Wilderness, VA

[Battle of the Wilderness by Kurz & Allison - Courtesy of Wikipedia]

Date(s): May 5-7, 1864

Location: Please click on link below for map.

Wilderness National Military Park (national park), Virginia, United States

Campaign(s): Grantís Overland Campaign [May-June 1864]

Battles in Campaign:



  • Union: Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant and Maj. Gen. George G. Meade

  • Confederate: Gen. Robert E. Lee

Principal Forces:

  • Union: 101,895

  • Confederate: 61,025


  • The opening battle of Grantís sustained offensive against the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia, known as the Overland Campaign, was fought at the Wilderness, May 5-7.

  • On the morning of May 5, 1864, the Union V Corps attacked Ewellís Corps on the Orange Turnpike, while A. P. Hillís corps during the afternoon encountered Gettyís Division (VI Corps) and Hancockís II Corps on the Plank Road.

  • Fighting was fierce but inconclusive as both sides attempted to maneuver in the dense woods.

  • Darkness halted the fighting, and both sides rushed forward reinforcements.  At dawn on May 6, Hancock attacked along the Plank Road, driving Hillís Corps back in confusion.

  • Longstreetís Corps arrived in time to prevent the collapse of the Confederate right flank.

  • At noon, a devastating Confederate flank attack in Hamiltonís Thicket sputtered out when Lt. Gen. James Longstreet was wounded by his own men.

  • The IX Corps (Burnside) moved against the Confederate center, but was repulsed.

  • Union generals James S. Wadsworth and Alexander Hays were killed.

  • Confederate generals John M. Jones, Micah Jenkins, and Leroy A. Stafford were killed.

  • The battle was a tactical draw. Grant, however, did not retreat as had the other Union generals before him.

  • On May 7, the Federals advanced by the left flank toward the crossroads of Spotsylvania Courthouse.

Photo Gallery:2

Wilderness Campaign - The Battle Begins

First Blood in Saunders Field

Description of the Culpeper Mine Road

Culpeper Mine Road

Fighting on the Evening of May 5, 1864

Morning of May 6, 1864

John Gordon Proposes a Flank Attack

Gordon's Flank Attack

Gordon's Attack Falters

The Federals Fall Back


Classification3: A


  • Union: 18,400  

  • Confederate: 11,400

Results: Inconclusive

Battlefield Websites:

Lodging and Restaurants: Virginia Tourism

Recommended Resources:

1 National Park Service summary.

2 Please click on the image to enlarge it. You may copy the images if you include the following note and link with each image: "Courtesy of civil-war-journeys.org."

3 Classification:

  • A - having a decisive influence on a campaign and a direct impact on the course of the war

  • B - having a direct and decisive influence on their campaign

  • C - having observable influence on the outcome of a campaign

  • D - having a limited influence on the outcome of their campaign or operation but achieving or affecting important local objectives

4 Casualties are someone killed, injured, wounded, captured or missing.

Revised 03/01/2013