On April 30, all being ready for the advance, the President sent a note of God-speed to the general. “I wish to express,” he said, “my entire satisfaction with what you have done up to this time, so far as I understand it. The particulars of your plan I neither know, nor seek to know.... If there is anything wanting which is within my power to give, do not fail to let me know it.” The general replied in a pleasant tone: “I have been astonished at the readiness with which everything asked for has been yielded, without even an explanation being asked. Should my success be less than I desire and expect, the least I can say is, the fault is not with you.” When the President read these strange words his astonishment must have far exceeded that expressed by the general. Never before had he been thus addressed by any commander in Virginia! Generally he had been told that a magnificent success was about to be achieved, which he had done nothing to promote and perhaps much to retard, but which would nevertheless be secured by the ability of a general in spite of unfriendly neglect by a president.
On May 4 General Grant’s army started upon its way, with 122,146 men present for duty. Against them General Lee had 61,953. The odds seemed excessive; but Lee had inside lines, the defensive, and intrenchments, to equalize the disparity of numbers. At once began those bloody and incessant campaigns by which General Grant intended to end, and finally did end, the war. The North could afford to lose three men where the South lost two, and would still have a balance left after the South had spent all. The expenditure in this proportion would be disagreeable; but if this was the inevitable and only price, Grant was willing to pay it, justly regarding it as cheaper than a continuation of the process of purchase by piecemeal. In a few hours the frightful struggle in the Wilderness was in progress. All day on the 5th, all day on the 6th, the terrible slaughter continued in those darksome woods and swamps. “More desperate fighting has not been witnessed on this continent,” said Grant. The Union troops could not force their way through those tangled forests. Thereupon, accepting the situation in his imperturbable way, he arranged to move, on May 7, by the left flank southerly towards Spottsylvania. Lee, disappointed and surprised that Grant was advancing instead of falling back, could not do otherwise than move in the same course; for, in fact, the combatants were locked together in a grappling campaign. Then took place more bloody and determined fighting. The Union losses were appalling, since the troops were attacking an army in position. Yet Grant was sanguine; it was in a dispatch of May 11 that he said that he had been getting the better in the struggle, and that he proposed to fight it out on that line if it took all summer. The result of the further slaughter at Spottsylvania was not a victory for either leader, but was more hurtful to Lee because