Near Locust Grove in Orange County, Virginia — The American South (Mid-Atlantic)
Collision of Giants
Wilderness Exhibit Shelter
—North Wall —
By 1864 the war had become not just a clash of armies, but of ideas. To be resolved on the fields of Virginia and Georgia that year was not only the fate of the Union, but also the fate of Southern society. The armies on both sides took to the task with unprecedented fury.
"...We should neglect no honorable means of dividing and weakening our enemies...It seems to me that the most effectual mode of accomplishing this object...is to give all the encouragement we can, consistently with the truth, to the rising peace party of the North."
Robert E. Lee to Jefferson Davis, June 10, 1863.
Crushing defeats, lost territory, and shortages of men, food, and armaments beset the Confederates in 1863. Their hopes in 1864 lay not in absolute victory, but in Northern disunity. Continued military stalemate might result in Abraham Lincoln losing the coming presidential election. But could a shrinking land base, inadequate industry, and insufficient transport sustain the outnumbered Confederate armies long enough? Could Lee again forge victory against great odds?
Divided over the
By 1864, the Confederacy's diminishing hopes for independence lay with Robert E. Lee. Creative and agressive, the 57-year-old Virginian consistently achieved victory where none seemed possible. He would face his greatest test as his army plunged into the Wilderness in May 1864.
Unlike Lee, Union Lieutenant General Ulysses S. Grant rode to prominence on an inexorable tide of growing industrial and military power. His victories bore the mark of patience and determination, not dash and creativity. By 1864 he had risen to the command of all Union armies. Less inspiring than efficient, he attached himself to the Army of the Potomac for the 1864 campaign.
With Grant in overall command, the war would
In Virginia, Grant set as his objective not the Confederate capital at Richmond, but Lee's Army. On May 4, 1864, the Army of the Potomac started across the Rapidan River below Lee's right flank. Grant hoped to move quickly through the choked, tangled area known as the Wilderness and engage Lee in the open land to the south and west. But combersome wagon trains slowed him down. On May 5 the armies collided in the Wilderness.
"Lee's army will be your objective point. Wherever Lee goes, there you will go also."
U.S. Grant to George Gordon Meade, April 9, 1864.
The Forgotten Commander
Respected but little applauded, possessed of an acerbic temper, and overshadowed by Ulysses S. Grant, Major General George Gordon Meade
Location. 38° 19.054′ N, 77° 45.38′ W. Marker is near Locust Grove, Virginia, in Orange County. Marker is on Constitution Highway (State Highway 20), on the right when traveling west. Touch for map. Located at stop two of the driving tour of Wilderness Battlefield. Marker is in this post office area: Locust Grove VA 22508, United States of America.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Clash on the Orange Turnpike (here, next to this marker); Battle of the Wilderness (here, next to this marker); Struggle on the Orange Plank Road (here, next to this marker); The Fighting Ends in Stalemate (here, next to this marker); The Wilderness (a few steps from this marker); The Capture of Winslow's Battery Saunders Field (a few steps from this marker); a different marker also named The Battle of the Wilderness (within shouting distance of this marker). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Locust Grove.
More about this marker. The Collision of Giants panel displays portraits of Generals Lee and Grant. The Stakes panel contains facsimiles of newspapers from 1864.
On The Leaders panel a portrait of General Lee is captioned, Lee at the end of the war, "We looked forward to victories under him as confidently as to successive sunrises," wrote one of his officers. To the right, a drawing of depicts Grant during the 1864 campaign. One officer described him as "stumpy, unmilitary, slouchy, and Western-looking; very ordinary in fact." But looks could be deceiving. General George G. Meade informed his wife, "You may rest assured he is not an ordinary man."
The background of The Plan panel shows The Army of the Potomac crossing
On The Forgotten Commander panel, is a photograph of George Gordon Meade. "He has none of the dash and brilliance which is necessary to popularity," wrote one of his officers.
Also see . . . Wilderness Battlefield. National Park Service site. (Submitted on April 27, 2008, by Craig Swain of Leesburg, Virginia.)
Categories. • War, US Civil •
Credits. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016. This page originally submitted on March 9, 2008, by Craig Swain of Leesburg, Virginia. This page has been viewed 1,152 times since then and 37 times this year. Photos: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7. submitted on April 27, 2008, by Craig Swain of Leesburg, Virginia. 8. submitted on March 7, 2008, by Bill Coughlin of North Arlington, New Jersey.