The Battle of the Wilderness was fought between the United States of America and the Confederate States of America from May 5 to May 7, 1864, during the American Civil War.
- Date Started: The Battle of the Wilderness started on Thursday, May 5, 1864.
- Date Ended: The fighting ended on Saturday, May 7, 1864.
- Location: The battle took place in Spotsylvania and Orange Counties, Virginia.
- Who Won: The outcome of the battle was inconclusive, so there was no clear winner.
- Civil War Campaign: The Battle of Wilderness was part of the Overland Campaign.
This painting depicts fighting during the Battle of the Wilderness. Image Source: Wikipedia.
- Although Major General George Meade commanded the Army of the Potomac at the Battle of the Wilderness, Meade’s superior, Lieutenant General Ulysses S. Grant, accompanied the Union army during the battle and throughout the remainder of the Overland Campaign.
- On May 6, 1864, Confederate soldiers severely wounded General James Longstreet during the Battle of the Wilderness just a few miles from where General Stonewall Jackson’s troops mortally wounded him at the Battle of Chancellorsville a year earlier.
- Although the Federals suffered higher casualties, the Battle of the Wilderness was tactically inconclusive; neither army defeated the other.
- Unlike other Union generals who retreated after suffering high losses in battles near the Wilderness (Ambrose Burnside at Fredericksburg in December 1862 and Joseph Hooker at Chancellorsville in 1863) Grant ordered Meade to disengage, march around the Army of Northern Virginia and forge farther into Southern territory.
Commanders and Forces Involved
Principal Union Ccommanders
Principal Confederate Commanders
- General Robert E. Lee
Union Forces Engaged
- Army of the Potomac
Confederate Forces Engaged
- Army of Northern Virginia
Casualties and Statistics
Number of Union Soldiers Engaged
- Roughly 124,232
Number of Confederate Soldiers Engaged
- Roughly 60 – 65,000
Estimated Union Casualties
- 17,666 (2,246 killed, 12,037 wounded, 3,383 captured/missing)
Estimated Confederate Casualties
- 11,033 (1,477 killed, 7,866 wounded, 1,690 captured/missing)
Results of the Battle of the Wilderness
Despite heavy casualties, Ulysses S. Grant did not retreat, as many Union commanders had done in the past. Instead, he ordered Meade to disengage, march his army around Lee’s forces, and move deeper into Confederate territory, southeast towards Spotsylvania Court House.
Timeline of the Battle of the Wilderness
This list shows the main battles and events that took place before and after the Battle of the Wilderness, and how it fits into the chronological order of the Overland Campaign.
- May 5–7, 1864 — Battle of The Wilderness
- May 8–21 — Battle of Spotsylvania Court House
- May 11 — Battle of Yellow Tavern
- May 23–26 — Battle of North Anna
- May 24 — Battle of Wilson’s Wharf
- May 28 — Battle of Haw’s Shop
- May 28–30 — Battle of Totopotomoy Creek
- May 30 — Battle of Old Church
- May 31–June 12 — Battle of Cold Harbor
- June 11-12 — Battle of Trevilian Station
- June 24 — Battle of Saint Mary’s Church