Did Grant win the Civil War?

American87

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PENNSYLVANIA
Grant had one primary political rule, he never criticized the President. The comments about continual pressure, resulting in a victory attrition, if not in any other way, are just paraphrasing for the public, what Lincoln had been trying to get from McClellan and Halleck.
Lincoln and McClellan had discussed early in the conflict, but Halleck and others were unable to implement continual, co-ordinated pressure.
What Grant did was far worse, but much more effective.
The plan was to finish the blockade by capturing all the harbors and cities that had a railroad connection. He also was breaking down the railroad system of the Confederacy, which would make it impossible for food and forage to reach the armies, and also impossible to reach the few remaining cities of the Confederacy.
1. Farragut captured Mobile Bay.
2 Grant severed the railroad connection between Richmond and Weldon, NC.
3. Sherman captured the railroad town of Atlanta, GA. He did not even permanently occupy it. It was of very little value to the US.
4. Sheridan confiscated or destroyed everything in the Shenandoah Valley located close enough to a railroad to be valuable to the Confederate army in Richmond.
5. Sherman marched through Georgia and captured Savannah as intact city. He let the Confederate garrison flee the city, because he did not want a siege. He wanted the port, which was useful to the US.
6. Butler failed to hold his position north of Fort Fisher, and he was dismissed. Terry and Porter completed the operation, and Schofield was brought around from Tennessee and landed at Wilmington.
7. Grant severed the Southside Railroad connection to Richmond, and Lee abandoned Richmond and retreated mostly along the line of his last remaining railroad.

Grant was engaged in war against not just the army of the Confederacy. Sherman and Sheridan expressed it more directly. But Grant hid the hard truth that he abandoned Lincoln's preferences, and Grant pursued his own plan for a 6 state siege.

Thank you yes, it is clear from any level of familiarity of Grant's Campaigns as Lieutenant-General, that he targeted Confederate infrastructure and supplies. He said once that it was 'more important to target armies than cities,' or something like that, but clearly, the Overland Campaign failing, he took full liberty to tear of railroads, burn the Valley, commit to Sherman's march to the Sea, attack and lay siege to Petersburg, Lee's advanced supply depot, and possibly other examples I'm forgetting and that you may have mentioned.
 

American87

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PENNSYLVANIA
Grant's plan was always to find the enemy and destroy him. That is universal in his work from 1861-65. He thought of maneuver as a way to close with the enemy and fight him, hopefully at an advantage. This is completely different than Sherman, for example -- Sherman understood that he was not a very good offensive tactician (he is actually a particularly bad one). He mistrusts his own tactical ability, which is why he concentrates on other things. Sherman sees maneuver as a way to avoid large tactical battles that he might lose -- which is why he never seems willing to go for the kill in 1864-65. Sherman does a marvelous job of advancing by maneuver, but he misses chances at major victories because he will not risk enough or commit enough. Sherman was not trying to destroy the enemy army in battle (even after Grant's message from Petersburg). Sherman is aiming for geographic, industrial and transportation targets. Sherman wants to disrupt the interior of the Confederacy and the morale of the Rebel people -- not destroy the enemy army. Sherman wants to prioritize attrition on the will and capacity of the enemy to resist, not smash the enemy army in battle.

Grant, OTOH, is always looking for the battle that will be decisive. He does not care about appearances. He will win with a lot of small battles or one big one or any combination of those. His orders constantly reflect this throughout the war. His plan for Sherman in the Spring of 1864 is much more aggressive than what Sherman actually did. His plan for Sherman in June of 1864 is much more aggressive than what Sherman actually did. His plan was always for his commanders to fight and beat the enemy if they possibly could -- and to engage the enemy and keep them tied up if they could not.

Grant absolutely does not switch over to a war of attrition in June of 1864. This was never his plan. He sees the overall war, not just tiny pieces of it as you insist on.

You are also, BTW, completely wrong in your thinking about Grant's reason for moving on Petersburg. You do not seem to include the very real situation existed and how the rail net/logistic/industrial constraints ruled what the armies could do. Lee was tied to Richmond-Petersburg from the start. This is what is behind Grant's initial instructions to Butler. This is a big factor in Grant's sending of Sheridan to raid down to join Butler from Spotsylvania. If that RR link is cut, Lee will be unable to stay in northern VA. He will have to withdraw as fast as he can with Grant on his heels -- or try to detach from Spotsylvania while heavily engaged by Grant.

The same is true when Grant crosses the James. If Grant takes Petersburg, Lee cannot stand in Richmond. Lee will have to attack and beat Grant, or retreat (on Lynchburg or on Raleigh). Let Grant take Petersburg in June 1864 and you will be looking at the Appomattox Campaign nine months earlier.

All you want to see is "attrition". Grant saw "attrition" as something that would work in the Union's favor, but he always wanted to win by other means.

You are clearly wrong about Grant's plan, because he wrote that he would fight a war of attrition, if in no other way winning was possible, which it wasn't. Yesterday or the day before you actually quoted this and admitted it, but now you are saying he never made it part of his plan. Interesting, huh?

And yes, YOU ARE ABSOLUTELY CORRECT ABOUT GRANT ATTACKING PETERSBURG. IT WAS LEE'S ADVANCED BASE OF SUPPLIES. How you can imagine this was not attrition, when he spent 9 months of siege warfare attempting and finally taking the city, is beyond me. He was clearly targeting Lee's SUPPLIES and bleeding Lee dry all the meanwhile by constant attacks, JUST AS HE SAID HE WOULD DO IN HIS REPORT.

The idea that this is somehow not attrition is beyond me, and I really recommend you look up what "attrition warfare" is. Grant certainly knew, being a student and graduate of West Point, middle of his class, and then writing in his report, as you know, that he would fight a war of attrition as a back up plan, in case he couldn't "Find Lee's army and destroy it."

You are simply choosing not to see "attrition," because you believe the 9 month Siege of Petersburg was something else. Not attrition. Just look the other way everyone, no attrition to see here. When Grant in fact admitted to it, and it is an admission of guilt, perhaps, in your eyes. That the Siege of Petersburg was not attrition is just ridiculous in the extreme. It checks so many boxes of "attrition warfare" that there is nothing else to consider it as, in textbook terms. Put it this way: If the Siege of Petersburg was not attrition, then what was it?
 

OpnCoronet

Lt. Colonel
Joined
Feb 23, 2010
You are clearly wrong about Grant's plan, because he wrote that he would fight a war of attrition, if in no other way winning was possible, which it wasn't. Yesterday or the day before you actually quoted this and admitted it, but now you are saying he never made it part of his plan. Interesting, huh?

And yes, YOU ARE ABSOLUTELY CORRECT ABOUT GRANT ATTACKING PETERSBURG. IT WAS LEE'S ADVANCED BASE OF SUPPLIES. How you can imagine this was not attrition, when he spent 9 months of siege warfare attempting and finally taking the city, is beyond me. He was clearly targeting Lee's SUPPLIES and bleeding Lee dry all the meanwhile by constant attacks, JUST AS HE SAID HE WOULD DO IN HIS REPORT.

The idea that this is somehow not attrition is beyond me, and I really recommend you look up what "attrition warfare" is. Grant certainly knew, being a student and graduate of West Point, middle of his class, and then writing in his report, as you know, that he would fight a war of attrition as a back up plan, in case he couldn't "Find Lee's army and destroy it."

You are simply choosing not to see "attrition," because you believe the 9 month Siege of Petersburg was something else. Not attrition. Just look the other way everyone, no attrition to see here. When Grant in fact admitted to it, and it is an admission of guilt, perhaps, in your eyes. That the Siege of Petersburg was not attrition is just ridiculous in the extreme. It checks so many boxes of "attrition warfare" that there is nothing else to consider it as, in textbook terms. Put it this way: If the Siege of Petersburg was not attrition, then what was it?
Sieges are by definition about attrition. But, in fact, Grant saw another way besides attrition to end the siege, as most did by either the besiegers failing and retreating, or the besieged surrendering and in the case of Petersburg, neither happened, because Grant found another way, i.e., outflanking Lee and forcing him to fight for his supply line or retreat.
 

American87

Sergeant
Joined
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Location
PENNSYLVANIA
Sieges are by definition about attrition. But, in fact, Grant saw another way besides attrition to end the siege, as most did by either the besiegers failing and retreating, or the besieged surrendering and in the case of Petersburg, neither happened, because Grant found another way, i.e., outflanking Lee and forcing him to fight for his supply line or retreat.

Are you referring to Five Forks? I would consider that of course a "siege move," or at least his final move in completing the Siege of Petersburg, by cutting Lee's last line of supply out or into the city. That would classify as attrition and siege warfare most certainly in my opinion.

Of course, Grant launched his Giant, all-along-the-line assault the next day, or a couple days after, I forget, so he was clearly playing more aggressively than just "besiege and wait it out."

I believe Grant launched his last assault on Petersburg because A.) He knew Lee was cut off from supplies, and that in all possibility he would evacuate Petersburg and Richmond instead of slowly starving to death, and B.) He knew that Lee was greatly weakened from 9 months of Siege, or Siegesque warfare.

In other words, Grant anticipated Lee's retreat by forcing the issue, hoping to catch Lee of guard and destroy his force in the process. Of course, Lee escaped in time, and that led to the Appomattox Campaign.

I do not believe Five Forks, if that is in fact what you are referring to, classifies as a simple ol' "outflank and maneuver" strategy. I believe it was part and parcel of his attempt to cut Lee off from supplies, and then deliver the final blow that would crush Lee's much-weakend army.
 

Jantzen64

Corporal
Joined
Aug 10, 2019
I did define attrition, you're just ignoring it because you believe "attrition" is not a part of war. You believe all war is "attrition" so any defitinition of it flies right over your head.

No, you are flat out incorrect in part 1. Grant did fight a war of attrition at Petersburg. That's why he targeted Petersburg and not Richmond or Lee's army. He was attacking Lee's advanced supply base, and the fact that you cannot see this questions if you've ever read about the Siege of Petersburg at all, or that you do not know, at least, what Petersburg was and what it meant to the Confederate War Effort.

You are also lying again about Early's invasion, which I responded to multiple times, but you are lying because you have a bug up your butt about Grant and will not concede any point that questions his infallibly as a commander. You in fact are attempting to redefine warfare, saying there is no such thing as "attrition," because you believe it is "dishonorable" and that Grant would do no such thing. Your hero-worship and outright love and slavery to Grant clouds all your military thinking if you do in fact think "all war is attrition," which you do, and that Grant was physically impossible of fighting a war of attrition, which you do think, because you believe there is no such thing as "attrition," all in an attempt to argue with yourself and clear Grant's name of your projected "dishonor ability" of his warfare, which he admitted to, I might add, and was quite clear and explicit as to it, but you just ignore it, saying "all warfare is attrition."

As to Earthworks, you said Lee was not his usual self, in the operational sense of the word. That is because you overlooked, or did not know, or refuse to know, that Grant ordered earthworks constructed whenever his army halted in front of Lee. That precludes Lee's customary warfare, because you cannot maneuver against earthworks like you can an army in the field. Had Lee attempted his usual practices of flanking, which he did at Spottsylvania, he would run squarely into Grant's earthworks, which he did at Spottsylvania. Again, this precludes the fact that you are familiar with the campaigns you are writing about.

As to point 7, you are lying again, or are who warped in your mind to defend Grant from your illusions of "dishonor," which are fake by the way, that you are arguing that Grant never targeted Petersburg. "No," you say, "he was just feinting in that direction to get Lee to come out into the open, you know, into the earthworks he already had built around Petersburg. It was all just some attempt to force Lee into the open." That is so bonkers that it again questions your legitimacy in this argument and why you're even here to defend Grant in this first place, which stems from your complete hero worship of the man and your disregard for anything militarily related to his campaigns, unless you can somehow make it stick in his defense.

And yes, "attrition" is when you fight to deprive the enemy of their supplies. Jackson's Second Manassas March falls into attrition under that category. I highly, highly recommend that you do some research on what "attrition warfare" is before you continue with any more of your bonkers and ludicrous points.

Grant wrote "if in no other way," because he meant he would fight a war of attrition "if in no other way" winning was possible. So when his Overland Campaign failed, and possibly during the Overland Campaign, he resorted to a campaign of attrition, which is depriving the enemy of his supplies, and "hammering away," as it were, until he was bled dry of men and resources. That is exactly what Grant did at Petersburg, you are so up your butt about being "dishonorable," that you will lie cheat and steal to deny it.

When you say "ahh now we get to the rub of it," you are projecting. You believe "attrition" is "dishonorable," to the point that you deny there is a such thing as "attrition warfare." You DO NOT want to admit that Grant fought this ghastly thing called "attrition," because in your mind, that's not a clean way to win a war. It reflects badly on his character as man, in your opinion. He didn't love his wife, or his kids, he couldn't be trusted with money, no, you believe he was "dishonorable" if he fought "attrition." And THAT IS THE RUB OF IT. Your allusion to "most historians" is the most obvious lie yet, because you are so bereft of reasonable argument that you throw out "most historians" in the attempt I'll believe you. But really, you are just up your butt about Grant being "dishonorable" about fighting a war of "attiriton"—HIS WORD—that you will lie cheat and steal to the point of denying there is a thing such as Attrition Warfare to begin with.

In short, you and another Grant crazy on here are the only two people I've ever read or heard or otherwise communicated with, who believe targeting supplies (Petersburg) and attacking the enemy to bleed them Dry (Grant's operations around Petersburg) are somehow not "attrition," because there is no such thing as "attrition," and therefor Grant was just conducting an "honorable war just like every body else." Doop-de-doo.
Wow! I must have really struck a nerve with you. When I saw your OP, asking if "Grant won the Civil War?" and stating "I can't figure this out", I thought you were trying to start a discussion about Grant's strategies and tactics because you were exploring the issue. I didn't realize you had an agenda to drive and were going to accuse those who disagree with you of lying or projecting, etc. Got it. It was, and remains, my view that those who quickly label Grant's 1864/5 campaigns as simply one of "ATTRITION" - stop - are offering simplistic and incomplete views of his generalship based on old canards rather than an in depth analysis of operations.

You have repeatedly and consistently referenced "Grant's official report as Lieutenant General" as the primary basis for your views, seeking essentially to argue that Grant agreed with you. And we all can agree that Grant uses the word "attrition" once in that report. Yet, I would hope you would agree, though, that those of us studying history should read historic documents in context and in their entirety, and not just cherry pick a word or two to fit our agendas and arguments, right? If not, then there's really no point having these types of discussions.

In that regard, the paragraph you rely heavily upon simply doesn't say what you want it to say. The two strategies listed in that paragraph are not described as an original and then a secondary strategy, but rather are described as complementary of each other. The very next paragraph reveals that in Grant's mind, both strategies were in play consistently throughout the campaigns after he took over as GiC. His words, not mine. So the paragraphs you are relying on are not some recognition on Grant's part of a need to change strategy that then led to a secondary plan. That topic is in Grant's report, where he essentially says (and I quoted it in previous posts and so won't repeat here) that as a result of the Overland Campaign, Lee was husbanding the AoNVa and had begun to rely heavily upon breastworks. Consequently, Grant felt he couldn't force a show down north of the James with Lee without incurring unacceptable casualties, so he had to come up with a different plan. Before going further, it is telling that Grant states that he viewed casualties of the level he had been incurring as unacceptable. That statement, though certainly subject to testing of the type that Wasaubob suggests, does not by itself indicate someone who is willing to simply throw bodies into a meat grinder, with the knowledge that he had more bodies than his opponent.

In these paragraphs, Grant describes his plan of moving south of the James. The record reflects that this move caught Lee by surprise and it took him a while to determine Grant's intent. Surprise is not a result usually associated with tactics of attrition. I do agree that Grant's goal was to cut off Lee from his supplies to either force Lee to come out of his breastworks and attack him or to abandon the line altogether. In your last post, you agreed that Stonewall's attack on Pope's supply depot to force Pope to come to Stonewall was an acceptable example of a campaign of "attrition". OK, if that's the standard, then I will have to agree that Grant's Petersburg campaign was one of "attrition", to the same extent Stonewall's was. Yet, curiously, no one ever seems to label Stonewall's Manassas campaign as one of attrition. Certainly, there shouldn't be a double standard, right?

Once the Petersburg lines were drawn, Grant did not continuously throw his men at Lee's earthworks until Lee simply ran out of men. As I think you yourself stated in other posts, this was not a siege in the traditional sense in that the enemy's position would be completely surrounded. As a result, Grant continued to try to use surprise and local concentrations (e.g., the mine) to take advantage of a weak spot and force Lee out of his works. And, as Trice and OpnCoronet point out, he continued to try to maneuver to the west/southwest to force Lee out of his entrenchments. (E.g., Grant's message to Sheridan on March 28, 1865, copied into Grant's official report as Lieutenant General, stating "It is not the intention to attack the enemy in his entrenched position, but to force him out if possible.") Grant's report states that his biggest anxiety was that Lee was going to slip away and join Johnston, so he kept pushing in this direction to prevent or react to such a move. All of this was done to force Lee back into an open and final confrontation.

You make a lot of straw-man arguments about me "not believing" attrition exists as a type of warfare, or that I view it as dishonorable. Those arguments are misdirected, as I never said any such things. On the accusations of lying, the record will clearly reflect our exchanges and those accustations don't merit a response. Instead of making such flameworthy accusations, I suggest we stick to Grant's words - but the entirety of those words, read in context, and not just cherry picked and shoehorned to fit what has apparently been your view from the start.
 

DanSBHawk

Captain
Joined
May 8, 2015
Location
Wisconsin
You are twisting Grant's words again, because you will not acknowledge that there ever was or is a thing called "attrition" in warfare. In your mind, all warfare is attrition, so therefore the point is moot, and the word "attrition" may well be taken out of military terminology altogether.

This is why you overlook Grant's initial order, "Find Lee's Army and Destroy it," and how he subsequently chose to maneuver for position, specifically targeting, after crossing the James, Lee's advanced base of supplies, Petersburg.

Then you choose to ignore his "Siege" or siege, depending how you define it, chalking it up to "all warfare" as if a siege is the exact same thing as a field battle, or at least close enough to it to warrant no distinction of the two. This again stems from your desire to defend Grant's "honorability," and ignore the fact that there is a thing called siege warfare and attrition, and that Grant very clearly carried it out, and wrote in his memoirs, that by "mere attrition, if nothing else," that is IF NOTHING ELSE, as in a back up plan, he failed to defeat or destroy Lee's army, which he failed to do.

You are simply ignoring all of this because you believe Grant conducting a "siege," is disnhorable, and in this case, MOST HISTORIANS do agree with me, not in an attempt to lie and throw you off, but in fact do agree with me, BECAUSE THEY CALL IT THE "SIEGE OF PETERSBURG." So you're whole attempt to say there was no siege, or anything close to a siege, or anything called "attrition," is completely bat **** crazy and disqualifies you from a serious discussion on THE SIEGE OF PETERSBURG.

And Grant certainly was willing to waste exorbitant amount of lives for a tactical victory. See his Assault at Cold Harbor, which he offered no excuse for in his memoirs, though he wrote that he regretted it.

As comparing to Stonewall, you are again ignoring THE SIEGE OF PETERSBURG. That whole campaign does not exist in your mind. In your mind, it is conventional field battle warfare. Any level of familiarity with the SIEGE OF PETERSBURG will convince you that it was attrition. But you are so hellbent on protecting Grant's "honor," as if he were some virgin maiden, that you block out all historical examples of siege warfare and attrition altogether, as if it never existed and Civil War historians are just making it up as a "Lost Cause" effort to "dishonor" Grant, which is ludicrous in the extreme and betrays your complete dearth of military knowledge, that you would even present that argument with a straight face, perhaps, and expect people to take you seriously.

And yes, Grant did throw his men at Lee's lines around Petersburg until Lee was outnumbered 4-1. That is exactly what he did. Again, ignorance on the subject is your weak point.

And Grant did not maneuver to force Lee out of Petersburg, as a field maneuver. He targeted Lee's lines of supply into and out of Petersburg, to force Lee into a position he could no longer sustain. At that point, Lee would have to abandon Richmond and Petersburg, come out into the open, and Grant would then attack him while he tried to establish a new advances base somewhere. That is exactly what he did, and in the meantime, he fought a war of ATTRITION, targeting Lee's supply lines, and "hammering away"—GRANT'S WORDS—until Lee, by mere attrition, if nothing else, was left no choice but to submit to the Constitution and laws of the country, as Grant saw it. That is exactly what happened, and if you are in any way familiar with the conditions of Lee's army as it progressed throughout the Siege of Petersburg, even you, before you typed a response, would have to admit to yourself that there is a thing called "attrition warfare" and that Grant excelled at it and was quite willing and eager to do it, and did do it for 9 months.

And yes, you were lying, because you have a bug up your butt about Grant's infallibility, and you will not concede in any way shape or form that Lee ever, or could ever, take the initiative from Grant.

And you clearly said there was no such thing as attrition warfare,

"In one sense - as you point out OpnCoronet - all warfare includes some degree of attrition and, in that broad sense, Grant was clearly using attrition in the Richmond/Petersburg siege to destroy Lee's logistic system and spread his lines thinly to achieve local numeric superiority. But in the narrow sense, there are too many orders from Grant counseling his lieutenants NOT to just throw men into the meat grinder - but to use them only where an advantage could be reasonably expected - to label Grant's strategy as pure attrition in that narrow sense."

Which I never pointed out to OpnCoronet by the way, so you are confused, again, or lying, again.

Simply put, you think "attrition" is a word used by Lost Causers to dishonor Grant. You believe all war is attrition, and therefore nothing special, not warranting any use in terms of warfare, because it is redundant. You also ignore, or are completely ignorant, of what Grant did during the SIEGE OF PETERSBURG, to the point where you consider it all a field maneuver, with no targeting of supplies, no bleeding Lee dry, and no wearing down Lee's army by means of ATTRITION, which Grant exactly said he would do, by "hammering away," which is exactly what he did during the SIEGE of Petersburg, which very nearly resembles the fundamentals of all sieges and wars or campaigns of attrition down the ages.

So take your complete and utter ignorance and stupidity towards all things Grant, his report, his SIEGE, SIEGE WARFARE, AND ATTRITIONNNNNNNNNNN ATTRITTIONNNN and give it to somebody who's never read a book on the military before. Maybe they will buy into your lost cause paranoia and hero worship of Grant.

As it is, I stand by Grant's words and actions, not some paranoia about Grant's "honor" and the "lost cause."
If you don't have a calm, reasoned, informed answer to another poster who gave you a calm and reasoned and informed reply, why don't you just say that you disagree with the poster and let it lie? Your ranting and insulting is getting old.
 

American87

Sergeant
Joined
Aug 27, 2016
Location
PENNSYLVANIA
If you don't have a calm, reasoned, informed answer to another poster who gave you a calm and reasoned and informed reply, why don't you just say that you disagree with the poster and let it lie? Your ranting and insulting is getting old.
Not to mention, my post certainly was calm, reasoned and informed. Certainly more than the other guy I was quoting.

You're just insisting on picking fights, DanSBHawk, as always, and losing.
 

John S. Carter

Sergeant Major
Joined
Mar 15, 2017
Well, they did bring home the bacon.
There was no bacon to be brought home. This was when Southern women became what is referred to as Steel Magnolias having to assume the responsibilities that men had done because the male population had been mostly either killed or injured as to not to be able to work due to the war. The South had been totally devastated by the war. While the North prosper during the war and more after, the South suffered both during the war and more afterwards. Grant did not win the war , He ,his generals, the might of the Union army, and the industrial wealth of the North brought the South to the point of despair and carried on afterwards. Thanks to the women and their willing to endure the South carried though both the war and though the reconstruction. Imagine Scarlett on the mount with that raised handful of dirt in ''Gone with the Wind'' , and that was the S.M.
 

Cycom

Sergeant
Joined
Feb 19, 2021
Location
Los Angeles, California
There was no bacon to be brought home. This was when Southern women became what is referred to as Steel Magnolias having to assume the responsibilities that men had done because the male population had been mostly either killed or injured as to not to be able to work due to the war. The South had been totally devastated by the war. While the North prosper during the war and more after, the South suffered both during the war and more afterwards. Grant did not win the war , He ,his generals, the might of the Union army, and the industrial wealth of the North brought the South to the point of despair and carried on afterwards. Thanks to the women and their willing to endure the South carried though both the war and though the reconstruction. Imagine Scarlett on the mount with that raised handful of dirt in ''Gone with the Wind'' , and that was the S.M.
Not going to disagree with you, was just making a cheeky comment about how, in the context of this discussion on attrition, the North had none of the supply problems the South did.
 

trice

Colonel
Joined
May 2, 2006
You are clearly wrong about Grant's plan, because he wrote that he would fight a war of attrition, if in no other way winning was possible, which it wasn't. Yesterday or the day before you actually quoted this and admitted it, but now you are saying he never made it part of his plan. Interesting, huh?

And yes, YOU ARE ABSOLUTELY CORRECT ABOUT GRANT ATTACKING PETERSBURG. IT WAS LEE'S ADVANCED BASE OF SUPPLIES. How you can imagine this was not attrition, when he spent 9 months of siege warfare attempting and finally taking the city, is beyond me. He was clearly targeting Lee's SUPPLIES and bleeding Lee dry all the meanwhile by constant attacks, JUST AS HE SAID HE WOULD DO IN HIS REPORT.

The idea that this is somehow not attrition is beyond me, and I really recommend you look up what "attrition warfare" is. Grant certainly knew, being a student and graduate of West Point, middle of his class, and then writing in his report, as you know, that he would fight a war of attrition as a back up plan, in case he couldn't "Find Lee's army and destroy it."

You are simply choosing not to see "attrition," because you believe the 9 month Siege of Petersburg was something else. Not attrition. Just look the other way everyone, no attrition to see here. When Grant in fact admitted to it, and it is an admission of guilt, perhaps, in your eyes. That the Siege of Petersburg was not attrition is just ridiculous in the extreme. It checks so many boxes of "attrition warfare" that there is nothing else to consider it as, in textbook terms. Put it this way: If the Siege of Petersburg was not attrition, then what was it?

You are missing so much that I cannot understand why.

Yes, Grant knew that attrition would favor the Union. He also knew that having a strong Navy to blockade the Confederacy would favor the Union, and that a better industrial base would favor the Union, and that ending the prisoner exchanges would favor the Union, and that better agricultural production would favor the Union. He knew that the Federal system of cavalry remounts favored the Union, and that Union relations with foreign countries would favor the Union. He knew that the collapse of slavery would favor the Union. He probably knew to the last cracker how much hardtack he could load into an Army supply wagon and how the superior Union logistics would favor the Union. He knew that applying all the pressure the Union could bear, constantly applying it, would benefit the Union. Above all, he understood that everything listed above and probably a lot more, would ===combine=== to crush the Confederacy. Like stones piled on Rebel shoulders, their weight make it impossible for the Confederates to stand in the end.

Somehow the only thing that you see is "attrition". That is, I think because it is all that you want to see. You will hide from and deny the rest, claim that Grant limited himself to only one thing, when it is clear that he used every advantage he could find. He was a soldier, a veteran of many battles who had commanded and lost many comrades. Soldiers know all too well the cost of war, no matter what words are used. "Attrition" is just a word. Dead men are the reality.

So stop insisting that it was all about "attrition". Take a look at all the rest of that year of war, the fast moving columns that ripped through the South, the wide-ranging strategies that exposed the weaknesses within the Confederacy, Grant's constant emphasis on aggressive pursuits and aiming at the enemy armies. Note that Grant captured one Rebel army at Ft. Donelson, captured a second at Vicksburg, captured a third at Appomattox. Note that all of these were preceded by sudden and vigorous pursuits. Note that forces he directed smashed and destroyed Rebel armies from one end of the Confederacy to the other until the Confederacy was no more.

===ALL=== of it happened, not just the one bit you want to acknowledge. While it was going on, he had an enemy who fought him tooth and nail, a determined and valiant enemy, with a skilled and talented leader. "Attrition" is a cost that you pay when you need to beat a foe like that.
 

OpnCoronet

Lt. Colonel
Joined
Feb 23, 2010
Are you referring to Five Forks? I would consider that of course a "siege move," or at least his final move in completing the Siege of Petersburg, by cutting Lee's last line of supply out or into the city. That would classify as attrition and siege warfare most certainly in my opinion.

Of course, Grant launched his Giant, all-along-the-line assault the next day, or a couple days after, I forget, so he was clearly playing more aggressively than just "besiege and wait it out."

I believe Grant launched his last assault on Petersburg because A.) He knew Lee was cut off from supplies, and that in all possibility he would evacuate Petersburg and Richmond instead of slowly starving to death, and B.) He knew that Lee was greatly weakened from 9 months of Siege, or Siegesque warfare.

In other words, Grant anticipated Lee's retreat by forcing the issue, hoping to catch Lee of guard and destroy his force in the process. Of course, Lee escaped in time, and that led to the Appomattox Campaign.

I do not believe Five Forks, if that is in fact what you are referring to, classifies as a simple ol' "outflank and maneuver" strategy. I believe it was part and parcel of his attempt to cut Lee off from supplies, and then deliver the final blow that would crush Lee's much-weakend army.
All you say here has no real reference to attrition being the motivation of grant's strategy or operations. and your last paragraph says what I and others, have been saying all along.

To the extent that attrition was a considered plan of operations , it is far more evident that it was Lee who was playing the attrition game, hoping to discourage Grant or Union public opinion, i.e., it was Lee who decided to hold Petersburg to the last ditch and he had a clear path to retreat if he desired at any time, but he did what he did, for whatever reason, and because of what he did Grant did what he did, it was all about beating Lee at his own game. As Grant promised in his plans for the Overland Campaign, he would fight Lee by whatever method Lee would try.
 

Dead Parrott

Sergeant
Joined
Jul 30, 2019
To the extent that attrition was a considered plan of operations , it is far more evident that it was Lee who was playing the attrition game, hoping to discourage Grant or Union public opinion, i.e., it was Lee who decided to hold Petersburg to the last ditch and he had a clear path to retreat if he desired at any time, but he did what he did, for whatever reason, and because of what he did Grant did what he did, it was all about beating Lee at his own game. As Grant promised in his plans for the Overland Campaign, he would fight Lee by whatever method Lee would try.

Grant, using the AOP and the flank attacks, forsaw three possible winning outcomes: 1. Lee stands and fights and gets his army outflanked and shattered, 2. Grant gets between Lee and Richmond (dooming Richmond), or 3. Lee is forced back into a siege he cannot escape or win. Any of the three were successful outcomes to Grant. THis is not even considering the effect of the entire 1864 campaign plan (which it is a real mistake to ignore). Had the flank attacks been performed with moderate skill, Lee would have been left with only a few very unpalatable options. Both flank attacks were bungled, but Grant kept the pressure on Lee with constant probes, attacks and movement. Lee and the ANV fought brlliantly, though several times an hour or two's difference would have meant breakthrough and destruction. In the end, outcome #3 occured.

A victory for Lee would have been - Richmond\Petersburg unbesieged, and the ANV in the field between Richmond and the AOP, free to operate and take the initiative (or psychologically threaten to). That was the normal outcome for the last three years. Grant changed that in eight weeks.

I believe Lee had no choice but to fight as he did. His more interesting choices would have come if the flank attacks had succeeded. I credit Lee with the early move to the Wilderness, the constant heavy entrenchment, hard fighting, and the attempts\desire to try an recover the initiative (and the mental\morale impact that would have). But after the Wilderness, Grant never let him have it again, and pushed hard toward one of his three outcomes. The constant fighting\contact removed Lee's intiative - Lee's greatest military\psychological asset. Outcomes #1 and #3 took away Lee's intiiative. #2 left the ANV free in the field, but at the price of Richmond falling (which would ensure Lincoln's reelection).

The USA won the war (not any one general), and Grant deserves his share of the credit. He was absolutely the right commander in the right place at the right time.
 

Dead Parrott

Sergeant
Joined
Jul 30, 2019
I suppose I should add, given the siege situation, that Lee TECHNICALLY did have the 'option' of leaving Petersburg (and thus Richmond) to its fate. I put 'option' in quotes because, realistically, I don't consider it much of an actual choice. Richmond falling before the election ensures Lincoln's win, and thus the continuance (and inevitable) loss of the war. Leaving Petersburg after the election looks like a double whammy defeat morale wise. And it assumes Lee can even manage to slip off effectively from Grant (not for long, if at all). This is why outcome #3 was so devistatingly successful, and why Lee himself realized it ("Once he crosses the James....").

But this What-If is a bit off-topic from the OT. I point it out solely to emphasize the military success that outcome #3 truly represented. Apologies for the digression.
 

OpnCoronet

Lt. Colonel
Joined
Feb 23, 2010
Grant, using the AOP and the flank attacks, forsaw three possible winning outcomes: 1. Lee stands and fights and gets his army outflanked and shattered, 2. Grant gets between Lee and Richmond (dooming Richmond), or 3. Lee is forced back into a siege he cannot escape or win. Any of the three were successful outcomes to Grant. THis is not even considering the effect of the entire 1864 campaign plan (which it is a real mistake to ignore). Had the flank attacks been performed with moderate skill, Lee would have been left with only a few very unpalatable options. Both flank attacks were bungled, but Grant kept the pressure on Lee with constant probes, attacks and movement. Lee and the ANV fought brlliantly, though several times an hour or two's difference would have meant breakthrough and destruction. In the end, outcome #3 occured.

A victory for Lee would have been - Richmond\Petersburg unbesieged, and the ANV in the field between Richmond and the AOP, free to operate and take the initiative (or psychologically threaten to). That was the normal outcome for the last three years. Grant changed that in eight weeks.

I believe Lee had no choice but to fight as he did. His more interesting choices would have come if the flank attacks had succeeded. I credit Lee with the early move to the Wilderness, the constant heavy entrenchment, hard fighting, and the attempts\desire to try an recover the initiative (and the mental\morale impact that would have). But after the Wilderness, Grant never let him have it again, and pushed hard toward one of his three outcomes. The constant fighting\contact removed Lee's intiative - Lee's greatest military\psychological asset. Outcomes #1 and #3 took away Lee's intiiative. #2 left the ANV free in the field, but at the price of Richmond falling (which would ensure Lincoln's reelection).

The USA won the war (not any one general), and Grant deserves his share of the credit. He was absolutely the right commander in the right place at the right time.
Good info. I was a little hazy on a third option for Lee as a result of the Union success at Five Forks. I usually assumed that Lee had only two options, either stand and fight for his supply Line or retreat.

I think it is true that people often credit too many options to Lee in 1864, after Grant began his Overland Campaign, than were actually feasible under the circumstances at the time.
 

wausaubob

Colonel
Joined
Apr 4, 2017
Location
Denver, CO
Did Grant win the Civil War? No. Was he A winner in the Civil War? Yes. He got to President for 8 years, which repaid his wife for her patience during some hard times before and during the war. He got to tour the world and meet the heads of state! He went bankrupt trying to set his son up as a Wall Street power: but his friends and veterans bought thousands of his book, and set his widow up for life.
He died in bed, surrounded by loved ones.
Tempted by the Sirens of undeserved praise, and threatened by the Cyclops of the public press, he pressed on in his journey and drew the Scythian bow of victory. He avoided the Calypso charm of boozy retirement, and lived to tell the tale, in writing. Epic by any estimation, as I have previously blogged.
 

wausaubob

Colonel
Joined
Apr 4, 2017
Location
Denver, CO
Grant is epic. But it was the machine of the northern navy and railroad logistics, that Grant used, that won the Civil War. It wasn't a struggle of personalities. The northern economy handed Grant one tool after another, and he used them as any common sense person would do.
 

Cycom

Sergeant
Joined
Feb 19, 2021
Location
Los Angeles, California
Grant is epic. But it was the machine of the northern navy and railroad logistics, that Grant used, that won the Civil War. It wasn't a struggle of personalities. The northern economy handed Grant one tool after another, and he used them as any common sense person would do.
I think this about sums it up.
 

Horrido67

Private
Joined
Sep 29, 2019
Grant is epic. But it was the machine of the northern navy and railroad logistics, that Grant used, that won the Civil War. It wasn't a struggle of personalities. The northern economy handed Grant one tool after another, and he used them as any common sense person would do.

I believe the issue was very few had insight how to utilize advantages the Union army had against the Confederacy, especially in the East. What seems like common sense today might not have been too obvious to the people at the time.
 
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