Reminiscences of the Civil War

By John B. Gordon | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XVII
THE WILDERNESS--BATTLE OF MAY 5

Beginning of the long fight between Grant and Lee--Grant crosses the Rapidan--First contact of the two armies--Ewell's repulse--A rapid countercharge--A strange predicament--The Union centre broken--Unprecedented movement which saved the Confederate troops.

LEE and Grant, the foremost leaders of the opposing armies, were now to begin a campaign which was to be practically a continuous battle for eleven months. Grant had come from his campaigns in the Southwest with the laurels of Fort Donelson, Shiloh, Vicksburg, and Missionary Ridge on his brow. Lee stood before him with a record as military executioner unrivalled by that of any warrior of modern times. He had, at astoundingly short intervals and with unvarying regularity, decapitated or caused the official "taking off" of the five previously selected commanders-in-chief of the great army which confronted him.

A more beautiful day never dawned on Clark's Mountain and the valley of the Rapidan than May 5, 1864. There was not a cloud in the sky, and the broad expanse of meadow-lands on the north side of the little river and the steep wooded hills on the other seemed "apparelled in celestial light" as the sun rose upon them. At an early hour, however, the enchantment of the scene was rudely broken by bugles and kettledrums calling Lee's veterans to strike tents and "fall into line." The ad-

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