The Battle of the Wilderness, May 5-6, 1864



Fought In A Tangled Forest Fringing The South Bank Of The Rapidan River, The Battle Of The Wilderness Marked The Initial Engagement In The Climactic Months Of The Civil War In Virginia, And The First Encounter Between Ulysses S Grant And Robert E Lee Gordon C Rhea, In His Exhaustive Study The Battle Of The Wilderness, Provides The Consummate Recounting Of That Conflict Of May And Which Ended With High Casualties On Both Sides But No Clear VictorWhereas Previous Studies Have Stood Solely On Published Documents Mainly The Official Records And Regimental Histories The Battle Of The Wilderness Not Only Takes A Fresh Look At Those Sources But Also Examines An Extensive Body Of Unpublished Material, Much Of Which Has Never Before Been Brought To Bear On The Subject These Diaries, Memoirs, Letters, And Reports Shed New Light On Several Aspects Of The Campaign, Compelling Rhea To Offer A Critical New Perspective On The Overall Development Of The BattleFor Example, It Has Long Been Thought That Lee Through His Superior Skill As General Lured Grant Into The Wilderness But As Rhea Makes Clear, Although Lee Indeed Hoped That Grant Would Become Ensnared In The Wilderness, He Failed To Take The Steps Necessary To Delay Grant S Progress And Even Left His Own Army In A Position Of Peril It Was Only Because Of Miscalculations By The Federal High Command That Grant Stopped In The Wilderness Rather Than Continuing On To A Location Favorable To Union ForcesThrough The Battle Of The Wilderness Rhea Gives Close Attention To The Hierarchy Of Each Army On The Confederate Side, He Scrutinizes The Evolving Relationship Between Lee And His Corps Commanders On The Federal Side, He Reviews The Several Tiers Of Command, Including The Tense Alliance Between Grant And George G Meade, Head Of The Union Army Of The PotomacRhea Presents A Balanced Analysis Of Events And People, Command Structures And Strategies, While Gracefully Infusing Excitement And Immediacy Into A Subject For Which He Obviously Feels Great Enthusiasm Both The General Reader And The Specialist Will Find This Important Contribution To Civil War Scholarship RewardingThe Battle of the Wilderness, May 5-6, 1864

Mr Rhea is a nationally acclaimed historian He has lectured extensively on topics of military history at the United States Army Training and Doctrine Command, at several National Military Parks, and at historical societies and civil war round tables across the country He had been a member of numerous boards of directors of historical societies, magazines, and historic preservation organizations, including the Civil War Library and Museum, Philadelphia, and North and South magazine Mr Rhea has appeared on History Channel, AE Channel, and Discovery Channel in programs related to American history and has written scores of articles for various scholarly and popular publications His books, which are considered authoritative in their fields, include

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  • Hardcover
  • 536 pages
  • The Battle of the Wilderness, May 5-6, 1864
  • Gordon C. Rhea
  • English
  • 21 April 2017
  • 0807118737

10 thoughts on “The Battle of the Wilderness, May 5-6, 1864

  1. says:

    I loved this book, it is one of the best written and researched accounts on the Battle of the Wilderness With over 450 pages of text and 20 well presented and easy to read maps this book gives you a day to day and blow by blow account of this terrible battle This is the definitive account of the Battle of the Wilderness and I highly recommend it to any person who loves a good book on the Civil War.

  2. says:

    Like two titans, U.S Grant and Robert E Lee locked armies and ferociously grappled with each other over two days in early May 1864 in a dense forbidding patch of terrain and landscape in northern Virginia known as The Wilderness At the conclusion of these two days of some of the most severest fighting of the entire Civil War, the two armies had lost a combined total of nearly 29,000 men killed, wounded, or captured.Gordon Rhea s account of Grant s first battle as the Union Army Commander in Like two titans, U.S Grant and Robert E Lee locked armies and ferociously grappled with each other over two days in early May 1864 in a dense forbidding patch of terrain and landscape in northern Virginia known as The Wilderness At the conclusion of these two days of some of the most severest fighting of the entire Civil War, the two armies had lost a combined total of nearly 29,000 men killed, wounded, or captured.Gordon Rhea s account of Grant s first battle as the Union Army Commander in Chief, is a well written and very thorough description of The Battle of the Wilderness Grant was determined to maneuver the Union Army of the Potomac between Robert E Lee s Army of Northern Virginia and the Confederate capitol in Richmond, and in The Wilderness he very nearly succeeded He started three extremely powerful Union Army Corps eastward down the Orange Plank Road and the Orange Turnpike and ran headlong into two Confederate Corps commanded by A.P Hill and Dick Ewell Unfortunately for the Federals, as the fighting started the corps and brigade commanders just couldn t maintain effective coordination and communication as the assaults progressed, and the out numbered Confederate corps were able to beat back most of the Federal attacks at great cost to both attacker and defender.The woods were so dense and disorienting that the attacking troops couldn t see but just a few yards in any directions, and unit movements became fragmented and went off track almost immediately The firing of muskets and artillery actually started numerous forest fires, which flared up among the troops as they moved through the woods, or lay wounded on the forest floor The fighting was pretty much a unconstrained brawl between the two armies and just raged back and forth and up and down the turnpike and plank roads Finally, after two days, the major fighting slowly sputtered out and the two armies were largely back in their original starting positions and just scowled at each other Rhea assesses the result of two days of battle in The Wilderness as, at best, a tactical victory for Lee and the Confederates, but a strategic victory for Grant and the Federal army The bottom line was that Grant was not going to leave not even after nearly 18,000 Federal casualties but was going to latch onto Lee s army like a pitbull, and not let up up until the war was over This attitude for prosecution of the war was a sea change compared to all of the previous commanders of the Union Army of the Potomac Grant, in The Wilderness, tried to exercise the use of power in attacking Lee s army, as he did so successfully in his campaigns in the western theater The problem was that his commanders i.e., Meade, Hancock, Sedgewick, Burnside, et al and the Army of the Potomac just weren t up to the challenge yet Both Grant and the Army of the Potomac needed to learn how to fight differently and fight together , and this first step in The Wilderness was clearly part of that learning process I can t begin to relate how much I learned about Grant s leadership qualities and The Battle of the Wilderness in this excellent book by Gordon Rhea, and how much I am looking forward to reading the next three books in his series about the Overland Campaign The maps included in the book are truly quite superb and make much of the complicated maneuvering of the units during the battle much easier to follow and comprehend As usual, I wish there were evenmaps, but that s a common litany of mine Every serious Civil War buff ought to have this book on their shelf

  3. says:

    The first installment of the author s magisterial five volume treatment of the Overland Campaign The author convincingly tells the story from the soldier s viewpoint with many firsthand accounts of the action The author supports the contention that Lee didn t outmaneuver Grant, but that the battle was fought to a draw where Grant s superior numbers were negated by the terrain of the battlefield This five volume set is shaping up to be my great summer reading project although I m looking to re The first installment of the author s magisterial five volume treatment of the Overland Campaign The author convincingly tells the story from the soldier s viewpoint with many firsthand accounts of the action The author supports the contention that Lee didn t outmaneuver Grant, but that the battle was fought to a draw where Grant s superior numbers were negated by the terrain of the battlefield This five volume set is shaping up to be my great summer reading project although I m looking to read the three volume unabridged edition of Lee s Lieutenants as well Anyway, a great starting point for those that want a straightforward yet in depth view of the Overland Campaign

  4. says:

    The Battle of the Wilderness was at one and the same time one of the most confused encounters of the Civil War and one of the grimmest On one hand, most of the battle took place in a second growth scrub forest interspersed with small hillocks and swamps There were two roads that cut horizontally across the field The Orange Turnpike and the Orange Plank Road Because of the terrain between the two roads, it was difficult to coordinate attacks without straying in the forest Toward the end of t The Battle of the Wilderness was at one and the same time one of the most confused encounters of the Civil War and one of the grimmest On one hand, most of the battle took place in a second growth scrub forest interspersed with small hillocks and swamps There were two roads that cut horizontally across the field The Orange Turnpike and the Orange Plank Road Because of the terrain between the two roads, it was difficult to coordinate attacks without straying in the forest Toward the end of the battle, so many trees were cut down by bullets that few plants were above the height of a man And there weren t enough open spaces to make artillery effective.In such a situation, the advantage went to the defender It is likely that the Confederates took fewer casualties, especially when they were firing from entrenched positions and the Union launchedattacks This was Grant s first battle with the Army of the Potomac, and few of his corps and division commanders came out with their reputations undamaged Meade was far too concerned with defending his supply wagons to make effective use of his cavalry and Burnside, who refused to take orders from Meade because he outranked him, was excessively dilatory in reaching his positions For the last time, Grant let Meade take command From now until Appommatox, Grant planned all the battles.Although the Confederates regard the Wilderness as a victory, Grant did one thing that marked him as different from all the previous Army of the Potomac commanders Instead of retreating to lick his wounds, he moved south toward Spotsylvania Court House, where the terrain for battle was better and ten miles closer to Richmond Lee was forced to follow Grant s lead From here on, it would be a far different war.Virtually on Southern men who were between the ages of 17 and 64 were already in the Army The north, on the other hand, had some 2.5 million men of military age who could be conscripted not without a fight, however Grant had bodies to burn Whenever Lee lost a man, he was irreplaceable Grant had bodies to burn and no compunction about burning them when needed for ultimate victory.In Grant, Lincoln finally found a general who could win

  5. says:

    This is a very good book about this first meeting between Grant and Lee Rhea has clearly mastered the source material on this destructive engagement and the breadth of the primary sources that he uses is very impressive He presents a penetrating analysis of both days and his narrative is clear and conscise The activity on the Orange Plank Road and the Orange Turnpike is broken down by phase, and Longstreet s breaking of Hancock s line is exciting Rhea also manages to explain Burnside s movem This is a very good book about this first meeting between Grant and Lee Rhea has clearly mastered the source material on this destructive engagement and the breadth of the primary sources that he uses is very impressive He presents a penetrating analysis of both days and his narrative is clear and conscise The activity on the Orange Plank Road and the Orange Turnpike is broken down by phase, and Longstreet s breaking of Hancock s line is exciting Rhea also manages to explain Burnside s movements and how the 9th Corps fit into Grant s overall scheme of maneuver Rhea also makes a point of highlighting how the Army of the Potomac, under Grant, attempted to coordinate the various corps to achieve a simultaneous offensive against the ANV Grant was the first general to attempt this with the AOP The book is filled with eyewitness accounts, and what made the most significant impression on me was the cost in lives and the descriptions of the carnage There were still bodies in the Wildernessthan a year after the battle, not just in the thickets, but also along Ewell s entrenchments along the Turnpike and along Hancock s old line on Brock Road Rhea also describes the field hospitals The human toll was simply staggering, and the willingness of the armies to batter each other into submission is one of the points to reflect upon, on reading this book

  6. says:

    I have heard of Gordon Rhea s Overland Campaign tetralogy for years and with a lecture coming up about the campaign it was time to finally read them.I was quite pleased to find the first book this one lives up to the hype This is a very detailed and well written account of the two days of fighting in the Wilderness accompanied by good maps It gives sufficient attention to both the common soldiers experience and the decisions by the commanders Rhea also seems to be a pretty fair writer with I have heard of Gordon Rhea s Overland Campaign tetralogy for years and with a lecture coming up about the campaign it was time to finally read them.I was quite pleased to find the first book this one lives up to the hype This is a very detailed and well written account of the two days of fighting in the Wilderness accompanied by good maps It gives sufficient attention to both the common soldiers experience and the decisions by the commanders Rhea also seems to be a pretty fair writer without particular bias towards Union or Confederate, or for against any particular generals.I would have appreciated a littlebackground on the lead up to the campaign the reorganization of the AotP from 5 corps to 3 , why Burnside and the IX Corps were involved, why the Union cavalry ended up commanded mostly by generals without prior cavalry experience Sheridan, Wilson, Torbert While this would have been stretching a 450 page book even further, I think those details are important for this battle and the Overland Campaign as a whole.Very pleased with the first volume and promptly started the next one on Spotsylvania Strongly recommended to anyone interested in the Civil War

  7. says:

    In The Battle of the Wilderness, May 5 6, 1864, Gordon C Rhea charts the first meeting between Confederate General Robert E Lee and Union General Ulysses S Grant in the darkened, tangled forest west of Fredericksburg, Virginia, which ended with high casualties on both sides but no clear victor.Rhea clarifies and explains a battle that even its participants found confusing and hard to comprehend With its balanced analysis of events and people, command structures and strategies, The Battle of In The Battle of the Wilderness, May 5 6, 1864, Gordon C Rhea charts the first meeting between Confederate General Robert E Lee and Union General Ulysses S Grant in the darkened, tangled forest west of Fredericksburg, Virginia, which ended with high casualties on both sides but no clear victor.Rhea clarifies and explains a battle that even its participants found confusing and hard to comprehend With its balanced analysis of events and people, command structures and strategies, The Battle of the Wilderness is a thorough and meticulous military history This is the first of a five volume series on General Ulysses S Grant s Overland Campaign during the American Civil War.Prior to 1864, the Eastern Theater had mostly been a war of maneuver The Confederate Army of Northern Virginia jockeyed back and forth with the Union Army of the Potomac with little to show for it In April 1864, both armies sat facing one another across the Rapidan River, almost exactly where they had been one year earlier.General Ulysses S Grant was determined to change that, and the Battle of the Wilderness proved it This chaotic struggle touched off the Overland Campaign, a brutal grind toward the Confederate capital of Richmond, Virginia Rather than retreat to lick its wounds, as Army of the Potomac usually did after a major battle, Grant ordered it around Lee s flank to the southeast Finally, President Abraham Lincoln found a General who was not afraid of Robert E Lee.With clear but detailed prose, Gordon C Rhea shows how divided command crippled the Union Army While George G Meade commanded the Army of the Potomac, Ambrose Burnside commanded the IX Corps, which was formally part of the Army of the Ohio Because he technically outranked Meade, Burnside reported directly to Grant Grant gave both generals considerable leeway during the battle The Union army s overwhelming size should by itself have guaranteed success, but careless generalship had forfeited the golden opportunity, he wrote.The Confederate army was not without controversy On May 6, Brig Gen John B Gordon found the Union army s flank in the air and sought permission from his division commander, Jubal Early, to attack the exposed flank By the time his corps commander, Richard Ewell, approved the plan, it was shortly before dark and Gordon had no time to exploit his success Later, Gordon claimed Lee personally ordered the attack when he saw its potential Rhea deconstructs this claim and finds Gordon embellished or outright fabricated events to enhance his reputation.Like all previous offensives that day, he concluded, In the end, Gordon s plan accomplished littlethan to add names to the casualty lists Gordon C Rhea born March 10, 1945 is a military historian specializing in the Overland Campaign in Virginia during the American Civil War He is a graduate of Indiana University, Stanford Law School, and Harvard University and is a practicing attorney in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina His other books include To the North Anna River 2000 , The Battles for Spotsylvania Court House 1997 , and Cold Harbor 2002

  8. says:

    One of the most outstanding battle books I have ever read

  9. says:

    The Battle of the Wilderness is oft neglected in the popular history of the American Civil War and even in serious studies has not garnered the due it deserves Fought in the wild forest lands of Spotsylvania County and Orange County, Virginia, it ended in a deadlock without the Union forces retreating but without them gaining ground on General Robert E Lee s Army of Northern Virginia The Union build up of men and supplies prior to their first onslaught on the Confederates was one of the large The Battle of the Wilderness is oft neglected in the popular history of the American Civil War and even in serious studies has not garnered the due it deserves Fought in the wild forest lands of Spotsylvania County and Orange County, Virginia, it ended in a deadlock without the Union forces retreating but without them gaining ground on General Robert E Lee s Army of Northern Virginia The Union build up of men and supplies prior to their first onslaught on the Confederates was one of the largest logistical tasks of the entire war and yet it did not ensure them the victory they presumed would be granted due to their greater might and firepower As this battle raged in wooded lands and not a traditional battlefield, there were a lot of minor skirmishes here and there and the greatest aspects of the Battle of the Wilderness really were writ small in the personal letters of the troops back to fathers, mothers, and girlfriends where they related the complex, often horrific, and fascinating warfare they d seen firsthand Gordon Rhea, an experienced Civil War author and historian collected these smaller tales with care and places them together within a comprehensive account of the overall story of of the Battle of the Wilderness He tells us of this battle with uncommon verve and candor, really bringing it alive The maps are as good as you d expect from an author highly concerned with the tactics at hand, and the leading generals and other commanders are sketched out in vivid detail allowing you to study their personalities in depth If you enjoy old school battle histories where the author avoids social history, revisionism, or other means of placing external, contemporary, concepts on deeds done long ago, you ll love this book it is classic Civil War battle history for military buffs to enjoy with a glass of bourbon by a roaring fire in a cabin high in the Virginia mountains

  10. says:

    The Battle of the Wilderness is widely viewed as a draw Although the Union Army suffered 50%casualties, Grant, recently appointed as the commander and chief of the Union Army, showed a new aggressiveness which initiated the end game for the civil war This is the definitive reference on the Battle of the Wilderness complete with extensive references Gordon Rhea makes a special point to compare the memoirs of many participants to get a balanced viewpoint on each decision and account of ev The Battle of the Wilderness is widely viewed as a draw Although the Union Army suffered 50%casualties, Grant, recently appointed as the commander and chief of the Union Army, showed a new aggressiveness which initiated the end game for the civil war This is the definitive reference on the Battle of the Wilderness complete with extensive references Gordon Rhea makes a special point to compare the memoirs of many participants to get a balanced viewpoint on each decision and account of events His analysis of the significance of the battle to each side and the decisions of each side is especially noteworthy Lee, Grant, and Meade were all subject to critical analysis Lee made several decisions during the battle which put his army and his cause in serious jeopardy. Outnumbered two to one he was willing to gamble everything on a decisive blow A must read for fans of the Battle of the Wilderness

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