Wilderness Exhibit Shelter
— East Wall —
Crisis at the Crossroads
Crises followed one after another on May 5. No sooner had Grant and Meade learned about Ewell's approach on the Orange Turnpike than they discovered General A.P. Hill's corps moving up the Orange Plank road. If Hill reached the Brock Road, he would cut the Army of the Potomac in two.
Union commanders rushed General Winfield S. Hancock's Second Corps to the imperiled crossroads, securing it for the North. At 4 p.m., Hancock assailed Hill's line. Fighting behind low logworks and amidst fires, Hill's men stubbornly defended themselves against Hancock's sledgehammer blows. When the fighting ended four hours later, Hill's battered line was still intact.
"The wounded stream out, and fresh troops pour in. Stretchers pass with ghastly burdens, and go back reeking with blood for more."
Reporter Charles Page, New York Tribune
Battle in the Balance
The sound of cannon and the crash of musketry awakened Southern soldiers shortly after dawn, May 6. The Army of Northern Virginia was again under attack. On the Plank Road, A.P. Hill's thin line collapsed under the weight of the renewed assault. Disaster loomed.
Just then, Confederate troops pushed through the smoke toward the front. General James Longtreet's corps - 20,000 strong - arrived in the nick of time. Longstreet struck Hancock's exposed left flank, rolling up the Union line "like a wet blanket." In the confusion, Longstreet was shot by his own troops. Lee resumed the attack five hours later, but by then Hancock had rallied his men behind strong earthworks. The Confederate assault - Lee's last grand attack of the war - failed.