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The Battle of the Wilderness - Gordon Rhea - Civil War Books - Civil War Entertainment: Books, Movies, Music & Art - Civil War Interactive Discussion Board
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 Posted: Thu Nov 8th, 2012 01:31 pm
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BHR62
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Just finished this book.  It was a very good read.  You definitely get a good feel for what the soldiers experienced during this battle.  I knew beforehand it was a mess but didn't realize how much of a mess the battle was until I read this book.  The Union forces being fed one by one into the battle really turned this into a bloodbath.  Grant and Meade really jacked up things by not going in when they had all their forces together.  Major blunder there.  I had ancestors at this battle on the Confederate side and it was pretty interesting reading about their brigades and regimental movements during this battle. 

Amazes me that the Union army survived two devastating flank attacks and still stood its ground at the end of two days fighting.  The gallantry of both sides is well communicated in this book.  It made me respect both armies even more after reading this book.

Anyway if anyone is interested in this battle this is a very good book.

Last edited on Thu Nov 8th, 2012 01:32 pm by BHR62



 Posted: Fri Nov 9th, 2012 02:10 am
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sgtredleg
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The Wilderness is one of my favorite battles but I'm not as informed as I should be. I will have to consider this book. One of my favorite what-ifs: What would have happened to the Union left flank if General Longstreet would not have fallen. Would it have been another 2nd Manassas? If I recall correctly General Hancock made a statement along the lines of: "you rolled us up like a wet blanket". And that was without General Longstreet's follow-through!



 Posted: Fri Nov 9th, 2012 02:36 am
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BHR62
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You would definitely like this book. Its a wonder anybody survived that battle. Longstreet getting wounded was a big factor in the flank attack stalling. But the Confederate regiments were getting mixed amongst themselves and had to be straightened out. Plus someone had to take over command so time was lost. It gave Hancock valuable time to organize a defense. I had always thought the battle was a draw....but after reading the book almost have to say it was a Confederate win. The norths manpower advantage was negated by the terrain. Then Meade sending units in one at a time just added to the body count.



 Posted: Fri Nov 9th, 2012 09:35 am
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Hellcat
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Wasn't there something about Lee hearing that Longstreet had been injured and was afraid he might be dead then after the battle he ordered him never to be that close again?



 Posted: Fri Nov 9th, 2012 11:19 pm
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sgtredleg
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Hellcat said:
Wasn't there something about Lee hearing that Longstreet had been injured and was afraid he might be dead then after the battle he ordered him never to be that close again?

I've got to go back into my books, but I do believe you are very close on your assessment!



 Posted: Sat Nov 10th, 2012 12:26 pm
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Mark
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Sounds like an apocryphal story to me since Lee himself was up in Longstreet's front lines at the Wilderness. I'll be interested to see if someone can show that it is true. In any case, it is not mentioned in Longstreet's memoirs.

Mark



 Posted: Sat Nov 10th, 2012 06:18 pm
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JG6789
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BHR62 wrote: Grant and Meade really jacked up things by not going in when they had all their forces together.  Major blunder there.

 

What do you mean by this?



 Posted: Sat Nov 10th, 2012 06:33 pm
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JG6789
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BHR62 wrote: Amazes me that the Union army survived two devastating flank attacks and still stood its ground at the end of two days fighting. 

 

I disagree that either flanking attack—especially Gordon’s—was especially “devastating”.  The very fact that the Federal army not only (as you write) survived them, but was essentially unmoved by them is evidence enough, I think. 



 Posted: Sun Nov 11th, 2012 01:55 am
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BHR62
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JG6789 wrote: BHR62 wrote: Amazes me that the Union army survived two devastating flank attacks and still stood its ground at the end of two days fighting. 

 

I disagree that either flanking attack—especially Gordon’s—was especially “devastating”.  The very fact that the Federal army not only (as you write) survived them, but was essentially unmoved by them is evidence enough, I think. 


Longstreet's flank attack rolled them up in Hancock's words...like a wet blanket.  Regiment after regiment folded up and retreated to the rear. The attack was rolling along pretty nicely.  It wasn't until Longstreet was nearly killed, by his own men, that the attack lost its drive.  

Gordon's attack...Sedgewicks Corps had been depleted of reserves to help Hancock....Ewell had shelled them most of the day causing significant casualties. The Union right flank collapsed pretty easy when Gordon attacked.   Nightfall combined with stiffening Union resistance finally stopped the advance.  But only after significant gains. 

Grant was stressed enough to where he went into his tent and let out his emotions.  I view this as a pretty close call.  Only the Confederates shooting Longstreet and Gordon's attack starting so late saved the army.

 



 Posted: Sun Nov 11th, 2012 05:23 am
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JG6789
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BHR62 wrote: Longstreet's flank attack rolled them up in Hancock's words...like a wet blanket.  Regiment after regiment folded up and retreated to the rear. The attack was rolling along pretty nicely.


 

Yes, Longstreet's attack was successful at breaking Hancock's assault on Hill.  It doesn't matter what might or might not have happened had Longstreet not been shot.  He was shot, and the attack ended with the Federals behind their breastworks where they had been the day before.  Far from "devastating".

Last edited on Sun Nov 11th, 2012 05:42 am by JG6789



 Posted: Sun Nov 11th, 2012 05:30 am
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JG6789
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BHR62 wrote: Gordon's attack...Sedgewicks Corps had been depleted of reserves to help Hancock....Ewell had shelled them most of the day causing significant casualties. The Union right flank collapsed pretty easy when Gordon attacked.   Nightfall combined with stiffening Union resistance finally stopped the advance.  But only after significant gains. 

 

That's what Gordon said.  Jubal Early, on the other hand, thought darkness saved the Confederates: "It was fortunate, however, that darkness came to close this affair, as the enemy, if he had been able to discover the disorder on our side, might have brought up fresh troops and availed himself of our condition."  Federal officers wrote essentially the same thing.



 Posted: Sun Nov 11th, 2012 05:31 am
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JG6789
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BHR62 wrote: Grant was stressed enough to where he went into his tent and let out his emotions. 
 

This is a myth.



 Posted: Sun Nov 11th, 2012 10:49 am
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BHR62
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When Longstreet was leading the attack it was rolling up Hancocks Corps. One Union regiment after another broke and ran for the rear. Union officers were unable to rally their men for an organized defense. Longstreet getting wounded along with the Confederate regiments getting intermingled caused the drive to stall. That gave Hancock time to rally the troops and form a defensive line while the Confederates got things sorted out. Thats what saved the Union left flank.  I consider the attack devastating. They had to stop their attacks on Hill and then run for their lives for the most part.

Early was against Gordons flank attack on the Union right due to not knowing where Burnsides IX Corps was at. Him and Ewell feared his attack would put him in danger of being flanked. So they didn't approve Gordons idea all day long. Gordon and Early didnt think much of each other. In the post-war period Gordon claimed that Lee intervened and ordered it to happen. When launched the Union right flank folded up like a house of cards. Mass panic hit the Union army and again officers were unable to rally their men. The onset of darkness ad Union brigades stiffening resistance brought it to a halt.

The SHTF big time and very nearly collapsed both flanks.  The Union army had some luck on their side in that those attacks didn't do more damage than what they did. 

Last edited on Sun Nov 11th, 2012 11:27 am by BHR62



 Posted: Sun Nov 11th, 2012 03:53 pm
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JG6789
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BHR62 wrote: When Longstreet was leading the attack it was rolling up Hancocks Corps. One Union regiment after another broke and ran for the rear. Union officers were unable to rally their men for an organized defense. Longstreet getting wounded along with the Confederate regiments getting intermingled caused the drive to stall. That gave Hancock time to rally the troops and form a defensive line while the Confederates got things sorted out. Thats what saved the Union left flank.  I consider the attack devastating. They had to stop their attacks on Hill and then run for their lives for the most part.

Early was against Gordons flank attack on the Union right due to not knowing where Burnsides IX Corps was at. Him and Ewell feared his attack would put him in danger of being flanked. So they didn't approve Gordons idea all day long. Gordon and Early didnt think much of each other. In the post-war period Gordon claimed that Lee intervened and ordered it to happen. When launched the Union right flank folded up like a house of cards. Mass panic hit the Union army and again officers were unable to rally their men. The onset of darkness ad Union brigades stiffening resistance brought it to a halt.

The SHTF big time and very nearly collapsed both flanks.  The Union army had some luck on their side in that those attacks didn't do more damage than what they did. 


 

You basically just repeated yourself. It doesn't matter what caused Longstreet's attack to stall. It stalled. And when the fighting ended the Federals were where they had been the afternoon before. Same with Gordon's attack. It's a moot point whether darkness or something else stopped it. Neither attack ended up being devastating.  

Last edited on Sun Nov 11th, 2012 05:58 pm by JG6789



 Posted: Sun Nov 11th, 2012 09:23 pm
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BHR62
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I guess we just have different opinions of what is devastating then.....



 Posted: Sun Nov 11th, 2012 10:36 pm
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JG6789
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BHR62 wrote: I guess we just have different opinions of what is devastating then.....

I guess so.  Admittedly it’s a semantic distinction, but I don’t consider either attack to be “devastating” because neither seriously threatened the Army of the Potomac, and neither significantly impacted the outcome of the battle.  A better case can be made for Longstreet’s, but only in the negative sense that it saved the Army of Northern Virginia from collapse, and reversed Hancock’s morning gains.  As for Gordon’s, it briefly created some excitement, but was not, and could not have been, a serious threat.  Neither Meade nor Grant considered it so, and they were entirely correct.      



 Posted: Mon Nov 12th, 2012 05:44 am
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sgtredleg
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Interesting.
Was Bull Run, 2nd Manasass, Fredericksburg, Gettysburg, The Mule Shoe or Cold Harbor devastating? Arguments could be made either way.
My guess would be yes and no depending on your perspective.



 Posted: Mon Nov 12th, 2012 03:03 pm
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JG6789
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sgtredleg wrote: Interesting.
Was Bull Run, 2nd Manasass, Fredericksburg, Gettysburg, The Mule Shoe or Cold Harbor devastating? Arguments could be made either way.
My guess would be yes and no depending on your perspective.


 

Well, as I say, it’s a semantic argument, so I suspect you are probably right about that.  Keeping focus on the Wilderness, I would turn the question around.  If Lee’s flanking movements were so “devastating”, what did they devastate?  Certainly not the Army of the Potomac.  Heck, they didn’t even allow Lee to snatch the initiative away from Grant and Meade.



 Posted: Mon Nov 12th, 2012 03:29 pm
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HankC
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Longstreet was wounded *because* the attack was already stalling and confused.

between the union resistance and the flaming forest, CS units already halted, or facing and moving in odd directions.

as during most of this battle in the woods, it was 'every unit for itself' and sometimes not even that well organized...



 Posted: Wed Nov 14th, 2012 08:08 am
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elrichbach
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I read part of the book and it was great. I love it and really want to finish reading.



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