U. S. CIVIL WAR
The Wilderness is the name given to a dense forest, with thick undergrowth, located about ten miles west of Fredericksburg, Virginia. It runs roughly 15 miles along the south bank of the Rapidan River and stretches approximately 10 miles to the south. During the Civil War, this dense forest was the location of two major battles that occurred almost exactly a year apart.
In the first battle, "Chancellorsville" (April 30 thru May 6, 1863), Confederate General Robert E. Lee faced Union General "Fighting" Joe Hooker. It was during the Chancellorsville battle that, after his Corps had flanked the Union army and almost destroyed it, Confederate General "Stonewall" Jackson was mortally wounded by his own men.
In this, the second battle, which was called simply "The Wilderness" (May 5 thru May 7, 1864), Confederate General Robert E. Lee found his army facing the Union Army now under General Ulysses S. Grant.
Theater of Operations
The Wilderness Battlefield is outlined in white.
THE ARMIES WAIT
(Refer to the Theater of Operations Map, above)
At the beginning of 1864, the Civil War in the East centered around the Rapidan River, a small stream originating in the Blue Ridge Mountains, flowing east across Northern Virginia, passing between the towns of Culpeper Court House and Orange Court House, and emptying into the Rappahannock River north of Fredericksburg.
Since shortly after the July, 1863, battle of Gettysburg, the Union Army of the Potomac had been stationed near Culpeper Court House, and the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia had been stationed near Orange Court House.
The Rapidan River separated the armies.