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INTO THE WILDERNESS 5th OF MAY, 1864 The Campaign from The Wilderness to Petersburg
"The Union armies were now divided into nineteen departments. Before this time these various armies had acted separately and independently of each other... I determined to stop this! My general plan was now to concentrate all the force possible against the Confederate armies in the field.", wrote General U. S. Grant in preparation of outlining his plans for General Meade and the general staff.
"This advance by General Grant inaugurated the seventh act in the On To Richmond drama played by the armies of the Union. The first1 advance led by General Irvin McDowell, had been repelled by General's P.G.T. Beauregard and Joseph E. Johnston at Bull Run; the next five2 under the leadership respectively of General George Brinton McClellan, General John Pope, General Ambrose Burnside, General Joseph Hooker, and General George Gordon Meade, had been repelled by General Robert E. Lee and the Army of Northern Virginia." memoirs of General John B. Gordon
1. Note: 21 July,1861 near Manassas Junction, VA 25 miles SSE of Washington, DC is better remembered as "Bull Run" by the North and "First Manassas" by the South... was the first real engagement between CSA armies [approx. 30,000 green troops] and Union armies [37,000 unseasoned Union volunteers]. It was an unmitigated disaster for the Union army as it was badly bloodied and routed from the field before a large gathering of Washington, DC spectators. This battle produced two notable items a) General Thomas J. Jackson, Commander of the Virginia Brigade occupying a hill at the center of the CSA defenses became known as "Stonewall Jackson" for holding his position against vastly superior odds, and; b) from the Virginia Brigade again... the "Rebel Yell" was let loose for the first time when Jackson ordered a counter-attack charge which helped drive the Union troops from the field. This high pitched yell would be used throughout the Civil War by all CSA units.
2. Note: the 2nd Repelled Advance 26 June-1 July, 1862 At Richmond, VA The CSA Capital... after the horrible defeat at Bull Run, Gen. G. B. McClellan replaced retiring Gen. Winfeild Scott (hero of the US-Mexican War) as General-In-Chief and Commander of the Army of the Potomac. McClellan did nothing but raise troops, more than 200,000, and build defenses around Washington throughout the summer and winter of 1861. Under growing pressure to do something, anything, President Lincoln ordered McClellan to attack Johnston's army at Monassas Junction by Feb 22nd, 1862 and then proceed onto Richmond. Instead McClellan putforth a counter proposal to the ordered frontal assault. He proposed to move his 121,500 man Army of The Potomac to the York-James peninsula and attack Richmond, VA from the SE. The plan was reluctantly approved and began in March, 1862... more than 7 months after he took overall command of the Union Army. McClellan was stalled as he lay siege to Richmond mostly by his own inaction or unwillingness to attack. Robert E. Lee replaced Gen. Johnston defending Richmond. Lee ordered JEB Stuart's Cavalry to scout and harass McClellan's hugh army. Then for 7 days beginning 26 June, Lee repeatedly attacked McClellan driving the timid General and his army back to the James River and on the 4th of July, 1864 McClellan's Army of The Potomac while under the protection of US Naval guns began retreating back to Washington. the 3rd Repelled Advance 29 Aug, 1862 "Second Bull Run". General John Pope replaced McClellan and was ordered to attack Richmond from the north. Lee, in Richmond, knowing McClellan no longer threatened Richmond moved to attack the new commander Pope at Manassas Junction. Lee sent JEB Stuart's cavalry in advance. Stuart successfully harassed Pope and finally dug in at the old Bull Run site. Pope tried to destroy Stuart there, but Lee coming from the south sent Major General James Longstreet's 5 divisions into Pope's flank and defeated him soundly. the 4th Repelled Advance 15 Sep. 1862 "Sharpsburg-in the AM". General Lee now invading across the Potomac River into western Maryland caused General McClellan, now relieved by Lincoln as "General-In-Chief-of-The-Army" but remaining in command of the hugh Army of the Potomac (95,000plus men) to pursue Lee from the south. Early on that morning Major General Joseph "Fightin Joe" Hooker mounted a third assault against Lee's northern positions along the Hagerstown Turnpike. The battle surged back and forth fifteen times by 10 a.m. The Union assaults failed. the 5th Repelled Advance 15 Sep. 1862 "Antietam Creek-in the PM" (called the bloodiest single battle of the Civil War) General Ambrose Burnside's 12,500 men in repeated attempts to cross a stone bridge over Antietam Creek and route a 400 man Confederate position atop a ridge finally withdrew failing to hold the bridge. As a result of McClellan's repeated failures and failing to close with Lee's retreating army, Lincoln relieved General McClellan of command on 5 Nov. 1862. the 6th Repelled Advance 13 Dec. 1862 "Battle of Fredericksburg" General Ambrose Burnside, McClellan's successor, found himself attempting to assault a reinforced Lee now at fortified positions around Fredericksburg, VA. During the initial assault one of Burnside's key commanders, General George Gordon Meade, commanding the 114th Pennsylvania Zouaves encountered overwhelming odds and were driven from the field. Fredericksburg was another Union disaster.