The Battle of the Wilderness was fought May 5-7 1864 in the course of the Civil War. The battle was one of the bloodiest battles of the Civil War that had a considerable impact on the Virginia campaign and further development of the Civil War. At the same time, the battle ended in disengagement, which did not bring any clear results for either party, Grant’s army from the Union Part and Lee’s army from the Confederate part. Instead, fighting had to carry on but the battle influenced the balance of power in the region and marked the beginning of Southerners’ retreat and advancement of the Union army.
Political, economic and social considerations of the battle
In fact, the Battle of the Wilderness had a number of political, economic and social considerations. The political consideration of the battle was grounded on the appointment of Grant as the new commander in chief of the Eastern Union army. He needed to win the battle and to push Southerners Southward to prove his ability to bring Union troops to success. Lee attempted to enhance the position of Southerners and to carry on offense Northward (Power, 192). For Lee and Southerners, the battle could allow maintaining control over the occupied land and creating the ground for the further expansion. In such a way, Southerners could demonstrate their supremacy and ability to defeat the North.
Economically, the Battle of the Wilderness allowed the Union to regain control over its territory occupied by Lee’s army that advanced Northwest before the battle (Gallagher, 310). In such a way, the Union could maintain the stable army supply and control over its territory to get better resources to carry on the war. Southerners attempted to take the control over strategically important parts of the Union and undermine Union’s supply and infrastructure.
Socially, the battle was supposed to regain confidence of the Union army in its ability to resist Southerners and to win the war, whereas Southerners expected to defeat Grant’s army that would open the way for the further military expansion Northwest that would demoralize the Union army (Frassanito, 169). In such a way, the outcome of the battle would affect consistently the morale of both armies. Depending on the outcome, the winning party would enhance its morale.
The purpose of the battle
The battle had multiple purposes. To put it more precisely, Grant attempted to attack Lee’s army from three directions and the first was the attack from Meade. In such a way, he attempted to push Confederates Southward and to win the Virginia campaign. In a short-run perspective, Grant’s plan was to cross the Rapidan River east of the Confederate position at Orange Court House, before swinging west to engage the enemy. In such a way, the battle was a part of the attack on the Confederate from three directions to defeat them in Virginia.
Lee attempted to enhance the position of his army and advance Northwest or, at the least, to maintain its position. In such a way, Lee would strengthen the position of Confederates in the North. Moreover, he could attempt to make a breakthrough to penetrate further Northward and to defeat the Union army in Virginia that would open the way for the further expansion of the South.
The influence of the outcome of the battle on the campaign
The battle ended up in disengagement but Grant elected to move around Lee’s right flank towards Spotsylvania Court House, where the fighting would continue and where another bloody battle would occur (Lyman, 242). Even though the battle ended in disengagement, Northerners were quite optimistic for they did not retreat and engaged Southerners, who were on the occupied land in a long and exhausting fighting that would undermine their position in Virginia.
The influence of the battle on the course of the Civil War
The Battle of the Wilderness was the first bloody battle, when Union soldiers turned South to leave the battlefield instead of retreating as they did before. Therefore, the battle was the first significant battle, when Union soldiers felt their ability to defeat Confederate troops and to win the Civil War. In such a way, the Union army had proved to be able to push Lee’s army back and conduct its offense effectively.
Thus, taking into account all above mentioned, it is important to place emphasis on the fact that the Battle of Wilderness was an important event in the development of the Civil War that influenced the outcome of the Virginia campaign and the war at large.
Frassanito, William A. Grant and Lee: The Virginia Campaigns 1864–1865. New York: Scribner, 1983.
Gallagher, Gary W., ed. The Wilderness Campaign. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1997.
Lyman, Theodore. With Grant and Meade: From the Wilderness to Appomattox. Edited by George R. Agassiz. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1994.
Power, J. Tracy. Lee’s Miserables: Life in the Army of Northern Virginia from the Wilderness to Appomattox. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1998.