An 1862 Overland Campaign...

Saphroneth

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So to recapitulate, I think the most important thing to remember about considering this sort of campaign is that the enemy commander is under no obligation to fight you if you want to fight him and it would be better for him not to fight.



If you want a substantial part of your campaign to be conducted Overland, you need to do at least one of the following:

Reaching the Rappahanock-Rapidan

- You can go over the Rappahanock-Rapidan (henceforth the Rapidan) at Fredericksburg, which means you're fighting a Fredericksburg.
- You can go over the Rapidan somewhere to the west of the confluence with the Rappahanock, which means you need to repair the Orange and Alexandria railway at least to Culpeper and you're basically spending several months doing that.


With that in mind:

Crossing phase

If you go for Fredericksburg then you have to win a battle which historically was badly lost by the Union when it was attempted, even with about 2:1 superiority in numbers. This gets you to the Spotsylvania phase.
If you go for the historical Wilderness route (by which time it is probably July) then you have to fight a battle which was won-one lost-one in terms of Union attempts to fight it, and for which you have less supply capacity (fewer wagons) and you have to go further (you have to go well past Fredericksburg instead of reach Fredericksburg); in other words you have to outperform the historical Union attempts at this route. This gets you to the Spotsylvania phase.
If you go for the Rapidan route (i.e. continue down the O&A), then again it's probably July by this point and you have to fight a battle which nobody even attempted - and for good reason, because the ground around Rapidan Station itself is good defensively. If you have gained the far bank then best-case scenario you can skip the Spotsylvania phase and move on to the North Anna phase.

Spotsylvania phase

Historically at Spotsylvania Court House Lee successfully held off attacks by a Union army that outnumbered him by more than 2:1 (indeed about 3:1 by the end). He did this successfully enough that Grant decided that it would not be worthwhile to continue attacking at Spotsylvania, and manoeuvred away instead.

If what you want to do is destroy the Confederate army significantly north of Richmond, then you're sort of stuck attacking at Spotsylvania and you have to significantly outperform the historical Spotsylvania in order to destroy the Confederate army. You will also have fewer troops available to you in total than Grant had by this point, even if you started the crossing phase with about the same number.
If on the other hand you opt to manoeuvre, you don't really need to equal the performance of the historical Spotsylvania and you can move on to the North Anna phase.

North Anna phase

The North Anna phase is where a pure-Overland route in 1862 comes unstuck no matter if it opts to manoeuvre or how it got over the Rapidan. You either need to win convincingly in a battle which the historical Overland saw as a no-hoper (to the extent that Grant didn't really bother trying very hard) or you need to have the York river open in order to supply yourself when you conduct a manoeuvre around the flank.
Now, with the Urbanna route you have a good chance of being able to either neutralize Gloucester with a flanking force or simply get over the Mattaponi river directly before Confederate troops can block you, which is what means you can open the York, but with the Overland route you're stalled some way further north (in fact at the North Anna you're pretty much as far south as you can get via wagon supply) and while if you had a cavalry corps you might be able to send it south on a deep penetration raid to shut down the Richmond and York Railroad on a permanent basis it's 1862 and you don't have a cavalry corps yet - there simply aren't enough mounted men for it. Even if you can shut it down, Yorktown is a bastion fort and can hold out for a while by itself.

If on the other hand you have an amphibious-hybrid setup where you take Gloucester Point and put Union navy gunboats on the York (to knock out Yorktown) then you can supply up the York and thus reach the Cold Harbor phase.

Cold Harbor phase

At the Cold Harbor phase, either you will have to drastically outperform the historical fighting at Cold Harbor or you will be unable to break into Richmond or indeed badly harm the Confederate army. You can keep knocking yourself out against the lines, or you can move on to the Petersburg phase.

Petersburg phase

This is functionally impossible unless the James river has been opened up to Union gunboats and supply ships, which means that you need to have taken Norfolk and destroyed the Virginia. If the Virginia is still extant then you are out of luck.



The bottom line to this is that there is no way I can see in which an 1862 Overland can work unless you significantly outperform a historical Union battle that took place when attempting to conduct a later overland campaign, or you take many months (i.e. longer than the historical Peninsular campaign), or you mix in so many elements of the Peninsular campaign that you may as well just do that.


The closest thing I can see to a workable route which is more Overland-y than the Urbanna plan (which remember is an amphibious-overland hybrid because half or more of the army comes overland) is:


- Wait months for the repair of the Orange and Alexandria south to Culpeper.
- Rush through the Wilderness, even though you have less supply than 1864 and have to go further.
- Establish supply from Port Royal VA.
- Manoeuvre to the North Anna rather than fighting at Spotsylvania.
- Use an amphibious force to take Gloucester and open up the York.
- Manoeuvre to the Cold Harbor position supplied from the York.
- Use an amphibious force to take Norfolk.
- Cross to Petersburg.


This allows you to do something that I would say is recognizably the Overland campaign when you only have to significantly outperform any historical Union force in one segment of the campaign (the marching and fighting in the Wilderness). The downside is that it takes many months and you do still have to manage that one significant outperform.
 

DanSBHawk

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Well, yes, all you need to do to make an 1862 Overland campaign feasible is to preface it with enough of the elements of a Peninsular campaign to functionally no longer make it an Overland campaign and turn it into a hybrid. That is quite workable, assuming you can solve the supply problem listed below (or successfully fight a Fredericksburg), but at that point you may as well just conduct an Urbanna campaign or similar rather than have to repair the Orange and Alexandria.

As for the decisive fighting taking place well north of Richmond, yes, if you can persuade Johnston to neither defend the strong position at Centreville nor retreat south of the Rappahanock (with accompanying destruction of the railway) you don't need to have the capability to supply an army south of the Rappahanock during the major fighting; if you can destroy the enemy in Wilderness-Spotsylvania fighting you don't need the York river opened. But the first one of these relies on Johnston knowingly exposing himself to defeat when historically he was not so obliging, and the second one of these is significantly outperforming the historical Overland.


Not so incidentally, if Johnston retreats to the Rappahanock-Rapidan line then you do have a major supply issue, which is that:

View attachment 370940

The orange line is the area of the railway which Johnston's retreating forces wrecked; the blue line is the line the Federal army followed in the historical Overland after they broke away from their supply lines. As you can see the Federal army supplied itself from the section of the O&A which was in need of repair.

One of the big merits of Urbanna was that it would deny Johnston the chance to wreck the railway as he retreated.
No, the only "element of a Peninsula Campaign" would be taking Gloucester to free up the York. And that was not done during the Peninsula campaign, even though the Navy was ready to support it.

I don't buy the excuses why a '62 Overland couldn't be done. Logistical problems can be solved. I'm sure if Sherman had not accomplished the March to the Sea, there would be people today describing in detail why it would have been impossible.
 

DanSBHawk

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Young's numbers are in regulation PFD for the Confederates; the commonly accepted numbers for Lee during the Seven Days (and presumably the ones Young used) are in Effectives. In PFD the strength of the Confederate army was:

96,000 (Young, Overland)
112,000 (Harsh, Seven Days)

You can't mix definitions when trying to work out which army is larger, and you have to be rigorous about it.
Young wrote that Lee's numbers were greater during the Overland than the Seven Days. I'll go by his opinion, as I've seen how numbers get manipulated here.
 

DanSBHawk

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If we're talking about the Urbanna Plan, sure. The problem though comes from the issue of Johnston retreating beforehand, as occurred historically; the Orange and Alexandria can't sustain the Army of the Potomac down to Culpepper Court House, which is needed to put it into a position to eventually get to use the York. Also, if you've landed a sufficient force to take Gloucester, then you've weakened the Army of the Potomac which gives Johnston the chance to fight a battle on favorable terms once it crosses the river.

At least, that's as far as I understand it.
It wouldn't have taken much of a force to take Gloucester. The force at Fort Monroe could assist.
 

Saphroneth

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Young wrote that Lee's numbers were greater during the Overland than the Seven Days. I'll go by his opinion, as I've seen how numbers get manipulated here.
And Johnston wrote that the force at the Seven Days was the greatest Confederate army that ever fought; you are of course at liberty to disagree, both with him and with Harsh (who actually did a study on the Seven Days and the strength of the Confederate army there; my understanding is that Young's actual research was on the Overland and he used the commonly used - i.e. Effective - values for the Seven Days.)
 

Saphroneth

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No, the only "element of a Peninsula Campaign" would be taking Gloucester to free up the York. And that was not done during the Peninsula campaign, even though the Navy was ready to support it.

I don't buy the excuses why a '62 Overland couldn't be done. Logistical problems can be solved. I'm sure if Sherman had not accomplished the March to the Sea, there would be people today describing in detail why it would have been impossible.
So do you propose fighting the Battle of Fredericksburg, or waiting several months until the Orange and Alexandria is repaired as far as Culpeper? You have to pick one.

ED: note that I am not saying that an 1862 Overland is flat out impossible; I am saying that it is significantly harder than an 1864 Overland to the extent that it is not possible to use the 1864 Overland to argue that it would work, and that other (significantly amphibious) operations are much more feasible.
 

67th Tigers

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No, the only "element of a Peninsula Campaign" would be taking Gloucester to free up the York. And that was not done during the Peninsula campaign, even though the Navy was ready to support it.

Or rather, the Navy being unwilling, despite the Army allocating forces.
Young wrote that Lee's numbers were greater during the Overland than the Seven Days. I'll go by his opinion, as I've seen how numbers get manipulated here.

It's interesting to watch Young accept the "Lost Cause" figures when it suits him, whilst spending an entire book on arguing against them when it doesn't suit him. Given his form, one wonders how much trust we should place in his unsupported opinions.
 

DanSBHawk

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Or rather, the Navy being unwilling, despite the Army allocating forces.


It's interesting to watch Young accept the "Lost Cause" figures when it suits him, whilst spending an entire book on arguing against them when it doesn't suit him. Given his form, one wonders how much trust we should place in his unsupported opinions.
Not hardly. The Navy was ready and waiting for McClellan and Franklin to get their act together. How long did Franklin camp out onboard ship before he finally did something?
 

67th Tigers

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Not hardly. The Navy was ready and waiting for McClellan and Franklin to get their act together. How long did Franklin camp out onboard ship before he finally did something?

How long did Franklin wait for the Navy to commit before they gave up on the Navy and landed the division to add to the assault column?
 

Saphroneth

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Not hardly. The Navy was ready and waiting for McClellan and Franklin to get their act together. How long did Franklin camp out onboard ship before he finally did something?
That depends; do you count "did something" as constructing new landing equipment to allow for the particulars of the site the Navy had selected for landing? Because if so that was pretty quick; if not, one might well ask how to land a division on a beach where you can't get them out of the boats without drowning them.
 

Generic Username

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It wouldn't have taken much of a force to take Gloucester. The force at Fort Monroe could assist.

In which case, we're still back to the question of how does the Army of the Potomac get over the Rappahannock when the Confederates most likely outnumber it now as well as the fact that the railway can't support getting it there? Opening the York is only meaningful if the AotP can actually use it.
 

DanSBHawk

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That depends; do you count "did something" as constructing new landing equipment to allow for the particulars of the site the Navy had selected for landing? Because if so that was pretty quick; if not, one might well ask how to land a division on a beach where you can't get them out of the boats without drowning them.
The original plan was to go up the Severn and disembark, and take Gloucester from the rear. It took a couple weeks for Franklin to arrive, and then he stayed on the boats for another two weeks. How does it take a month to figure out how to land in a small tidal river?
 

Saphroneth

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It's also worth realizing that the amount of force required to take Gloucester is only minor in comparison; it's comparatively vulnerable, yes, but this is "comparatively vulnerable" on the scale of throwing a division or corps at a problem - it's still a fort holding on the order of 1100-1200 effectives and a pretty hefty amount of artillery.

Moreover, at this time Magruder's Army of the Peninsula is still at Big Bethel, quite close to Fort Monroe, and he disposes of on the order of eleven thousand effective infantry (exclusive of the force at Gloucester). The force at Fort Monroe is about the same size if not slightly smaller, and if Wool detaches more than a brigade or so to take Gloucester he is definitely vulnerable.
 

Saphroneth

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The original plan was to go up the Severn and disembark, and take Gloucester from the rear. It took a couple weeks for Franklin to arrive, and then he stayed on the boats for another two weeks. How does it take a month to figure out how to land in a small tidal river?
Well, the first half of the month you're talking about doesn't apply because Franklin wasn't available (as he'd been detached from McClellan's command).
The second half? That's pretty much identifying the gradient problem at the specific beach (which was suggested by the Navy, it was a change of location) and building the landing craft to get in close enough to the shore that they can land things like e.g. artillery.
 

Saphroneth

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On the specific matter of Confederate strength in the Seven Days, I feel it's worth pointing out that in the July 20 strength reports post-Seven-Days (at a point where Lee has sent off Jackson's force again) Lee has 4,333 officers in his army exclusive of the Richmond defences themselves, and is complaining that he needs more officers to properly command his men; McClellan has 3,834 officers in his army. The PFD/Effectives conversion factor in this period is hard to identify, but officers are officers; given that Lee has sent off Jackson's division and Ewell's division since the Seven Days, Lee's reported officer count is low compared to how large his army should be relative to McClellan (because if the officer ratio for the two sides is equal, we'd then need to up Lee's count to factor in Jackson and Ewell).

This is frankly inexplicable if Lee's army in the Seven Days was smaller than McClellan's army of 105,000 PFD (which had 4,665 officers in it on June 20 and lost about 850 net officers in the fighting, after partial casualty replacement by two brigades of reinforcements), because Confederate regiments do not have more officers on their ToE.

This also makes sense of how there were a bit over 2,100 companies in the Confederate army in the Seven Days, while the Union army (of 105,000 regulation PFD) had less than 2,000 companies in it.
 

DanSBHawk

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Well, the first half of the month you're talking about doesn't apply because Franklin wasn't available (as he'd been detached from McClellan's command).
The second half? That's pretty much identifying the gradient problem at the specific beach (which was suggested by the Navy, it was a change of location) and building the landing craft to get in close enough to the shore that they can land things like e.g. artillery.
The first half of the month certainly does apply. McClellan had those two weeks to figure out the Severn landing, and some have criticized him for not detaching a force even before Franklin arrived.
 

DanSBHawk

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In which case, we're still back to the question of how does the Army of the Potomac get over the Rappahannock when the Confederates most likely outnumber it now as well as the fact that the railway can't support getting it there? Opening the York is only meaningful if the AotP can actually use it.
I'll let you and others figure it out. I disagree that they would be outnumbered, even with a York River detachment.

My main point is that if the main objective is to bring the confederates to battle, it could have been done by Overland just as by the Peninsula. Limiting the options in '62 seems to me more about making excuses for McClellan.
 

Generic Username

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I'll let you and others figure it out. I disagree that they would be outnumbered, even with a York River detachment.

My main point is that if the main objective is to bring the confederates to battle, it could have been done by Overland just as by the Peninsula. Limiting the options in '62 seems to me more about making excuses for McClellan.

And this would be more successful than Pope in 1862 and Hooker in 1863 because why? If *Grant* (or whoever) does manage to get over the River, what then? Lee had 60,000 for Overland but in August of 1862, even if you don't take the Peninsular Campaign totals for some reason, Lee has at least 75,000 or thereabouts. Here, however, he hasn't lost 20,000 men in the Seven Days; so 95,000 to what, 120,000?
 

DanSBHawk

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And this would be more successful than Pope in 1862 and Hooker in 1863 because why? If *Grant* (or whoever) does manage to get over the River, what then? Lee had 60,000 for Overland but in August of 1862, even if you don't take the Peninsular Campaign totals for some reason, Lee has at least 75,000 or thereabouts. Here, however, he hasn't lost 20,000 men in the Seven Days; so 95,000 to what, 120,000?
Why not? It's basically fighting the Seven Days battles but not on the Peninsula. I don't see why a competent federal commander couldn't defeat Johnston/Lee with those numbers in battles out in the open. The problem is the leadership.
 

Generic Username

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Why not? It's basically fighting the Seven Days battles but not on the Peninsula. I don't see why a competent federal commander couldn't defeat Johnston/Lee with those numbers in battles out in the open. The problem is the leadership.

The Federals lost the Seven Days, however. Pope got Lee out in the open in 1862 and lost badly, so did Burnside and Hooker, respectively. Let's take the 95,000 and 120,000 figures and then use the historical casualties:

Wilderness: 11,000 Confederate to 17,000 Federal
Spotslyvania: 12,000 Confederate to 18,000 Federal
Cold Harbor: 5,000 Confederate to 12,000 Federal

Total: 27,000 Confederate casualties to 47,000 Federal

73,000 Federals to 68,000 Confederates at the end. Ignore the logistics and add Second Petersburg? 64,000 Confederates to 61,000 Federals....
 
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