Popular histories of Gettysburg proclaim that Lee suffered a great defeat at the hands of Meade and that the Confederacy’s strength was on the wane; however, Colonel Thomas L. Livermore of the US Army wrote: “After Gettysburg, the Confederacy had the same capacity for recruiting armies and supplying them as before, and the morale of the Army of Northern Virginia was just as good. In the autumn of 1863, Lee crossed the Rapidan to attack Meade, and in December he came out of his entrenchments along Mine Run to attack, but failed to come to blows because Lee had retreated across the Rapidan in the night.”
Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org
Grant Versus Lee at the Wilderness
“In referring to the opening of the campaign in May 1864, Colonel Tyler, of the Thirty-seventh Massachusetts, wrote: “The Army of the Potomac had never won a decisive victory on Southern soil . . . The Army of Northern Virginia . . . against great odds had achieved victory after victory, and hardly tasted defeat.”
In May 1864 came General Grant with the prestige of his success in the southwest, and with the vast resources of the North and West at his call, confident that his 118,649 “present for duty equipped,” could defeat Lee’s 61,953.
But Grant was meeting Lee – “the greatest of all the great Captains that the English speaking people have brought forth,” whose name, says General Sir Frederic Maurice, must be added to the select group of the world’s greatest commanders named by Napoleon – Alexander, Hannibal, Caesar, Gustavus, Turenne, Eugene, and Frederick the Great.
[Northern] General [Morris] Schaff says . . . [in] the two days of deadly [at the Wilderness] encounter every man who could bear a musket had been put in; Hancock and Warren repulsed; Sedgewick routed, and now on the defensive behind breastworks; the cavalry drawn back; the [supply] trains seeking safety beyond the Rapidan.
Colonel T.L. Livermore estimates that the numbers engaged were: Federals, 101,895; and Confederates, 61,025. The total Federal losses in the Wilderness battles were 17,666. The Confederate losses were reported in only 70 out of 183 regiments; Livermore says, “it is not extravagant to estimate the Confederate losses at a total of 7,750.”
(A Colonel at Gettysburg: Life and Character of Colonel Joseph N. Brown, Varina D. Brown; The State Company, 1931, excerpts pp. 237; 244-245)