Overland Grants Generalship in the Overland Campaign

(Wilderness, Spotsylvania, North Anna, Cold Harbor)

MichaelWinicki

Private
Joined
Jul 23, 2020
Some interesting comments about Grant's generalship in the McClellen/Antietam-Grant/Spotsylvania thread.

I did not want to derail that thread with a side discussion...

My question is how much did corps & division generalship in the Army of the Potomac affect Grant's plans during the Overland campaign?

On one hand Grant racked up a lot of casualties during the months of May & June '64. It is said veteran units in the AOTP seemed to lose their interest in frontal assaults. There may have been some disgruntledness with Grant's generalship by some (other than Lincoln) in Washington.

On the other hand it seems on more than one occassion assualts planned by Grant failed to achieve their full potential due to the actions or inactions of those leading corps and divisions. If his instructions were followed a little more closely (like say Burnside on May 6th) could he have put Lee's army out of the war much earlier thus reducing casualties?
 

Rhea Cole

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Nov 2, 2019
Location
Murfreesboro, Tennessee
One of the truest of truisms is that a veteran infantryman was a terrified infantryman. Grant’s novel tactic of continuous contact ( the modern term) resulted in an intensity & tempo of fighting that had not been experienced in the Eastern Theater.

The deadwood in the AoP command is well known. One of Grant’s strengths was his acceptance of the political necessity of keeping certain officers without complaint. On the other hand, he was not shy about getting rid of failures.

While Grant was looking over Meade’s shoulder in Virginia, under his command Thomas was destroying the AoT, he transferred the XVI Corps from the pursuit of the AoT to New Orleans convoyed by 45 tin clad gunboats, Rosecrans was dealing with a raid into Missouri, on the frontier the Indian wars perked along, Mobile was under attack & Sherman was marching north through the Carolinas. Grant was quite the multi-tasker. It says a great deal that all these victories were achieved without Grant’s presence. The same was not true in the AoP.

Time & again, Grant’s plans were undone by the incompetence of AoP officers who should have been removed long before. After the election, when their political influence waned, heads rolled. Unfortunately, a lot of good men paid a dear price for their incompetence.
 

jackt62

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Location
New York City
In his Reminiscences of General Grant, Major General James Wilson writes of Grant's reaction to the ferocious Confederate assault on the 2nd day of the Wilderness fighting:

"There is reason for supposing, notwithstanding statements to the contrary, that Grant's nerves were severely shaken by this unexpected and untoward reverse. He was in a strange army, surrounded almost entirely by strangers, and naturally enough for a short time amidst the darkness and confusion felt uncertain as to the purposes of the enemy, the extent of the disaster, and the capacity of his own army to recover from it. In all that host there were only three general officers who had served with him in the West-Rawlins, his able and courageous chief of staff, Sheridan, and myself. Meade, whose headquarters were near by, and all the infantry corps and division commanders, were comparatively unknown to him, and what is worse, precedent, so far as there was any precedent, in that army, seemed to require them under such circumstances to retire, and not advance"
 

Rhea Cole

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Location
Murfreesboro, Tennessee
In his Reminiscences of General Grant, Major General James Wilson writes of Grant's reaction to the ferocious Confederate assault on the 2nd day of the Wilderness fighting:

"There is reason for supposing, notwithstanding statements to the contrary, that Grant's nerves were severely shaken by this unexpected and untoward reverse. He was in a strange army, surrounded almost entirely by strangers, and naturally enough for a short time amidst the darkness and confusion felt uncertain as to the purposes of the enemy, the extent of the disaster, and the capacity of his own army to recover from it. In all that host there were only three general officers who had served with him in the West-Rawlins, his able and courageous chief of staff, Sheridan, and myself. Meade, whose headquarters were near by, and all the infantry corps and division commanders, were comparatively unknown to him, and what is worse, precedent, so far as there was any precedent, in that army, seemed to require them under such circumstances to retire, and not advance"
Wilson put his finger on it. We all know what other commanders of the AoP did under similar circumstances. How many times have we read personal accounts of men at Wilderness who had been withdrawn, expecting another retreat & were elated to see the wagons going south?
 
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trice

Colonel
Joined
May 2, 2006
One of the truest of truisms is that a veteran infantryman was a terrified infantryman. Grant’s novel tactic of continuous contact ( the modern term) resulted in an intensity & tempo of fighting that had not been experienced in the Eastern Theater.

The deadwood in the AoP command is well known. One of Grant’s strengths was his acceptance of the political necessity of keeping certain officers without complaint. On the other hand, he was not shy about getting rid of failures.

While Grant was looking over Meade’s shoulder in Virginia, under his command Thomas was destroying the AoT, he transferred the XVI Corps from the pursuit of the AoT to New Orleans convoyed by 45 tin clad gunboats, Rosecrans was dealing with a raid into Missouri, on the frontier the Indian wars perked along, Mobile was under attack & Sherman was marching north through the Carolinas. Grant was quite the multi-tasker. It says a great deal that all these victories were achieved without Grant’s presence. The same was not true in the AoP.

Time & again, Grant’s plans were undone by the incompetence of AoP officers who should have been removed long before. After the election, when their political influence waned, heads rolled. Unfortunately, a lot of good men paid a dear price for their incompetence.
Grant was not always good at getting rid of failures. Some think he was too soft in that regard -- particularly early in the war. Case in point: Colonel Robert C. Murphy of the 8th Wisconsin Infantry, a lawyer and 1st US Consul to Shanghai before the Civil War.

Col. Murphy had served with the regiment in 1862 and had been placed in command of a brigade. During the Iuka Campaign, his brigade was covering the removal of supplies from a depot in Iuka. There was a skirmish with Price's cavalry. Murphy withdrew his brigade rapidly on the 14th (the Battle of Iuka is on the 19th). From Grant's report: "This caused a considerable amount of commissary stores to fall into the hands of the enemy which properly should have been destroyed." Rosecrans relieved Murphy for this and had him court-martialed; Murphy was acquitted. Grant then gave him another chance -- Sherman warned him this was a mistake, but Grant probably felt the man had learned his lesson and the post was guarding a supply depot in Grant's rear, not so far from Memphis where the risks would be small.

Comes December, 1862: Van Dorn and his cavalry are raiding in Grant's rear. Grant is orchestrating a pursuit to run them down, depending on Murphy to hold his post while other forces close in. Grant communicates with Murphy, warning him of the approach. Murphy is the man in command at Holly Springs. On December 20, Van Dorn takes Murphy completely by surprise. The garrison is captured, the supply depot destroyed. Combined with Forrest's raid on the RR at the same time, these two cavalry raids put an end to Grant's advance. From Grant's report: "The commanding officer of the post (Col. R. C. Murphy, of the Eighth Wisconsin Volunteers) took no steps to protect the place, not having notified a single officer of his command of the approaching danger,. although he himself had received warning, as herein before stated. The troops cannot be blamed in the matter, for they found themselves surrounded--the first intimation they had of an approaching enemy. Notwithstanding this surprise many of the troops behaved nobly, refusing to be paroled, and, after making their escape from the enemy, attacking him without regard to their relative strength. Conspicuous among this latter was the Second Illinois Cavalry, which was stationed here at the time. Our loss here will probably amount to $400,000 of property and 1,500 men taken."

Up in Columbus, Kentucky Brigadier Davies wired the a report of the news to Halleck that said it all: "Murphy, of Iuka fame, was in command."

The result for Colonel Murphy (January 8, 1863):
II. Col. R. C. Murphy, of the Eighth Regiment Wisconsin Infantry Volunteers, having, while in command of the post of Holly Springs, Miss., neglected and failed to exercise the usual and ordinary precautions to guard and protect the same; having, after repeated and timely warning of the approach of the enemy, failed to make any preparations for resistance or defense or show any disposition to do so; and having, with a force amply sufficient to have repulsed the enemy and protect the public stores, disgracefully permitted him to capture the post and destroy the stores--and the movement of troops in the face of an enemy rendering it impracticable to convene a court-martial for his trial---is therefore dismissed the service of the United States, to take effect from the 20th day of December, 1862, the date of his cowardly and disgraceful conduct.

It isn't really until late in the war that Grant begins to prune commanders. The major exceptions are McClernand and Rosecrans, who both seem to have gotten into a match of what used to be called "The Old Army Game" with Grant -- they lost. It is possible Rosecrans never knew it -- that man had a talent for ticking people off and not knowing they were going to resent it.

By Spring of 1865, it is a very different situation. "Baldy" Smith is gone, and Gillmore. Sheridan is authorized to sack Warren. On April 2, Grant's generals know the game: Lee is retreating, there is no room for mistakes -- and Grant is axing Corps commanders.
 

67th Tigers

1st Lieutenant
Joined
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By Spring of 1865, it is a very different situation. "Baldy" Smith is gone, and Gillmore. Sheridan is authorized to sack Warren. On April 2, Grant's generals know the game: Lee is retreating, there is no room for mistakes -- and Grant is axing Corps commanders.

Maybe, but even if Grant had the authority to remove Warren (which had to come from Lincoln, and there is no evidence it was ever given), he had no authority to give said authority to another. There is no scenario where Sheridan acted legally.

From Warren's POV, he should have refused the illegal order. It would have forced a court-martial which would basically turn on the question "is Sheridan the President?"
 

Scott1967

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Jul 11, 2016
Location
England
Some interesting comments about Grant's generalship in the McClellen/Antietam-Grant/Spotsylvania thread.

I did not want to derail that thread with a side discussion...

My question is how much did corps & division generalship in the Army of the Potomac affect Grant's plans during the Overland campaign?

On one hand Grant racked up a lot of casualties during the months of May & June '64. It is said veteran units in the AOTP seemed to lose their interest in frontal assaults. There may have been some disgruntledness with Grant's generalship by some (other than Lincoln) in Washington.

On the other hand it seems on more than one occassion assualts planned by Grant failed to achieve their full potential due to the actions or inactions of those leading corps and divisions. If his instructions were followed a little more closely (like say Burnside on May 6th) could he have put Lee's army out of the war much earlier thus reducing casualties?

Happens in all armies i'm afraid and the AoP was more prone to to it due to the large amount of political appointments and high seniority of officers present in a nutshell if you were sent west your deemed failure and if your sent east to the AoP its the pinnacle of your career this level of snobbish behaviour in the AoP was nothing new and caused frictions throughout 1864 in Grants overland campaign , The squabble between Meade and Sheridan being a classic example.

Don't get me wrong the AoNV had the same problems but Lee who learned after Gettysburg that dead wood should be shipped off as quick as possible( not the Lee you would have seen in 1862) gave him a distinct advantage over Grant as he had a whole year to remove any officers who he felt were not up to his standards , Grant on the other hand was still finding his way with the army that was given to him.

Their is an argument that Grant fought so hard to test the limits of his army and to weed out any officers who did not perform to his liking but obviously personal feelings do come into play , A general like Burnside who was well liked by all but an average soldier really had no place in the Army however because Burnside was liked by his men and thus boosted their morale this disadvantage can be outweighed by the advantage Burnside provided to his corp and the army as a whole.

Many factors come into play with an army and one vital asset a general must have is diplomacy he has to have the ability to sort out internal squabbles between high ranking officers an ability Bragg did not have or Pope , McClellan , Even Meade , Grants cool and calm attitude did more to secure victory than what you might think.

So given what i have just said i think Grant could not have done more than what he did in the Overland Campaign i think it was a major feat by Grant to get the army moving forward after the Wilderness and an unexpected one that raised many eyebrows in the AoP high command but in doing so Grant was stamping his authority he was the guy in charge and letting the AoP know it.

My opinion of course.
 

trice

Colonel
Joined
May 2, 2006
Maybe, but even if Grant had the authority to remove Warren (which had to come from Lincoln, and there is no evidence it was ever given), he had no authority to give said authority to another. There is no scenario where Sheridan acted legally.

From Warren's POV, he should have refused the illegal order. It would have forced a court-martial which would basically turn on the question "is Sheridan the President?"

I am not sure why you think this. It does not reflect current US regulations. It does not reflect past US military practice. Superior officers always have the authority to relieve their juniors on the field. In rare and unusual situations, subordinates may be justified and authorized in relieving a superior officer.
 

Jamieva

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I don't think we want to re legislate the Sheridan/Warren relief of duty debate, it has been discussed several times on CWT, including this one


Back to the OP. Grant had four corps, but only 1 corps commander he trusted, Hancock. He leaned on the II corps more so than any other during the Overland as a result. Where it really came home to roost was when the II Corps couldn't muster it's usual punch at Petersburg on June 13, 1864.

I've seen posts here that indicate Grant was not reluctant to replace commanders, but by consensus on here in multiple threads I have seen it stated by fellow members (including me) that he waited way too long to remove Warren. So did he replace subordinates? Yes. But each one was a case by case basis, he did not have an overall, universal policy.
 

trice

Colonel
Joined
May 2, 2006
Some interesting comments about Grant's generalship in the McClellen/Antietam-Grant/Spotsylvania thread.

I did not want to derail that thread with a side discussion...

My question is how much did corps & division generalship in the Army of the Potomac affect Grant's plans during the Overland campaign?

On one hand Grant racked up a lot of casualties during the months of May & June '64. It is said veteran units in the AOTP seemed to lose their interest in frontal assaults. There may have been some disgruntledness with Grant's generalship by some (other than Lincoln) in Washington.

On the other hand it seems on more than one occassion assualts planned by Grant failed to achieve their full potential due to the actions or inactions of those leading corps and divisions. If his instructions were followed a little more closely (like say Burnside on May 6th) could he have put Lee's army out of the war much earlier thus reducing casualties?
I would say the biggest problem with Union Army leadership in the East in 1864 was Butler and Sigel as commanders at the front. Halleck back in Washington was a difficulty as well, and Stanton created problems unique to himself. If Grant could have resolved these spots, Lee's campaign would have gone much better.

Of the four Corps commanders, Hancock was best; Warren and Sedgwick were OK (with pluses and minuses); Burnside was worst. Doubtful Grant could have replaced more than one of those.
 

67th Tigers

1st Lieutenant
Joined
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I am not sure why you think this. It does not reflect current US regulations. It does not reflect past US military practice. Superior officers always have the authority to relieve their juniors on the field. In rare and unusual situations, subordinates may be justified and authorized in relieving a superior officer.

It however was the law during the Civil War. The Act of Congress that authorised Corps Commanders (Militia Act of 17th July 1862) places the right to appoint and remove them solely in the hands of the President. McClernand waived this right in a letter to Grant, which is how Grant got away with that one. Sherman even noted this in his summary of the Warren inquiry, but glosses over it by assuming that Grant had been deputed this power by Lincoln, despite there being no evidence of it. Even if true, Grant could not depute this power to Sheridan.

Now, a corps commander may be arrested. In fact, in certain circumstances a 2Lt can arrest the corps commander or even the commanding general of the army (if drunk whilst in action for example), but that is quite different as an arrest should automatically trigger a court-martial.

What should have happened, to be legal, was:
1. Sheridan issues order relieving Warren
2. Warren refuses order as illegal
3. Sheridan has Warren arrested under the 9th Article of War
4. Court-martial

However, refusing an illegal order is potentially a capital crime. If the court-martial is packed with partisans for the accuser (as could happen, c.f. the Porter court-martial) then they might convict you, and then hang you.
 

67th Tigers

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Of the four Corps commanders, Hancock was best; Warren and Sedgwick were OK (with pluses and minuses); Burnside was worst. Doubtful Grant could have replaced more than one of those.

However, he could not. The appointment of corps commanders was a Presidential power, and their removal required the exercise of Presidential power. Sometimes the President might seek advice before making the appointment, but it was solely their prerogative. Grant had to manoeuvre Smith and Burnside out of position, he couldn't simply reassign them.
 

Rhea Cole

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Location
Murfreesboro, Tennessee
Long after the war, some kind of board agreed that Warren’s removal was not properly carried out. By then, I expect Warren was the only one who cared. Lincoln had, quite rightly, given Grant blanket authority to win the war any way he felt was necessary. Also, rightly, Lincoln got out of his way & let him get on with the job. Grant had dozens of army & corps commanders to manage. The time for niceties was over. Look at his impatience with Georgia Thomas, of all people. In the spring of 1865 Grant was going in for the kill & Warren’s reputation was a dust mote in a hurricane.

I believe it was not Grant’s willingness to fire generals that was his strength. His ability to communicate exactly what he wanted done, how he wanted it done & when he wanted it done brought out the best in subordinate commanders was a great gift. When you read Grant’s orders, it is click, click, click. That also meant that the kind of dog fight Bragg’s officers had after every engagement did not occur.

Grant rode the circuit of the Vicksburg line almost every day accompanied by his son. Unlike the medieval splendor of McClellan’s royal progressions, Grant was able to access facts on the ground himself. That meant that subordinates received orders they could trust.

Grant’s order telling Meade to grab onto Lee’s army & not let go is typical. It was simple & said exactly what Grant wanted done. Executing it was vastly complex, but even the mule drivers knew what the goal was.
 
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trice

Colonel
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May 2, 2006
However, he could not. The appointment of corps commanders was a Presidential power, and their removal required the exercise of Presidential power. Sometimes the President might seek advice before making the appointment, but it was solely their prerogative. Grant had to manoeuvre Smith and Burnside out of position, he couldn't simply reassign them.

If he had wanted to get it done before the start of the campaign, he would have gone through the usual procedures. If he needed to do it on the field of battle, he would have simply ordered it done and dealt with the consequences later -- as he did with Warren. Warren wasn't cashiered or stripped of rank, simply removed from command of his Corps and reassigned to a similar position. But as mentioned in a post above, we should not turn this thread into a digression about Warren and Sheridan.

In early 1864, Grant actually had a good impression of Warren and considered him as a potential replacement for Meade if he needed Meade to go. He had never met Meade before, IIRR, and was unsure how that relationship would work out until he went to meet him after coming to Washington. Sedgwick was regarded as a good, solid soldier -- but I don't think anyone was pushing him as a tactical genius or the next great independent commander. Burnside had a lot of baggage and I would think Grant (particularly after the Knoxville experience) wanted someone else -- but Grant was aware of the political issues with men like Burnside, Butler, Hunter and Sigel. That's why he did not push to replace them before the campaign started.

As to who might have replaced those people, Grant had his own ideas. When he came East, he wanted to bring back some of the sidelined talent, men like McClellan, Buell and Franklin. The first two didn't get go anywhere, although McClellan's name was still floating for a command in July, 1864. Franklin was Grant's first choice for the AoP Cavalry, but there was too much resistance, leading to Sheridan's sudden advancement with Grant's classmate Franklin going to serve under Banks (Sabine Pass fiasco and Red River Campaign, wounded at Mansfield, replaced after Pleasant Hill as his condition deteriorated).

I can't believe either Buell or McClellan would have come back for anything less than an important independent command, although both had the skill and ability to be very useful to the Union if they would put their heart into it. Neither looks like they would be a fit for the Lincoln administration, particularly with Stanton. But Buell surely would have been an interesting replacement for Butler or Banks that Spring, and how different would things have been if Grant had managed to bring McClellan in to replace Halleck as a fantasy?

Sherman might have been an interesting choice to replace Meade, perhaps with Meade going to replace Sherman or with Thomas taking Sherman's spot. If Meade, Sherman and Thomas were to stay where they were and Burnside was somehow eased out, here's a big change: McPherson comes East to take IX Corps. Maybe Sigel gets eased out and McPherson gets the Shenandoah. Grant and Sherman both thought McPherson was a rising star.

Overall, I think Butler, Sigel, Burnside and Hunter were the biggest command problems in the East for Grant. From a military standpoint, Burnside may actually have been a lesser problem than Butler and Sigel (because he was where Grant could exert personal control over him in a crisis). Grant's early 1864 plan relies on Butler and Sigel in positions they could not handle. Sigel's failure can be seen as minor in some ways, but without Breckenridge's reinforcement to Lee, Grant probably turns Lee's flank and might have taken Richmond, with the whole Cold Harbor disaster being avoided, in early June. Just a little more success from Butler against Beauregard in May might have forced Lee to retreat from Spotsylvania and back to the Richmond defenses. Replacing Burnside might mke a battlefield difference along the way in May or June, but I can't see a clear case for it giving Grant a smashing victory.
 
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trice

Colonel
Joined
May 2, 2006
Just for general interest, here is a 20,000 foot look-down article on US Army practice in replacing generals in the last 80 years. The article was published in 2012 and compares US Army practice in WWII, Vietnam and the 2003-2012 period of the war in Iraq, discussing the benefits and drawbacks as the author sees them. Nothing mentioned about earlier days in it, IIRR.

General Failure by Thomas Ricks, The Atlantic, November 2012
https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2012/11/general-failure/309148/

This paragraph might be instructive. I think that Union practice was trending this way late in the Civil War.
Generalship in combat is extraordinarily difficult, and many seasoned officers fail at it. During World War II, senior American commanders typically were given a few months to succeed, or they’d be replaced. Sixteen out of the 155 officers who commanded Army divisions in combat were relieved for cause, along with at least five corps commanders.
 

Rhea Cole

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Location
Murfreesboro, Tennessee
My introduction to this topic was Bruce Catton’s Grant Takes Command. That book & South Dakota blizzard was the starting point of over half a century of study. One scene in that book has stuck in my mind all this time.
Grant called a senior officer on the AoPstaff to his HQ. Going to see the AoP commander was a very formalized occasion. I seem to recall that it was the QM General who put on his best uniform, spit shined boots & gathered his escort for the occasion. With flag flying, he arrived at Grant’s boxcar HQ. The man himself met his visitor where he dismounted & walked up & down the muddy railroad tracks telling him what he wanted done. Back at the horses, the QM remounted & headed off to put Grant’s orders into action. He looked down at his muddy boots while he reflected on the experience & decided that things were now very different from what they had been.

It wasn’t the details that impressed me, it was Grant’s straight forward way of getting what he wanted done. I now know that Grant had been sitting at a telegraph key for hours on end & no doubt needed a walk. Among other things, Grant was managing the 11,000 brown water & shallow draft steamboats that were under army QM control & the fleet of gunboats that protected them from that boxcar. A tromp in the mud must have been a welcome relief. On the great map of Grant’s war, the AoNV was the size of a postage stamp.

Grant’s war was vastly more complex than Lee's was. Grant‘s HQ was next door to Meade’s for a reason. It wasn’t, as our Virginia-Centric friends assert, because of Lee. As Sherman said, Grant didn’t give a fig about what his opponents were trying to do. He was there to make sure what he wanted done would get done. As Wilson pointed out, both the AoP & AoNV were fight, retreat, rest, repeat organizations. Grant had to be there to break that cycle & bring the war to an end.

So, yes Grant could have done this or that differently. This General or that one could have been replaced. Grant could have even struck by lightning. What matters is that Grant made the decisions that led to victory. The ability to do that is a rare & wonderful gift.
 
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This is a great thread with fair and objective discussion. What I draw from this is how few good Corps commanders there were on either side. For every Longstreet or Thomas there are ten Polk's and Burnsides. Neither side did an adequate job of moving talented divisional commanders up the ladder. Cleburne is the most obvious example. And after Gettysburg I am very surprised did not demote AP Hill, in part because of his continuing health issues. But I also recognize that these were men that were (for the most part) doing their very best; I doubt I would do as well!
 

trice

Colonel
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This is a great thread with fair and objective discussion. What I draw from this is how few good Corps commanders there were on either side. For every Longstreet or Thomas there are ten Polk's and Burnsides.

Generally agree, but I also think that is the average experience. Many things that make a good man or a good peacetime soldier in life just don't add up to making a good commander in war. The higher up that pyramid of combat command they climb the more likely they are to fall short. I am not so sure of the 10-to-1 ratio, but as science fiction's Ted Sturgeon once put it in what is now called "Sturgeon's Law": "Ninety percent of everything is ****".

Neither side did an adequate job of moving talented divisional commanders up the ladder.
Yes, that was generally a matter of personal relationships and (particularly early in the war) politics played a big part. Bishop Polk, for example, probably would have had a much lesser rank if he had not roomed with Jeff Davis and A. S. Johnston at West Point (never serving after graduation, since he went into the ministry) or been born a 2nd cousin of President James K. Polk.
As the war went on, ability and success played a greater part in promotions.

Cleburne is the most obvious example.
Hardee thought he wasn't ready yet in 1864. I think he could have used some more experience, but maybe the best way to get that would have been for Joe Johnston to have divided his army into four smaller Corps instead of three, giving Cleburne a chance to grow.

And after Gettysburg I am very surprised did not demote AP Hill, in part because of his continuing health issues.
I have always found it hard to find out what A. P. Hill was actually doing July 1-3 at Gettysburg. I suppose his regular health issues might have played a factor -- but only a week ago it occurred to me that A. P. Hill was shot in the calves of both legs at Chancellorsville, the same night Jackson was shot. He might not have been in good shape at Gettysburg for that reason as well. In any case, Lee didn't have a ready-made replacement to drop in to a Corps at the time.

But I also recognize that these were men that were (for the most part) doing their very best; I doubt I would do as well!

I am with you here. Nobody ever shot at me in my life, and I am happy that way! :smile:
 

jackt62

Captain
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Location
New York City
Neither side did an adequate job of moving talented divisional commanders up the ladder. Cleburne is the most obvious example.

Cleburne ran into political obstacles after he promulgated his plan to enlist enslaved persons. But in the ANV, I would say that Lee in fact did a very good job at identifying and promoting officers of merit. Some examples are Pender, Rodes, Anderson, Wilcox; problem was that as the war dragged on, the talent pool got progressively smaller, something that even Lee couldn't fix.
 

Rhea Cole

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Location
Murfreesboro, Tennessee
Mrs Chestnut had something to say on this subject. She noted that Lincoln was not at all shy about replacing officers that did not get results. On the other hand, Davis cling to a small clique of officers no matter how disastrous their failings. QM Gen Northrop being exhibit #1 on that sad lineup of incompetents. I don’t recall the exact number, but the average age of active Union generals was ten or fifteen years younger than CSA generals. That was in a time when 50 was considered old age.
 
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