Confederate Roar at Wilderness on Night of May 7, 1864

Confederate Roar at Wilderness on Night of May 7, 1864

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A battlefield roar that invigorated the Confederates echoed along their line in the middle of the Wilderness on the evening of May 7. Most of George Meade’s Army of the Potomac and Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia faced each other behind defense lines deep in the tangled gnarl of the Wilderness woods. Two previous days of grisly fighting had decimated the ranks of both sides and now each commander tried to assess the others intentions. 

Battle of Wilderness

Battle of Wilderness – Orange Plank Road looking east toward Federal Position near Brock Road intersection. Notice density of brush and this photo taken in winter w/out foliage. This image is actual site where Edward Thomas’ Georgia Brigade manned the line early on May 6, 1864

 The defense lines stretched from Orange Turnpike south beyond Orange Plank Road as “the brush fires continued to try to cleanse the battleground of its grisly sites. The acrid smell of wood smoke filled the air. This smoke frequently blotted out sunlight. That night, a spontaneous unforgettable vocal display occurred in the woods of the Wilderness. Far to the south at the right end of Lee’s line a distant noise broke the night air. All along the line men paused to determine its source. The sound soon grew louder. The noise was the shouts of Confederate soldiers. More men joined the roar as it rolled from regiment to regiment along the line from right to left. The sound echoed northward until it reached the far end of Ewell’s corps.” 

“Again the shout arose on the right – again it rushed down upon us from a distance of perhaps two miles – again we caught it and flung it joyously to the left, where it only ceased when the last post had huzzahed. And yet a third time this mighty wave of sound rang along the Confederate lines. The effect was beyond expression. It seemed to fill every heart with new life, to inspire every nerve with might never known before. Men seemed fairly convulsed with the fierce enthusiasm; and I believe that if at that instant the advance of the whole army upon Grant could have been ordered, we would have swept it into the very Rappahannock.”

The armies next tangled at a place called Spotsylvania Court Houseagain –  150 years ago from right now.

 Footnotes: 2nd paragraph from John J. Fox III, Red Clay to Richmond: Trail of the 35th Georgia. (Winchester, 2004. Angle Valley Press, p. 254-256.
3rd paragraph originally found in  – J.F.J. Caldwell, The History of a Brigade of South Carolinians Known As ‘Gregg’s’, and Subsequently As ‘McGowan’s’ Brigade. (Philadelphia, 1866) (Morningside Press reprint 1992, Dayton, Oh. , p.184).


  1. John,
    Just read this fascinating entry and thought you might be interested in hearing my song about the battle…

    I live over in Clarke County and will be talking about the war and performing my songs on March 26 at Long Branch Estate. Come by if you have a chance.
    Clark Hansbarger

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