Grant's heaviest loss

Grant's heaviest loss

  • Leonidas Polk

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • John C. Pemberton

    Votes: 0 0.0%

  • Total voters
    30

Saruman

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Although Grant later wrote of a rumored troop movement from Polk in Columbus to Price in Missouri, that was not happening before or after the battle of Belmont. Polks troops were being sent east not west, to Buckner and AS Johnson in Bowling Green and the Cumberland Gap.

That is irrelevant. Fremont's orders were to disrupt Confederate troop movements from Tennessee to Missouri, and demonstrate against, but not attack the enemy. Grant's action at Belmont did not affect the Confederates' ability to move troops into Missouri at all. The fact that it focused Polk's attention away from the eastern Forts was an inadvertent outcome. Dumb luck. Grant also disobeyed orders to demonstrate and actually attacked, being routed and losing 20% of his men in the process.

William Feis, in his book Grant's Secret Service, wrote why Grant felt Belmont was a victory: "From [Grant's] perspective it had emboldened Union forces while striking fear among the Columbus garrison, who now worked feverishly to strengthen their works in preparation for the inevitable Federal onslaught. But Belmont had only stoked his desire for a major offensive."

Giving troops experience, confidence, or emboldening them does not equate to a victory. Confederate troops also received these benefits. Here are some of their comments:

"It so happened that the dogs had to pass the whole length of this Regt. [11th Louisiana] and received their fire, and it was then that they were shot down like deer."

"We mowed them down like grass in the retreat."

"We outflanked them in the retreat - and the slaughter on their side was terrible... we stood behind the trees and shot them down."

Polk himself had to intervene to halt the slaughter, saying it was "too cruel to shoot fellows who were running for their lives."

And this brings to mind why this thread seems a bit off to me. I didn't vote for any of the above, because Grant did not consider himself defeated by any of them. At most, he considered them temporary setbacks before he achieved victory.

Grant didn't consider them defeats but they were in reality. He was lucky to survive Belmont and the first day of Shiloh. The Vicksburg assault, Cold Harbor, and Petersburg assault were all defeats that should have been avoided.
 

DanSBHawk

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That is irrelevant. Fremont's orders were to disrupt Confederate troop movements from Tennessee to Missouri, and demonstrate against, but not attack the enemy. Grant's action at Belmont did not affect the Confederates' ability to move troops into Missouri at all. The fact that it focused Polk's attention away from the eastern Forts was an inadvertent outcome. Dumb luck. Grant also disobeyed orders to demonstrate and actually attacked, being routed and losing 20% of his men in the process.



Giving troops experience, confidence, or emboldening them does not equate to a victory. Confederate troops also received these benefits. Here are some of their comments:

"It so happened that the dogs had to pass the whole length of this Regt. [11th Louisiana] and received their fire, and it was then that they were shot down like deer."

"We mowed them down like grass in the retreat."

"We outflanked them in the retreat - and the slaughter on their side was terrible... we stood behind the trees and shot them down."

Polk himself had to intervene to halt the slaughter, saying it was "too cruel to shoot fellows who were running for their lives."



Grant didn't consider them defeats but they were in reality. He was lucky to survive Belmont and the first day of Shiloh. The Vicksburg assault, Cold Harbor, and Petersburg assault were all defeats that should have been avoided.
No, Fremonts orders were not to prevent troop movements between Kentucky and Missouri (I'm assuming you meant Kentucky not Tennessee). Fremont's orders to Grant and CF Smith were for demonstrations on both sides of the Mississippi towards Columbus. Fremont then added orders to push Thompson out of Missouri. Grant detached a separate force to pursue Thompson.

But you're right that Grant disobeyed or exceeded his orders. He had already taken Paducah a couple months earlier without orders and he exceeded Fremonts orders again in November.

Where Fremont ordered Thompson "pushed" out of Missouri, Grants orders to his detachment were to "destroy" him. And where Fremont ordered Grant and Smith to conduct "demonstrations," Grant told Smith he intended to "menace" Belmont. Grant wanted a fight, and he took it on his own initiative to fight.

All that this shows is that Grant understood better than his timid superiors that fighting and initiative was necessary to start winning the war.

In reality, the confederates never managed to defeat Grant personally. He was always eager to keep fighting until he won.
 

Saruman

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No, Fremonts orders were not to prevent troop movements between Kentucky and Missouri (I'm assuming you meant Kentucky not Tennessee). Fremont's orders to Grant and CF Smith were for demonstrations on both sides of the Mississippi towards Columbus. Fremont then added orders to push Thompson out of Missouri. Grant detached a separate force to pursue Thompson.

No, Fremont was only concerned with preventing the Confederates from reinforcing Price's army in Missouri. He had no other objective than disrupting the ability of the Confederates to move troops into Missouri, as that was his jurisdiction. Grant's action at Belmont had no impact on disrupting this ability.

But you're right that Grant disobeyed or exceeded his orders.

Causing one fifth of his troops to become casualties of war.

All that this shows is that Grant understood better than his timid superiors that fighting and initiative was necessary to start winning the war.

I think it shows that Grant was impetuous and reckless. The Union objectives could have been achieved without such bloodshed.
 

DanSBHawk

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Grant's action at Belmont had no impact on disrupting this ability.
Of course it did. Polk was completely spooked by Belmont, and begged Johnston to stop transferring troops from Columbus. Here's Johnston on Nov 15th:

"The battle of Belmont near Columbus intervening delayed the movement of the division, and finally General Polk, his generals concurring, suspended the movement, on the ground that in view of probable movements of the enemy against that position the force called for was necessary there. On the receipt of his telegram announcing that suspension of the movement of the force I reiterated my order for the immediate transfer of the division to his right at Clarksville to reenforce the force at Hopkinsville. He sends me this morning the following telegram, to wit:​
A. S. Johnston :​
General : We are informed beyond a doubt that there are from 20,000 to 25,000 men at Cairo and vicinity, recruits daily arriving, and that their intention is to march on this place immediately. I will nevertheless send on Pillow’s division, unless otherwise ordered immediately. I will be left 'with about 6,000 effective men. Our defenses are unfinished.​
L. POLK.​
I therefore revoked my order. General Polks force is stated far below wliat I have estimated it, and with a knowledge of the case as he presents it I had left but the choice of difficulties—the great probability of defeat at Columbus or the successful advance of the enemy on my left. I have risked the latter. The first would be a great misfortune, scarcely reparable for a long time; the latter may be prevented."​

Polk was not going to weaken his garrison after Belmont unless absolutely forced. Belmont caused Polk to become even more worried about defending Columbus.
 

DanSBHawk

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Causing one fifth of his troops to become casualties of war.

I think it shows that Grant was impetuous and reckless. The Union objectives could have been achieved without such bloodshed.
I believe Lees casualties at Gettysburg were over one third of his force. Confederate casualties at Shiloh were about one fourth of the troops. One fifth does not sound excessively bloody to me.
 
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U.S. Grant was ultimately the Union's most successful commander, but suffered a few bloodied noses along the way. Which Confederate General inflicted Grant's most notable defeat?

Leonidas Polk
Battle of Belmont, 7 November 1861. Grant's 3,100 strong expeditionary force attacked Polk's troops at Belmont and brushed aside Gideon Pillow's 2,500 poorly positioned troops. Polk counterattacked with an additional 2,500 troops under Benjamin Cheatham and compelled Grant's men to retreat. Grant lost 607 (20%) of his troops, his mess chest, his gold pen, and his finest horse. He was lucky to survive the battle as Confederate soldiers had him in their sights but Cheatham instructed them not to shoot out of a sense of chivalry. He didn't recognize Grant and thought the Union General was merely a harmless straggler trying to find his way back to the main body of retreating Federals. Here is a picture of Polk:

View attachment 339085

Albert Sidney Johnston
First day of the battle of Shiloh, 6 April 1862. Johnston's 44,000 strong Army of Mississippi attacked Grant's unsuspecting 42,000 strong Army of the Tennessee encamped near Shiloh Church. Johnston's men drove the Union forces back to the northeast, in the direction of Pittsburg Landing. Johnston was mortally wounded inspiring the Confederate attack and the resultant lull enabled the Union army to stabilize and bolster their position near the landing with artillery. Later that evening, the arrival of Lew Wallace's division and Don Carlos Buell's Army of the Ohio gave Grant the ability to counterattack on the 7th. However, on that first day, Grant lost 10,500 (25%) of his troops and was almost killed twice (his aide-de-camp was decapitated while riding beside Grant and then a canister shot hit Grant on his sword scabbard and bent it. An inch or two in either direction could have killed or mortally wounded him). Here is a picture of Johnston:

View attachment 339087

John C. Pemberton
Second Vicksburg Assault, 22 May 1863. Grant's 45,000 strong Army of the Tennessee attacked Pemberton's 20,000 strong Vicksburg garrison in an attempt to capture the city without resorting to a siege. Lack of coordination and communication with his corps commanders resulted in a bloody repulse for Grant. The failure of the Union to defeat the Confederates in this action resulted in the start of the Siege of Vicksburg. His army lost 3,199 (7%) of its soldiers but only inflicted a mere 500 losses on Pemberton's defenders. Here is a picture of Pemberton:

View attachment 339088

Robert E. Lee
Battle of Cold Harbor, 31 May to 12 June 1864. Continuing his relentless drive towards Richmond in the Overland Campaign of 1864, Grant launched a frontal assault with his army of 117,000 men against Lee's entrenched 62,000 strong army at Cold Harbor. The Union attack was repulsed with heavy losses. Grant later wrote: "I have always regretted that the last assault at Cold Harbor was ever made. ... No advantage whatever was gained to compensate for the heavy loss we sustained." His army lost 12,738 (11%) of its men whereas Lee only suffered 5,287 losses. Here is a picture of Lee:

View attachment 339090

Pierre G.T. Beauregard
Battle of Petersburg, 15 to 18 June 1864. Grant attempted to capture Petersburg before it could be reinforced by Lee's entire army. Grant's 14,000 but gradually reinforced to 62,000 strong force repeatedly assaulted Beauregard's much smaller 5,000 but gradually reinforced to 38,000 strong army. The Union attacks were plagued by poor coordination and generalship and were repulsed with heavy losses. The failure of the Union to defeat the Confederates in these actions resulted in the start of the ten-month Siege of Petersburg. Grant lost 11,386 (18%) men compared to Beauregard and Lee's 4,000 losses. Here is a picture of Beauregard:

View attachment 339093
I've read the OP a couple of times now and mused over the information provided. What I noticed first is that Grant was lucky to escape with his life on several occasions and I am in awe of his good fortune. No doubt he was as likely to be killed as any of his men, but that did not happen. The other thing I noticed is that percentages offered for Grant's losses would be almost the equivalent of losses suffered by the Confederates if these were also given in percentages. At least not far off. So, how do we count a victory or a loss? Grant won the overall victory to which these other battles were 'stepping stones' along the way. But, is a victory in line with the suggestion here that it equates to the least number of men lost in a single battle? Is it that one or the other got their nose 'bloodied', yet lived to fight another day? In other words, they didn't give up. I find it a fickle notion when we know that one victory did not mean the winning of the war, or one defeat it's loss. But, for Grant, his sense of regret around Cold Harbor will always be a resounding defeat in his mind. So, psychologically, Robert E. Lee (IMO) inflicted his greatest defeat.
 

Saruman

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Of course it did. Polk was completely spooked by Belmont, and begged Johnston to stop transferring troops from Columbus.

As I have mentioned several times previously, Fremont's orders did not pertain to the eastern Forts in Tennessee. Missouri was his jurisdiction. He ordered Grant to demonstrate against Belmont to disrupt Confederate troop movements in Missouri.

Grant's action at Belmont did not disrupt this ability.

For example, on November 18, M. Jeff Thompson (under the orders of Polk) successfully attacked the steamer, Platte Valley, in southeastern Missouri. Grant instructed Richard Oglesby: "I want all the Cavalry that is well armed, sent out tonight by the river road, and seven or eight hundred Infantry sent at the same time, by rail to Charleston. I will go from here, tomorrow morning, with Infantry and Cavalry and try to catch him. Let these two commands get off as early as possible tonight."

Thus Grant's action at Belmont failed to achieve Fremont's objective.

"... he has threatened them, had a fight, and why they can't send reinforcements now as well as before, is more than I know..." - Charles Wills.
 

Saruman

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I believe Lees casualties at Gettysburg were over one third of his force. Confederate casualties at Shiloh were about one fourth of the troops. One fifth does not sound excessively bloody to me.

One fifth casualties is bloody. I wouldn't like those odds. Yes Gettysburg and Shiloh were bloody battles too.
 

DanSBHawk

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As I have mentioned several times previously, Fremont's orders did not pertain to the eastern Forts in Tennessee. Missouri was his jurisdiction. He ordered Grant to demonstrate against Belmont to disrupt Confederate troop movements in Missouri.

Grant's action at Belmont did not disrupt this ability.

For example, on November 18, M. Jeff Thompson (under the orders of Polk) successfully attacked the steamer, Platte Valley, in southeastern Missouri. Grant instructed Richard Oglesby: "I want all the Cavalry that is well armed, sent out tonight by the river road, and seven or eight hundred Infantry sent at the same time, by rail to Charleston. I will go from here, tomorrow morning, with Infantry and Cavalry and try to catch him. Let these two commands get off as early as possible tonight."

Thus Grant's action at Belmont failed to achieve Fremont's objective.

"... he has threatened them, had a fight, and why they can't send reinforcements now as well as before, is more than I know..." - Charles Wills.
The communications between Polk and Johnston show that Polk was spooked by Belmont and was loathe to send any of his troops anywhere. Belmont certainly had an impact on Polk's willingness to detach any troops.

Thompson had been in Missouri before Belmont and he was in Missouri after Belmont. He is not an example of Polk sending additional troops to Missouri.
 

Saruman

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The communications between Polk and Johnston show that Polk was spooked by Belmont and was loathe to send any of his troops anywhere. Belmont certainly had an impact on Polk's willingness to detach any troops.

Yet not so "spooked" as to order Thompson to attack Union shipping in Missouri. I think that shows initiative and courage. Well done Polk.

Thompson had been in Missouri before Belmont and he was in Missouri after Belmont. He is not an example of Polk sending additional troops to Missouri.

Hmm wasn't one of Fremont's orders to Grant to "assist Carlin in driving Thompson into Arkansas"? Grant failed at this too.

Grant's action at Belmont had no impact on Confederate activity in Missouri and it did not close any avenue to reinforcement of Price's army if Polk and others chose to do so.
 

Ole Miss

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I chose Albert Sidney Johnston becasue Shiloh was Grant's wake up call! He had been pretty much having his way till April 6, 1862. Grant was the recipient of a poor plan of attack designed by Beauregard and approved by Johnston coupled with a poor inaccurate maps and poor leadership from the top on down. The Confederates misdirected assault which drove Grant and his army back to Pittsburg Landing doomed the effort to defeat the federals.
Regards
David
 

DanSBHawk

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Hmm wasn't one of Fremont's orders to Grant to "assist Carlin in driving Thompson into Arkansas"? Grant failed at this too.

Grant's action at Belmont had no impact on Confederate activity in Missouri and it did not close any avenue to reinforcement of Price's army if Polk and others chose to do so.
Yes, Grant sent a column under Oglesby to find Thompson.

Grants two objectives for the Battle of Belmont:
Prevent Polk from sending forces to intercept Oglesby.
Prevent Polk from sending forces to Price.

Both objectives were successful.

Fremont probably needn't have worried so much about a reinforced confederate force entering northwest Arkansas. When it did happen many months later, a smaller Union force defeated a larger Confederate force at Pea Ridge.
 

Saruman

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Yes, Grant sent a column under Oglesby to find Thompson.
Grants two objectives for the Battle of Belmont:
Prevent Polk from sending forces to intercept Oglesby.
Prevent Polk from sending forces to Price.

Both objectives were successful.

Fremont probably needn't have worried so much about a reinforced confederate force entering northwest Arkansas. When it did happen many months later, a smaller Union force defeated a larger Confederate force at Pea Ridge.

No, Grant's orders were:

1) "keep your columns constantly moving back and forward against these places, without, however, attacking the enemy"
2) "send a force from Cape Girardeau and Bird's Point to assist Carlin in driving Thompson into Arkansas"
3) conduct the "demonstration that had been ordered against Columbus"

He failed on all three. His "demonstration" was routed with heavy losses. Thompson ranged free.
 

DanSBHawk

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No, Grant's orders were:

1) "keep your columns constantly moving back and forward against these places, without, however, attacking the enemy"
2) "send a force from Cape Girardeau and Bird's Point to assist Carlin in driving Thompson into Arkansas"
3) conduct the "demonstration that had been ordered against Columbus"

He failed on all three. His "demonstration" was routed with heavy losses. Thompson ranged free.
I specifically said "Grant's objectives" not his orders.

He exceeded his orders and accomplished his own objectives.
 

johan_steele

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Not a very diligent subordinate then. He accomplished nothing.
Except to receive the surrender of multiple CS Armies and ultimately formulate the strategy that ground the CS into dust.

You can cherry pick all day. Why cherry pick when the truth is there for anyone to see? Well any who can read. You carefully chose quotes showing only one view instead of looking at the whole.
 
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I chose Albert Sidney Johnston becasue Shiloh was Grant's wake up call!
That would have been my second choice for that reason. Grant would not be caught a second time with his 'trousers down'.
The Confederates misdirected assault which drove Grant and his army back to Pittsburg Landing doomed the effort to defeat the federals.
The assault seemed quite successful initially, so I'm interested to see you call it misdirected. How did that doom the effort to defeat the Federals?
 
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Well, I've been looking into Shiloh a little more, and here's some thoughts from Grant's memoirs, but I think it calls for a separate thread so that's where I'm going with it next. This is really in response to the above and @Ole Miss comments re: the Confederates.

"The Confederates fought with courage at Shiloh, but the particular skill claimed I could not and still cannot see; though there is nothing to criticise except the claims put forward for it since. But the Confederate claimants for superiority in strategy, superiority in generalship, and superiority in dash and prowess are not so unjust to the Union troops engaged at Shiloh as are many Northern writers. The troops on both sides were Americans, and united they need not fear any foreign foe. It is possible that the Southern man started in with a little more dash than his Northern brother; but he was correspondingly less enduring.

The endeavor of the enemy on the first day was simply to hurl their men against ours - first at one point then at another, sometimes at several points at once. This they did with daring and energy, until at night the rebel troops were worn out. Our effort during the same time was to be prepared to resist assaults wherever made. The object of the Confederates on the second day was to get away with as much of their army and material as possible. Ours then was to drive them from our front, and to capture or destroy as great a part as possible of their men and material. We were successful in driving them back, but not so successful in captures as if farther pursuit could have been made. As it was, we captured or recaptured on the second day about as much artillery as we lost on the first; and, leaving out the one great capture of Prentiss, we took more prisoners on Monday than the enemy gained from us on Sunday. On the 6th Sherman lost seven pieces of artillery, McClerland six, Prentiss eight, and Hurlbut two batteries. On the 7th Sherman captured seven guns, McClernand three and the Army of the Ohio twenty."

Grant goes on to talk about effective strength of Union forces which is also interesting.
 

Ole Miss

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@Cavalry Charger I have a pdf from the United States Army Space and Missile Defense Command of a Staff Ride of the Battle of Shiloh from April 2000. I am unable to secure a web address to provide access to the pdf, so if you will go to Google and type in "albert sidney johnston's inaccurate map of shiloh" it will come up. It is 70 pages so I am not sure what to do.

This pdf is an really good source of study of Shiloh and it does provide a copy of the incorrect map used by the rebs. Here it is below
Regards
David

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