It was the first time Grant had battled Lee. The two armies blundered into each other in deep woods just west of Fredericksburg, Virginia in early May of 1864. It would be known as the battle of the Wilderness. Grant’s Federal forces totaled over 101,000 to Confederate General Lee’s 61,000. Fighting in the deep woods with their opposition obscured by acrid black powder smoke, the casualties were horrendous.
Only by the flash of the volleys of the forming line could they know their enemy. The woods lit up with flashes of musketry and according to one observer, the incessant roar of the volleys sounded like the crashing of thunderbolts. Brave men tumbled to the ground like autumn leaves in a windstorm. Through all this the 93rd New York continued to advance over a mile through a tangled forest, underbrush, and swamps – all while facing rifle and artillery fire.
Adding to the horror was that the woods caught fire. It had not rained for weeks and the explosions of the battle set the dry undergrowth on fire. Wounded men, unable to escape, were burned alive. Those that escaped the fires were placed at quickly established aid stations. Some recovered; many did not. » Continue Reading.