The Wilderness Campaign was a group of battles and skirmishes in Virginia. The Union forces used their vast numbers to crush the Confederates under their sheer mass. In May 1864, Gen. Grant, now in command of the Union armies, attacked the Army of Northern Virginia, led by Gen. Lee. Gen. Meade, under Grant, attacked with more than 100,000 Union troops. Lee, with less than 70,000 soldiers, met the first Union attack in a wooded area called the Wilderness about 50 miles north of Richmond.
Fighting on May 5-6 ended up in about 18,000 Union soldiers dead, but Grant ignored the losses and ordered Meade to march south toward the Spotsylvania Court House. More than 14,000 Union soldiers were killed there from May 8 to May 18, but Grant kept moving toward Lee's right flank, going south to Cold Harbor. Fighting there lost 13,000 Union lives from June 3 to June 12, and there were about 12,000 Union casualties in a short 8-minute period on June 3. From the Wilderness to Cold Harbor the Union army suffered about 20,000 casualties. The North was appaled at the losses, but Grant's strategy was succeeding; he kept on getting reinforcements, and Lee could find no more. Overall, the Union lost about 60,000 troops, almost equal to the strength of the entire Confederate army, which only lost between 25,000 and 30,000. Grant, however, was still moving toward Richmond.
Bibliography: Catton, B., Grant Takes Command (1968); Scott, R. G., Into the Wilderness with the Army of the Potomac, rev. ed. (1992); Steere, E., The Wilderness Campaign (1960; repr. 1987).
May 4 - June 12, 1864
Grant vs. Lee