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James Longstreet’s Wilderness Battle

Civil War

James Longstreet’s Wilderness Battle

Following the Battles of Chickamauga and Chattanooga, Union Maj. Gen. Ambrose E. Burnside squared off against Confederate Lt. Gen. James Longstreet.

How would the outcome of the battle have changed if James Longstreet’s fate had been different?

Early in the morning on May 6, 1864, a column of Confederates marched east as quietly as possible along the bed of an unfinished railroad that knifed through the dense wilderness south of Virginia’s Rapidan River. Echoing in the head of Chief of Staff Lt. Col. G Moxley Sorrel were the last words Lieutenant General James Longstreet had said to him before Sorrel departed with his flanking column: “Hit hard when you start, but don’t start until you have everything ready. I shall be waiting for your gunfire, and be on hand with fresh troops for further advance.”

Such was the prelude to the famed Battle of the Wilderness. In “Always Grand in Battle,” Arnold Blumberg’s gripping feature in the May issue of Military Heritage Magazine, you’ll learn all about James Longstreet’s crushing assault on the Union Army:

Longstreet sent his command forward at around 6 AM. His six-brigade attack force, which was tightly packed in columns preceded by heavy skirmish lines, struck General Winfield Scott Hancock’s disordered and weakened divisions along a narrow front, soon driving back the Union II Corps soldiers. By 8 AM, however, Longstreet’s thrust stalled. Each side was separated by mere feet, but invisible to one another due to the thick foliage.

What happened afterward? Was Longstreet able to secure a victory? Inside, you’ll learn how his fate in the battle forever changed its outcome, and perhaps that of the Civil War at large.

This is just one of the many fascinating articles you’ll find in the May 2014 issue, your source for in-depth analysis on the history of armed conflict. This month’s issue also includes many fully detailed features, including:

For Gold and Blood
The papacy recruited Count Charles of Anjou to lead an army to oust King Manfred of Sicily. The matter was settled at Benevento in 1266 in a grand clash of mounted knights.

Outfoxed in Burma
Lieutenant General William Slim sent a fast-moving column across the Irrawady River in January 1945 to capture the supply depot at Meiktila; the surprise attack hastened the collapse for the Japanese position in central Burma.

Massacre in Morocco
The French responded to a request in 1911 from Sultan Moulai Hafid to help him put down a major rebellion; afterward, they crushed the rebels in bloody fighting and established a protectorate.

Incomparable Bravery
For more than two centuries, Poland’s winged Husaria were a dominating presence on the battlefields of Eastern Europe, and remain to this day an important symbol of Polish military tradition.

And in addition to these in-depth features, the departments in this issue of Military Heritage also cover the use of horses in World War II’s Eastern Front, and Paul von Lettow-Vorbeck, the only World War I German general to conquer British soil.

As for the Battle of the Wilderness, let us know what you think about Longstreet’s contribution and how the outcome of the battle changed the Confederate position in the comments below.

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