Petersburg/Richmond Four Patterns Of Operations At Petersburg

Bryce

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If you read carefully the thumbnail sketch of each of the nine offensives against Petersburg in the book “in the trenches of Petersburg “ By Earl Hess, four patterns Emerge

First, there is an interval of one month separating each of the offensives. This one month delay occurred for two separate reasons. First, in each of the bloody Offensives, Grant had to replace and absorb into his ranks the casualties he had just lost. Second, even though his offensives northOf the James failed to capture Richmond, they did gain ground. Similarly, even though the offensIves at Petersburg did not seize the Southside Railroad, they captured Confederate territory. In both cases, the captured ground had to be fortified and connected with the main union line of earthworks.

A good example of the details of this pattern is the period after the seizure of the Weldon railroad on August 25. In September the federals built a 3 mile line of trenches connecting the Jerusalem plank Road with the Weldon railroad. These new trenches faced north. They built a second line of trenches facing south to protect the union rear and this was also 3 miles long.

Unfortunately, the new recruits were so busy digging earthworks during September that they never had a chance to attend drill instruction. Therefore, during the fifth offensive many of the soldiers had never fired a musket during target practice and could not perform the manual of arms necessary to load and fire a musket. Attacking Lee’s army with these troops was like attacking packs of wolves with herds of sheep.

These raw recruits needed inspired leadership at every level in order to make up for their deficiencies. The leadership was particularly needed from the army leader, George G Meade. And here is the second pattern of the siege: Though the troops assigned to each of the offensive came from as many as two or three separate army corps there’s not a single case where one of the corps commanders was put in charge of the operation. Instead, Meade was supposedly in charge. In these cases Meade’s presence was particularly necessary.

Unfortunately, a study of each of the offensives reveals that Meade was never Present at the front where he was needed to coordinate the fragments of the corps that made up the offensive army

The third pattern Is the faulty tactics employed by grant and Meade. The heavily wooded area outside of Petersburg has been compared to the tangled tickets of the wilderness. It is an appropriate comparison. Miles and miles of dreary woods were broken only occasionally by a farm clearing. The roads which were used by farmers to take their products to market were Narrow, uneven and rutted, completely unsuitable for movements of large numbers of men.

at the beginning of every offensive the federals seized terrain in the heavily wooded areas. Under orders from Meade they pressed up as closely to the confederate trenches as possible. Although they tried to maintain an unbroken trench line in the woods, this proved to be impossible. In case after case the Confederates found a vulnerable flank and routed the Yankees. on June 22 Gen. William Mahone descended a ravine and struck the left flank of the second army corps with three of his brigades. He routed the entire corps and captured 1700 prisoners. This blow put an end to the second offensive. Similarly, on August 19, Mahone again descended the ravine and struck the right flank of Crawford‘s division, Fifth Army corps. He captured 3000 prisoners. Warren maintained a hold on the railroad only because he disobeyed the orders to remain in the woods. Instead he fell back to hilltop which he fortified and from which he chopped down trees thus providing fields of fire for his infantry and his artillery. On August 21 from this strong position Warren repulsed a Confederate attack which would have destroyed his army corps if he had remained stationary in the woods.

Although Warren provided a perfect strategy, the solution was never pursued by grant or Meade in subsequent battles

The fourth pattern that emerges is that the offensives failed because there were never enough union troops assigned to the attacks. Prior to April 2 the largest number assembled was 45,000 for the sixth offensive. At the beginning of the siege the engineer of the army told Grant and Meade that no offensive could succeed with fewer than 60 or 70,000 men. The union earthworks were never strong enough to be held by a fraction of the army, say 20,000 or 30,000 men.

there were certainly alternatives to the way grant and Meade conducted the siege. By delaying the offenses they could’ve spent two or three months strengthening the trenches so that the trenches would’ve been so strong that they could’ve been held with with 20 or 30,000 men. This would’ve given Meade the manpower they needed to conduct successful operations. It would also have given the recruits time to learn how to become soldiers.

as I will show in my next communication, grant and Meade were handed in early July two detailed recommendations on how to conduct the siege operations. Yeah the high command had those recommendations the siege would’ve ended earlier with fewer casualties. We will study those in some detail

bryce
 

A. Roy

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Interesting -- thanks for sharing this. I haven't read Hess's book, but it sounds as if it goes a long way toward explaining why the siege went on for so long.

Roy B.
 

Lubliner

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We are looking once again at strategy versus tactics. Grant had Lee trapped and wanted to squeeze the life out of the Army of Virginia. If it meant doing so by attrition, then that is one use made of his envelopment. The second problem was to keep Lee off balance, therefore attacking both north of the James and south made the Army of Northern Virginia weaker. It's movements to counter Grant's activities put it primarily on the defensive. Grant did not want to give Lee enough time to plan the next move. The pattern of offensive movements on record show Grant and Meade always probing the southern defenses looking for a weak spot, while continuing to envelope south and westward of Petersburg. This had to be done with continual pressure north of the James, inflicting as much damage possible. Wasn't Warren a corps commander and Hancock also? Though always responsible for carrying out orders, they were both on the ground with their troops.
Lubliner.
 

Bryce

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@Bryce Isn't another pattern we see that Grant loved to start something stirred up north of the James on his right flank to distract Lee from what he was about to do on the left?

Grant begin that pattern by initiating the second battle of deep bottom which is part of the fourth offensive. It seemed to threaten Richmond, but actually drew enough Confederate troops away from Petersburg so that Warren and his fifth army corps were able to able to entrench on the Weldon railroad. The pattern was repeated on September 29 when the federal under Butler attacked Newmarket Heights and Fort Harrison. Again, Lee sent troops north of the James. This time grant sent the fifth army corps and the ninth army corps to seize the south side railroad . The attempt failed, but the federals did capture the Confederate defense line along the squirrel level Road, thus extending a new trench line that jutted off to the Southwest from battery 45. This new line was later called the Boydton plank road line

These two operations were the only times Grant employed this method of diverting lee’s attention away from Petersburg


if you look at a map you will see that the Boydton Plank road line is a separate line from the U-shaped confederate defense is known as the Dimmock line

If anyone wants clarification about this new line as opposed to the Eastern front of the confederate line, a.k.a. the Dimmock line please let me know

Bryce
 

Bryce

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We are looking once again at strategy versus tactics. Grant had Lee trapped and wanted to squeeze the life out of the Army of Virginia. If it meant doing so by attrition, then that is one use made of his envelopment. The second problem was to keep Lee off balance, therefore attacking both north of the James and south made the Army of Northern Virginia weaker. It's movements to counter Grant's activities put it primarily on the defensive. Grant did not want to give Lee enough time to plan the next move. The pattern of offensive movements on record show Grant and Meade always probing the southern defenses looking for a weak spot, while continuing to envelope south and westward of Petersburg. This had to be done with continual pressure north of the James, inflicting as much damage possible. Wasn't Warren a corps commander and Hancock also? Though always responsible for carrying out orders, they were both on the ground with their troops.
Lubliner.

if you read Grant’s correspondence during the siege, it becomes obvious that he had no overall plan to extend his lines westward so thin out Lee’s lin so it wold have fewer defenders per mile of front. The extension westward was simply the result of his repeated attacks on the southside railroad, each of which he thought would be decisive.

Grant attempted to seize the railroad in September and October, 1864 and in February 1865. In the September operations two army corps were involved, in the October operations three army corps were involved, and in the February 1865 operations four army corps were involved.

My point is that none of the corps coomanders was given the power to issue orders to the other corps commanders. So no one was in charge. Meade jealously retained that power but in effect he abdicated responsibility by never being where he was needed

I urge all of you to read a book On grants military career by a man who understands grants limitation’s as a general. The author is Joseph Rose. The book is titled “grant under fire”.

bryce
 
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From my notes I am finding not two but four offensives in Grant’s Petersburg operations in which Grant ordered forces north of the James River to support Grant’s military goals in the form of diverting Lee’s forces away. They are as follows:

  • 07/27/1864 when the II Corps crossed over at Bermuda Hundred pontoon bridges and fought the First Battle of Deep Bottom.
  • 08/13/1864 when the II Corps joined Butler’s X Corps crossed again from Bermuda Hundred and fought the Second Battle of Deep Bottom.
  • 09/29/1864 when the Army of James X Corps and XVIII Corps both fought the Battle of Caffin’s Farm
  • 10/27/1864 when again the Army of James launched the Second Battle of Fair Oaks or also known as Battle of Darbytown Road.
 

DanSBHawk

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I urge all of you to read a book On grants military career by a man who understands grants limitation’s as a general. The author is Joseph Rose. The book is titled “grant under fire”.
I have the book. It's a deeply flawed hatchet job.
 

Bryce

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From my notes I am finding not two but four offensives in Grant’s Petersburg operations in which Grant ordered forces north of the James River to support Grant’s military goals in the form of diverting Lee’s forces away. They are as follows:

  • 07/27/1864 when the II Corps crossed over at Bermuda Hundred pontoon bridges and fought the First Battle of Deep Bottom.
  • 08/13/1864 when the II Corps joined Butler’s X Corps crossed again from Bermuda Hundred and fought the Second Battle of Deep Bottom.
  • 09/29/1864 when the Army of James X Corps and XVIII Corps both fought the Battle of Caffin’s Farm
  • 10/27/1864 when again the Army of James launched the Second Battle of Fair Oaks or also known as Battle of Darbytown Road

For 150 years most people have believed what Grant wrote in his memoirs about the first battle of deep bottom bottom, that he designed it to lure rebel troops away from Petersburg so that Burnsides mine could be detonated Successfully. However, if you look at Wilson greene’s new book, campaign of giants, you will find the grant lied..

The union attack of October 27 at the second battle of fair Oaks Near Richmond Virginia was not an attempt to draw Confederate troops away from Petersburg. It was a simultaneous attack that happened at the same time as the battle of Burgess Mill occurred at Petersburg

bryce
 

Lubliner

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if you read Grant’s correspondence during the siege, it becomes obvious that he had no overall plan to extend his lines westward so thin out Lee’s lin so it wold have fewer defenders per mile of front. The extension westward was simply the result of his repeated attacks on the southside railroad, each of which he thought would be decisive.

Grant attempted to seize the railroad in September and October, 1864 and in February 1865. In the September operations two army corps were involved, in the October operations three army corps were involved, and in the February 1865 operations four army corps were involved.

My point is that none of the corps coomanders was given the power to issue orders to the other corps commanders. So no one was in charge. Meade jealously retained that power but in effect he abdicated responsibility by never being where he was needed

I urge all of you to read a book On grants military career by a man who understands grants limitation’s as a general. The author is Joseph Rose. The book is titled “grant under fire”.

bryce
That was a good explanation. Thank you @Bryce. Let me ask; wasn't some of the activity north of the James in direct accord with supporting Sheridan's command as he linked up at the White House Plantation on the Pamunkey?
Lubliner.
 

Bryce

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That was a good explanation. Thank you @Bryce. Let me ask; wasn't some of the activity north of the James in direct accord with supporting Sheridan's command as he linked up at the White House Plantation on the Pamunkey?
Lubliner.

I’m not sure what you’re referring to. during the third week of June, 1864 Sheridan was returning from his Travillian station raid. He was in fact at White House

Grant wanted Sheridan to re-join the army of the Potomac by entering union lines at Bermuda hundred. To make this possible he established the bridge head at deep bottom on the night of June 20

as things turned out, Sheridan was unable to get anywhere near deep bottom and had to return via Wilcox landing on the James

bryce
 
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It is interesting your reporting Grant had lied about the offensive involving the Battle of the Crater and that part that involved Bermuda Hundred. I do not have that book cited but how does one determine that Grant lied or not about that matter at hand? My notes reflect that Lee sent around 16,500 troops to the northside of the James River in response to the Federal II Corps going north of the James River. That appears a nice diversion of Confederate troops. Did not Lee go into a panic about the lack of Confederates at the spot of the Battle of the Crater? I understand the II Corp commenced around three days before the Crater affair begun but the Federals may not have understood or got delayed and did not understand now quick the Confederates could recross the James by pontoon bridges.

On the other offensive, I understand both offensives commenced on 10/27/1864 or there about but the principle of operations north of the James were meant to assist those south of the James. That’s the only point I wish to make.
 

Bryce

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It is interesting your reporting Grant had lied about the offensive involving the Battle of the Crater and that part that involved Bermuda Hundred. I do not have that book cited but how does one determine that Grant lied or not about that matter at hand? My notes reflect that Lee sent around 16,500 troops to the northside of the James River in response to the Federal II Corps going north of the James River. That appears a nice diversion of Confederate troops. Did not Lee go into a panic about the lack of Confederates at the spot of the Battle of the Crater? I understand the II Corp commenced around three days before the Crater affair begun but the Federals may not have understood or got delayed and did not understand now quick the Confederates could recross the James by pontoon bridges.

On the other offensive, I understand both offensives commenced on 10/27/1864 or there about but the principle of operations north of the James were meant to assist those south of the James. That’s the only point I wish to make.

I am going to send you the pages about the first battle of the bottom from Wilson Greene‘s work

Bryce
 

Irishtom29

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Petersburg, though largely intrenched warfare, was not a siege; Lee was never invested. And did Grant and Meade didn't conduct it as a siege, naturally enough.

Vicksburg, that was a siege and conducted as one.
 
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Bryce

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Petersburg, though largely intrenched warfare, was not a siege; Lee was never invested. And did Grant and Meade didn't conduct it as a siege, naturally enough.

Vicksburg, that was a siege and conducted as one.

The goal of grant in the second offensive was to form a U-shaped line with the eastern leg Situated east of Petersburg and the western leg Positioned west of Petersburg.

But that offensive failed

bryce
 
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That's very kind of you to do so. However, it is my policy not to open attachments. I would prefer you give this Noble Forum your presentation of what the book discloses in order to grow the thread for general education and well being thereof.
 

67th Tigers

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Grant was, of course, extremely concerned that he didn't have enough troops. The best part of a quarter million troops were put into the operations of May-June (235,512 upto mid-June), and by the end of June return he has only 120,200 effectives (153,123 present, which is close to PFD as it was defined under regulations). The general loss in the campaign had been about 82,000 (since wounded were shipped back to Fredericksburg), of whom ca. 76,000 can be accounted for by known battle casualties. Maybe 5,000 had been mustered out by this period. There had been around 41,000 admissions to hospital for non-wounds, but only 180 deaths from disease etc. were recorded in May-June for the Armies of the Potomac and James. However, there were some additional reinforcements post mid-June one believes.

At the end of June, Lee had about 56,000 effectives (67-68,000 present).

With only a ratio of ca. 2.2:1, Grant didn't feel strong enough to attack. Hence he asked for the a bunch of 100 day militia, and for much of 19th Corps (37 regiments) to be sent to him.

Of course, rather than being reinforced, his army will be run down by the removal of 6th Corps, the reassignment of 19th Corps (despite Grant's shenanigans intercepting the convoys and redirecting them to the James instead of Washington), 2 cavalry divisions, the dismounted cavalry, all that 100 day militia and ISTR some of the heavy artillery back to Washington.

At the end of July, Lee still had ca. 57,500 effectives (68,844 present) but Grant had now only 86,077 effectives (inc. engrs etc., about 81,000 with such) and 116,136 present. In real terms, Grant lost a third of his fighting strength during July, from a strength he already deemed insufficient. No wonder by mid-July he was reporting to Sherman that he planned to withdraw back to a defensive position, and send parts of that army to reinforce Sherman. PS: On 18th July he sent all the troops due for discharge up until the end of August back to Washington - a clear sign he has abandoned ideas for a major offensive.
 
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Bryce

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Grant was, of course, extremely concerned that he didn't have enough troops. The best part of a quarter million troops were put into the operations of May-June (235,512 upto mid-June), and by the end of June return he has only 120,200 effectives (153,123 present, which is close to PFD as it was defined under regulations). The general loss in the campaign had been about 82,000 (since wounded were shipped back to Fredericksburg), of whom ca. 76,000 can be accounted for by known battle casualties. Maybe 5,000 had been mustered out by this period. There had been around 41,000 admissions to hospital for non-wounds, but only 180 deaths from disease etc. were recorded in May-June for the Armies of the Potomac and James. However, there were some additional reinforcements post mid-June one believes.

At the end of June, Lee had about 56,000 effectives (67-68,000 present).

With only a ratio of ca. 2.2:1, Grant didn't feel strong enough to attack. Hence he asked for the a bunch of 100 day militia, and for much of 19th Corps (37 regiments) to be sent to him.

Of course, rather than being reinforced, his army will be run down by the removal of 6th Corps, the reassignment of 19th Corps (despite Grant's shenanigans intercepting the convoys and redirecting them to the James instead of Washington), 2 cavalry divisions, the dismounted cavalry, all that 100 day militia and ISTR some of the heavy artillery back to Washington.

At the end of July, Lee still had ca. 57,500 effectives (68,844 present) but Grant had now only 86,077 effectives (inc. engrs etc., about 81,000 with such) and 116,136 present. In real terms, Grant lost a third of his fighting strength during July, from a strength he already deemed insufficient. No wonder by mid-July he was reporting to Sherman that he planned to withdraw back to a defensive position, and send parts of that army to reinforce Sherman. PS: On 18th July he sent all the troops due for discharge up until the end of August back to Washington - a clear sign he has abandoned ideas for a major offensive.

there’s a very good data on the strengths and losses per month during the siege in John Horn‘s book, the Petersburg campaign
 
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