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Tour/Picnic Rescheduled: Grant, Lincoln and the Wilderness

By Craig Howell

Washington, D.C.

Sunday, May 26, 2023

No-Back Down in Abraham Lincoln

(Editor’s Note: Readers will remember that last fall’s LGDC picnic and tour to the Wilderness Battlefield was cancelled due to the impending effects of Hurricane Ian. Just as General Ulysses S. Grant was not deterred, neither is the Lincoln Group – just delayed a bit. We have rescheduled the picnic/tour event for this May. Specifics about the event are shown below.)

Tour date: Saturday, May 13

Rain date: Sunday, May 20

Any postponement will be announced by Wednesday, May 10

This year our focus will be on the relationship between President Abraham Lincoln and newly-promoted LTG Ulysses S. Grant during the days leading up to the Battle of the Wilderness (May 5-6, 1864), inaugurating the bloody and frustrating Overland Campaign between the Rapidan and the James Rivers.

We will gather in the picnic grounds adjacent to the Chancellorsville Visitor Center on Route 3 about 10 miles west of Fredericksburg, Virginia by 11 a.m. that morning, at 9001 Plank Rd, Spotsylvania Courthouse, VA 22553 to be exact. We will enjoy our picnic lunches and take time to go through the many films and exhibits at the Visitor Center. At noon, LGDC's resident tour guide Craig Howell will give us an orientation briefing about the events in the winter and early spring of 1864 that would develop a new Union strategy for simultaneous movements of all Union forces against Rebel armies both East and West.

After finishing the briefing, Craig will lead a car caravan driving tour of the Wilderness Battlefield, with stops at such places as Saunders Field, the Higgerson Farm, the Chewning Farm, the Widow Tapp Field, and the all-important intersection of the Orange Plank Road and the Brock Road. We will take short interpretive walks at some of these stops as time and weather allow. We should finish and be back at the Chancellorsville Visitor Center no later than 4:30 p.m.

There will be no charge for this event. Bring your own picnic lunch, drinks and snacks.

RSVP Please! Please reply to Craig directly if you are able to join us. Craig's email is: Please indicate whether you can be one of our carpool drivers, whether you'll need a ride as a passenger yourself, or whether you will head directly to the Visitor Center on your own. Our tentative carpool plan is to gather at the East Falls Church Metro Station Kiss & Ride lot at North Sycamore and 19th Street at 9:30 a.m.

Those wishing to avoid the nightmare of weekend traffic on I-95 are encouraged to consider an alternate flanking approach by going west out I-66, turning south on Route 29 at Gainesville, and then turning east on Route 3 at Culpeper.

Here's a quick introduction for our tour:

Asked by an innocent journalist to estimate how long it would take to get the Army of the Potomac to Richmond, General Grant kept a straight face as he replied to his startled inquisitor: "About four days--provided that General Lee is agreeable to our plans."

General Robert E. Lee was all too unwilling to cooperate as he once again defied Union expectations and launched a series of ferocious attacks in the tangles of the Wilderness--in what proved to be his last major strategic offensive of the war.

General Grant was surprised more than once during the two-day battle, as he quickly discovered the limitations of his balky subordinate commanders. Grant arguably performed worse tactically than his predecessors, as he was outflanked by the Confederates not just once but twice. But the Yankees rallied and fought the Rebels to a standstill, marked by appalling casualties on both sides.

But at a crucial junction both in time and space, Grant decided he would not pull back to reorganize and refit. Instead, he pointed his army south--as his soldiers wildly cheered. They did not know their final destination, but their road to Appomattox had just opened.

A reporter for a New York newspaper visited General Grant's headquarters just before leaving for Washington on the evening of May 6 and asked if he could deliver a message to President Lincoln, since Grant's own communications with the Capital had been cut off in the fighting. Grant responded: "Tell the President there will be no turning back."

No news could be more welcome to the man of whom an Illinois reporter had written some years earlier: "There is no back-down in Abraham Lincoln."

Join us in May for good fellowship and history – and learn about the relationship between the “no turning back general” and no-back down Lincoln


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