Portrait of Ulysses S. Grant

On May 4, 1864, Lieutenant General Ulysses S. Grant (pictured here) launched his Overland Campaign, designed to defeat Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia and bring an end to the American Civil War. [Wikimedia Commons]

Overland Campaign Facts

May 4–June 24, 1864

Key facts about the American Civil War Overland Campaign.

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Also Known As

  • Wilderness Campaign

Date and Location

  • May 4–June 24, 1864
  • Eastern Virginia

Timeline of the Overland Campaign

These are the main battles and events of the Overland Campaign in order.

Principal Union Commanders

Principal Confederate Commanders

Union Forces Engaged

  • Army of the Potomac

Confederate Forces Engaged

  • Army of Northern Virginia

Number of Union Soldiers Engaged

  • Roughly 103,000 – 124,000

Number of Confederate Soldiers Engaged

  • Roughly 60,000 – 65,000

Estimated Union Casualties

  • 54,926 (7,621 killed, 38,339 wounded, 8,966 captured/missing)

Estimated Confederate Casualties

  • 31–35,000 (killed, wounded, captured/missing)

Result

  • Union victory

Significance

  • Although Major General George G. Meade commanded the Army of the Potomac during the Overland Campaign, Lieutenant General Ulysses S. Grant, who was general-in-chief of all Union armies, traveled with the Army of the Potomac and personally directed the campaign.
  • The Overland Campaign was the bloodiest campaign of the American Civil War.
  • Unlike previous Union campaigns in Virginia, which were designed to capture Richmond, the Overland Campaign was designed to destroy the Army of Northern Virginia.
  • Because of the high number of casualties during the Overland Campaign, Lieutenant General Ulysses S. Grant developed a reputation as a “butcher.”
  • The Overland Campaign ended when Grant stopped pursuing Lee’s army and shifted his strategy to capturing the strategically important Southern cities of Petersburg and Richmond, Virginia.
  • The Overland Campaign was a strategic success for the North because: Grant hindered Southern efforts to send reinforcements to halt the scorched earth campaigns of Philip Sheridan in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley and William T. Sherman in Georgia; even though the Federals suffered higher casualties (39,000 to 31,500), the Confederacy was not able to replace their losses as readily as the North; and finally, by threatening Petersburg, and ultimately, Richmond, Grant tied down the Army of Northern Virginia, limiting Lee’s options for the remainder of the war.
  • The Overland Campaign’s high casualty rates and horrific battle conditions shocked war-weary Northerners.
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Citation Information

The following information is provided for citations.

  • Article Title Overland Campaign Facts
  • Coverage May 4–June 24, 1864
  • Author
  • Website Name American History Central
  • Access Date July 27, 2021
  • Publisher R.Squared Communications, LLC
  • Original Published Date
  • Date of Last Update February 25, 2021
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