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BATTLE OF THE WILDERNESS.*
FIELD OF THE BATTE OF THE NY,
THE works occupied by Lee's army on the Rapidan extended on the right three miles below Raccoon ford. Ewell's corps and Hill's lay behind those defences, and stretched out on each side of Orange Court-house, along a line of twenty miles. Longstreet, having returned from Eastern Tennessee, occupied the country around Gordonsville, thirteen miles southwest of the position on the Rapidan. Such had been the disposition of the army of Northern Virginia during the latter part of April.
Grant, having declined to assail Lee's front, determined to turn it by a movement on that officer's right. He marched eastwardly from his cantonments in the country of Culpepper; and, having reached that river seven miles lower down, at Germania ford, and also seven miles still lower down, at Ely's ford, crossed the Rapidan. The campaign in Northern Virginia, fraught, as it was, with the fate of the Confederate States and the United States, took thus its initial form on the 3d of May.
From Orange Court-house two roads the turnpike and the plank road-run on a line somewhat north of east to Fredericksburg. Those two routes are in general parallel. The plank road consists of one track of worn planking, and another of earth; its course, very irregular, vibrates in and out on the south side of the generally straight line, known as the turnpike. A plank way runs from Culpepper Court-house to Germania ford. Extending south-easterly, it crosses the turnpike; and after a route of four or five miles beyond that, terminates on the Orange and Fredericksburg plank-road. Beside these main lines several others traverse the country around the
* We insert here the London Herald correspondent's account of the Battle of the Wilderness.
battle-field of the Wilderness-some pursuing a course parallel with these, some crossing them more or less transverely.
Grant's columns advanced from the Rapidan on the 3d of May. That which marched from Ely's ford followed an earthen way, leading to the junction of the Orange and Fredericksburg plank-road with the plank-road extending from Culpepper Court-house, by way of Germania ford; while the other column moved down the latter route to the same point. That junction once gained, not only had the position of Lee on the Rapidan been turned, but several roads to Richmond. would have been laid open.
Ewell's corps having been encamped on Lee's right, moved eastwardly on the 4th. A few of his brigades remained behind for a day guarding some of the fords across the Rapidan. Johnson's division, having the advance, followed the turnpike, and encamped for the night within three miles of a stream flowing northwardly-Wilderness Run; Rodes, next in the order of march, lay in his rear along the same route; and Early, who had moved from Ewell's left at Sumerville ford, encamped for the night a little behind Locust Grove. The Second corps had thus reached, on the night of the 4th, a position from which it stood ready to strike on the following morning the flank of Grant's column of advance.
Johnson moved with his division at the head of Ewell's corps on the 5th. Having thrown skirmishers out into the woods on either side of the turnpike he discovered those of the enemy at about six o'clock in the morning. The musketry on each side deepening, he pressed forward with General J. M. Jones's brigade to gain a hill in his front; and having, after a brief struggle, driven back a heavy line of sharpshooters from that position, proceeded to form his troops in line of battle.
The thicket on all sides of the two armies excluded the use of artillery, save only for the width of the turnpike. Jones's brigade had been formed but a moment across that road when the enemy advanced in what of order is practicable in a tangled forest. He approached with a heavy line of skirmishers, followed by a solid column extending across the whole of Lee's front, four lines deep. Stewart's and Stafford's brigades proceeded to form rapidly on Jones's left. To guard
against the danger of an overlapping breadth of attack, the brigade of General Walker, which, having nursed the genius of Jackson, is known as the "Stonewall," formed at some distance from Stafford's left flank, covering it by a front at right angles to that officer's line. In this position the division of General Edward Johnson, of Ewell's corps, stood on the morning of the 5th to receive the enemy's onslaught.
Johnson's skirmishers were driven in. Those of the enemy took position in the advancing column. The Fifth corps of the Federal army, accompanied by two pieces of artillery, that came thundering along the turnpike, assailed the Confederate line at the intersection of that road. Receiving, as it advanced, a terrible fusilade without any sign of wavering, the rear ranks pressing forward those of the front, the attacking masses delivered from a forest of rifles a fast and furious fire upon Johnson's line. Closing in upon it with great spirit in front, and threatening to envelop it on its right, they succeeded, after a brief struggle, in forcing back part of the brigade that had been formed across the turnpike—that of General J. M. Jones. Two of his regiments-the Twenty-first Virginia, commanded by Colonel Witcher, and the Twentyfifth by Colonel Higginbotham-holding their ground resolutely. Jones strove in desperation to rally his broken troops. Threatening, entreating, shaming, were of no avail in arresting their disordered flight; and as he saw his men rushing from the field in hopeless confusion he fell from his saddle a bleeding corpse. Captain Early, of his staff, unwilling to desert him, had but a few moments previously wheeled his horse from its retreat; but only to share with his gallant chief, while in the act, the same red burial.
Stewart moved from his position in the line of battle to close the gap left in it by the brigade of Jones. As the Federal masses poured through, his men rushed forward with a cheer; and, driving them back by the impetus of his charge, captured their guns.
Almost simultaneous with the first signs of weakness in Jones's line, Daniel's brigade of North Carolinians, and Gordon's brigade of Georgians, both of Rodes' division, were placed rapidly in line upon the right. Ordered immediately afterward by General Ewell to charge, Gordon, holding com
mand of the movement, crushed through the enemy's first lines and captured as he went forward a whole regiment, men, officers, and colors. Driving onward furiously he struck back the Federal front in confusion upon its supports; and scattering both like leaves before a storm, forced them off the field in utter route for a mile and a half. His front thus cleared, Gordon found the enemy's lines firm on both of his wings. Dividing his men into two bodies he formed them at right angles to the lines of his original advance, and sending them both forward back to back, took the masses on his right and on his left in flank. Pressing on them so energetically as to have prevented their formation across either of his lines of movement, he swept them in disorder from the Confederate front for a width of a mile.
At the moment of Gordon's brilliant charge the enemy attacked the brigade of General Stafford. A deadly conflict on that part of the field raged for some time doubtfully. The marksmanship of Stafford's Louisianians, however, shot truly to the buckles of the Federal belts, and strewed the field with death and agony. Reeling under its deliberate fire, the enemy finally fled, marking his route with his killed and wounded, and adding to his other disasters the loss of six hundred prisoners. In this repulse, however, the Confederates have to mourn the loss of Brigadier-general Stafford. He fell mortally wounded. He had been a planter of Louisiana; but having gone through most of the battles in Northern Virginia, had become an excellent officer, and was not more beloved by his men for his gentleness than he was admired by them for his daring.
Soon after the onslaught upon the Confederate front the Sixth corps of the Federal army advanced upon its left flank. Coming up at right angles to the line of movement of the Fifth corps, its skirmishers were encountered by those thrown out in anticipation of attack in that direction, from the Stonewall brigade. Sedgwick, commanding this movement on Johnson's flank, soon afterward threw the whole weight of his dense column upon those stout souls; but, though threatening to envelop it on the left, failed to force back the men who had learned heroic constancy from Jackson. Sorely pressed, however, Pegram's Virginians and Hays' Louisianians deployed rapidly on their left. Charging immediately upon the Federal
right, those fresh troops drove it back. The furious onslaught of Hays' men did not expend itself until they had forced the enemy to retreat in confusion for nearly a mile. In advance of all others on that face of the attack, these splendid troops, having left nearly one-third of their number on the field, fell back with Pegram's gallant men to the general line of battle.
The enemy routed with great slaughter from all points of his advance, Ewell proceeded to select ground for the morrow's battle. Assisted by General Smith, of the engineers, he reviewed his position, and proceeded at once to cover his front with a line of fieldworks and an abattis of felled trees. Skirmishing continued murderously outside the lines. Immediately before the close of the evening, the skirmishers of General Pegram, on Johnson's left, came running in, and soon afterwards his sharpshooters sprang back from their rifle-pits in his immediate front. A column, three lines deep, moved upon him from the depths of the forest, and, firing heavily as they came on, pressed towards his works furiously. His staunch Virginians, however, met the attack resolutely, and, covered partially by their works, hurled volley after volley in withering blasts, breast high, into its serried ranks.
The Moloch of the North had, however, not yet been sated. In five lines a column renewed the attack after nightfall; but did so without other result than to increase terribly the hundreds of men that, dead or dying outside the Confederate works, lay weltering in their gore. Pegram fell in this last attack severely wounded. The repulse which he guided as he fell, closed the work of war for the day on the left, and witnessed the Confederates still in possession of their improved position and advanced lines.
Hill was ordered to march, on the 4th, from Lee's left. Anderson's division remained behind for the time to guard some fords in its front; Heth, followed by Wilcox, moved eastwardly, through Orange Court-house, along the Fredericksburg plank-road. The divisions of these two officers bivouacked for the night near Verdiersville. Heth in advance, they resumed their march on the following day, still pursuing the line of the plank-road.
The ring of small arms on the right announced, in the course