Early in May Grant moved across the river to a position near the old battle field of Chancellorsville and in the thickly wooded district known as the "Wilderness." His object was to pass to the south of General Lee and get into the open country so that his numerical superiority could be made available. He was delayed and Lee advanced close to him. Grant ordered his troops to attack and this they did many times in the two days of the battle of the Wilderness, but little was gained and many were killed and wounded. Counter attacks by the enemy also availed little in the difficult country and the final result of the battle was a draw. The Federal loss was about 15,000 men, and that of the Confederates some 10,000. Grant's plan of constant attacks had not served its purpose of materially weakening the enemy, and had begun to use up his own force badly. This was the result of all the bloody actions of this short campaign.
To Spottsylvania Court House, still further south, was Grant's next move, but Lee was there first, and entrenched. The Federal army was again ordered to attack, and, although a few charges were successful, the main movement was a failure, The salient held by the enemy was captured, but they reformed on a new line and the armies faced each other in the same positions for over a week. Direct attacks had proved useless, and a flank move was now resorted to, but near Cold Harbor Grant again found himself facing the enemy entrenched in new breast works. About a month had now elapsed since the campaign opened, and but little good, had been done. Grant again attacked in force and was repulsed with heavy loss. In one single charge 7,000 men were lost. Time had now come for strategy. Grant kept part of his men in front of Lee and pretended to attack Richmond while he detached most of his army across the James river to make a sudden attack on Petersburg. The feint was successful, but not so the attack on Petersburg. The troops arriving in front of the city made an attack, but it was not followed up and General Beauregard, the commandant sent word to Lee to reinforce him at once. That general still deceived by Grant's movements delayed. The Federal troops prepared to attack Petersburg again, but the delay of a few hours was fatal. Lee marched into the town just in time and the Federal army was repulsed. The armies now settled down to an attack and defense on this city which lasted for almost ten months. The campaign on which Grant had started out had thinned the ranks of his army one-half while the Confederates were still undismayed and in a position to defend themselves. Mr. Ropes took Grant especially to task for the needless waste which he made in men and material, instead of husbanding them for judicious movements.