May 4, 1864
---The Army of the Potomac marches south, crossing the Rapidan at Germanna, Ely’s, and Culpeper Mine Ford. Hancock’s II Corps moves south from Ely’s Ford, while Gen. Warren’s V Corps moves south on the Germanna Plank Road, as Sedgwick’s VI Corps crosses the Rapidan after Warren, on the same road. (See map.) By late this evening, Hancock will be at the Chancellorsville crossroads; Warren will be at the Old Wilderness Tavern. James Wilson, with a division of Federal cavalry, will have taken Parker’s Store on the Orange Plank Road; Gen. Gregg has taken Piney Branch Church crossroads with another division of blue troopers.
---Gen. Lee orders Gen. Richard Ewell and the Second Corps to begin marching east on the Orange-Fredericksburg Turnpike, in a bid to interdict the Army of the Potomac on its march through the Wilderness. Gen. A.P. Hill and the Third Corps start moving east on the Orange Plank Road. Lee orders Longstreet to march north to Orange Court House, and then turn east, following Hill on the Orange Plank Hill. By nightfall, the two armies are only 2 miles apart.
---William Meade Dame of the Richmond Howitzers narrates what happened on this day of the Wilderness campaign as he and the men of his battery marched on:
On the next day but one, the 4th, about 10 o’clock, another courier galloped into camp, and, in a few moments, everybody having seen him, all the men had swarmed up to the Captain’s tent to hear the first news. Captain McCarthy came toward us and said, very quietly, “Boys, get ready! we leave here in two hours.” Then the courier told us that “Grant was crossing below us in the wilderness. That everything we had was pushing down to meet him; and that Longstreet, lately back from Tennessee, was at Gordonsville.” The news telling was here interrupted by Crouch sounding the familiar bugle call—“Boots and saddles,” which, to artillery ears, said, “Harness up, hitch up and prepare to move at a moment’s warning.” . . . All was quickly ready, and then we waited for orders to move.
It was with a feeling of sadness we thought of leaving this spot! . . . While we waited, after each had bidden a sad “good-bye” to his house, and its endeared surroundings, it was suggested that we gather once more, for a last meeting in our log church. . . .
So, we all instantly seized on the motion, to gather in the church. A hymn was sung, a prayer offered for God’s protection in the perils we well knew, we were about to meet. That He would help us to be brave men, and faithful unto death, as Southern soldiers; that He would give victory to our arms, and peace to our Country. A Scripture passage, the 91st Psalm, declaring God’s defense of those who trust Him, was read. And then, our “talk meeting.” It was resolved that “during the coming campaign, every evening, about sunset, whenever it was at all possible, we would keep up our custom, and such of us as could get together, wherever we might be, should gather for prayer.” . . . After another hymn, and a closing prayer, we all shook hands, and then, we took a regretful leave of our dear little Church, and wended our way, quiet and thoughtful, to the road where we found the guns standing, all ready to go. . . . Pretty soon the command—“Forward!” rang from the head of the line. We fell in alongside our respective guns. . . . We tramped along cheerily until about dark, when we bivouacked on the side of the road, with orders to start at daylight next morning. . . .
---At David’s Ferry on the Red River in Louisiana, Confederate troops destroy a Federal steamer and capture two more, as Admiral Porter is less able to protect his river flotilla.
---Over President Lincoln’s objections, the U.S. House of Representatives passes the Wade-Davis Reconstruction Bill, which lays out severe and retaliatory measures for punishing the South after the war.