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A Devilish Entanglement: 160th Battle of the Wilderness


From CWHI President, Harry Sonntag:

I wanted to thank all our participants who attended last weekends 160th Wilderness event. You came from all over the country, not to forget those who came from several countries including Canada, England, the UAE and others. Your commitment to the event and dedication to working with each other even though you did so with many people you did not know was extraordinary. Your respect for the ground and the condition in which you left it was not only appreciated, but showed the character each one of you possess.

The command staff of Austin Williams, Brian Gesuero, Ted Brennan and Kyle Windahl did a fantastic job organizing their battalions and leading them in a performance on the field that was quite memorable.

I want to thank the Pagan family for allowing us to utilize such a large portion of their property, much of which is original Wilderness Battlefield.
Thank you to our sutlers who sold their wares and provided anything the participants needed to enjoy the event.

Thank you to our Living Historians for providing specific programs such as General Grant and staff, Richmond Committee for our Wounded, The Christian Commission. Your presentations were well placed and added to the event.

Thank you to our volunteers, for without you, this could not have been accomplished. They were Ems, security, parking, registration, set up and clean up.
Thank you to the Friends of the Wilderness Battlefield for asking us to put on this event. Our mission was to raise some money and bring awareness to the importance of the Wilderness Battlefield.

Once our final expenses are tallied and bills paid, we will make a financial contribution to the FOWB at one of their board meetings. That presentation will posted here.

Once again, Thank you for a great event. We are planning future events and they will be announced in the near future. We hope you will all join us in those endeavors.

May 1864: the American Civil War has raged for three brutal years. A war that started full of patriotic pride with images of grandeur has become a source of weariness as the cost continues to rise. Despite victories at Gettysburg and Vicksburg, the Union still needs to find a way to effectively bring the Confederacy to heel. Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia has continued to elude destruction and, though now proven beatable, still poses a significant threat to both Washington and a swift end to the war.

Ulysses S. Grant, newly promoted to lieutenant general by President Lincoln, now commands all the Union Armies and has set in motion a strategy to open up five fronts of conflict to spread the Confederate armies thin. While Sherman pursues Johnston in the West and Banks moves to capture Mobile, Butler will move up the James River towards Lee while Sigel ravages the Shenandoah and Meade confronts Lee directly in central Virginia.

On May 4th, Grant personally accompanies Meade’s Army of the Potomac as it crosses the Rapidan River at Germanna Ford uncontested. In doing so, nearly 119,000 US troops enter a labyrinth of countryside roads weaving through dense woods. It is known as The Wilderness: roughly 70 square miles of second-growth forest and dense underbrush covering barren soil that Native Americans consider haunted. As they establish bivouacs for the night, many discover poorly buried and disinterred remains from the Battle of Chancellorsville a year earlier.

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Two days earlier, Lee has surveyed Grant’s amassing forces and correctly guessed he will cross at Germanna Ford. His army of a little over 66,000 men is precariously spread out across the region in three corps under Longstreet, Ewell, and A.P. Hill. Lee hopes to strike just as he had done a year earlier at Chancellorsville. Ewell and Hill have been ordered to move and engage first, a bid to slow Meade’s advance long enough for Longstreet to arrive and put his corps into action.

Genl. Wadsworth’s division in action at the Wilderness by Alfred Waud
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Wounded escaping from the burning woods of the Wilderness by Alfred Waud
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What will transpire over the next two days will change the nature of the war. Veterans of the open rolling battlefields along the Antietam or Rappahannock and around Gettysburg or Richmond are soon going to plummet into a dense fog of war. As flashing muskets rattle through the trees, gunsmoke will fill the chokingly thick Wilderness. Brigades step off back roads and are swallowed whole by woods filled with the din of battle. Commanders cannot tell where their lines start and end. Companies are separated from their regiments. Within hours, the confusing inferno of war will produce a literal Hell on Earth as the forest itself catches ablaze. The wounded often load one last time – not to defend themselves, but to spare themselves the agony as trees crackle and the smoke grows heavier. Those left standing are no longer fighting by sight, but by sound as fury rages all around them.

On 4-5 May 2024
Civil War Historical Impressions supported the Friends of the Wilderness in hosting
“A Devilish Entanglement”: the 160th Battle of the Wilderness!

This was an authentic force-on-force event featuring multiple scenarios and intense experiences. More importantly, this event directly impacted the historic preservation of the Wilderness Battlefield in support of the Friends of the Wilderness Battlefield and Central Virginia Battlefields Trust.
The Wilderness Run Vineyard and 1781 Brewing Company also benefitted from patronage bolstered by the event’s presence on 60 acres of their property, which they graciously made available to CWHI. Thank you!

US Forces

Kyle Windahl
83rd Pennsylvania
US Campaigner Battalion

Ted Brennan
44th New York
US Progressive Battalion

CS Forces

Austin Williams
61st Georgia
CS Campaigner Battalion

Brian Gesuero
50th Virginia
CS Progressive Battalion

Please visit the unit-specific webpage or Facebook group for more information!