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I LOVE thee, O thou Beautiful and Strong,
(Their bonds of silence and dim darkness burst,) All my beloved dead, with shining eyes,
At thy blest hand, by starlit paths untrod,
AFTER READING SHAKSPERE.
BLITHE Fancy lightly builds with airy hands
Travels the blue arch and Cimmerian sands,-
Men weigh the moons that flood with eerie light
Charles Edwin Markham.
TODD'S TAVERN IN 1884. (SEE MAP, PAGE 288.)
FROM THE WILDERNESS TO COLD HARBOR.
IN the 2d of May, 1864, a group of officers stood at the Confederate signal station on Clark's Mountain, Virginia, south of the Rapidan, and examined closely through their field glasses the position of the Federal army then lying north of the river in Culpeper county. The central figure of the group was the commander of the Army of Northern Virginia, who had requested his corps and division commanders to meet him there. Though some demonstrations had been made in the direction of the upper fords, General Lee expressed the opinion that the Federal army would cross the river at Germanna or Ely's. Thirty-six hours later General Meade's army, General Grant, now commander-inchief, being with it, commenced its march to the crossings indicated by General Lee.
The Army of the Potomac, which had now commenced its march towards Richmond, was more powerful in numbers than at any previous period of the war. It consisted of three corps: the Second (Hancock's), the Fifth (Warren's), and the Sixth (Sedgwick's); but the Ninth (Burnside's) acted with Meade throughout the campaign. It was thoroughly equipped, and provided with every appliance of modern warfare. On the other hand, the Army of Northern Virginia had gained little in numbers during the winter just passed and had never been so scantily supplied with food and clothing. The equipment as to arms was well enough for men who knew how to use them, but commissary and quartermaster's supplies were lamentably deficient. A new pair of shoes or an overcoat was a luxury, and full rations would have astonished the stomachs of Lee's ragged Confederates. But they took their privations cheerfully, VOL. XXXIV.-39.
and complaints were seldom heard. I recall an instance of one hardy fellow whose trousers were literally "worn to a frazzle," and would no longer adhere to his legs even by dint of the most persistent patching. Unable to buy, beg, or borrow another pair, he wore instead a pair of thin cotton drawers. By nursing these carefully he managed to get through the winter. Before the campaign opened in the spring, the quartermaster received a small lot of clothing, and he was the first man of his regiment to be supplied.
I have often heard expressions of surprise that these ragged, barefooted, half-starved men would fight at all. But the very fact that they remained with their colors through such privations and hardships was sufficient to prove that they would be dangerous foes to encounter upon the line of battle. The morale of the army at this time was excellent, and it moved forward confidently to the grim deathgrapple in the wilderness of Spotsylvania with its old enemy, the Army of the Potomac.
General Lee's headquarters were at Orange Court House; of his three corps, Longstreet's was at Gordonsville, Ewell's was on the Rapidan, above Mine Run, and Hill's on his
THE ARMY OF THE POTOMAC CROSSING THE RAPIDAN AT GERMANNA FORD, MAY 4TH, 1864. (BY EDWIN FORBES, AFTER HIS SKETCH MADE AT THE TIME.)
by General Grant led entirely around the right of Lee's position on the river above. His passage of the Rapidan was unopposed, and he struck boldly out on the direct road to Richmond. Two roads lead from Orange Court House down the Rapidan towards Fredericksburg. They follow the general direction of the river, and are almost parallel to each other, the "Old turnpike" nearest the river, and the "Plank road" a short distance south of it. The route of the Federal army lay directly across these two roads, along the western borders of the famous Wilderness. About noon on the 4th of May Ewell's corps was put in motion on the Orange turnpike, while A. P. Hill, with two divisions, moved parallel with him on the Orange Plank road. The two divisions of Longstreet's corps, encamped near Gordonsville, were ordered to move rapidly across the country and follow Hill on the Plank road. Ewell's corps was the first to find itself in the presence of the enemy. As it advanced along the turnpike on the morning of the 5th, the Federal column was seen crossing it from the direction of Germanna Ford. Ewell promptly formed line of battle
the firing in its front, and not to bring on a general engagement until Longstreet should come up. The position of Ewell's troops, so near the flank of the Federal line of march, was anything but favorable to a preservation of the peace, and a collision soon occurred which opened the campaign in earnest.
BATTLES IN THE WILDERNESS.
GENERAL WARREN, whose corps was passing when Ewell came up, halted, and turning to the right made a vigorous attack upon Edward Johnson's division, posted across the turnpike. J. M. Jones's brigade, which held the road, was driven back in confusion. Steuart's brigade was pushed forward to take its place. Rodes's division was thrown in on Johnson's right, south of the road, and the line, thus reëstablished, moved forward, reversed the tide of battle, and rolled back the Federal attack. The fighting was severe and bloody while it lasted. The lines were in such proximity at one point in the woods that when the Federal troops gave way, the 146th New York regiment threw down its arms and surrendered in a body.
nightfall. The Confederates still clung to their hold on the Federal flank against every effort to dislodge them.
When Warren's corps encountered the head of Ewell's column on the 5th of May, General Meade is reported to have said: "They have left a division to fool us here, while they concentrate and prepare a position on the North Anna." If the stubborn resistance to Warren's attack did not at once convince him of his mistake, the firing which announced the approach of Hill's corps along the Plank road, very soon afterwards, must have opened his eyes to the bold strategy of the Confederate commander. General Lee had deliberately chosen this as his battle-ground. He knew this tangled wilderness well, and appreciated fully the advantages such a field afforded for concealing his great inferiority of force and for neutralizing the superior strength of his antagonist. General Grant's bold movement across the lower fords into the Wilderness, in the exe
Soon after Ewell became engaged on the Old turnpike, A. P. Hill's advance struck the Federal outposts on the Plank road at Parker's store, on the outskirts of the Wilderness. These were driven in and followed up to their line of battle, which was so posted as to cover the junction of the Plank road with the Stevensburg and Brock roads, on which the Federal army was moving toward Spotsylvania. The fight began between Getty's division of the Sixth Corps and Heth's division, which was leading A. P. Hill's column. Hancock's corps, which was already on the march for Spotsylvania by way of Chancellorsville, was at once recalled, and at 4 o'clock in the afternoon was ordered to drive Hill "out of the Wilderness." Wilcox's division was thrown in to Heth's support, and Poague's battalion of artillery took position in a little clearing on the north side of the Plank road, in rear of the Confederate infantry. But there was little use for artillery on such a field. After the battle was