Grant at Petersburg

MikeyB

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Sep 13, 2018
If Grant decided he wanted to rehabilitate his image in the public as a butcher for Cold Harbor, etc - could he have basically just sat the AoP in front of Petersburg and literally not done a thing and still won the war by April of 1865? Basically, let Sherman keep doing what he was doing, Lee can't really move too many troops away for fear that Grant will push.

I don't see anything changing Sherman's trajectory and march through Georgia and then north to meet Grant. So if Grant just sits there, does the Union still win and by the way, a lot fewer casualties for both sides in the Eastern armies?
 

jackt62

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Not a good idea. Grant's entire strategy was based on cutting off Lee's communications by severing rail connections and simultaneously lengthening the lines around the ANV, thereby weakening Lee's ability to provide sufficient manpower to defend his lines. It was a strategy that eventually succeeded. Moreover, no matter what Grant did or didn't do during the Petersburg siege, he was already unfairly labeled as a "butcher" for the large casualties taken during the preceding Overland campaign. Aside from that, inaction on the part of the AOTP during the so-called siege, would have given Lee and the ANV time to rest, resupply, and recuperate, construct even stronger entrenchments, and probably mount its own offensive actions.
 

MikeyB

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Not a good idea. Grant's entire strategy was based on cutting off Lee's communications by severing rail connections and simultaneously lengthening the lines around the ANV, thereby weakening Lee's ability to provide sufficient manpower to defend his lines. It was a strategy that eventually succeeded. Moreover, no matter what Grant did or didn't do during the Petersburg siege, he was already unfairly labeled as a "butcher" for the large casualties taken during the preceding Overland campaign. Aside from that, inaction on the part of the AOTP during the so-called siege, would have given Lee and the ANV time to rest, resupply, and recuperate, construct even stronger entrenchments, and probably mount its own offensive actions.

Thanks for the thoughts. But even if Lee had the ability to rest, resupply and entrench deeper, does it really matter as long as Sherman isn't stopped? So you could have a perfectly rested and dug in ANV, but Sherman just destroyed Atlanta, Georgia and South Carolina, the will of your people is wiped, and Union forces can move throughout the CSA at will. What is Lee fighting for at that point, does he just capitulate?
 

jackt62

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Thanks for the thoughts. But even if Lee had the ability to rest, resupply and entrench deeper, does it really matter as long as Sherman isn't stopped? So you could have a perfectly rested and dug in ANV, but Sherman just destroyed Atlanta, Georgia and South Carolina, the will of your people is wiped, and Union forces can move throughout the CSA at will. What is Lee fighting for at that point, does he just capitulate?

Looking at the timeline, Sherman didn't reach Savannah until the end of December 1864; continuing onward, he reached North Carolina in March 1865. So realistically, Grant would not have those forces available at the Petersburg front that much sooner to make a difference in his own campaign against Lee. Furthermore, the Petersburg siege commenced in June 1864 while Sherman was still engaged in trying to take Atlanta. There was no expectation on the part of Grant or even Sherman at that point, that a march through Georgia and the Carolinas would occur.
 

jackt62

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What is Lee fighting for at that point, does he just capitulate?

From a rational point of view, Lee should have capitulated much sooner. But Lee was a tenacious fighter and was not ready to give up the struggle as long as he could identify some legitimate pathway for the Confederacy. Throughout the summer of 1864, given the lack of movement around Atlanta and Petersburg and Early's offensive in the Valley of Virginia, there was still a real chance that Lincoln might be defeated in the November election, which could likely lead to a negotiated settlement of sorts.
 

James N.

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If Grant decided he wanted to rehabilitate his image in the public as a butcher for Cold Harbor, etc - could he have basically just sat the AoP in front of Petersburg and literally not done a thing and still won the war by April of 1865? Basically, let Sherman keep doing what he was doing, Lee can't really move too many troops away for fear that Grant will push.

I don't see anything changing Sherman's trajectory and march through Georgia and then north to meet Grant. So if Grant just sits there, does the Union still win and by the way, a lot fewer casualties for both sides in the Eastern armies?
Well, that's largely what Grant DID do, with several notable exceptions: Mainly, he needed to keep pressure on Lee in order to discourage Lee from detaching any men to other areas, and in this he at least partially failed, since Jubal Early went first to the Shenandoah and ultimately all the way to the gates of Washington. Except for another fiasco at the Crater, Grant's other various maneuvers around Petersburg/Richmond were for the most part well-considered and executed, extending his lines steadily westward to cut Lee's vital rail lines, making it almost impossible for Lee to move other than right in front of these steady encroachments. Although it took Sherman a while to complete his March to the Sea and then through the Carolinas this was in fact the overall plan, which was for the most part carried out until Grant felt he was able to break Lee's line at Petersburg without waiting for the completion of the pincer movement. By moving in March-April of 1865 Grant thought the resultant shortening of the war would outweigh the casualties that might result, and in this he appears to have been correct.
 

Bryce

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If Grant decided he wanted to rehabilitate his image in the public as a butcher for Cold Harbor, etc - could he have basically just sat the AoP in front of Petersburg and literally not done a thing and still won the war by April of 1865? Basically, let Sherman keep doing what he was doing, Lee can't really move too many troops away for fear that Grant will push.

I don't see anything changing Sherman's trajectory and march through Georgia and then north to meet Grant. So if Grant just sits there, does the Union still win and by the way, a lot fewer casualties for both sides in the Eastern armies?
As I mentioned above Grant sent five expeditions to seize the southside railroad. All of them failed except the one on April 2. After the the sixth army corps broke through A. P. Hills lines, some of the man reached out to the railroad which was not defended. One reason they failed in the previous offensives is because Grant didn’t commit enough for men To gain his objective.

Grant could have committed more men if he had found followed the advice of either General G.k. Warren or The army Of the Potomac’s chief engineer General John Barnard which were offered to him in late June early July 1864.

Warren recommended abandoning much of the union line seized between June 15 and 18th 1864 — and using those troops to occupy Burkeville junction. At this time they were 80,000 union troops in the Petersburg lines. The occupation of the Junction by Union troops would have cut off the supplies from three of the railroads that supplied Lee’s army.

Barnard recommended delaying any offensive operations until the union line (which stretched from the Appomattox in the north nearly to the Jerusalem plank Road in the south) could be so strongly fortified that it could be held by 20 or 30,000 men. He recommended that Grant should then March his 60,000 men southward and then westward and occupy the hills in that region opposite the southern face of the confederate Dimock line. The federals would then fortify this line until it could be held by only a few men. Then they would again head westward. The Key to the success of this strategy was that the army would be so far southward that they would be beyond the reach of any Sallies that Lee might mount

Bryce
 

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If Grant decided he wanted to rehabilitate his image in the public as a butcher for Cold Harbor, etc - could he have basically just sat the AoP in front of Petersburg and literally not done a thing and still won the war by April of 1865? Basically, let Sherman keep doing what he was doing, Lee can't really move too many troops away for fear that Grant will push.

I don't see anything changing Sherman's trajectory and march through Georgia and then north to meet Grant. So if Grant just sits there, does the Union still win and by the way, a lot fewer casualties for both sides in the Eastern armies?
No, because if Lee maintains the Weldon Railway, etc he's in a sufficient state to extend the siege out for additional months on its own but, more importantly, as others have noted it frees him to send forces elsewhere.
 
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