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Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Remembering the Battle of the Wilderness - 150 Years Later

This week marks the sesquicentennial anniversary of the Battle of the Wilderness, the inaugural battle of General Ulysses S. Grant's Overland Campaign of 1864. Union General Grant planned his strategy to draw Confederate General Robert E. Lee out of his entrenched position along the Rapidan River onto open ground. On May 5, 1864, both armies met at a heavily wooded area known as the Wilderness, several miles northwest of the Chancellorsville intersection. A two-day battle raged along farmlands and woods, resulting in heavy casualties to both armies.

The Union forces stubbornly and successfully defended the intersection of the Orange Plank and Brock Roads, as loss of this vital crossroads would have divided the Union Army.

The Battle of the Wilderness was considered a brutal stalemate, but General Grant, unlike his predecessors, advanced rather than retreated after the battle. As Grant moved south along the Brock Road toward Spotsylvania his troops saluted him with cheers.

My second great-granduncle Oliver Bates served with the 20th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment at the Wilderness and was stationed with General Winfield S. Hancock's Second Corps in trenches along the Brock Road. The 20th Massachusetts suffered heavy casualties at the Wilderness, and Oliver was very fortunate to have survived this hellish fray. On May 7 he advanced toward Spotsylvania with the 20th Massachusetts.1

For additional information about Oliver Bates and the 20th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment please visit http://20thmassregt150.blogspot.com.

1Compiled service record, Oliver S. Bates, Pvt., Co. A, 20th Massachusetts Infantry; Carded Records, Volunteer Organizations, Civil War; Records of the Adjutant General's Office, 1780s-1917, Record Group 94; National Archives, Washington, D.C.

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