John Reeves is the author of A Fire in the Wilderness: The First Battle Between Ulysses S. Grant and Robert E. Lee.

The site of the first burials at Arlington National Cemetery, June 1864. Image: National Archives.

The creation of Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia occurred almost immediately after one of the worst days of violence and horror in American history.

On May 12, 1864, during the Battle of Spotsylvania Court House, Union troops under Ulysses S. Grant engaged in bloody combat with Confederate forces commanded by Robert E. Lee for almost 24 hours. At the western tip of Lee’s fortifications — forever remembered as the Bloody Angle — the contest was particularly murderous. A…


John Reeves is the author of A Fire in the Wilderness: The First Battle Between Ulysses S. Grant and Robert E. Lee.

Ulysses S. Grant

Later, there would be false rumors of drinking and accusations of incompetence. When the Rebels attacked early that Sunday morning on April 6, 1862, they found the Union troops under Major General Ulysses S. Grant unprepared. Somehow Grant, who wasn’t on the battlefield during the initial attack, miraculously avoided what appeared to be a certain defeat. …


George Washington Crossing the Delaware. Image: Wikimedia Commons

During the early days of the Revolutionary War, in August 1775, General George Washington sent a letter protesting the treatment of American officers to the British commander, General Thomas Gage. Washington objected to the British practice of throwing American officers into jails with common criminals.

Gage responded by saying he refused to recognize ranks among Americans “for I acknowledge no rank that is not derived from the king.” Angered by Gage’s barbarous policy, Washington controlled his temper and coolly replied, “You affect, Sir, to despise all rank not derived from the same source with your own. …


Paul Manafort Photo by VOA

On July 28, 2016, Konstantin Kilimnik flew from Kyiv to Moscow and met for five hours with the former president of Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovych, who was living in Russia after fleeing his country in 2014. After the meeting, Kilimnik urgently needed to discuss a sensitive and potentially lucrative proposal with his colleague, Paul Manafort. He sent an email later that day to Manafort with the subject line “Black caviar.”

Black caviar was a reference to the time that Yanukovych gave a black caviar jar to Manafort worth roughly $30,000 to $40,000. In the email, Kilimnik told Manafort he had several…


Trump and Putin

The Senate Intelligence Committee published a devastating account of the Trump Campaign’s actions relating to Russia, in a report released earlier this week. One of its top-level findings will leave some Americans speechless:

While the GRU and WikiLeaks were releasing hacked documents, the Trump Campaign sought to maximize the impact of those leaks to aid Trump’s electoral prospects. Staff on the Trump Campaign sought advance notice about WikiLeaks releases, created messaging strategies to promote and share the materials in anticipation of and following their release, and encouraging further leaks. …


John Reeves is the author of A Fire in the Wilderness: The First Battle Between Ulysses S. Grant and Robert E. Lee.

The Robert E. Lee monument in Richmond, Virginia.

In the days and weeks after the killing of George Floyd, Americans gathered all across the country to demand an end to police brutality. As the Black Lives Matter movement grew bigger and bigger in the United States, many protesters also called for an end to those monuments that symbolize white supremacy and violence against African Americans and American Indians. Such monuments have been subjected to intensive scrutiny in recent years, and have become increasingly unpopular.

In a…


John Reeves is the author of A Fire in the Wilderness: The First Battle Between Ulysses S. Grant and Robert E. Lee.

The Death of John Reynolds

Major General John Reynolds found Brigadier General John Buford about a half mile west of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, around 10:00 a.m. on July 1, 1863. After considering the strength of the Union position, Reynolds decided to fight the larger Confederate force right there.

Just as the most important battle in American history began, Reynolds was struck and killed by a Minie ball behind the right ear, while leading his men on the battlefield. His final words were, “Forward men…


John Reeves is the author of The Lost Indictment of Robert E. Lee (Rowman & Littlefield, 2018).

Pickett’s Charge, July 1863

A large man, wearing a Confederate uniform and carrying a Rebel flag, walked across a wide open field toward a group of twenty or so eighth graders, who were standing on higher ground. A tour guide from Gettysburg National Park — let’s call him Stan — lectured the kids about “duty” and “honor” and other values that were displayed by both armies during Pickett’s Charge on the afternoon of July 3, 1863. …


5 Essential Books on the Battle of the Wilderness

John Reeves is the author of A Fire in the Wilderness: The First Battle Between Ulysses S. Grant and Robert E. Lee.

Rescuing the wounded in the Wilderness.

Horace Porter, a staff officer for Ulysses S. Grant, provided a chilling description of the Battle of the Wilderness:

“Forest fires raged; ammunition-trains exploded; the dead were roasted in the conflagration; the wounded roused by its hot breath, dragged themselves along with their torn and mangled limbs, in the mad energy of despair, to escape the ravages of the flames; and every bush seemed hung with shreds of blood-stained clothing. …


John Reeves is the author of A Fire in the Wilderness: The First the Battle Between Ulysses S. Grant and Robert E. Lee.

Lee after Appomattox

In my book, The Lost Indictment of Robert E. Lee, I discuss an important interview with Robert E. Lee that appeared in The New York Herald on Saturday, April 29, 1865, almost three weeks after his surrender at Appomattox. Here are remarks from Lee on five topics that came up during the interview with The Herald’s Thomas Cook.

On the death of President Abraham Lincoln

The General considered this event in itself one of the most deplorable…

John Reeves

Author of “A Fire in the Wilderness: The First Battle Between Ulysses S. Grant and Robert E. Lee.”

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store