|The Wilderness, near where Confederate General Leroy Stafford was mortally wounded.|
(CLICK ON IMAGES TO ENLARGE.)
"Schaff’s text," Harrison noted, "swerved back and forth from the conventional to the unconventional, from straightforward terrain and tactics analysis to supernatural interventions. In 1911, a reviewer for The Nation spent several column inches trying to finalize his thoughts about Schaff and concluded, 'We applaud the writer who, while framing a military treatise, can at the same time make it a new ‘Alice in Wonderland.’ ”
Decades after the fighting at the Wilderness, Schaff visited the old battleground, collecting details for his book, the first published solely about the brutal battle fought May 5-6, 1864. Paired with present-day images, here are some of Schaff's vivid, and eloquent, descriptions of that mysterious place -- a battlefield he called a "vast sea ... of dense forest."
'A CHOPPY SEA'
"Where the battle was fought, which is at about the heart of the Wilderness ... the surface of the ground resembles a choppy sea more than anything else. There, like waves, it will heave, sometime gradually and sometimes briskly, into ridges that all at once will drop and break in several directions. Soon recovering itself, off it will go again, smoothly ascending or descending for a while, then suddenly pile up and repeat what it did before, namely fall into narrow swales and shallow swamps where willows and alders of one kind and another congregate, all tied together irrevocably by a round, bright-green bamboo-like vine."
|The Higgerson Farm, one of the few clearings in the Wilderness.|
SAUNDERS FIELD: 'NATURE ... OUT OF HUMOR'
|Saunders Field, scene of brutal fighting on May 5, 1864.|
'SECRETS OF BUTCHERING HAPPENINGS'
PANORAMA: Present-day Wilderness. (Click at upper right for full-screen experience.)
" ... as I walked through the woods last May, looking for the old lines, more than once I halted with the feeling that some spectral figure, one of those thousands who fell there, would appear suddenly and ask me where he might find his regiment. As a proof of the savage and unexpected encounterings, a line of skeletons was found just after he war, half-covered in the drifting leaves, where some command, Northern or Southern, met with a volley like that of the Forty-fifth North Carolina, from an unseen foe. It is the holding of the secrets of butchering happenings like these, and its air of surprised and wild curiosity in whoever penetrates the solitude and breaks its grim, immeasurable silence, that gives the Wilderness, I think, its deep and evoking interest."
'MORE BLOOD MINGLED WITH THE LEAVES'
|The steps of Ellwood, headquarters for Gouvernuer Warren and where Schaaf served as aide to the general.|