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At Ease: The Order To March Was Given

Regiments in The Wilderness

As we've been researching and working to preserve 36 Acres of the Wilderness Battlefield where General Battle launched his counterattacked into Saunders' Field, we've had the opportunity to look more closely at regimental histories. Today, you'll find highlights for the 3rd Alabama, 83rd Pennsylvania, and 20th Maine, along with a few other features from YOUR answers!


Your Answers...

Lots of great variety in the answers to the "favorite regiment that fought in The Wilderness" question! And here are a few notes that you shared with some of the answers...

  • 1st New York Dragoons (19th New York Cavalry), May 6, Brock Road. I’m biased as my great, great grandfather was an officer in the unit.

  • 12th Virginia, the regiment that shot Longstreet on the Orange Plank Road - although not because of that, specifically, but the fact that it occasioned a command shift that elevated William Mahone from brigade to division command. (And yes, he was the commander of the 12th).

  • 5th Michigan Cavalry Regiment - as I am currently reading James Henry Avery's Journal "Under Custer's Command". His account of the 5th Michigan at the Wilderness describes the confusion of the battle, difficulty of terrain, and severity of fighting before they are detached to go off with Sheridan to confront and kill Jeb Stuart.

  • 3rd South Carolina, Kershaw's Brigade, helped save the day for the Confederates along the Plank Road. Colonel James Nance was killed and the spot is marked by a small monument along the road.


The Attack of the 83rd Pennsylvania at Saunders' Field

One of the regiments in Bartlett's brigade, this Union regiment charged across Saunders' Field in the opening attack, and their experience is recounted in this new video:


3rd Alabama Infantry Regiment

The 3rd Alabama Infantry Regiment was part of General Cullen A. Battle's brigade that counterattacked to stop the Union breakthrough at Saunders' Field on May 5, 1864. (They attacked from and across the land CVBT is helping to preserve!) Formed in 1861, the regiment moved to Virginia and fought (or was present) at most of the major battles from the Seven Days through the Appomattox Campaign. In the counterattack at the Wilderness, the 3rd Alabama became entangled with retreating soldiers from Jones's brigade, but helped to close the gap along the Orange Turnpike while other units in the brigade captured artillery and many prisoners.

Soldiers from the 3rd Alabama Regiment.


20th Maine Infantry Regiment

The 20th Maine Regiment—probably most famous for defending the Union's left flank at Gettysburg on July 2, 1863—was formed in August 1862. The units saw action at Fredericksburg, Gettysburg, Rappahannock Station, Mine Run, The Overland Campaign, Siege of Petersburg, and the Appomattox Campaign. On May 5, 1864, the regiment attacked the Confederate lines at Saunders' Field with the rest of General Joseph Bartlett's brigade, breaking through the defensive line. Historian John J. Pullen described what happened next: “Crashing through the underbrush, still driving the Confederates, the 20th Maine, with its right on the turnpike, came out into a second field….Major Spear ordered the colors out into the field and was just forming the regiment on them when a deadly volley came in from the right and rear. The worst had come to pass. The 20th Maine was flanked.” The regiment fell back as the Confederate counterattack led by General Battle and other units reforming changed the combat situation.

Major Ellis Spear commanded the 20th Maine at Saunders Field


Central Virginia Battlefields Trust's mission is to preserve, protect, and educate about Civil War hallowed ground at Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, The Wilderness, and Spotsylvania.

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