Grant on Canby

trice

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General Grant in his Personal Memoirs, Chapter LXIX
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General Canby was an officer of great merit. He was naturally studious, and inclined to the law. There have been in the army but very few, if any, officers who took as much interest in reading and digesting every act of Congress and every regulation for the government of the army as he. His knowledge gained in this way made him a most valuable staff officer, a capacity in which almost all his army services were rendered up to the time of his being assigned to the Military Division of the Gulf. He was an exceedingly modest officer, though of great talent and learning. I presume his feelings when first called upon to command a large army against a fortified city, were somewhat like my own when marching a regiment against General Thomas Harris in Missouri in 1861. Neither of us would have felt the slightest trepidation in going into battle with some one else commanding. Had Canby been in other engagements afterwards, he would, I have no doubt, have advanced without any fear arising from a sense of the responsibility. He was afterwards killed in the lava beds of Southern Oregon, while in pursuit of the hostile Modoc Indians. His character was as pure as his talent and learning were great. His services were valuable during the war, but principally as a bureau officer. I have no idea that it was from choice that his services were rendered in an office, but because of his superior efficiency there.
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Tim
 

rhp6033

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I seem to recall Grant expressing dismay at the seige and attack on Mobile, saying that it should have been done earlier when it could have done some good, and when it was finally done it did no good at all (coming only days after Lee's surrender). But I don't know if he was blaming Halleck, who divided his Mississipi army instead of using it agains Mobile, or whether he was blaming Canby. I used to think that Canby must have been some glory-seeker who wanted a grand victory before the war was over, but now I think he was just doing his job, as the war was not yet over.
 

trice

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I seem to recall Grant expressing dismay at the seige and attack on Mobile, saying that it should have been done earlier when it could have done some good, and when it was finally done it did no good at all (coming only days after Lee's surrender). But I don't know if he was blaming Halleck, who divided his Mississipi army instead of using it agains Mobile, or whether he was blaming Canby. I used to think that Canby must have been some glory-seeker who wanted a grand victory before the war was over, but now I think he was just doing his job, as the war was not yet over.


Grant had been in favor of an attack on Mobile from immediately after the fall of Corinth in May 1862. He proposed it more than once only to either be ignored or (once he was in charge) forced to cancel because of political and other concerns. His grumbling was probably more about politicians and cotton and Banks and such than Canby.

Tim
 

rhp6033

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Grant had been in favor of an attack on Mobile from immediately after the fall of Corinth in May 1862. He proposed it more than once only to either be ignored or (once he was in charge) forced to cancel because of political and other concerns. His grumbling was probably more about politicians and cotton and Banks and such than Canby.

Tim

True. When Grant was given command in March 1864, he ordered Banks (then in charge of the Dept. of Lousiana, I think) to quickly complete his Red River campaign and join with other forces to attack Mobile. He even set a deadline for Banks to complete his campaign, at which point he was to abandon the campaign and depart for Memphis regardless of the stage of his campaign against Shreveport. But Banks continued the expedition, and then was held up by the shoals requiring Baily to build his dams in order to navigate them. By the time Banks had returned to New Orleans, any campaign against Mobile as part of a combined offensive against Confederate forces was too late.
 

Complicity

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By the time Banks had returned to New Orleans, any campaign against Mobile as part of a combined offensive against Confederate forces was too late.

Banks's army was safe from any further pursuit by Taylor by May 20, 1864 and two weeks earlier Canby was given command in New Orleans. Why was that too late to launch an offensive against Mobile?
 

ole

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Banks army was safe from any further pursuit by Taylor by May 20, 1864 and two weeks earlier Canby was given command in New Orleans. Why was that too late to launch an offensive against Mobile?
Possibly because Grant wanted the combined offensive to begin on May 4th -- about the time Canby was given command of an army that had just gotten the snot kicked out of it.

Then there are all those pesky details involved in reorganizing and tweaking and planning, and so on.
 

NedBaldwin

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Possibly because Grant wanted the combined offensive to begin on May 4th -- about the time Canby was given command of an army that had just gotten the snot kicked out of it.

Then there are all those pesky details involved in reorganizing and tweaking and planning, and so on.

It was March 31 when Grant had first wrote an order to Banks for him to move on Mobile; Banks didnt get this message until mid April. But by the end of April Grant changed his mind -- "Lieutenant-General Grant directs that orders heretofore given be so modified that no troops be withdrawn from operations against Shreveport and on Red River, and that operations there be continued under the senior officer in command until further orders." [ April 30 Halleck to Banks and Steele]

When Canby was ordered to take command, the idea of a move on Mobile had already been given up -- "General Grant at one time ordered a part of the troops of the Department of the Gulf to New Orleans to operate against Mobile, but this project has been given up, and all troops in your division will be retained for duty west of the Mississippi." [May 7 Halleck to Canby]
 

ErnieMac

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I seem to recall Grant expressing dismay at the seige and attack on Mobile, saying that it should have been done earlier when it could have done some good, and when it was finally done it did no good at all (coming only days after Lee's surrender). But I don't know if he was blaming Halleck, who divided his Mississipi army instead of using it agains Mobile, or whether he was blaming Canby. I used to think that Canby must have been some glory-seeker who wanted a grand victory before the war was over, but now I think he was just doing his job, as the war was not yet over.

IMO Grant, with the benefit of 20-20 hindsight, decided a number of the 1865 campaigns were a waste of men and materials. Similar comments were made concerning Stoneman's raid through western Virginia and North Carolina. He paid little attention to the fact that there was no certainty of how and when the war would end when those campaigns kicked off.
 

rhp6033

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Possibly because Grant wanted the combined offensive to begin on May 4th -- about the time Canby was given command of an army that had just gotten the snot kicked out of it.

Then there are all those pesky details involved in reorganizing and tweaking and planning, and so on.

Banks may have been safe from pursuit by Taylor, but by the time the dams were built and Porter's fleet navigated the shoals, quite a bit of time had passed. On top of it Banks wasn't exactly in a hurry to get anywhere. He had missed Grant's deadline to release the 20,ooo troops under A J. Smith he had borrowed from Sherman if at any time the campaign could not be completed by the end of April. Grant planned to use those troops in the upcoming Atlanta campaign by threatening Mobile as part of the multi-part offensive including the Wilderness, Bermuda Hundred, and Atlanta beginning May 4th. Faced with the delimma of reinfocing Dalton or Mobile, it was hoped that those troops could seize Mobile, or at the very least prevent them from joining Johnston's defense against Sherman. But it wasn't until May 20th that Banks had crossed the last obsticle (requiring another makeshift pontoon bride built by Baily), and some more time to march to New Orleans.

At that point there was a perceived shortage of troops to initiate an offensive against Mobile.
 

Complicity

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[Banks] had missed Grant's deadline to release the 20,ooo troops under A J. Smith he had borrowed from Sherman if at any time the campaign could not be completed by the end of April.

First, A.J. Smith's incendiaries numbered 10,000, not 20,000.

Second, on April 25th Grant ordered that Smith remain with Banks until Porter's gunboats where safely below Alexandria.

But it wasn't until May 20th that Banks had crossed the last obsticle (requiring another makeshift pontoon bride built by Baily), and some more time to march to New Orleans.
At that point there was a perceived shortage of troops to initiate an offensive against Mobile.

Yes, Grant changed his mind, but that does not mean May 20th was too late for Canby to start a campaign against Mobile.

First, Sherman's campaign for Atlanta was only about two weeks old.

Second, if Canby had moved against Mobile it is unlikely that Polk's 15,000 troops could have remained to help Johnston.

Third, after Red River the Union armies in Arkansas, Louisiana, and Texas did almost nothing for the rest of the war.

Fourth, if Canby used Banks's army as a core for a force to attack Mobile, Kirby Smith could not stop them. His army could not cross the Mississippi because of patrolling Union gunboats. Additionally, the inland navy and small Union garrisons would have prevented him from succeeding against important targets in his region.[/quote]
 

rhp6033

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Okay, I think I see your point - Canby could have mounted an offensive against Mobile after the Red River campaign, perhaps starting in July 1864. I don't know why he didn't - perhaps Grant didn't give permission for one reason or another?
 

NedBaldwin

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Okay, I think I see your point - Canby could have mounted an offensive against Mobile after the Red River campaign, perhaps starting in July 1864. I don't know why he didn't - perhaps Grant didn't give permission for one reason or another?
Canby's initial instructions didn't include a Mobile move and most of his offensive force was dispersed -- AJ Smiths command heading up the Mississippi and the 19th Corps going to Virginia.

Grant's problem with Canby came later -- he ordered Canby to launch a move against Mobile in January 1865; a month went by with nothing done and Grant became frustrated. Finally in March Canby got underway.
 

Complicity

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Canby's initial instructions didn't include a Mobile move and most of his offensive force was dispersed -- AJ Smiths command heading up the Mississippi and the 19th Corps going to Virginia

Smith did not "head up" the Mississippi until five months after the end of the Red River Campaign. Only about half of the 19th corps was sent to Virginia, and they did not leave until a couple of months after completing the Red River expedition.

Yes, Grant changed his mind about authorizing an advance toward Mobile in the spring of 1864. That does not mean it could not have been done, or that Grant was correct in changing his mind.
 

NedBaldwin

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Smith did not "head up" the Mississippi until five months after the end of the Red River Campaign.

Not so. Smith went north right away. That is how he ended up chasing Forrest in July (see battle of Tupelo).


Only about half of the 19th corps was sent to Virginia, and they did not leave until a couple of months after completing the Red River expedition.
I'm not sure how to decide whether the 2 divisions sent were "about half" but I do know that they left the first week of July and the had returned from the Red River expedition at the end of May.



Yes, Grant changed his mind about authorizing an advance toward Mobile in the spring of 1864. That does not mean it could not have been done, or that Grant was correct in changing his mind.
Agreed. I wasnt trying to make a judgement of whether he was was correct; I was trying to point out that it was his decisions that kept it from happening.
 
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