From 5 to 6 May in 1864, a dark woodland south of the Rapidan River known as the Wilderness rang with the clamor of battle. The musketry and cheers of the troops of the Confederacy and the Union were deafening as charge gave way to countercharge. Fires erupted which consumed the dead and wounded, filling the air with the stench of burning flesh. The battle of the Wilderness was what many witnesses would describe as "hell on earth."
The Wilderness Campaign depicts the first move of Ulysses S. Grant's offensive for the Confederate capital at Richmond and against Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia. The resulting battle was Grant's first fight in the Eastern theater of the war after President Lincoln gave him command of all the Union armies. It was an engagement that Grant sought to avoid, but wholeheartedly accepted, resulting in one of the bloodiest repulses of the Civil War, with thousands of casualties.
The maneuvers that preceded the confrontation and took place in the awful battle are described in bloody detail through the descriptions of Confederate and Union soldiers who fought there. A detailed accounting of the planning, confused fighting, and the resulting battle chaos gives the reader vivid insights into the darker nature of Civil War combat. The book also includes fascinating sidebars about personalities and units involved, and other interesting topics on the war itself, such as religion in the Southern army, the telegraph, the draft, and the parole and exchange system. Contemporary prints and photographs along with detailed maps offer a complete view of the action.
The Wilderness Campaign by John Cannan provides an essential volume for anyone interested in learning more about the Civil War, how it was waged, and its bloody cost.