The Overland Campaign that pitted Robert E. Lee against Ulysses S. Grant is one of the most famous campaigns of the Civil War, and perhaps its greatest chess match. While Grant sought to destroy Lee's Army of Northern Virginia along the way to Richmond, Lee aimed to defend his capital while staying alert for a golden opportunity to strike a decisive blow against Grant's Army of the Potomac. The result was an incredibly costly campaign that saw four major battles and near-continuous fighting in May and June, 1864.
At the Battle of the Wilderness (May 5-7, 1864), Ulysses S. Grant and Robert E. Lee fought to a standstill in their first encounter, failing to dislodge each other despite incurring nearly 30,000 casualties between the Union Army of the Potomac and the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia. Despite the fierce fighting, Grant continued to push his battered, but resilient, army south, hoping to beat Lee's army to the crossroads at Spotsylvania Court House, but Lee's army beat Grant's to Spotsylvania and began digging in, setting the scene for on and off fighting from May 8-21, which ultimately inflicted more casualties than the Battle of the Wilderness. In fact, with over 32,000 casualties among the two sides, it was the deadliest battle of the Overland Campaign.
After Spotsylvania, Grant and Lee both raced to the next natural defensive line, the North Anna River.