An 1862 Overland Campaign...

DanSBHawk

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
May 8, 2015
Location
Wisconsin
You can't just dismiss a reason by calling it an excuse.
It's fact that getting over the Rapidan by the Overland route involves three options and none of them are good; if you are willing to argue that an Overland campaign in 1862 was militarily plausible (in the face of the opinions of not just McClellan but every divisional commander of the Army of the Potomac in March 1862) then you need to either accept the problems and admit you do not have a solution to them, or provide a solution.
You seem to think that it's virtually impossible to get over the Rapidan. And yet it was done repeatedly. I believe Meade was the last one to do it, during the Mine Run campaign, before Grant came east.

There is no reason to believe a '62 Overland campaign was impossible.
 

Saphroneth

Captain
Joined
Feb 18, 2017
You seem to think that it's virtually impossible to get over the Rapidan. And yet it was done repeatedly. I believe Meade was the last one to do it, during the Mine Run campaign, before Grant came east.
Well, yes, it was done repeatedly, and what happened then?
Burnside couldn't break out of Fredericksburg, and so that one's a non-starter.
Hooker got pinned in by Lee, and so couldn't establish himself south of the Rapidan in a way he could conduct a further offensive. So that one's a non-starter as well.
And when Meade did it at Mine Run, he got pinned in by Lee as well and (to his credit) skipped the "thousands of casualties" bit and pulled back.

For all purposes above about the difficulty, "getting over the Rapidan" should be read as "getting over the Rapidan in good supply to continue further". Since 3 out of 4 attempts led to the Union commander having no options other than "retreat" or "attack directly into Confederate entrenchments", it's clearly not so easy as all that to get an overland campaign rolling in a meaningful way.

And if I were the Confederate commander? I would absolutely be content with the Union battering their army against strong entrenchments, thus inflicting heavy casualties on themselves and sapping the ability of their army to conduct further campaigns. Note that on no occasion during any of the Overland attempts did the Confederates dig in on a defensive line and the Union break through it.
 

C.J.

Private
Joined
Oct 3, 2020
Something I would like to mention before this thread gets to old is, could a alt Fredericksburg work? Like if Meade had been supported when his division had taken part of the southern rebel line the whole battle could have been won then, couldn't McClellan do better? He has more troops then burnside did, and at lest to start with (before Johnston gets his reinforcements) the Confederatecy less then the OTL Fredericksburg.
 

Saphroneth

Captain
Joined
Feb 18, 2017
Something I would like to mention before this thread gets to old is, could a alt Fredericksburg work? Like if Meade had been supported when his division had taken part of the southern rebel line the whole battle could have been won then, couldn't McClellan do better? He has more troops then burnside did, and at lest to start with (before Johnston gets his reinforcements) the Confederatecy less then the OTL Fredericksburg.
Well, going for the "cross before the area is defended" won't work because there's two divisions there at the start, so it'd have to be much the same "slowly build the pontoons" as historical, which gives time for the Confederate reinforcements to arrive. (It helps that an attack on Fredericksburg was exactly what Johnston was expecting, of course)
Johnston has access to:

Immediately available at Fredericksburg: 7 brigades (minimum 6)
Whiting's division of 3 bdes (Whiting, Hood and Hampton)
Holmes' division of 4 bdes (French, Walker*, Field and SR Anderson)

Available elsewhere on the Rapidan/Rappahanock line: 14 brigades (minimum 13)
GW Smith's division (GT Anderson, Wilcox* and Toombs)
Longstreet's division of 3 bdes (AP Hill, DR Jones and Pickett, with DR Jones being senior and commanding the division in lieu of Longstreet's assuming a "corps")
Ewell's division (Elzey, Trimble and Taylor)
Early's division of 3 bdes (Early, Rodes and Kershaw)
DH Hill's new division assembled from two slack brigades (Griffith and GB Anderson)

* pulled out to help form central CS reserve

On top of that Gregg, Branch and JR Anderson from the NC force were sent to Northern Virginia when McClellan made his historical move, along with Cobb (who'd been pulled from the Peninsula) being released back to the Peninsula and Colston and Pryor (from Norfolk) going to the Peninsula.

That means Johnston would have:

19 brigades already along the Rapidan/Rappahanock
+ 2 released back to him
+ 3 from NC
+ 1 from Peninsula
+ 2 from Norfolk

Total 27 brigades

Jackson is still in the Valley.

Assuming both sides concentrate everything aside from their Valley forces at Fredericksburg (and that McClellan gets to keep all 12 divisions of his main field force, which historically he did not) then that's about 4:3 in favour of the Union (assuming the strength of the brigades is comparable). Might be workable, but not in "will definitely succeed" territory, especially since none of the DCs or CCs has much if any experience.
If a division is ordered to Fremont, or one is held back to defend Washington along the Culpeper-Manassas-Washington or Manassas Gap - Manassas - Washington approach route, then the numerical superiority erodes fast.
 
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67th Tigers

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Nov 10, 2006
Longstreet's division of 3 bdes (AP Hill, DR Jones and Pickett, with DR Jones being senior and commanding the division in lieu of Longstreet's assuming a "corps")
As a general note, the reason for the corps sized "divisions" was that the rebels simply copied the US Army Regulations, and the regulations didn't allow for the existence of a corps. The Federals allowed for the creation of Corps with their 1862 Militia Act (passed 17th July 1862), and the rebels with an act of 18th September 1862:

" The Congress of the Confederate States of America do enact, That the sixth section of the Act to provide for the public defence, approved on the sixth of March, eighteen hundred and sixty-one, be amended by adding after the words "brigades into divisions," the words "and divisions into army corps," and each army corps shall be commanded by a Lieutenant-General, to be appointed by the President, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, who shall receive the pay of a Brigadier-General"
 

Saphroneth

Captain
Joined
Feb 18, 2017
It's sort of interesting that the CSA just went ahead and added the rank of LG as a line rank (and, indeed, full general) without much fuss, while the USA agonized over it; also interesting in the other direction that the CSA had to come up with the dodge of "provisional" general appointment in 1864, while the USA never seemed to have the need.
 

67th Tigers

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Nov 10, 2006
The CSA created a regular army (ACSA) and a volunteer force (PACS). Originally they were established for 5 regular BG's, but when it was clear that militia MG's wouldn't take orders from "inferior ranks" all 5 were made (acting?) full generals in the regular army, with the pay of brigadier-general.

In fact, until 10th June 1864, the CSA only recognised one pay-grade; that of brigadier-general at $301 pm (with allowances if appointed to command a formation). That's why there was no separate insignia for the different grades. Originally all rebel generals were technically BG's appointed to occupy higher positions. That said, both Lee and Joe Johnston wore non-regulation insignia; Lee that of the US "Major-General commanding the army" (not a rebel colonel, look at the size and orientation of the stars*), and Johnston similar but with a six-rayed central star.

The rebels appointment of Hood was using this piece of legislation:

CHAP. VIII.--An Act to provide for the appointment of officers with temporary rank and command.

The Congress of the Confederate States of America do enact, That the President be, and he is hereby authorized, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, to appoint temporary officers of the rank of brigadier general, major general, lieutenant general or general for the provisional army, and assign them to any appropriate command.

SEC. 2. That the said officers, so appointed, shall only hold their said rank and their said command, for such time as the temporary exigency may require, at the expiration of which time they shall resume their previous permanent rank and command.

APPROVED May 31, 1864.


May 31, 1864.


* Three stars, with the central one being larger, just like the rebel BG insignia. Rebel colonels had three equal stars.
 
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