THE BATTLE OF THE WILDERNESS, MAY 5-6, 1864 by Gordon C. Rhea


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 In a meticulous, exhaustive, yet highly readable account, Thomas has done for the Battle of the Wilderness what others have done for Gettysburg, Antietam, and other Civil War battles. Rhea, an attorney and Civil War buff, gives clear historical treatment to one of the major engagements of the Civil War, the first important battle directed by Ulysses S. Grant after his appointment as general-in-chief of the Federal army. In the tangled, thicketed Virginia forest region south of the Rapidan River, Grant's force of approximately 120,000 was opposed by 65,000 men under the command of Robert E. Lee. The Union push was to be the beginning of Grant's campaign to capture Richmond, the Confederate capital. Though his army outnumbered Lee's by almost two to one, Grant met with stiff resistance, and the dense woods made fighting almost impossible. In the end, after both sides suffered heavy casualties, the battle was indecisive. Rhea views the engagement in the context of the increasingly desperate Southern situation in mid-1864 as resources became ever more scarce. He also relates the story of an important, little-known precursor to the battle: a disastrous foray by Federal troops against entrenched Confederates at Morton's Ford on the Rapidan in February of the same year. His narrative brings to life not only Grant, Lee, and James Longstreet, but also lesser known figures like ``Brains'' Halleck (Grant's predecessor as commander) and Gen. John Sedgwick (who commanded the 8th Pennsylvania Cavalry in the Wilderness and had previously, against his better judgment, commanded the attack at Morton's Ford). An extremely helpful appendix contains the complete order of battle for both sides. All future accounts of the battle will be measured against this work. Scholars and buffs alike will find the volume enthralling. (History Book Club main selection)

Pub Date: July 1st, 1994
ISBN: 0-8071-1873-7
Page count: 500pp
Publisher: Louisiana State Univ.
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1st, 1994


FictionWILDERNESS by Lance Weller
by Lance Weller