The Wilderness was a tangled thicket in northern Virginia. As Ulysses S. Grant’s Union army moved towards the Confederate capital, Richmond, Confederate Commander Robert E. Lee decided to confront them in the Wilderness, where the dense scrub would negate Grant’s huge advantage in manpower and artillery. After crossing the Rapidan River at Ely’s and Germanna’s Fords, Grant’s troops first clashed with the Confederate right flank on 5 May at Sanders Field, and were forced back. The following day, there was fierce fighting in the centre, around the Orange Plank Road, where a counterattack from General Longstreet’s Texan reinforcements again repulsed the Union advance. A final counterattack, by General Ewell against the Union left flank came close to a decisive breakthrough, but was ultimately held. The battle was a tactical victory for the Confederates, but they sustained heavy casualties they could ill afford, and Grant would regroup and continue his advance.
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