The Wilderness

Its been a busy and long day, but after Chancellorsville I moved on to the Wilderness Battlefield. They along with two other battlefields are in the same park area. Further, Chancellorsville and the Wilderness effectively overlap.

The suggested tour here is more straight forward and generally follows the battle as it unfolds. The terrain significantly limits what can be seen and much of the Wilderness battlefield that is easily accessible concentrates on the areas of open fields.

After briefly stopping at Meade and Grant’s Knoll, which is unfortunatly overgrown my first notable stop was Saunders Field. Locatedon the historic Orange Turnpike the field is significant in area. Below, is a small section where the 140th New York attacked Ewell’s Confederates in the tree line. The ground rises up  somewhat.

Below, a view from the Confederate lines on the north looking southeast across Saunders Field.

On the Confederate left the line extends a good mile north and there is a walking track which takes you to the area where Gordon attacked the Union right. I didn’t walk the entire way. Instead I walked a little way in to get an appreciation of the terrain. The woods are generally clearer now, but in 1864 they were a combination of mature trees, fallen trees and new growth. I suspect something like this section.

Given that 160,000 men were fighting here using tactics more designed for open fields the Wilderness was going to be a different battle. Some reports indicated the smoke from battle further reduced visibility as it hung about under the canopy.

On the Confederate side of Saunders Field, where Ewell’s Corps stretched south, some excellent examples of Confederate entrenchments remain. They stretch across the east end of the field and into the woods. Given they have been here for 150 years, exposed to the elements they must have been significant.

Traveling south there are a few fields of note including Chewning Field and Tapp Field. Chewning, below looking west, was much larger than I expected and was critically placed between Ewell and A.P. Hill’s Corps. It was also where Hill was almost captured.

Tapp Field borders the Orange Plank Road and was particularly significant in the battle. It was here that John Gregg’s Texas troops refused to charge unless Lee retired. Below, Confederate cannon on Tapp Field. In the distance Orange Plank Road and where Longstreet’s Corps entered the battle.

Below, another view this time towards Union lines across Tapp Field. We are about half way across and in the foreground are more entrenchments, this time from Longstreet’s troops. The Confederate and Union armies extended a considerable distance to the Confederate right but this area is not always part of the park. What is not formally marked with interpretation areas.

Finally, to finish off a photo of the Vermont monument near the Brock Road and Orange Plank Road. Interestingly, the same intersection that Jackson passed through a year earlier and I did today.

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