Grant's Knoll

A key piece of land on the Wilderness battlefield, this is the area where Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant located his headquarters

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History

Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant arrived at the Army of the Potomac’s Culpeper County camps in the spring of 1864 with a string of successes trailing behind him. Those victories at Forts Donelson, Shiloh, Vicksburg, and Chattanooga, are what ultimately elevated him to become the first true lieutenant general of the United States Army since George Washington. Grant chose to retain Maj. Gen. George G. Meade as commander of the Army of the Potomac. However, since Gen. Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia continued to be the largest obstacle to Union victory, Grant fully understood the important role the Army of the Potomac would play in winning the war. Therefore, Grant knew being present with that army was of major importance.

 

On May 4, 1864, Grant established his headquarters on a wooded knoll near the present-day intersection of Hwy. 3 and Hwy. 20, just northeast of what would become the Wilderness battlefield, site his first confrontation with Lee and the Army of Northern Virginia. From this historically significant location Grant issued orders and received dispatches as the two-day slugfest unfolded. It was here on the evening of May 6, 1864, that Grant excoriated some of his officers for worrying too much about what Lee could do to them instead of what they were going to do to Lee. It was also here that Grant used his tent as a veil to emotionally unburden himself over the stresses the two-day battle brought. And it was here that, despite the particularly bloody, stalemated fight, Grant resolved not to retreat—as was the routine of previous leadership—but to move forward around Lee’s right flank in effort to draw the Confederates out of the Wilderness and onto open ground.

In addition, this ground also has links to the American Revolution.  In the summer of 1781, the Marquis de Lafayette carefully evaded a powerful British force under Lord Cornwallis.  He camped his relatively small force on this high ground, later reporting how they spent the night with weapons primed. 

Oh, I am heartily tired of hearing about what Lee is going to do. Some of you always seem to think he is suddenly going to turn a double somersault, and land in our rear and on both of our flanks at the same time. Go back to your command, and try to think what we are going to do ourselves, instead of what Lee is going to do

Lt. General Ulysses S. Grant, May 6, 1864

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Preservation Story

Under a hot August sun in 2001—one hundred thirty-seven years after Grant’s presence—Fredericksburg developer Larry Silver formally handed over a deed for six acres of land upon which Grant made his Wilderness headquarters. Central Virginia Battlefields Trust’s then president, John D. Mitchell, accepted the deed, which became the CVBT’s first outright acceptance of gifted land. 

 

During this brief ceremony, Mr. Silver acknowledged that developers are in the business of changing the ground. However, he also stated that some areas are worth preserving and he welcomed the opportunity to work with an established organization like the CVBT, who is able to identify areas that are historically significant, while differentiating them from land that can be logically developed. This donated property (and an adjacent 12.3 acre-parcel donated in 2007) add to that already preserved by the National Park Service at the Wilderness and effectively prevents development from encroaching into this historic setting. In December 2019 CVBT conveyed 16 acres to the National Park Service to be included within the park boundaries.