its objective the de-
struction of the Confederate army under command of Gen. Robert E.
Lee. On May 1 the Army of the Potomac lay along the north side of
the Rapidan river and was organized as follows: The 2nd corps, Maj.-
Gen. W. S. Hancock commanding, was composed of four divisions ; the
1st commanded by Brig.-Gen. F. C. Barlow, the 2nd by Brig.-Gen.
John Gibbon, the 3d by Maj.-Gen. D. B. Birney, and the 4th by Brig.-
Gen. Gershom Mott. The 5th corps, commanded by Maj.-Gen. G. K.
Warren, consisted of four divisions, respectively commanded by Brig.-
Gens. Charles Griffin, J. C. Robinson, S. W. Crawford and J. S. Wads-
worth. The 6th corps, under command of Maj.-Gen. John Sedgwick,
included the three divisions commanded by Brig.-Gens. H. G. Wright,
G. W. Getty and James B. Ricketts. The 9th corps, Maj.-Gen. A. E.
Burnside commanding, was composed of four divisions, each of which
was commanded by a brigadier-general — the 1st by T. G. Stevenson, the
2nd by R. B. Potter, the 3d by O. B. Willcox and the 4th by Edwa/rd
Ferrero. The cavalry corps, under command of Maj.-Gen. P. H. Sheri-
dan, consisted of three divisions, the 1st commanded by Brig.-Gen.
A. T. A. Torbert, the 2nd by Brig.-Gen. G. A. Custer and the 3d by
Brig.-Gen. J. H. Wilson. With the 2nd corps was the artillery brigade
under Col John C. Tidball; the artillery of the 5th corps was in charge
of Col. C. S. Wainwright; that of the 6th corps under Col. C. H.
Tompkins, and the artillery reserve, composed of Kitching's, J. A.
Tompkins' and Burton's brigades, was commanded by Brig.-Gen. Henry
J. Hunt. Burnside had 14 light and 2 heavy batteries. During the
campaign the 18th corps, commanded by Maj.-Gen. W. F. Smith, was
transferred from the Army of the James to the Army of the Potomac.
This corps was composed of three divisions, commanded by Brig.-Gens.
W. T. H. Brooks, Godfrey Weitzel and E. W. Hinks, and the cavalry
division under Brig.-Gen. August V. Kautz.

Lee's army — the Army of Northern Virginia — consisted of the 1st,
2nd and 3d corps, respectively commanded by Lieut.-Gens. James Long-
street, R. S. Ewell and A. P. Hill, and the cavalry corps of Maj.-Gen.
J. E. B. Stuart. Longstreet's corps included the divisions of Kershaw
and Field, and the artillery brigade under Brig.-Gen. E. P. Alexander.
Ewell's corps was made up of the divisions of Early, Edward Johnson
and Rodes, and the artillery brigade of Brig.-Gen. A. L. Long. Hill's
corps was composed of the divisions of R. H. Anderson, Heth and
Wilcox, and his artillery was commanded by Col. R. L. Walker. Stuart's
cavalry embraced three divisions, commanded by Wade Hampton, Fitz-
hugh Lee and W. H. F. Lee, and the horse artillery under Maj. R. P.
Chew. The Union army numbered about 120,000 men of ail arms, ex-
clusive of Smith's corps. Lee's army numbered about 61,000, not inclu-
ding the forces under Beauregard on the Petersburg lines and the troops
left in the defenses of Richmond, about 30.000 in all. Ewell's corps was
intrenched along the south side of the Rapidan, his right resting near
Morton's ford a short distance above the mouth of Mine run. The
upper half of the intrenched line was held by Hill's corps, the left extend-
ing to Barnett's ford, about 5 miles west of the Orange & Alexandria
railroad. Longstreet's command was at Gordonsville, the junction of
the Orange & Alexandria and the Virginia Central railroads. Lee's
headquarters were at Orange Court House, about half way between
Longstreet and the line along the Rapidan, from which point he could
easily communicate with his corps commanders, and detachments of
cavalry watched the various fords and bridges along the river.

Grant's plan was to cross the Rapidan at the fords below the Con-
federate line of intrenchments, move rapidly around Lee's right flank and
force him either to give battle or retire to Richmond. As soon as this
movement was well under way. Gen. Butler, with the Army of the
James, was to advance up the James river from Fortress Monroe and
attack Richmond from the south. The region known as the Wilderness,
through which the Army of the Potomac was to move, lies between the
Rapidan on the north and the Mattapony on the south. It is about
12 miles wide from north to south and some 16 miles in extent from
east to west. Near the center stood the Wilderness tavern, 8 miles west
of Chancellorsville and 6 miles south of Culpeper Mine ford on the
Rapidan. A short distance west of the tavern the plank road from
Germanna ford crossed the Orange & Fredericksburg turnpike, and then
running southeast for about 2 miles intersected the Orange plank road
near the Hickman farmhouse. The Brock road left the Orange &
Fredericksburg pike about a mile east of the tavern and ran southward
to Spottsylvania Court Flouse, via Todd's tavern. The first iron fur-
naces in the United States were established in the Wilderness, the
original growth of timber had been cut off to furnish fuel for the fur-
naces, and the surface, much broken by ravines, ridges and old ore beds,
was covered by a second growth of pines, scrub-oaks, etc., so dense in
places that it was impossible to see a man at a distance of 50 yards.
Between the Orange plank road and the Fredericksburg pike ran a little
stream called Wilderness run, and north of the latter road was Flat run,
the general direction of both streams being northeast toward the Rapidan,
into which they emptied. On the Orange plank road, about 4 miles
southwest from the Wilderness tavern, was Parker's store.

From the Confederate signal station on Clark's mountain, near the
right of Ewell's position, the Federal camps could be plainly seen. On
May 2nd Lee, accompanied by several of his generals, made a personal
observation, saw the commotion in the Union lines, and rightly con-
jectured that an early movement of some kind was in contemplation.
He accordingly directed his officers to hold their commands in readiness
to move against the flank of the Federal army whenever the orders were
given from the signal station. It was on this same day that Meade, by
Grant's instructions, issued his orders for the advance. Knowing that
his every movement was observed by the enemy, he determined to cross
the Rapidan during the night. At midnight on the 3d the 5th and 6th
corps, preceded by Wilson cavalry division, began crossing at Germanna
ford. The 2nd corps, preceded by Gregg's cavalry, crossed at Ely's ford,
farther down the river. On the evening of the 4th Warren's corps went
into bivouac near the Wilderness tavern; Sedgwick was between Warren
and the Rapidan; Hancock was near the cross-roads at Chancellorsville,
and Burnside, with the 9th corps, was moving by a forced march from
the Rappahannock river toward Germanna ford in response to a tele-
gram from Grant. Wilson's cavalry covered both the plank road and
the turnpike west of Warren's camp, the main body of the division being
at Parker's store and a small force at Robertson's tavern on the pike.
The orders issued that evening for the movements of the army on the
5th would indicate that both Grant and Meade believed that Lee would
fall back toward Richmond upon finding his flank turned by a superior
force. In this they were mistaken. Lee had outgeneraled Hooker on
the same ground a year before, and he now decided to make an effort at
least to drive the Federals back across the Rapidan. Therefore, as soon
as he learned on the morning of the 4th that Meade's advance had crossed
the river, Ewell was directed to move by the Orange turnpike. Hill by the
plank road, and Longstreet was ordered to bring up his corps with all
possible despatch. That night Ewell was bivouacked about 5 miles from
Warren's camp. Hill was at Verdiersville, about 3 miles in the rear of
Ewell, and Longstreet was at Brock's bridge, 10 miles east of Gordons-

During the night Lee sent word to Ewell to "bring on the battle
now as soon as possible," and ordered Hill to move forward at the same
time as Ewell. Warren's orders were to move at 5 a. m. on the 5th to
Parker's store and extend his right toward the Wilderness tavern to
connect with the 6th corps. He moved on time, Crawford's division in
advance, Wadsworth's in the center and Griffin's in the rear. About 7
o'clock Meade received a despatch from Warren, announcing that the
Confederates were in some force on the pike about 2 miles west of the
tavern. Meade hurried to the front and directed Warren to attack
with his entire corps to develop what part of Lee's army was there.
Hancock, who was moving to take a position on Warren's left, was
ordered to halt at Todd's tavern and await further orders. Sedgwick
was ordered to move by a cross-road that left the Germanna road at
Spottswood, attack any Confederate force he might find in his way, and
connect with Warren's right on the pike. Grant joined Meade soon
after these orders were issued and the two generals established their
headquarters on the knoll around the Lacy house, a little west of the
Wilderness tavern.

At 8 o'clock Crawford was in a strong position on the Chewning
farm, where he was directed to halt until Griffin and Wadsworth were
ready to move against the enemy on the turnpike, when he was to send
one of his brigades to join in the attack. About noon Griffin attacked
vigorously striking Jones brigade of Johnson's division and driving it
back in some confusion through the supporting line, after which he ad-
vanced against Battle's and Doles' brigades of Rodes' division. Wright,
of the 6th corps, was to have moved forward on Warren's right, but
owing to the dense thickets and the uneven surface of the ground, he
was unable to connect with Griffin's line in time to carry out the original
plan of attack. As Griffin advanced, his right therefore became exposed,
and Ewell hurled the brigades of Gordon and Daniel against his flank,
forcing Ayres' brigade back across the pike. Seeing that his line was in
danger of being broken, Griffin then gave the order to fall back. In
executing this order his line was so closely pressed by the Confederates
that he was compelled to abandon 2 pieces of artillery. Wadsworth, in
moving forward through the thickets, lost his direction and exposed his
left flank to Gordon and Daniel, just after they had forced Griffin to
retire. These two brigades now attacked Wadsworth and drove back
his left in disorder. The Confederates then poured through the gap
thus formed and struck Dennison's brigade of Robinson's division in
the flank as it was moving to Wadsworth's support. Pursuant to orders
Crawford had sent McCandless' brigade to join Wadsworth's left, but
the latter had begun his advance before McCandless could reach the
position assigned him. The brigade was moved forward, however, in
the direction that McCandless supposed would bring him into the desired
place, and came up just in time to be engaged by Gordon's victorious
forces after Dennison's defeat. A sharp fight ensued, but McCandless
was greatly outnumbered and was finally forced to withdraw with a
severe loss in killed and wounded and the capture of several hundred of
his men. Ewell then reformed his line on the ground where he was
first attacked and intrenched his position. Warren fell back about 300
yards and formed a new line with his right resting on the pike.

Early in the morning Wilson left Col. Hammond, with the 5th N. Y.,
at Parker's store and pushed on with the rest of his command toward
the Craig meeting-house. Soon after Wilson's departure Hammond be-
came engaged with Hill's advance and Crawford threw forward a skir-
mish line of his infantry to support the cavalry. This line soon encoun-
tered Kirkland's brigade of Heth's division and with Hammond's regi-
ment was slowly forced back along the plank road toward the Wilder-
ness tavern. Getty's division was hurried forward to the intersection of
the Brock and Orange plank roads, and a despatch was sent to Hancock
directing him to move up on the Brock road to Getty's support. Getty
reached the cross-roads just in time to secure that important position,
and formed his division in two hncs of battle at right angles to the plank
road, Wheaton's brigade in the center, Grant's on the left and Eustis' on
the right. Hill advanced against this line, but received such a galling
fire that he speedily retired and for the next two hours everything was
quiet, except for the almost constant firing of the skirmishers. When
Hancock received the order at 9 a. m. to halt at Todd's tavern his ad-
vance was already some 2 miles beyond that point, and this caused some
delay when, two hours later, he was ordered to move to the support of
Getty. At 2 p. m. Birney's division came up on the Brock road and
formed on Getty's left in two lines of battle along that road. The divi-
sions of Mott and Gibbon followed in order, as fast as the narrow road
and dense undergrowth would permit, and also formed in two lines on
the left of Birney. Barlow's division, on the extreme left, was thrown
forward to some high, clear ground, which was the only place along
the line where artillery could be used to advantage. Here Hancock
massed all his batteries except Dow's and one section of Ricketts', the
former of which was placed near Mott's left and the latter on the plank
road. As fast as the different commands fell into position breastworks
of logs and earth were thrown up. Tlie second line also threw up
works in the rear of the first, and later a third line was constructed
behind the divisions of Mott and Birney. Before his troops were in
position Hancock received orders to attack, and a little after 3 p. m.
Getty was directed to attack at once, without waiting for Hancock.
During the lull of two hours Hill had been industriously pushing his
men into position and forming a junction with Ewell's right. He was
anxiously awaiting and expecting the arrival of Longstreet, but that offi-
cer had delayed his advance, because he was unwilling to take the road
assigned him by Lee, and waited for permission to select his own route.
The result was that when darkness fell on the 5th he was still miles away
from Hill's right.

Although Getty received orders about 3 o'clock to attack at once, his
advance was delayed an hour, as he was engaged in shifting Wheaton's
brigade to the right of the plank road to make more room for the 2nd
corps. At 4:15 he moved forward down the plank roads, but had not
proceeded more than 300 yards when he encountered Heth's division.
Ricketts' guns had advanced with the line of infantry and did good service
in forcing back the enemy's center, but Hill's line overlapped Getty's
flanks and the slight advantage gained in the center was more than offset
by the severe losses on both the right and left, where the Federal attacks
were repulsed, Grant losing nearly 1,000 men, about one-half of his bri-
gade. Seeing that Getty had met the enemy in force, Hancock ordered
Birney's and Mott's divisions to his support, and a little later sent Carroll's
brigade of Gibbon's division to the right of the plank road to support
Eustis. About 5:30 the enemy charged and forced back the Union line
for 50 yards. One of Ricketts' guns had to be abandoned on account of
the horses being killed. Some of the Confederates reached this gun and
planted their colors on it, but they were driven away before they could
withdraw it. About the time that this charge was made Hancock had com-
pleted the formation of his line and attacked Hill's right with great vigor,
Smyth's "Irish" brigade driving back the enemy's line for some distance.
In his report Hancock says : "The battle raged with great severity and
obstinacy until 8 p. m. without decided advantage to either party." While
this was apparently true at the time an hour more of daylight would
have witnessed Hill's defeat. He had extended his lines to the south-
ward to cover the ground that had been assigned to Longstreet. This
thin line was now shattered and disjointed, and had it been severely
pressed for an hour longer it must inevitably have been broken at some
point and the whole corps driven from the field. During the action Gen.
Hays, commanding one of Hancock's brigades, was killed; Col. Carroll
and Gen. Getty were both severely wounded, but neither left the field
until the fighting was over for the day.

In the afternoon some heavy skirmishing took place on the Federal
right. About 5 p. m. Ricketts' 2nd brigade, under the command of
Brig.-Gen. Truman Seymour, who had relieved Col. B. F. Smith that
morning; Neill's brigade of Getty's division; and part of Wright's ist
brigade, under Col. W. H. Penrose, attacked the Confederate brigades
of Hays and Pegram in a strongly intrenched position on the ridge south
of Flat run. Pegram placed some artillery on his left, the fire from
which enfiladed Neill's line, forcing him and Penrose to retire from
the field with considerable loss. Seymour continued the contest until
dark, but was unable to dislodge the enemy from his position. The
Federal loss in killed and wounded was heavy on this part of the field,
Col. Keifer, commanding Seymour's first line, being severely wounded.
On the other side Gen. Pegram was wounded and compelled to leave
the field.

While these different infantrj' engagements were going on the cavalry
was not idle. At the Craig meeting-house Chapman's brigade of Wil-
son's division encountered Rosser's brigade of Hampton's cavalry and
drove it back about 2 miles. Rosser was then strongly reinforced and
Chapman fell back on the ist brigade at the junction of the Parker's
store and Catharpin roads. Soon after this Wilson ordered his whole
command to Todd's tavern, where he had been directed by Sheridan to
meet Gregg's division. On the way to Todd's he was closely pressed by
the Confederate cavalry. Gregg arrived at the tavern about the same
time as Wilson, when the two divisions immediately assumed the offen-
sive and drove the enemy beyond Corbin's bridge across the Po river.

Immediately after the fighting ceased on the 5th, Hancock, Warren
and Sedgwick received orders to attack at 5 o'clock the next morning.
Burnside, then in the vicinity of Germanna ford, was instructed to
march at 2 a. m., with Stevenson's, Potter's and Willcox's divisions, and
be in position to join in the general advance at the hour designated.
From prisoners captured during the day it was learned that Longstreet
was hourly expected and Hancock was notified to keep a close watch
on his left. Barlow's division, with all the artillery of the 2nd corps,
was therefore placed in position to protect the left flank and a strong
skirmish line was thrown out on the Brock road. The Federal attack
was anticipated by the enemy, who began firing on both the left and
right a few minutes before 5 o'clock. Soon after the firing commenced,
Hancock attacked in two lines, extending across the plank road, Getty's
division, with Eustis on the right, Wheaton in the center and Grant oh
the left, supporting the divisions of Mott and Birney, the latter being in
command of Hancock's right wing. The Confederates were pushed back
about a mile and a half from the cross-roads when Wadsworth's division
came sweeping in from the right, which threw the enemy into confusion
and resulted in the capture of several hundred prisoners. The whole
line then pressed on after the almost routed enemy for nearly a mile
farther; Lee's trains and headquarters were in full view and the battle
was nearly won, when a heavy artillery fire was opened on the Union
lines from Poague's batteries masked in the shrubbery on the south side
of the road, and it was learned that one of Longstreet's divisions had
finally connected with Hill's right. In the impetuous advance Hancock's
line had become somewhat disordered and he ordered a halt to readjust
his lines before engaging the fresh troops. Getty had been wounded
during the action and turned over the command of the division to
Wheaton. He was now relieved by Webb's brigade of Gibbon's division
and formed his command along the original line of battle on the Brock
road. At 7 a. m. Gibbon, commanding the left wing, was directed to
attack the Confederate right with Barlow's division, but owing to the
expected flank attack by Longstreet the order was but partially carried
out. Frank's brigade only was thrown forward to feel the enemy's
position and after some sharp fighting it connected with Mott's left.
About 8 o'clock Stevenson's division of Burnside's corps reported to
Hancock. Burnside, with his 2nd and 3d divisions, had been expected
to move by a cross-road toward Parker's store, on Birney's right, and
attack simultaneously with the rest of the line. About the time of
Stevenson's arrival at the Brock road, Hancock received word from
Meade that Burnside had then pushed forward nearly to the store and
was ready to attack. This information proved to be erroneous and was
in a measure contributory to the disaster that overtook Hancock later
in the day. Burnside was delayed by a lack of definite information regard-
ing the ground over which he was to move and the dense thickets he
encountered, so that it was 2 p. m. before his attack was commenced. A
few minutes before 9 o'clock Birney, Mott and Wadsvvorth, with part
of Stevenson's division and three brigades of Gibbon's, resumed the
attack along the plank road and were soon furiously engaged with the
enemy. Just previous to this, rapid firing was heard in the direction of
Todd's tavern, which Hancock supposed to be the threatened flank attack
by Longstreet, and this caused him to send Brooke's brigade of Barlow's
division out on the Brock road to occupy a line of breastworks there to
hold Longstreet in check. Leasure's brigade of the 9th corps and Eustis'
of the 6th were held in readiness to support Barlow. As a matter of
fact Longstreet was at that moment in Hancock's front, the firing at
Todd's being an engagement between Sheridan and the Confederate cav-
alry. In his report Hancock says : "The arrangements made on my
extreme left to receive Longstreet prevented me from pushing my suc-
cess at the time when Gen. Birney was driving Hill on the plank road."
South of the plank road and nearly parallel to it was the unfinished
Gordonsville & Fredericksburg railroad. About 10 o'clock Longstreet
sent Gen. Mahone with four brigades to move along the line of this
railroad and gain Hancock's flank and rear, while the brigades of Law,
Gregg and Benning engaged the Federals in front. Mahone first en-
countered Frank's brigade, which had nearly exhausted its ammunition
and was therefore compelled to retire before the vehement flank attack.
He then struck the left of Mott's division, which in turn was forced
back in some confusion. Heroic efforts were made to rally the men
and reform the line along the plank road by throwing back the left, but
the troops had been engaged all morning under a heavy fire in the dense
forest and their formation was too irregular for such a movement. At
Birney's suggestion the whole line was then withdrawn and reestablished
in the breastworks along the Brock road. When Longstreet saw that
Mahone's attack was successful he ordered a general advance along the
plank road, hoping to crush Hancock's line. Mahone's men, upon seeing
the head of the Confederate column, mistook it for a fresh body of
Union troops and fired a volley, killing Gen. Jenkins and wounding
Longstreet. Lee then assumed command of his right wing in person
and ordered the attack to be postponed, although the Confederate line
was then within a short distance of the Union works. About half an
hour before Mahone struck the left of Hancock's line Cutler's brigade
of Wadsworth's division was driven back to the open ground near the
Lacy house, but Birney sent two brigades and recovered the lost ground,
though at considerable loss. During this part of the battle Gen. Wads-
worth was mortally and Gen. Baxter severely wounded.

From 11 a. m. to 4 p. m. all was comparatively quiet along Hancock's
front. About 2 o'clock Robinson's 1st brigade, under Col. Lyle, and two
regiments of heavy artillery reported to Hancock and were massed near
the cross-roads in reserve. At this time Burnside made an assault on
the enemy's line near the Tapp house, north of the plank road, and drove
it back in disorder, but part of Heth's division and Wofford's brigade of
Kershaw's came up as reinforcements and regained all the lost ground.
At 3 p. m. Hancock and Burnside both received orders to attack at 6
o'clock. They were not permitted to wait until that hour, however, for
at 4:15 the enemy advanced against Hancock in force, pressing up to the
edge of the abatis, less than 100 yards from the first line of works,
where they halted and opened a fierce fire of musketry. This was con-
tinued for half an hour, during which time the Union line held firm.
Then a portion of Mott's division and Ward's brigade of Bimey's gave
way. Concerning this break, Hancock says in his report: "The confusion
and disorganization among a portion of the troops of Mott's and Birney's
divisions on this occasion was greatly increased, if not originated, by
the front line of breastworks having taken fire a short time before the
enemy made his attack, the flames having been communicated to it from
the forest in front (the battle-ground of the morning), which had been
burning for some hours. The breastworks on this portion of my line
were constructed entirely of logs, and at the critical moment of the
enemy's advance were a mass of flames which it was impossible at that
time to subdue, the fire extending for many hundred paces to the right
and left. The intense heat and smoke, which was driven by the wind
directly into the faces of the men, prevented them on portions of the line
from firing over the parapet, and at some points compelled them to
abandon the line."

As soon as Mott's men gave way the Confederates advanced and
some of them reached the breastworks and planted their colors thereon.
But their victory was of short duration, for Carroll's brigade moved by
the left flank, advancing at the double-quick with fixed bayonets, and
drove the enemy back with heavy loss in killed and wounded, some of
the dead being afterward found inside the works. Dow's battery, one
section of which was near the plank road and the others in the second
line near Mott's left, did good service in firing on the enemy, both during
his advance and retreat. After the repulse of the Confederates by Carroll,
Lee withdrew his troops from the contest, and there was no more fighting
along the Brock road that day, the order for the attack being counter-
manded because Hancock's men were almost out of ammunition and it
was too late to replenish the supply. When Burnside heard the firing
in Hancock's front he advanced against the enemy before him, but his
attacks were isolated and unsupported and the only important result at-
tained was to prevent Heth and Wilcox from moving to Lee's support.

When the attack began in the morning Wright's division vigorously
assaulted Early's intrenchments in his front, but was repulsed with heavy
loss. A second attack met with no better success, and as the withdrawal
of Burnside's corps had left Sedgwick's right exposed he was ordered to
intrench his position and act on the defensive. Warren's attacks on
Ewell were also unsuccessful, as the enemy's lines here had been
strengthened during the night and several pieces of artillery added. Dur-
ing the day Sedgwick was reinforced by Shaler's brigade, which had been
guarding the trains, and Johnston's brigade was sent to Early. Both
sides were thus reinforced and some sharp fighting occurred during the
afternoon, the attacks of Warren and Sedgwick serving to keep Lee from
concentrating his entire force against Hancock. Just before sunset Gor-
don's brigade, supported by Johnston's, made an attack on Sedgwick's
right flank, while Pegram engaged the Federals in front. Shaler's bri-
gade was engaged in building breastworks and the sudden descent of
the enemy threw it into confusion, rolling it back on Seymour's brigade,
which also fell into some disorder. Seymour and Shaler, with several
hundred of their men, were captured. Johnston passed to the left of
Gordon and gained Wright's rear, where he captured a few prisoners.
Wright promptly restored order among the troops and repulsed the at-
tack of Johnston. Gordon's men were thrown into confusion and Early
ordered both brigades to withdraw. In his Memoir Early says of this
flank attack: "It was fortunate, however, that darkness came to close
this aflfair, as the enemy, if he had been able to discover the disorder on
our side, might have brought up fresh troops and availed himself of our
condition." This flank attack of Early's was the last important event in
the day's contest, and, in fact, closed the battle of the Wilderness, for
when Federal pickets and skirmishing parties were sent out the next
morning no trace of the enemy could be discovered on the field of the day
before. The Army of Northern Virginia had retired to its line of in-
trenchments and the redoubtable Lee had evidently abandoned his offen-
sive campaign.

The Union loss in the battle of the Wilderness was 2,246 killed,
12,037 wounded and 3,383 captured or missing. No doubt many of the
wounded were burned to death or suffocated in the fire that raged
through the woods on Hancock's front. Concerning the enemy's casual-
ties Badeau, in his Military History of U. S. Grant, says: "The losses
of Lee no human being can tell. No official report of them exists, if any
was ever made, and no statement that has been put forth in regard to
them has any foundation but a guess. It seems, however, fair to presume
that as Lee fought outside of his works as often as Grant, and was as
often repelled, the slaughter of the rebels equalled that in the national
army. The grey coats lay as thick as the blue next day, when the national
scouts pushed out over the entire battle-field and could discover no living

Source: The Union Army, vol. 6

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