Overland Grants Generalship in the Overland Campaign

(Wilderness, Spotsylvania, North Anna, Cold Harbor)

67th Tigers

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The problem with the AoP cavalry was that most of it was deployed as convoy guards & the like.

Except this simply isn't true. The cavalry of the AoP only ever provided the minimum requirement for HQ escorts etc., maximising that for use in combat etc. Of course, in the first months were there was less than a regiment of cavalry total, there was nothing left after providing for the absolute minimum duty for escorts, pickets etc. This soon changed.

Wittenberg based his entire argument off quotes in this period, and then projected the September '61 situation forward.

When the cavalry corps was formed, there was no change in the scale of escorts provided, one squadron per each corps. The Cavalry Corps was administrative, with each one of the divisions being assigned to an infantry wing. The major change happened with Sheridan's (mis)management, blinding the army by riding off on futile chevauxes.
 

wausaubob

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The US paid labor states had the larger horse population to begin with. During the early months of the war the US added Missouri and Kentucky to its agricultural area. The US was able to buy horses out of those areas, if it needed to. By March of 1863 almost all communication with Texas was intercepted when Farragut got the Hartford into the mouth of the Red River. The horse population of Texas became unavailable to the Confederacy.
By September of 1863 the US occupied virtually all of Tennessee.
When the US armies were in Virginia continually, and in north Georgia, in the summer of 1864, the Confederacy was absolutely going to run out of horses. The more cavalry raiding and riding and fighting, the faster the horses would flounder and die.
The Civil War was very hard on horses, and horse populations in most states fell and remained diminished even by 1870.
Neither the US nor the Confederacy were nomadic societies. A regiment of cavalry did not deploy with a 2,000 horse herd of remounts.
Grant was in part a horse expert. He knew that when forage and food could not move in the Confederacy, the horses would go hungry or simply strip the countryside of forage.
As Grant and Sherman took over, it became a war against the Confederacy's remaining locomotives and railroad cars, and by extension against the horses and mules that sustained tactical operations.
The war ends with Hood in Tennessee having very little artillery, Lee not able to feed either his horses or his soldiers in Virginia, and Forrest facing numbers of superbly equipped US cavalry men to which he had no effective response.
 

wausaubob

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McClellan's original plan was to end the war before there was enough time to fully train cavalry troopers. That was logical. By June and July of 1863, the US cavalry was well trained and much larger then in 1862. The plan to have the cavalry create its own raids was very likely to be put in place as the cavalry capability improved.
 

jackt62

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I read somewhere, I don't remember where, the interesting notion that northerners familiar with horses (and there must have been more people familiar with horses in the North than in the South) preferred being infantry because, well, who wants the hassles of looking after a horse? With no social status involved Yankee practicality won out.

I don't know if it's true but it's worth a thought.

It's also worth noting that 2 of the top horse breeding states were both southern, Kentucky and Virginia (the fact that Kentucky remained loyal doesn't take away from the fact that horsemanship was more greatly ingrained in the south.
 

jackt62

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I find this topic interesting because when Rosecrans took over the 24th Corps in Nashville Oct 2862, the cavalry could not have been more pathetic. A regiment of Philadelphia blue bloods had appointed themselves as Rosecrans’ H Q guard. When they were ordered to fight, they mutinied. It is quite a tale. Most of the 14th Corps cavalry had no weapons or horses. Seven months later, they were knocking the snot out of Wheeler’s Corps. That is quite a story, too.

One advantage that the North had in cavalry was its extensive logistical system of corrals and stables, strategically placed and quarter-mastered to ensure a steady supply of horseflesh to the field. Notwithstanding problems with that system including corruption and communication delays, it was probably more effective than the southern practice of having the men procure their own horses.
 

jackt62

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As far as dismissing Warren in favor of Griffin, it was probably technically wrong, but it worked. The US won the Five Forks battle and the war in Virginia ended 8 days later, saving many lives and enormous expenses.

I'm not so sure that the battle was not already won by the time that Sheridan relieved Warren. One of the criticisms leveled against Warren was that he didn't "lead from the front" and that his corps was not timely in maneuvering into position. But those charges had more to do with Sheridan's personal dislike and personality differences with Warren than with an objective assessment of Warren's leadership of V Corps.
 

wausaubob

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I'm not so sure that the battle was not already won by the time that Sheridan relieved Warren. One of the criticisms leveled against Warren was that he didn't "lead from the front" and that his corps was not timely in maneuvering into position. But those charges had more to do with Sheridan's personal dislike and personality differences with Warren than with an objective assessment of Warren's leadership of V Corps.
I think General Grant concluded the Vth corp division commanders were professionally competent and they did not need Warren's personal supervision. What Grant wrote about Warren was that Warren did not seem to realize that the division commanders were capable of following instructions. Warren was a superb engineer and could set a defensive line, when he could see the ground he was working on. General Warren had limits in expediting movement, and perhaps could not realize that the maps of the time were often wrong and could not be relied upon. At any rate, Grant admitted that delegating Warren's fate to Sheridan was improper and Grant should have reassigned Warren before the final campaign.
 

wausaubob

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At any rate, the Overland Campaign did not work. The campaign that did work closed Mobile Bay, cut the Weldon RR, cut the Macon railroad into Atlanta which trapped the locomotives and railroad cars in the switch yard, and occupied all the main roads in the Shenandoah Valley. President Lincoln won re-election and the remaining Confederate armies were not mobile enough to continue fighting.
 

jackt62

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I think General Grant concluded the Vth corp division commanders were professionally competent and they did not need Warren's personal supervision. What Grant wrote about Warren was that Warren did not seem to realize that the division commanders were capable of following instructions. Warren was a superb engineer and could set a defensive line, when he could see the ground he was working on. General Warren had limits in expediting movement, and perhaps could not realize that the maps of the time were often wrong and could not be relied upon. At any rate, Grant admitted that delegating Warren's fate to Sheridan was improper and Grant should have reassigned Warren before the final campaign.

No doubt, Warren was a more deliberate and cautious commander, a trait that was bound to cause friction with the more aggressive Sheridan and Grant. Warren's alleged slowness hobbled him throughout the Overland Campaign and thereafter. But that was his engineering side coming out.
 

Irishtom29

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I don't think Warren would've been the guy for the fast pursuit of the Appomattox Campaign. Note that the two infantry corps that headed Lee off west of Appomattox were the 5th Corps under Griffin and one of Ord's Army of the James corps, Gibbon's 24th. Who'da thought?

In his memoirs Grant spoke well of Griffin.
 

Rhea Cole

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Since this thread is about Grant’s generalship, his husbanding of equine resources was one of his strengths. Horses & mules have a ten mile round trip range. Work them more than 20 miles a day & it is only a matter of time before they break down. Once broken down, it took time & care to rehab those that could recover. The vast remount & recovery operation that supported the ApP is detailed & impressively documented in The Ten Volume Photographic History of the Civil War: The Cavalry. It is available online, so I will only comment that nothing of the sort supported the AoNV.

Grant was meticulous in his resupply arrangements. Rail heads, supply distribution depots & other logistical arrangements were made with the maximum utility of the equines as a priority.

Grant did not have to theorize about the effect overwork had on mules. He rode the 60 mile long mountainous route that the AoC’s wagons had to make to supply the army in Chattanooga. It is not much of an exaggeration to state that dead mules lay nose to tail along the entire route. It says a lot about Grant that he made the trek to see first hand what the situation was.

Of course, draft animals are one thing, cavalry remounts are quite another. On active duty, every trooper would need somewhere between 4 & 6 remounts. Cavalry really did use up horses the way infantry used up shoes. The retreat of the AoT from Nashville is an extreme example of that. By the time the AoT crossed the Tennessee, it had lost almost all of its horses & mules. Wilson’s freshly remounted pursuers had only a token number of sound horses left.
During the Overland Campaign, the AoP’s cavalry was playing according to the old rules. In the matter of the role of cavalry, Meade was a textbook general. Sheridan & Grant understood the effect that mass & tempo coupled with rapid fire weapons had on cavalry operations. As is indicated on this thread, even today there are those who can’t wrap their brains around how revolutionary that was. In terms of the theme of this thread, all that was in the future.

During the Overland Campaign, Meade managed the cavalry in the usual way. In December 1864, George Thomas gave a master class in how cavalry could be used as an offensive weapon. Massed cavalry armed with repeating rifles enveloped Hood’s left flank. It is little known, but one of the largest cavalry fights of the war occurred berween Nashville & Franklin.

Unlike Gettysburg, Hood’s retreating army was hammered by massed cavalry attacks. The only way to get away was to ditch almost everything but the clothes on their backs. Forrest’s rearguard action was brilliant, but all he was guarding was “an excellent marked mob” according to eye witnesses. That was the fate that Grant & Sheridan had in mind for Lee’s army as well.

Western generals had a very different definition of victory than the men who fought in Virginia. I mean no disrespect, but so do those of us who study the Western Theater. Our shared definition of victory is when the other side puts up their hands & surrenders. That was the principle that drove the post Overland Grant-Sheridan use of cavalry.

As we all know that make ‘um give up or die attitude that characterizes Grant’s generalship is what won the war.
 

Rhea Cole

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I'm not so sure that the battle was not already won by the time that Sheridan relieved Warren. One of the criticisms leveled against Warren was that he didn't "lead from the front" and that his corps was not timely in maneuvering into position. But those charges had more to do with Sheridan's personal dislike and personality differences with Warren than with an objective assessment of Warren's leadership of V Corps.
The point is that whatever the situation when Warren was relieved, the Battle was going to be waged to the bitter end with Sheridan in command.
 
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Rhea Cole

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It's also worth noting that 2 of the top horse breeding states were both southern, Kentucky and Virginia (the fact that Kentucky remained loyal doesn't take away from the fact that horsemanship was more greatly ingrained in the south.
The vast majority of mules came from Missouri & Kentucky. Slaves would deliberately work horses to death. For that reason Southern plantations worked mules rather than horses. Of course, that meant that they were dependent on the supply from up river to meet their need for draft animals.
 

wausaubob

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There were about 6M horses in the US in 1860. And farms and cities depended on the same population. Unlike locomotives, which can be manufactured, horses have to be bred and raised. The population of 3-10 year old horses was a computable number.
1599147176397.png



From page 184 of the Recapitulation: https://www2.census.gov/library/publications/decennial/1860/agriculture/1860b-09.pdf
 

trice

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Grant did not have to theorize about the effect overwork had on mules. He rode the 60 mile long mountainous route that the AoC’s wagons had to make to supply the army in Chattanooga. It is not much of an exaggeration to state that dead mules lay nose to tail along the entire route. It says a lot about Grant that he made the trek to see first hand what the situation was.
It was really the only route to take to get to Chattanooga, and he was the sort of commander who wanted to see things for himself. He was also on crutches and considerable pain from having a horse fall on him in New Orleans. He was the quietly determined type of soldier.

From Grant's Memoirs:
...I immediately wrote an order assuming command of the Military Division of the Mississippi, and telegraphed it to General Rosecrans. I then telegraphed to him the order from Washington assigning Thomas to the command of the Army of the Cumberland; and to Thomas that he must hold Chattanooga at all hazards, informing him at the same time that I would be at the front as soon as possible. A prompt reply was received from Thomas, saying, ”We will hold the town till we starve.” I appreciated the force of this dispatch later when I witnessed the condition of affairs which prompted it. It looked, indeed, as if but two courses were open: one to starve, the other to surrender or be captured.
...​
On the morning of the 21st we took the train for the front, reaching Stevenson Alabama, after dark. Rosecrans was there on his way north. He came into my car and we held a brief interview, in which he described very clearly the situation at Chattanooga, and made some excellent suggestions as to what should be done. My only wonder was that he had not carried them out. We then proceeded to Bridgeport, where we stopped for the night. From here we took horses and made our way by Jasper and over Waldron’s Ridge to Chattanooga. There had been much rain, and the roads were almost impassable from mud, knee-deep in places, and from wash-outs on the mountain sides. I had been on crutches since the time of my fall in New Orleans, and had to be carried over places where it was not safe to cross on horseback. The roads were strewn with the debris of broken wagons and the carcasses of thousands of starved mules and horses. At Jasper, some ten or twelve miles from Bridgeport, there was a halt. General O. O. Howard had his headquarters there. From this point I telegraphed Burnside to make every effort to secure five hundred rounds of ammunition for his artillery and small-arms. We stopped for the night at a little hamlet some ten or twelve miles farther on. The next day we reached Chattanooga a little before dark. I went directly to General Thomas’s headquarters, and remaining there a few days, until I could establish my own.
 

wausaubob

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As soon as Grant cleared the Wilderness area, he sent Sheridan and the cavalry off on a raid, so they could start eating and wrecking the available forage in Virginia. The events that General Lee had worked so hard to avoid in 1863 were about to take place, if he could not expel the US army from Virginia.
He also sent back a large section of the artillery, and its horse teams, back to Washington, where they could sit at the end of the US railroad network, or be mustered out.
Both efforts were designed to do the same thing. Reduced the US demand for oats and hay, so that roads would not be jammed with wagons carrying horse food.
As @Rhea Cole points out, Grant not only decreased the mass of the horse herd supported by the army, but was working hard to control the points from which supplies had to be freighted, to Fredericksburg, White House, and City Point.
Sherman also pointed out in his memoirs that as the distance the horses and mules have to work increases, the forage demand increases at a more than linear rate, and eventually the army can do nothing but haul forage.
 
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danny

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As soon as Grant cleared the Wilderness area, he sent Sheridan and the cavalry off on a raid, so they start eating and wrecking the available forage in Virginia. The events that General Lee had worked so hard to avoid in 1863 were about to take place, if he could not expel the US army from Virginia.
He also sent back a large section of the artillery, and its horse teams, back to Washington, where they could sit at the end of the US railroad network, or be mustered out.
Both efforts were designed to do the same thing. Reduced the US demand for oats and hay, so that roads would not be jammed with wagons carrying horse food.
As @Rhea Cole points out, Grant not only decreased the mass of the horse herd supported by the army, but was working hard to control the points from which supplies had to be freighted, to Fredericksburg, White House, and City Point.
Sherman also pointed out in his memoirs that as the distance the horses and mules have to work increases, the forage demand increases at a more than linear rate, and eventually the army can do nothing but haul forage.

At least they had a surplus of horses.
 

MichaelWinicki

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Jul 23, 2020
The II corps was truly Grant's right arm all the way up to the initial attack on Petersburg. They always were at the point of the spear from the Wilderness through there, and the casualty numbers and battle fatigue took its toll.

An analysis of the performance of the various corps throughout the Overland Campaign probably merits its own thread at some point...

At least based on the Wilderness and Spotsylvania, 1/2 of the II Corps did pretty well. The half made up of the old III Corps seemed to have some challenges, especially Mott's, which was under Humphrey's in the Gettysburg campaign and was Hooker's originally.
 
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