General Lee's prophecy fulfilled -- Handcock's assault on May 12 -- One of his greatest achievements -- General Lee to the head of the column -- Turned back by his own men -- Hancock repulsed -- The most remarkable battle of the war -- Heroism on both sides
THE first battles in the Wilderness were the grim heralds of those that were to follow, and both armies knew it. These experienced soldiers were too intelligent not to understand that a campaign was now inaugurated which was to end in the practical destruction of one army or the other. The conditions around them were not greatly changed by the change of locality. They were still in the woods, but these were less dense and were broken by fields and open spaces in which there was room for manœuvre and the more effective handling of artillery.
The meeting of the advance-guards at Spottsylvania was the fulfilment to the letter of Lee's remarkable prophecy. As the heads of the columns collided, the armies quickly spread into zigzag formation as each brigade, division, or corps struck its counterpart in the opposing lines. These haphazard collisions, however, rapidly developed a more orderly alignment and systematic battle, which culminated in that unparalleled struggle for the possession of a short line of Lee's breastworks. I say unparalleled, because the character of the