Overland Casualty rates in the Overland Campaign?

(Wilderness, Spotsylvania, North Anna, Cold Harbor)

coltshooter1

Sergeant
Joined
Feb 20, 2005
Location
Southwest Virginia
I did some rough figures with only two source books and came up with the Union troops taking over 55% casulties during the Overland campaign & the Confederates taking only about 20%. I dont think it accurate. Do any of you have better figures on the loses available? I wont have research time until next week and need a quick estimate.
 

PvtClewell

Corporal
Joined
May 20, 2008
One of the best sources for the Overland Campaign, in my opinion, is Gordon Rhea.

In the June 2004 edition of North and South Magazine, Vol. 7, No. 4, Rhea wrote and overview of the campaign.

He concluded:
"Who was the victor? The answer lies in how one defines winning. One way is to count the numbers. Grant's losses for the campaign were about 55,000 men, and Lee's about 33,000, allowing the rebels to claim a victory of sorts. However, if losses are measured against the respective size of the armies at the outset of the campaign, Lee's losses exceeded 50 percent, while Grant's were about 45 percent. And while each army received substantial reinforcements during the campaign, Grant's capacity to continue to augment his force was vastly greater than Lee's. Despite his many setbacks, Grant lost soldiers at a lower overall rate than Lee, and simple arithmetic indicated that he would prevail."

There's a graphic in the story indicating strength and losses.

At the Wilderness, Grant had 118,000 men, suffered 18,000 casualties; Lee had 67,000 men, suffered 11,000 casualties.

At Spotsylvania, Grant had 100,000 men, suffered 18,000 casualties; Lee had 57,000 men, suffered 12,500 casualties.

At North Anna, Grant had 115,000 men, suffered 2,600 casualties; Lee had 63,900 men, suffered 1,600 casualties.

At Cold Harbor, Grant had 130,000 effectives, suffered 13,000 casualties; Lee had 75,700 men, suffered 5,000 casualties.

This Wikipedia entry might be helpful, too:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Overland_Campaign

By the way, Rhea's books — 'The Battle of the Wilderness, May 5-6, 1864'; 'The Battle for Spostylvania Court House and the Road to Yellow Tavern, May 7-12, 1864'; 'To the North Anna River, Grant and Lee, May 13-25, 1864'; and 'Cold Harbor, Grant and Lee, May 26-June 3, 1864' are invaluable resources.
 

M E Wolf

Colonel
Retired Moderator
Joined
Feb 9, 2008
Location
Virginia
Dear Coltshooter1;

This is what I found in Confederate Military History:
Confederate Military History, Vol. 4
CHAPTER XV.
SERVICES OF THE NORTH CAROLINA CAVALRY ALONG THE RAPIDAN--BATTLE OF YELLOW TAV-ERN--THE SECOND COLD HARBOR BATTLE -- EARLY'S LYNCHBURG AND MARYLAND CAMPAIGNS--BATTLES IN THE VALLEY OF VIRGINIA--ACTIVITY OF THE CONFEDERATE CAVALRY.
[excerpts[
(No numbers were given for campaigns prior)
The next important battle was at Cold Harbor, where General Grant made two prolonged assaults upon the Confederate lines. In these, according to General Humphreys' figures, he lost 9,948.(*) The Confederate losses are reported at 1,500, a figure that is perhaps too small, but as Lee's men fought behind intrenchments, their losses were comparatively light. General McMahon, of the Federal army, utters the opinion of most military men when he says: "In the opinion of a majority of its survivors, the battle of Cold Harbor should never have been fought." He then adds: "It was the dreary, dismal, bloody, ineffective close of the lieutenant-general's first campaign with the army of the Potomac, and corresponded in all its essential features with what had preceded it." (+)
[excerpt]
The great "Overland campaign" was ended, and Grant was still no nearer Richmond than McClellan had been in 1862. In a few days he moved his army toward Petersburg. "The object of crossing the James was to carry out the plan with which the army of the Potomac began the campaign, that is, to destroy the lines of supply to the Confederate depot, Richmond, on the south side of the James, as close to that city as practicable, after those on the north side had been rendered useless."(*) If Petersburg could be captured, but one railroad leading into the city of Richmond would be in Confederate hands.
------------------------------
Southern Historical Society Papers.
Vol. XXII. Richmond, Va., January-December. 1894.
General Jubal A. Early.
[excerpt]
Grant in his memoirs regrets that he ever made the assault, for in it he found the last ditch of the overland campaign, and on June 12th, he commenced withdrawing from Lee's front to the James. Four days later his entire army had passed over, the siege of Petersburg had begun, 59,000 of his troops, at a cost of 18,000 to Lee,
-----------
Southern Historical Society Papers.
Vol. XXXIII. Richmond, Va., January-December. 1905
The Crisis Of The Confederacy
[excerpt]
I think Swinton, the historian of the Army of the Potomac, characterizes Grant's repeated frontal attacks during the "Overland campaign"--notably at Cold Harbor--as "a reductio ad absurdum in hammering." The recoil of the hammer was vastly more destructive than the blow.
In estimating the numerical strength of the opposed armies, and their losses in battle, Captain Battine certainly often errs, making the odds against the Confederates less than they in fact were, and their losses greater. For instance, at Cold Harbor in June, 1864, he puts down the Federal losses at seven thousand and the Confederate at four to five thousand, but in point of fact Grant's casualties reached to about fourteen thousand and Lee's did not exceed fourteen hundred. Thus ended in bloody defeat for the Federals the thirty days "Overland campaign," the total losses of the Army of the Potomac being about sixty-four thousand--about equal to or greater than Lee's entire army at the commencement of the campaign--and those of the Confederates not over one-third of this number.
It may seem an easy matter to the theorist to approximate to numbers engaged and losses sustained, and it is easy to do so theoretically, but not practically. The official figures cannot in this respect be relied upon, not necessarily because they are intentionally doctored, but because the data from which they are derived are necessarily unreliable. The only way by which it can be known how many men are present for duty each day is by the morning reports, but in an active campaign, such as that of 1864, morning reports may not be, and very often are not, made out for days together--for there are far more urgent matters to attend to--and, when made out, are frequently lost or captured. When Federal recruits were being daily poured in by thousands to strengthen depleted regiments, these accounts, too, necessarily become very mixed up, or altogether lost. There is no time for book-keeping. In examining monthly and tri-monthly reports of the Army of the Potomac, these facts will often be found confessed on the record. On the other hand, it was, of course, the cue of the Confederate army to make the best possible showing of strength by figures, and if you believed the accounts of Confederate prisoners, you would have come to the conclusion that the South had a population to recruit from as large as that of China.
---------------------------------------------------------
That is the only things found which give numbers and, as the CSA sided documents about the campaign; the records are woefully inaccurate.

Respectfully submitted for consideration,
M. E. Wolf
 

CChartreux

Cadet
Joined
Nov 22, 2005
Location
Alexandria, Virginia
Colt


If you need something really quick, I'd look at Wikipedia's (total of five sources provided). Scroll down to where it says 'Aftermath'. I noticed they have Bonekemper's numbers (which are fairly reliable to my knowledge). Note also the paragraph just below the matrix - Grant's percentage rate should be lower than Lee's, even though Grant's absolute numbers will be higher.


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Overland_Campaign


Wikipedia isn't always the best source for things (it can have problems); however, in this instance, I don't really have a problem with their numbers (which comes from five different sources, and Bonekemper is one of them - so is the National Park Service). Using Bonekemper's numbers, Lee is 50% and Grant is 46%.






CC
 

Bryce

Private
Joined
Jun 2, 2011
Location
Washington, D.C.
Alfred Young has published a study of the Strength and casualties of Lee's army during the overland campaign. It was published recently by Louisiana State University press, at the urging of Gordon Rhea

Alfred examined the compiled service record of every soldier in Lee's army. Meanwhile I was amassing casualty list for Lee's army that I found in confederate newspapers.

I donated my material to Alfred and he used it for his book

Bryce
 

Bryce

Private
Joined
Jun 2, 2011
Location
Washington, D.C.
The name of Young's book is Lee's army during the Overland campaign

He found that Lee's army lost 32,000 casualties between May 5 and June 12, 1864.

I Should point out that he furnished the information for Gordon Rhea's books.

Bryce
 

Jimklag

Lt. Colonel
Joined
Mar 3, 2017
Location
Chicagoland
By the way, Rhea's books — 'The Battle of the Wilderness, May 5-6, 1864'; 'The Battle for Spostylvania Court House and the Road to Yellow Tavern, May 7-12, 1864'; 'To the North Anna River, Grant and Lee, May 13-25, 1864'; and 'Cold Harbor, Grant and Lee, May 26-June 3, 1864' are invaluable resources.
And a newer one On To Petersburg puts a bow on the campaign.
 

Coonewah Creek

First Sergeant
Joined
Jun 1, 2018
Location
Northern Alabama
Now this example is just at the regimental level, but following horrific losses at Gettysburg, by May 1, 1864 the 2nd Mississippi had recovered to something over half it's strength carried into action at Gettysburg (approx. 500 effectives) to 280 effectives. By the July muster, they were down to 146 effectives, or a loss of 48% of its starting strength at the Wilderness.
 

kholland

Captain
Retired Moderator
Joined
Feb 13, 2011
Location
Howard County, Maryland
The best source, by far.
And interesting numbers, Jim. I have read that Grant was not the "butcher" people attributed to him during these battles and these numbers support that. Percentage of casualties below.

The Wilderness

Grant 15% vs Lee 16%

Spotsylvania

Grant 18% vs Lee 22%

Cold Harbor

Grant 10% vs Lee 6.5% (not surprising numbers (for Lee) considering the terrain but still low for Grant as historians have portrayed this as a bloodbath)
 
Top