Monday, May 5, 2014

Battle of the Wilderness - Day 1

Thursday, May 5, 1864

At 6:00 A.M. the Twentieth Massachusetts Regiment began its march with the Second Corps along the Catharpin Road in the direction of Shady Grove Church, about five miles southwest of Chancellorsville. At 9:00 A.M. the Second Corps received news that the Confederates were lining up in force along the Orange Turnpike near Wilderness Tavern, and that the Second Corps needed to reverse their march two miles to Todd's Tavern at the intersection of the Brock Road.

General Robert E. Lee attempted to forestall Ulysses S. Grant's advantage by dispatching Richard Ewell's Second Corps along the Orange Turnpike and advancing A.P. Hill's Third Corps along the Orange Plank Road toward its intersection with the Brock Road. Holding this intersection was vital to Union success; if Lee advanced and held the intersection before Grant, the Union Army would be divided. General Winfield Scott Hancock hurried the Second Corps up the Brock Road to its strategic intersection with the Orange Plank Road to hold the ground at all costs.

During the afternoon General Hancock received support from General George W. Getty's Sixth Corps and General Governeur K. Warren's Fifth Corps to hold the line along the Orange Plank Road until Hancock could deploy his Second Corps. The Twentieth Massachusetts arrived at the intersection around 4:30 P.M. and were deployed along the Brock Road to build breastworks and stabilize the line. Heavy fighting ensued for the remainder of the afternoon, but by evening the Union held the Orange Plank Road and Brock Road intersection.1

1Richard F. Miller, Harvard's Civil War: A History of the Twentieth Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry (Lebanon, New Hampshire: University Press of New England, 2005), 330-33.

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