Can Anyone Explain the Eastern Theater for a Western Theater guy?

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#1
When I became interested in learning about the war on a more detailed level, I tended to focus on the Army of Tennessee's campaigns, and am only now venturing into exploring the Army of Northern Virginia. It's a bit of a culture shock, to be honest. Campaigns being confined to such a relatively small area, the Confederate high command working like a well-oiled machine, Union commanders being defeated, frequent large Confederate forays into Union territory - it's quite a bit to wrap one's head around.

Can some of our Eastern theater experts please try to explain the war in that theater for people like me with a definite "Western" perspective?
 

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Vicksburger

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#3
Robert E. Lee ran roughshod for a few years over several incompetent Union generals. Then after many failed attempts, Lincoln finally found a general. General Grant wore down, and then defeated Robert E. Lee and the Army of Northern Virginia. That's it in a nut shell.


Respectfully,
William

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Although I would argue that the manpower and wealth of the Northern States were more the reason for Lee's army's wearing down. I think Grant was the beneficiary of these great attributes. Grant got a lot of credit for things I am not sure he deserves credit for.
 
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#4
Although I would argue that the manpower and wealth of the Northern States were more the reason for Lee's army's wearing down. I think Grant was the beneficiary of these great attributes. Grant got a lot of credit for things I am not sure he deserves credit for.
By the time Grant came east and confronted Lee and the AoNV, it was worn down. I agree it was manpower, but also Grant was a different type of General then the other's Lee had met. Grant was a bulldog, and with the continual influx of manpower, Grant just kept coming at Lee and the AoNV. When Grant was defeated he didn't retreat like the other generals Lee had faced, Grant just kept pushing.

Respectfully,
William

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Vicksburger

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#5
By the time Grant came east and confronted Lee and the AoNV, it was worn down. I agree it was manpower, but also Grant was a different type of General then the other's Lee had met. Grant was a bulldog, and with the continual influx of manpower, Grant just kept coming at Lee and the AoNV. When Grant was defeated he didn't retreat like the other generals Lee had faced, Grant just kept pushing.

Respectfully,
William

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I agree and give credit to Grant that in 1864 when he would suffer a setback, instead of going back into camp for several months, he keep the pressure on. But, he had the great organization and wealth and manpower behind him. And they all talk about how great the Vicksburg campaign was, when a lot of his success derived from having the better organized army, quartermaster, commissary, etc.,organizations. And the Confederates in the West were like the poor step-child who got the left overs and more often than not ammo and equipment that only worked part of the time. Considering that, it is not surprising that Grant, or whoever had command at that time, was victorious.
 

luinrina

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#6
Campaigns being confined to such a relatively small area
Union commanders being defeated
I think that with both capitals geographically close to each other and each army instructed to defend their capital, the confinement to northern Virginia was a natural given. I can imagine that this circumstance put a lot of pressure on the generals commanding the Army of the Potomac, a pressure the Western commanders did not have to the same extent because Lincoln's focus was mostly on Washington and its safety. Whatever campaign the generals were planning, the capital's safety had to come first.

Confederate high command working like a well-oiled machine
Lee knew how to handle Davis and discretionary orders generally worked well with Jackson and Longstreet. After Jackson's death and then Longstreet's wounding, it started falling apart. The new commanders needed closer supervision, something Lee had to adjust to too, and at the same time, the AotP got first Meade and then Grant.
 

DaveBrt

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#7
General Grant wore down, and then defeated Robert E. Lee and the Army of Northern Virginia.
I would say the North's resources wore down the ANV, aided by the weakness of the South's resources, and then Grant defeated Lee.

Richmond and Lee were hard pressed to feed themselves as early as late 1862/early 1863. This got worse in late 1863 with the need to feed Longstreet north of Knoxville. Lee was tied to his railroad supplies by the lack of horses to pull his supply trains, so he could not go more than one day's march from a working railroad. This shortage of horses was partly caused by the lack of fodder in Virginia by late 1863. It was not just food for men that had to come may hundreds of miles on a single railroad line, but also food for horses. A thorough study of the supply situation for the ANV for the whole war needs to be written.

It is also interesting to read the reinforcements called for by Richmond in the early summer of 1864. Calls against the Department of North and South Carolina and Florida were first, a brigade, then individual regiments, then individual companies (removed from the heavy batteries defending Charleston) -- some from as far away as Florida. The South was out of manpower for every essential component of war-fighting.

The Western Southern armies were short of everything; the Eastern Southern armies were less short of everything.
 
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#8
I would say the North's resources wore down the ANV, aided by the weakness of the South's resources, and then Grant defeated Lee.

Richmond and Lee were hard pressed to feed themselves as early as late 1862/early 1863. This got worse in late 1863 with the need to feed Longstreet north of Knoxville. Lee was tied to his railroad supplies by the lack of horses to pull his supply trains, so he could not go more than one day's march from a working railroad. This shortage of horses was partly caused by the lack of fodder in Virginia by late 1863. It was not just food for men that had to come may hundreds of miles on a single railroad line, but also food for horses. A thorough study of the supply situation for the ANV for the whole war needs to be written.

It is also interesting to read the reinforcements called for by Richmond in the early summer of 1864. Calls against the Department of North and South Carolina and Florida were first, a brigade, then individual regiments, then individual companies (removed from the heavy batteries defending Charleston) -- some from as far away as Florida. The South was out of manpower for every essential component of war-fighting.

The Western Southern armies were short of everything; the Eastern Southern armies were less short of everything.


I think that is a wonderful assessment of the situation !!

Respectfully,
William

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Andy Cardinal

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#11
My own perspective about eastern vs western --

1) As you noted in the initial post, the confined geographic area is the first major factor. There was just not a whole lot of room to maneuver for either side.

2) The Eastern armies on both sides were much more political,I think, then the Western armies were, but especially on the Union side. Many of the command problems in the Army of the Potomac had to do with the political forces at play within that army. Lee was able to take advantage of this until Grant came along.

3) Lee had excellent defensive opportunities. especially with the Army of the Potomac and confined to an overland approach for most of the war. The Rappahannock and Rapidan Rivers supplied great defensive positions, as to the North Anna.

4) Lee was one of the great generals of the war and he had 2 of the best corps commanders of the war under his command in 1862-1863. By contrast, the Army of the Potomac had an ever-revolving set of commanders -- not only at the army level, but at the corps level as well. In addition, the 7 corps structure of the Army of the Potomac was unwieldy on the Battlefield & difficult to control -- a problem not resolved until 1864. This unwieldiness usually gave Lee another advantage on the Battlefield in addition to any questions of generalship.
 
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#12
I don't know too much about the Eastern theater anymore, even though that is what started this research thing as a kid. But, the war was over after the Tullahoma Campaign, except for the dying, slashing and burning. If Sherman had been allowed his desires, The North would've extended their supply lines too long trying to teach Texas the same lesson. That would have changed the outcome of Hotel California.
 
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#14
Robert E. Lee ran roughshod for a few years over several incompetent Union generals. Then after many failed attempts, Lincoln finally found a general. General Grant wore down, and then defeated Robert E. Lee and the Army of Northern Virginia. That's it in a nut shell.


Respectfully,
William

One Nation,
Two countries
View attachment 309558
Correct me if I am wrong, but Lee did not win one bull run II/ chancellorsville style major victory after Jackson died. And never went on the offensive again after the Wilderness when Longstreet was injured. I think Lee was a solid general, but I think his subordinates are what helped make him great. As far as Eastern Theatre generals...Washington was awfully close. I think it would be like your boss giving you a task and standing over your shoulder and telling you how to do every step. As far as Grant, one thing I think he did right was tell Washington to let him do his job. Another thing that I think helped the ANV was a ton of the supplies of the confederacy went to them. I just read cannoneers in gray, which is about the artillery in the army of the tenessee, and they lack a lot of the supplies that the ANV got.
 
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#15
Correct me if I am wrong, but Lee did not win one bull run II/ chancellorsville style major victory after Jackson died. And never went on the offensive again after the Wilderness when Longstreet was injured. I think Lee was a solid general, but I think his subordinates are what helped make him great. As far as Eastern Theatre generals...Washington was awfully close. I think it would be like your boss giving you a task and standing over your shoulder and telling you how to do every step. As far as Grant, one thing I think he did right was tell Washington to let him do his job. Another thing that I think helped the ANV was a ton of the supplies of the confederacy went to them. I just read cannoneers in gray, which is about the artillery in the army of the tenessee, and they lack a lot of the supplies that the ANV got.
Lee did not win 1st Manassas (Bull Run) as he was not the commanding general at that time, but Lee was approached with Lincoln's blessing about commanding the Union Army at Washington..................Washington (Lincoln) was awfully close, not Lee's problem, and Lee actually took advantage of that and great generals would. The better the subordinates of course the better the general will look. Actually because of Grants greatness, Lincoln decided he had the right general and he allowed Grant to let him do his job. With the Army of Northern Virginia being the protecting army of the Confederate Capital, why would not the bulk of supplies go to it?

I consider Grant as the greatest Union General, and Lee the greatest Confederate General, over all I give the slight nod to Lee, as he did more with less than any General in the Civil war. At the start of the war and up until Gettysburg, Lee ran roughshod in the east and over several Union Generals, who were sub par to Lee.

Respectfully,
William

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Andy Cardinal

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#16
Correct me if I am wrong, but Lee did not win one bull run II/ chancellorsville style major victory after Jackson died. And never went on the offensive again after the Wilderness when Longstreet was injured. I think Lee was a solid general, but I think his subordinates are what helped make him great. As far as Eastern Theatre generals...Washington was awfully close. I think it would be like your boss giving you a task and standing over your shoulder and telling you how to do every step. As far as Grant, one thing I think he did right was tell Washington to let him do his job. Another thing that I think helped the ANV was a ton of the supplies of the confederacy went to them. I just read cannoneers in gray, which is about the artillery in the army of the tenessee, and they lack a lot of the supplies that the ANV got.
He also didn't face Pope or Hooker after Chancellorsville. Full credit to Lee (and Stonewall), but Pope and Hooker played a large part in those triumphs as well.
 
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#17
Lee did not win 1st Manassas (Bull Run) as he was not the commanding general at that time, but Lee was approached with Lincoln's blessing about commanding the Union Army at Washington..................Washington (Lincoln) was awfully close, not Lee's problem, and Lee actually took advantage of that and great generals would. The better the subordinates of course the better the general will look. Actually because of Grants greatness, Lincoln decided he had the right general and he allowed Grant to let him do his job. With the Army of Northern Virginia being the protecting army of the Confederate Capital, why would not the bulk of supplies go to it?
Bull Run II refers to 2nd Bull Run, please read what was written.
 
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#19
Actually because of Grants greatness, Lincoln decided he had the right general and he allowed Grant to let him do his job. With the Army of Northern Virginia being the protecting army of the Confederate Capital, why would not the bulk of supplies go to it?
Maybe to Grants credit, he got full control of all Union armies. Noone could tell him what to do... not even "old brains"
As far as the war and the ANV, Winfield Scott said that a embargo of the rebellious ports, and a army marching from west to east would win the war. Should all available supplies go to the ANV over the ATenn? Should the ATenn consistently have inferior munitions and supplies? If a northerner saw how to win the war, shouldn't the southern government?
 



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