How many troops did Upton have charge the ANV trenches with unloaded muskets at the Mule Shoe?

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historicus

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We all know about how costly and deadly it was to take the offensive against entrenched troops in the Civil War. Probably most of us know about Emory Upton's solution to that problem at the Mule Shoe at the Battle of Spotsylvania Courthouse. For those of you that are unaware of Upton's tactic of dealing with the difficulties of charging entrenched troops armed with rifled muskets during the ACW, I will give this very brief synopsis. Upton had what I will call Upton's initial attacking force sprint towards Confederate entrenchments in column formation with unloaded muskets, and this initial attacking force would jump into the trenches and fight the rebels using bayonets and by using their muskets as clubs. The point of the column formation was to concentrate more soldiers into a smaller area of Confederate trenches to completely overwhelm a narrow area of the Confederate trenches, and then spread the breakthrough from there as the rest of the column filed into the gap. Since Upton's initial attacking force would be inside the trenches themselves when Upton's initial attacking force fought the rebels with bayonets, the Confederates would no longer have the advantage of being protected by entrenchments. The plan was for the main attacking force to attack the Confederates in standard line formation once a breakthrough had been achieved. The breakthrough that UPton's initial attacking force created would allow the Upton's main attacking force to have enfilade fire on the Confederate troops. Upton's initial attacking force was ordered to charge with unloaded muskets to close the distance to the Confederate trenches as quickly as possible and not waste time with ineffectual return fire.

As I recall, Upton's tactic worked well at achieving a breakthrough. The casualty ratio of Union troops killed or wounded to Confederate troops killed or wounded was fairly good from the Union Army's perspective in the context of attacking entrenched troops. What I don't remember is how many troops Upton had in Upton's initial attacking force.

At the Mule Shoe, how many troops did Upton have in his initial attacking force that columned up and sprinted to a narrow area of Confederate trenches with unloaded muskets?

Also, how wide was the column of Upton's initial attacking force of troops that sprinted to Confederate entrenchments with unloaded muskets? I am asking how many people wide Upton's attacking force was, not how many feet wide the column was. In other words, was Upton's initial attacking force in a column 10 soldiers wide or 6 soldiers wide or what?
 

Belfoured

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We all know about how costly and deadly it was to take the offensive against entrenched troops in the Civil War. Probably most of us know about Emory Upton's solution to that problem at the Mule Shoe at the Battle of Spotsylvania Courthouse. For those of you that are unaware of Upton's tactic of dealing with the difficulties of charging entrenched troops armed with rifled muskets during the ACW, I will give this very brief synopsis. Upton had what I will call Upton's initial attacking force sprint towards Confederate entrenchments in column formation with unloaded muskets, and this initial attacking force would jump into the trenches and fight the rebels using bayonets and by using their muskets as clubs. The point of the column formation was to concentrate more soldiers into a smaller area of Confederate trenches to completely overwhelm a narrow area of the Confederate trenches, and then spread the breakthrough from there as the rest of the column filed into the gap. Since Upton's initial attacking force would be inside the trenches themselves when Upton's initial attacking force fought the rebels with bayonets, the Confederates would no longer have the advantage of being protected by entrenchments. The plan was for the main attacking force to attack the Confederates in standard line formation once a breakthrough had been achieved. The breakthrough that UPton's initial attacking force created would allow the Upton's main attacking force to have enfilade fire on the Confederate troops. Upton's initial attacking force was ordered to charge with unloaded muskets to close the distance to the Confederate trenches as quickly as possible and not waste time with ineffectual return fire.

As I recall, Upton's tactic worked well at achieving a breakthrough. The casualty ratio of Union troops killed or wounded to Confederate troops killed or wounded was fairly good from the Union Army's perspective in the context of attacking entrenched troops. What I don't remember is how many troops Upton had in Upton's initial attacking force.

At the Mule Shoe, how many troops did Upton have in his initial attacking force that columned up and sprinted to a narrow area of Confederate trenches with unloaded muskets?

Also, how wide was the column of Upton's initial attacking force of troops that sprinted to Confederate entrenchments with unloaded muskets? I am asking how many people wide Upton's attacking force was, not how many feet wide the column was. In other words, was Upton's initial attacking force in a column 10 soldiers wide or 6 soldiers wide or what?
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I'd have to check my resources (I'm at work) but my recollection is that Upton's attempt on May 10 was three regiments wide, four deep. He had a total of c. 5,000 men. The initial concept, by the way, apparently was Wright's. Upton's innovation was assigning specific tasks to each wave.
 

Belfoured

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Not sure why the reply showed up in the format it did:

I'd have to check my resources (I'm at work) but my recollection is that Upton's attempt on May 10 was three regiments wide, four deep. He had a total of c. 5,000 men. The initial concept, by the way, apparently was Wright's. Upton's innovation was assigning specific tasks to each wave.
 
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White Flint Bill

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Not sure why the reply showed up in the format it did:

I'd have to check my resources (I'm at work) but my recollection is that Upton's attempt on May 10 was three regiments wide, four deep. He had a total of c. 5,000 men. The initial concept, by the way, apparently was Wright's. Upton's innovation was assigning specific tasks to each wave.
You are right. 3 regiments wide, four lines deep.
 

Coonewah Creek

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How wide does that make it in men?
So 5000 men, 12 regiments if I read that right...416 avg per regiment...3 regiment front...each regiment deployed as normal in 2 lines...2.5 ft linear frontage per man...about 625 men made up the front of the column (I need to check the math, but if that's the way the column was deployed you'd have about 625-630 man column frontage covering a front of about 500 yards or so).
 
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wausaubob

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Upton's attack was not properly supported. But within a few weeks Grant decided that the VI corp was his strike force. It was the VI that was transferred to Washington, D.C. to protect the city from Early, and which formed the core of Sheridan's infantry. Eventually it was the VI that broke through the Petersberg lines.
Upton himself was sent to Tennessee with his friend, James Wilson.
 
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Belfoured

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Upton's attack was not properly supported. But within a few weeks Grant decided that the VI corp was his strike force. It was the VI that was transferred to Washington, D.C. to protect the city from Early, and which formed the corp of Sheridan's infantry. Eventually it was the VI that broke through the Petersberg lines.
Upton himself was sent to Tennessee with his friend, James Wilson.
Upton did good service in the Valley with Sheridan before heading west. One interesting fact is that a few days before Third Winchester in September 1864, he already was experimenting with drilling in the squads of fours that became the basis for his 1867 Revised Infantry Tactics.
 
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thomas aagaard

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Earl J. Hess, Civil war infantry tactics page 182 also describe it.
including:
"He also mandated that the troops in his first line load and placed a detonation cap on their muskets, whereas those in the other lines were to load but not cap their weapons; all were to fix bayonets."

His source is the OR 36 (1) 667
 
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wausaubob

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Upton had part of the solution. Given the unreliable nature of Civil War artillery fuses, the artillery would have to fire at a different angle than the infantry used to advance. Upton's tactics should have been supported by cavalry, either on the flank, or through the break through created by the infantry.
That Emory Upton was able to make as much progress in tactics as he did, under live conditions, is a testament to the dedication of the VI corp soldiers.
 

Belfoured

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