Battle of the Wilderness
Before Sunset on May 6, 1864
From this site, you would have seen Confederate Brig. Gen. John B. Gordon quietly assembled ten regiments between here and the woods, across the lake, at Madison Cir.
In those woods, Union Brig. Gen. T. Seymour had ordered his brigade and that of Brig. Gen. A. Shaler "to make small fires and cook coffee" and they both rode off to Maj. Gen. John Sedgwick's 6th Corps headquarters near Spotswood Park.
Suddenly, the long line of gray-clad soldiers appeared and opened fire. They charged by Madison Cir., along Creekside Dr. and up to a mile down the Union line. Within a few minutes, they had killed or captured most of Seymour's and Shaler's brigade and panicked much of Sedgwick's 6th Corps.
The three Union generals, upon hearing the shots and yells, rode to the battle. Shaler, on the fastest horse, was the first captured by Lt. C.M. Compton of the 31st Georgia Infantry and a dozen of his company near Nugget Dr. Soon thereafter, Compton was shot while capturing Seymour. Sedgwick was rallying his troops around the Culpeper Mine Road when a Confederate officer leveled his pistol at him and shouted, "Surrender, you Yankee SOB." Before the Confederate could fire, a New York trooper shot him dead.
The 10th Vermont Infantry check the Confederate advance along a line from Creekside Dr. to the sixth tee box on the golf course. The 10th Vermont Infantry chaplain wrote that their colonel and that of the 106th New York Infantry had their regiments rise up in front of Gordon's regiments and "give three cheers as only soldiers can give them." This yelling caused the Confederates to halt their charge.
By 8 P.M."It was impossible to see anything in front of the line fifty feet; I had to be guided by the noise."
-Brig. Gen. R.D. Johnston
After Dusk on a Moonless Night
The battle spread down the Culpeper Mine Road and all its connecting paths, all the way to the Germanna Plank Road, now Route 3.
Brig. Gen. R.D. Johnston's Brigade, consisting of four North Carolina infantry regiments, lost connection with the Georgian regiments. Johnston rode into a Pennsylvania regiment, but he escaped.
Realizing that Yankees were re-forming in force nearby, Johnston ordered his men back to their starting point. His officers reported that they came in sight of the wagon trains (on the Germanna Plank Road) and would have charged upon them, had they not been recalled at this time, which was as darkness was setting in.
Gordon Continued to Fight Past 10 PM
Gordon was riding the captured horse of General Shaler. "The horse saved me from capture, when I had ridden, by mistake, into Sedgwick's Corps by night."
Lt. Gen. U.S. Grant restored order and removed his troops from Lake of the Woods to a new trench line behind Eastover Parkway.
"About 3 A.M. of May 7th, we started to find the battalion. Parties came straggling in all day. Some never came back., (They were) either killed or wounded and burning up in the terrible fire which swept the wood.
Thus ended the Battle of the Wilderness for us and the army."
-Col. H.C. Kirk, 4th New York Heavy Artillery