What Happened at the First Battle Between Grant and Lee?

The Military of the Potomac’s passage throughout the Rapidan River in early Might 1864 promised the primary battlefield confrontation between Ulysses S. Grant and Robert E. Lee. The stakes may scarcely have been increased: a Union defeat would possibly effectively result in an armistice and defeat for Abraham Lincoln within the fall presidential elections.

A Fireplace within the Wilderness affords a compelling narrative of the Overland Marketing campaign’s first conflict of arms, characterised by one Union officer as “a ineffective battle, fought with nice loss and no consequence.” Federal casualties, multiple and half instances better than Accomplice losses, supplied numbing proof of Grant’s plan “to hammer repeatedly on the Armed forces of the enemy…till by mere attrition…there needs to be nothing left to him however…submission.”

Reeves skillfully deploys first-person accounts of the frightfully brutal battle. A 12 months earlier, a lot of the combating through the Chancellorsville Marketing campaign had been at shut quarters within the a dense second-growth forest of the Wilderness. Lee knew that confronting Grant right here would neutralize the Union’s benefits of males and matériel.

The combating on Might 5, Reeves argues, proved Lee’s prescience. Union troops, lots of them inexperienced replacements, have been thrust into battle in piecemeal trend, struggling heavy casualties and too typically retreating chaotically. Reeves attributes this counterproductive technique to a excessive command affected by friction between Grant and Maj. Gen. George Gordon Meade, and the ensuing poor communications with their subordinates.

Reeves clearly faults Grant, however depends on the final’s contemporaries to make his case. “It was the start,” wrote a Union workers officer years later, “of a reckless…means of combating battles by hurrying into motion one division, one brigade, or perhaps a single regiment at a time, which characterised each contest from the crossing of the Rapidan to the battle at Chilly Harbor.”

Regardless of the primary day’s misplaced alternatives for the Federals, Reeves suggests, “There was one thing remorseless even in Grant’s errors.” The in a single day hours supplied horrific fires within the heavy underbrush that killed wounded troopers unable to flee.

A Fireplace within the Wilderness: The First Battle Between Ulysses S. Grant and Robert E. Lee
By John Reeves
Pegasus Books, 2021, $28.95

By Might 6, Reeves believes Lee had begun to worry he had underestimated Grant’s relentlessness, and momentarily betrayed his desperation by recklessly deciding to guide a cost by Texas troops. Solely the intercession of his junior officers saved the final from risking his life. The wounding of James Longstreet considerably fortuitously blunted a Accomplice frontal assault that “ought by no means, by no means have been made,” certainly one of Lee’s most loyal workers officers critically famous. “It was losing good troopers whom we couldn’t spare.”

On Might 7, moderately than proceed to assault entrenched Accomplice forces within the Wilderness, Grant sought to outmaneuver Lee with an evening march to Spotsylvania Courtroom Home designed to place his forces between the Insurgent military and Richmond, nevertheless. The try failed: Lee’s military arrived there first, and on Might 12 one of many struggle’s costliest battles—the Bloody Angle—ensued.

All through his e-book, Reeves makes use of private experiences to nice impact; the autumn from grace of Maj. Gen. Gouverneur Okay. Warren, the hero of Little Spherical Prime, is particularly participating. Though the inclusion of maps within the textual content would make clear a complicated combat, their absence detracts little or no from an thrilling, well-written account of the primary conflict between Grant and Lee.

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