Overland Grants Generalship in the Overland Campaign

(Wilderness, Spotsylvania, North Anna, Cold Harbor)

Rhea Cole

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Nov 2, 2019
Location
Murfreesboro, Tennessee
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.
Once again, Bob has made an excellent point.

A round bale of hay weighs about 1,000 pounds. That is about 70 fourteen pound hay rations. Most everyone who lives in or near a rural area has seen round bales in fields in the last few weeks. An idea of the sheer cubic volume of the fodder that a battery with 125 horses for a month can be made by counting round bales stored in a field. That will open your eyes. Of course, there were no round bales during the CW & there was still the 12 pound ration of grain.

A bushel of shelled corn weighs 56 pounds which equals 4.5 rations. Next time you go to the store to buy dog food, wild bird seed etc. think on how many of those fifty pound bags the AoP went through every day. The sheer cubic volume is a measure of what it took to ship & deliver a day's ration of grain.

Depending on a number of factors, an army wagon normally carried about 3,000 of hay & grain rations. AoP fed 26 pound rations to about 30,000 horses a day which adds up to 780,000 pounds per day. That is 260 wagon loads or a convoy 2 1/2 miles long. Anyone who has ever baled hay or fed stock is asking, 'How the heck did they handle all that hay & grain?'

In order to handle the hay efficiently, they compressed it & bagged it. Hay & grain was shipped in burlap bags that US quartermasters were very insistent be returned. The collection, shipping & redistribution of those bags is one of those nuts & bolts things that made US logistics work.

it is no kind of exaggeration to state that without the manufacture & meticulous recycling of burlap bags the war could not have been won. The source of hemp, the material to make those bags, was Kentucky. Hemp was grown & twisted into twine in huge rope walks, one of which was owned by John Hunt Morgan. It was then twisted into ropes & woven into all kinds of products, including sails for ships.

By holding onto a Kentucky, the Union not only held onto the horse & mules, they also held onto the hemp that made feeding them possible.

Logistics, logistics, logistics... it is ever a source things to ponder.
 
Last edited:

wausaubob

Colonel
Joined
Apr 4, 2017
Location
Denver, CO
Once again, Bob has made an excellent point.

A round bale of hay weighs about 1,000 pounds. That is about 50 hay rations. Most everyone who lives in or near a rural area has seen round bales in fields in the last few weeks. An idea of the sheer cubic volume of the fodder that a battery with 125 horses for a month can be made by counting round bales stored in a field. That will open your eyes. Of course, there were no round bales during the CW & there was still the ration of grain.

Hay & grain was shipped in burlap bags that US quartermasters were very insistent be returned. The collection, shipping & redistribution of those bags is one of those nuts & bolts things that made US logistics work.

it is no kind of exaggeration to state that without the manufacture & meticulous recycling of burlap bags the war could not have been won. The source of hemp, the material to make those bags, was Kentucky. Hemp was grown & twisted into twine in huge rope walks, one of which was owned by John Hunt Morgan. It was then twisted into ropes & woven into all kinds of products, including sails for ships.

By holding onto a Kentucky, the Union not only held onto the horse & mules, they also held onto the hemp that made feeding them possible.

Logistics, logistics, logistics... it is ever a source things to ponder.
I believe the burlap was also used to make the wrappings that held a compressed bale of cotton together. The lack of hemp may have made it difficult to move cotton to the blockade runner's ports. Kentucky and Missouri were critical for that commodity.
 

Rhea Cole

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Nov 2, 2019
Location
Murfreesboro, Tennessee
I believe the burlap was also used to make the wrappings that held a compressed bale of cotton together. The lack of hemp may have made it difficult to move cotton to the blockade runner's ports. Kentucky and Missouri were critical for that commodity.
This also exposes the false claim that tariffs were a cause of the Civil War. A high tariff on sisal twine protected the Kentucky hemp producers. When the market for hemp products came to an end with the rise of steamships, the tariff & the hemp production in Kentucky also came to an end.
 
Last edited:

limberbox

Private
Joined
Apr 25, 2020
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.
View attachment 372589


From page 184 of the Recapitulation: https://www2.census.gov/library/publications/decennial/1860/agriculture/1860b-09.pdf
Fascinating. Illinois, Indiana, New York, Ohio and Pennsylvania each had way more horses in 1860 than either Kentucky, Missouri or Virginia -- and Kentucky & Missouri probably supplied more hoses to the Union over the course of the war than to the Confederacy.
 

Jamieva

Captain
Forum Host
Joined
Feb 7, 2006
Location
Midlothian, VA
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.

Agreed I would like to see that. It might turn into a Burnside bashing thread, but hey he would deserve it.
 

wausaubob

Colonel
Joined
Apr 4, 2017
Location
Denver, CO
How much of the Overland Campaign was controlled by the fact that the US could utilized water transport so that the Army of the Potomac could move from river to river, while General Lee had to protect what was left of the Virginia railroads, and never be too far from a railhead or Richmond? I suspect, by August of 1864, the Confederacy had barely enough mules left to keep its army fed as long as it stayed close to Richmond.
Who lasted longest? Grant with his quartermaster background, the OC banker William Sherman and the best quartermaster in the old army, Joe Johnston?
 

limberbox

Private
Joined
Apr 25, 2020
I always loved the story about Joe Johnston (or was it Bragg?), at some frontier fort, sending himself a requisition as troop commander and then denying it as Quartermaster.
 
Top