Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Wilderness to Spotsylvania

After his unsuccessful attacks on May 6, Grant decided that further efforts on this front would be useless. The Confederates had dug strong entrenchments, and he did not want to attack them. Instead, he decided to try to march around Lee's right. Moving down the Brock Road towards Spotsylavnia Court House, he hoped to get his men between Lee and Richmond, forcing the Confederates to fight on ground favorable to the Federals.

Movement to Spotsylvania
As the Union troops began their march, many believed that Grant was retreating just like all the other failed army commanders before him. But when they turned towards Spotsylania, they were disabused of that idea. “Instantly all of us heard a sigh of relief,” wrote one infantry man. “We marched free. The men began to sing. The enlisted men understood the flanking movement.” Grant would not turn back. Although he had been unable to crush Lee's army, there would be no turning back.

Unburied bones in the Wilderness
In this battle, the Federals reported 2,246 killed, 12,037 wounded and 3,383 captured, totaling 17,666. These numbers were likely low, as high casualty numbers were bad for public opinion on the home front. The Confederates lost about 11,000 men. Although Grant's losses were much higher, he could better afford to loose them. The Confederate supply of manpower was nearly exhausted, and they had little opportunity to raise more troops. A few more victories like this one, and Lee's army would be destroyed.

Entrenchments in the Wilderness


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