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After the battle of Gettysburg the year 1863 passed without an engagement between the two armies in Virginia Lee after crossing the Potomac retired behind the line of the Rapidan Meade massed his army at Warrenton In October Lee made a rapid advance to the old battle-ground of Manassas But if he hoped to take his antagonist by surprise he was mistaken Meade was too quick for him and he was forced to retreat hastily In November Meade retaliated with an equally rapid advance hoping to surprise Lee in his lines at Mine Run This effort also ended in failure Lee concentrated his army and Meade retired without a battle Late in the winter a cavalry expedition under Kilpatrick sought to take Richmond by surprise It failed and nothing further was done till the spring of 1864 Grants victorious career in the West had now made him the most prominent figure in the Union armies and on March 9 1864 he was placed in command of all the forces in the field with the high grade of lieutenant-general which had been held by no one since Washington Scott holding this rank only by brevet He at once appointed Sherman to the command of the Western armies and took command in person of the Army of the Potomac It was designed that all the armies should work thenceforward strictly in conjunction On May 1 Grant opposed Lee with a force estimated at one hundred and forty thousand to his sixty thousand A simultaneous movement was designed and on May 4 Grant advanced towards the Rapidan while Butler with twenty thousand men moved from Fortress Monroe up the south side of the James and on the 6th Sherman advanced from Chattanooga Lee was found in line of battle in the difficult region of the Wilderness the scene of the previous desperate battle of Chancellorsville A terrible engagement ensued which continued throughout the 5th
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