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CASE HISTORICAL MUSEUM

WILDERNESS CAMPAIGN

June 12, 1864

On March 8, 1864, a journalist attended a White House reception for Ulysses S. Grant, described the heralded honoree as a "little, scared-looking man."  Four days later this "little, scared-looking man" took command of all Union forces.

General Grant reorganized the Army of the Potomac, which awaited the coming Wilderness campaign in winter quarters at Brandy Station, Virginia.  Grant's orders to General George Meade, commander of the Army of the Potomac, were succinct: "Lee's Army will be your objective point,  Wherever Lee goes, there you will be also."

Union General George Meade
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General Grant would map the strategy and General Meade the tactics in a series of flanking maneuvers that would culminate in a climactic drive on Richmond.  On May 4-5, 1864, Grant crossed the Rapidan and met his adversary in the tangled thickets of the Wilderness.

   On May 5, 1864 Union General Charles Griffin attacked Confederate General positioned along the western siden of Sanders' field.  Nightfall brough an end to the fighting, a stalemate.  On the morning of May 6, Federalds seized the initiative and shattered the Confederatye line across Orange Plank Road.  The Confederaes struck back, made some advances thn faltered.  Then there was a second Confederate assault at about 4:00 p.m., but the Federal troops put an end to the assault.  In two days' fighting Lee's army had sustained at least 7,500 casualties.  Grant had lost 27,00 men killed.  wounded or missing,

   On May 10, 1864 at Spotsylvania, where the Confederates had constructed log-and-earth brestworks, the Federals attacked.  Federal Colonel Upton's forces tore a deep gap in the Confederates' defences.  However, when reinforcements did not arrive, the Federal regiments were forced to withdraw.  The next day brutal fighting raged and ended inconclusively.

   On may 9-31 the Union crossed the Pamunkey River at Hanovertown and moved towards Richmond.  There would be three days fighting at the crossroads of Cold Harbor.  On June 5, 1864 the XVII Corps under General Smith advanced on the Confederates but heave fire forced the Federals to the ground.  Bitter fighting continued until June 12.

    Grand had lost 50,000 men,  Lee about 30,000 men.  Grant's fourth major thrust toward Richmond was thwarted, and now he sat his sights on Petersburg.