Battle Of The Wilderness: Top 10 Cool Facts

Looking back on my school days, I was especially fond of American history. Wars and battles were always at the top of the list. I did have some amazing teachers in regards to history, but there is so much to cover with so little time.

We learned about the United States Civil War, but not much on particular battles. There were so many that it would take years to cover them all and still get math, science and all other classes that didn’t hold my interest as much as history.

I have been looking closer at Civil War battles and today I am going to give you 10 cool facts about the Battle of the Wilderness. This was rightfully named because it was fought in the wilderness.

Here are the facts:

#1: When?

This Battle was fought from May 5th to May 7th, 1864.

#2: Where?

It was fought in the dense wilderness of Spotsylvania and Orange counties in Virginia. This whole area is now a part of the Washington D.C. metro area.

#3: The Overland Campaign

In an effort to obliterate the Confederate forces, President Abraham Lincoln and Secretary of War Edwin Stanton promoted Ulysses Grant to Lieutenant General and gave him command of all Union forces. They then planned what is known as the Overland Campaign which would be a strategy to attack Confederates on many fronts.

Grant’s idea would be a War of Attrition because he knew the Union could restock soldiers and supplies easier than the South could.

Grant’s first battle after promotion would be the Battle of the Wilderness.

#4: No Winner

In the Battle of the Wilderness, there was no absolute winner. At the end, casualties and losses amounted to

  • Over 17,500 Union
  • Over 11,000 Confederates

#5: Generals Killed

In total, there were 5 military Generals killed during this Battle:


  • James Wadsworth
  • Alexander Hays


  • John Jones
  • Micah Jenkins
  • Leroy Stafford

#6: Not Since George Washington

It was quite an honor for Ulysses Grant to be promoted to Lieutenant General; the last United States military hero to achieve that rank was George Washington.

#7: Command

This Battle held several commanders… As I said, the overall Command of the Union forces was Ulysses Grant but he had Major General George Meade commanding the Federal Army of the Potomac, and Major General Ambrose Burnside commanding the 9th Army Corps.

The entire Confederate command was under General Robert E. Lee.

#8: How Grant Gained More From His Soldiers

We often talk about leading from the front and Lieutenant General Ulysses Grant was a perfect example.

While most leaders in his position would have headquartered in Washington and ordered inferior leaders, Grant’s headquarters were out in the field with the Army of the Potomac.

Because of this, he was respected as a leader from the front.

#9: Friendly Fire

The Battle of the Wilderness was chaotic at best. The brush was so thick that a gunshot could start a fire. Smoke billowed and shots were fired blindly.

Some estimates say up to 30% of killed and wounded were results of friendly fire.

#10: In Television. Books and More

The Battle of the Wilderness has been the setting in various entertainment:

  • In the 1982 miniseries called The Blue And The Gray
  • The book, The Guns of the South dramatized a Confederate victory and the capture of Washington.
  • In 1964, the U.S. Post Office issued a Battle of the Wilderness Commemorative stamp.
  • The 2003 movie Wicked Spring was set during the Battle.

Final Thoughts

As I stated earlier, there was no clear victory, but General Grant moved his troops forward to the next battle at Spotsylvania Court House.

General Lee backed off to keep defense of Richmond.

While there were many deaths in the whole Civil War, the attrition strategy did come into play in the end.

This battle carried many other strategies within it that military leaders still examine to this day.

Do you have any thoughts or questions? Please post them below. Thank you for visiting and have a great day!

chuck holmes

Chuck Holmes
Former Army Major (resigned)

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