Number of casualties at the Battle of Wilderness 1864

The Battle of the Wilderness was the first encounter of Lieutenant General Ulysses S. Grant and General Robert E. Lee's forces, during Grant's Overland Campaign in May and June 1864 during the American Civil War. This campaign took place over eight weeks in Virginia, as Grant's union troops pushed the Confederate forces further back through Virginia, culminating in the Sieges of Richmond and Petersburg. Although the Union sustained heavier casualties than the Confederacy, they emerged victorious from the campaign, as they had inflicted a higher proportion of casualties to the South. It was during this point of the war where the Union's superior numbers proved instrumental in determining the outcome of the war.

The Wilderness

The Battle of the Wilderness is so named as it reflects the conditions in which the battle was fought, as it took places in the dense forests of Virginia, near Spotsylvania, between May 5 and 7, 1864. The fighting took place in sporadic encounters and skirmishes, with different corps from each army intercepting one another as they navigated their way through the forest. The outcome of the battle is deemed inconclusive, with both sides suffering heavy casualties, while achieving some of their primary goals. Grant was waging a war of attrition (where the aim is to defeat one's enemy by wearing down their numbers and resources) against Lee, and was successful in taking out a large portion of his forces while slowing his retreat. In contrast, Lee's goal was to outmanoeuvre the bulk of his army to a more favorable position in order to regroup and hold out for reinforcements, with which he had some success.


The location of the battle was a major influence in the outcome, as the density of the trees and the limited lighting caused confusion among the troops and allowed more organized regiments to ambush their enemies. In total, an estimated 163 thousand men took place in the battle, with approximately thirty thousand becoming casualties. Although the Union sustained roughly seven thousand more casualties than the Confederacy, as mentioned above, their strength in numbers and their ability to replace lost soldiers was the key to their overall success. This battle was immediately followed by the Battle of Spotsylvania Court House, which lasted from May 8 to 21, 1864.

Number of casualties at the Battle of the Wilderness in the American Civil War in 1864

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Release date

July 2019


United States

Survey time period

May 5 to 7 1864

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Statistics on "American Civil War 1861-1865"

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