Near Locust Grove in Orange County, Virginia — The American South (Mid-Atlantic)
Clash on the Orange Turnpike
Wilderness Exhibit Shelter
— East Wall —
On May 5, 1864, Lee moved swiftly eastward through Orange County and struck the Federals along two roads - the Orange Plank Road and the Orange Turnpike. Two bloody, largely separate battles exploded. They would evolve and eventually merge into a huge conflict that would engulf the Wilderness and consume thousands of lives.
After joining the Army of the Potomac in March 1864, Grant reported that "the troops feel like whipping somebody." No one was more eager for a fight than the general himself. When Meade reported Confederates advancing down the Orange Turnpike on May 5, Grant ordered his subordinate to pitch into the enemy without delay.
The fighting commenced in Saunders Field. General Gouverneur K. Warren's Fifth Corps charged across the clearing, engaging General Richard S. Ewell's Confederates in hand-to-hand combat. Fighting spilled into the woods adjoining the road,
Confederate Flank Attack
May 6 was a comparatively peaceful day for Union soldiers on the Orange Turnpike. Following a brisk exchange of gunfire that morning, the fighting had tapered off. Now, as the sun dipped below the western horizon, Northern soldiers began to relax and prepare themselves dinner. Rifle fire in the woods north of the road interrupted their meal. Five thousand Confederates, led by General John B. Gordon, had taken position on the Union army's right flank and were attacking.
Panic spread rapidly down the Union line. Two Federal generals and 800 other men fell captive. Nightfall and a stiffening Union defense, however, limited Gordon's gains. Though battered, the Army of the Potomac ultimately took position in a new set of works, ensuring that the Battle of the Wilderness would end in stalemate.
Topics and series. This historical marker is listed in this topic list: War, US Civil. In addition, it is included in the Former U.S. Presidents: #18 Ulysses S. Grant series list. A significant historical month for this entry is March 1864.
Location. Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: Locust Grove VA 22508, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Battle of the Wilderness (here, next to this marker); Collision of Giants (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 (a few steps from this marker); 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 background of The Battle of the Wilderness panel is a photograph of Federal soldiers. The background of Saunders Field is a photograph captioned, The Orange Turnpike ran through Saunders Field, one of the few clearings in the otherwise gloomy woods. The background of the Confederate Flank Attack panel is a drawing captioned, Artist Edwin Forbes sketched this picture of Sixth Corps soldiers fighting in the woods north of the Orange Turnpike. Gordon's attack took the Sixth Corps by suprise and routed two of its brigades. In the right center of the panel is a portrait of General John B. Gordon who led the Confederate attack, "...Had the movement been made at an earlier hour and properly supported," Gordon insisted, "...it would have resulted in a decided disorder to the whole right wing of General Grant's army..."
Also see . . . Wilderness Battlefield. National Park Service site. (Submitted on April 27, 2008, by Craig Swain of Leesburg, Virginia.)
Credits. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016. It was originally submitted on April 27, 2008, by Craig Swain of Leesburg, Virginia. This page has been viewed 1,459 times since then and 11 times this year. Photos: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. submitted on April 27, 2008, by Craig Swain of Leesburg, Virginia.