CW Book Review: Hell itself: The battle of the Wilderness, May 5-7, 1864.
Hell itself: The battle of the Wilderness, May 5-7, 1864.
By Chris Mackowski.
This volume is a guide for touring the Wilderness battlefield, but it is much more than that. For each stop on the tour, Chris Mackowski provides a detailed account of the present appearance of the site and of what battle action transpired on that location. These accounts, along with the excellent photographs and maps, afford a full overview of the Battle.
On May 4, 1864, Union Generals Ulysses S. Grant and George G. Meade opened the Overland Campaign, which would be the first matchup between Grant and Confederate General Robert E. Lee.
Their hope was to march safely through the Wilderness before Lee could block their path. Lee had other ideas and launched a brutal attack while they were still entangled in the wild, dense, second-growth forest called one of the “waste places of nature.”
Fighting a battle in the Wilderness negated much of the Union army’s numerical superiority. It would also deny the Federals the advantage of having a greater quantity of artillery. Artillery was useless in the tangled underbrush of the Wilderness. There were only a few clearings where cannon could be used effectively.
Maneuverability of troops was also affected. It was impossible to maintain formations. Regiments, and even companies, became hopelessly separated and lost. Visibility was often only a few feet. To make a dreadful scenario worse, fires broke out and wounded men caught between the lines were burned to death.
This is a great book, and I highly recommend it.
Reviewer Robert L Durham.