The Civil War, Day by Day

The High Water Mark (detail)

Battle of the Wilderness Begins

The previous day, General George Meade’s Army of the Potomac had crossed the Rapidan River with 122,000 men, aiming to defeat Lee’s troops in Richmond. Lee, with only 66,000 starving, bedraggled men, directed his troops to a desolate area of the underbrush in northern Virginia which was known as the Wilderness. Lee chose this strategy because he knew that the North would have no safety in numbers on this treacherous terrain.

The ensuing battle, according to one veteran, was one of “invisibles with invisibles.” The thick smoke of the gunfire and burning thickets made it virtually impossible to see one’s enemy. Neat battle lines were quickly broken, as both sides soon faced in all directions in a maelstrom of confusion. Men fought at near point-blank range, while the wounded perished in flaming underbrush. One Northern soldier commented that the battle sounded like “the noisy boiling of some hell-cauldron.” By nighttime, most of the survivors lay quiet and exhausted in the dark, wooded area. Neither side had experienced heavy losses, and very little had been gained. Yet the battle was an ingeniously planned deterrent to Grant’s impending siege of Richmond…an opportunity for the Confederates to buy time until their inevitable defeat.

Mort Künstler painted this dramatic battle scene, a detail from The High Water Mark, which typifies the fighting which took place at the Battle of the Wilderness.

May's Archived Features:

Sunday May 1, 2022
Monday May 2, 2022
Tuesday May 3, 2022
Wednesday May 4, 2022
Thursday May 5, 2022
Friday May 6, 2022
Saturday May 7, 2022
Sunday May 8, 2022
Monday May 9, 2022
Tuesday May 10, 2022
Wednesday May 11, 2022
Thursday May 12, 2022
Friday May 13, 2022
Saturday May 14, 2022
Sunday May 15, 2022
Monday May 16, 2022
Tuesday May 17, 2022
Wednesday May 18, 2022
Thursday May 19, 2022
Friday May 20, 2022
Saturday May 21, 2022
Sunday May 22, 2022
Monday May 23, 2022
Tuesday May 24, 2022
Wednesday May 25, 2022
Thursday May 26, 2022
Friday May 27, 2022



All illustrations by Mort Künstler. Text by Michael Aubrecht, Dee Brown, Henry Steele Commager, Rod Gragg, Mort Künstler, Edward Lengel, James McPherson, and James I. Robertson, Jr. - Copyright © 2001-2019. All Rights Reserved. No part of the contents of this web site may be reproduced or utilized in any form by any means without written consent of the artist.