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Union Flag Carrier U. S. CIVIL WAR
Confederate Flag Carrier

(PAGE 2 OF 12)

Wilderness Map
(Explanation of this Map)


In the spring of 1864, General Ulysses S. Grant was made Lieutenant General, Commander of all of the Union armies, by President Abraham Lincoln.

Grant   44
General Ulysses S. Grant and his appointment as Lieutenant General,
Commander of all United States Armies, by President Abraham Lincoln.

Click HERE to read the Appointment.

Grant attached himself to General George G. Meade's Army of the Potomac.

General George G. Meade 50

Although General Meade was the Army's Commander, the major decisions regarding the Army of the Potomac were made by Grant. This caused Meade considerable embarrassment and frustration which he expressed in his letters home 1 .


To prosecute the Eastern war, Grant planned simultaneous attacks by all Union Armies against the Confederates. This would restrict the Confederates' ability to move troops around in support of each other.

As part of this plan, the Army of the Potomac, with Grant, would move south from Culpeper Court House, traveling east of the Confederate Army, and place itself between Richmond, the Southern Capital, and Lee's Army, which was near Orange Court House at the time.
2 This would force Lee into a fight which Grant felt would destroy the Confederate Army.


By traveling east of the Confederate army, rather than to the west, the Union Army would have shorter supply lines (from the eastern rivers). However, moving east of the Confederate army also meant that the Union army would have to travel through the Wilderness, the same woods and undergrowth that had caused Union General Joseph Hooker so much trouble at Chancellorsville a year earlier.

Hancock 93   Warren 92   Sedgwick 48
General Winfield S. Hancock
Union Second Corps
  General Gouverneur K. Warren
Union Fifth Corps
  General John Sedgwick
Union Sixth Corps


On May 4, the Army of the Potomac entered the Wilderness in two separate columns. General Gouverneur K. Warren's Fifth Corps and General John Sedgwick's Sixth Corps crossed the Rapidan at Germanna Ford (13) and proceeded southeast along the Germanna Road.

      Rapidan Crossing   11
Germanna Ford on the Rapidan River - May, 1864.     (13)
Union Artillery crossing before entering the Wilderness.

Rapidan River
Germanna Ford on the Rapidan River - January, 2001.     (13)
Taken from the modern Route 3 bridge (Old Germanna Road).

General Winfield S. Hancock's Second Corps, most of the Federal Cavalry, and the army supply train, crossed at Ely's Ford, farther to the east (See the Theater of Operations Map). General Ambrose E. Burnside's Ninth Corps stayed back to defend Washington.

By nightfall the Fifth and Sixth Corps were strung out along the Germanna Road and Hancock's Second Corps was at Chancellorsville.

  1. Ernest B. Ferguson - "Not War but Murder - Cold Harbor 1864" pages 23-25.

  2. I don't believe the case has been made that Grant intended to swing right after he crossed the Rapidan and attack Lee's Army near Orange. Where he crossed the Rapidan, how the cavalry was used, and how Grant proceeded after the Wilderness, cause me to lean toward the explanation given here.


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