Tomorrow night is the next meeting of the Rocky Mountain Civil War Roundtable. Former president Dave Townsend will be talking about The Wilderness as part of our "Campaigning with Grant" series.
In the spring of 1864, President Lincoln brought Grant east to fill the newly created rank of Lt General and placed in charge of all Union forces. Although Grant had been successful in the west, he never actively sought the command. Based on past performance, he was clearly the best choice. The proximity of Washington and its influence on how the war would be waged was no small matter. But Lincoln and the unassuming Grant quickly formed a strong trust in each other, and Lincoln would handle the Washington side of the war.
Although Grant was in charge of all the Union forces, he made his headquarters with General Meade and his Army of the Potomac. The General-in-chief told Meade, "Lee's army will be your objective. Where he goes, there you will go also." There would be no maneuvering for position.
The Battle of the Wilderness was the first of what would be a long, bloody, and almost continual contact between the two armies culminating the following year at Appomattox. By striking at Grant’s flank in the Wilderness, Lee negated some of the Union's superiority in troops and artillery. The two days of fighting was intense, and many of the wounded were burned to death by fires resulting form the battle. Although the Union suffered greater casualties, at the conclusion of the battle, Grant’s objective remained the same – Lee’s army. Rather than stopping or pulling back to Washington as his predecessor had, Grant moved south to attack again.
A reading list:
1) Grant and Lee: the Virginia Campaigns 1864-65 by William A Frassanito
2) The Virginia Campaign 1864 and 1865 by Gen. Andrew A. Humphreys
3) The Battle of the Wilderness May 5-6, 1864 by Gordon C. Rhea
4) Bloody Roads South: May-June 1864 by Noah Andre Trudeau