Inchon 1864?

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Robin Lesjovitch

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Grant actually did make a move like this during the Overland Campaign -- it just wasn't on the James River towards Petersburg.

Smith's XVIII Corps (16,000) was detached from Butler, moved down the James River and up the York River to the Pamunkey, arriving at White House on May 30-31. A brigade was left to safeguard White House and Smith moved with about 10,000 to join Grant/Meade's left flank at Old Cold Harbor on June 1 (moving mid-afternoon).

Grant sent Sheridan ahead to secure the crossroads and pulled Wright's Corps from the right, moving behind the Army, to extend and reinforce the left. The idea was to push through Old Cold Harbor toward Richmond. This would put Grant's army around Lee's right flank, south of Lee and closer to Richmond, with an open road to the Confederate capital and Sheridan's cavalry massed to exploit the breakthrough.

This could have worked, maybe should have worked. Great effort and initiative by Robert E. Lee, combined by some fierce Confederate resistance and missed Union opportunities, barely saved the day. That is how we got to what history calls the Battle of Cold Harbor, a bloody repulse if ever there was one.
White House became the AoP's supply base until Grant crossed the James. Grant seemed to work well with the Navy; for whatever reason, Butler had problems at times. After Cold Harbor, Baldy Smith's Corps was transported back up the James for the assault on Petersburg. There did not seem to be any problem in either direction.
As an aside, the Confederates had the means to mine the shipping channel in the Pamunkey, but did not seem to have the will.
 

Joshism

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Keep in mind any amphibious operations in the James are limited not only by shipping availability and unloading time, but the river itself. You've got much more room to work with on an oceanfront landing than one up a river.

Inchon was also conducted shortly after WW2, a war where amphibious doctrine evolved (by necessity) more in 5 years than the previous 5 centuries. Yes, there were successful amphibious operations in the ACW but mostly small scale.
 

DaveBrt

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As I understand it, Grant sent Butler to BH to scare Lee and cause him to rush back to Richmond to secure it. Grant would be in hot pursuit and would join Butler, taking control in the Richmond area. But Butler scared Lee, but did not hurt Lee -- Lee lost his script and did not run back to Richmond. This left Butler without direction, which Grant did not provide. Butler showed his weakness and accomplished nothing.

Had Butler been given an objective --- break the R&P RR and keep it broken or capture Petersburg -- he could have made a major difference in the war. But he did not attack Petersburg because he did not have orders to do such from Grant. Grant did not consider the possibility that Lee would not run and therefore did not give Butler the right objective.
 
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Robin Lesjovitch

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Keep in mind any amphibious operations in the James are limited not only by shipping availability and unloading time, but the river itself. You've got much more room to work with on an oceanfront landing than one up a river.

Inchon was also conducted shortly after WW2, a war where amphibious doctrine evolved (by necessity) more in 5 years than the previous 5 centuries. Yes, there were successful amphibious operations in the ACW but mostly small scale.
I agree that amphibious ops were generally small during the CW. However in the case of Bermuda Hundred/City Point, the landings would be unopposed. AS things actually happened, during the Siege of Petersburg, men and supplies went and came off boats on docks.
 

jackt62

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There seemed to be a lot of "moving parts" in the disposition of forces under Butler at Bermuda Hundred, the transfer of Smith's XVIII Corps, and the AOTP in the final stages of the Overland Campaign that culminated in Cold Harbor. Communications and coordination were nobody's strong point during the CW, and that includes Grant, for all his strengths. So to get back to the Inchon scenario, despite the primitive state of amphibious operations in those days, the simplest plan might have been to dedicate a small, but dependable strike force, perhaps under Hancock as has been suggested, to land in the enemy's rear in early May 1864, with or without a larger force taking the overland route, as actually occurred. I don't see the Army of the James' movement to BH as having the right stuff to accomplish the type of landing that could actually seize Petersburg early on.
 
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Dead Parrott

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As I understand it, Grant sent Butler to BH to scare Lee and cause him to rush back to Richmond to secure it. Grant would be in hot pursuit and would join Butler, taking control in the Richmond area. But Butler scared Lee, but did not hurt Lee -- Lee lost his script and did not run back to Richmond. This left Butler without direction, which Grant did not provide. Butler showed his weakness and accomplished nothing.

Had Butler been given an objective --- break the R&P RR and keep it broken or capture Petersburg -- he could have made a major difference in the war. But he did not attack Petersburg because he did not have orders to do such from Grant. Grant did not consider the possibility that Lee would not run and therefore did not give Butler the right objective.
I personally think that's being way way too generous to Butler. I know some (not you) want desperately to 'rehabilitate' him, but … no. No West Point course is going to discuss the military brilliance of his blunders. It's also a stretch to assume how much a CinC has to detail taking initiative and advantage of all local opportunities (and then be faulted for not noting all that might occur). "More opportunistic or more detailed" instructions would simply have been used by poltroons like Butler to excuse away their failures anyway - I had too many conflicting objectives, I technically did this and no more, so I met the letter of the text, etc etc.

This is what failed commanders always do. Nitpick a detail to excuse a whopping blunder. I can accept it would have been great had Grant been clairvoyant. It would have been great if Grant could write a legalese contract so bindingly tight that Butler could not excuse his failures through parsing and wordsmithing. But neither was possible, nor should we expect it to have been.

We have every right - as Grant did - to expect that meeting with a general, discussing with a general, emphasizing speed and multiple opportunities, providing seasoned help - would be enough for a competent general. Butler was incompetent, so it didn't help. In Butler's (weak) defense, the attempt to provide him with supporting generals backfired because of their inability to all coordinate and get along (Butler is responsible for that in some significant part as well). And we should give Butler props for his non-military Administrative abilities, as well as his surprisingly modern human rights outlook.

But sorry, I've seen the arguments ad nauseum excusing every military failure of Butler as "someone else's fault", every tentative micro-half-move being touted as a 'full accomplishment of his written objectives', every inaction and wrong action as 'justified by military necessity'. And from a military perspective, it's one big steaming heap of b*******.

Good generals win more than they lose, take risks, and make the best of their opportunities. Bad generals make excuses. Butler was a incredibly bad general, and blundered a golden opportunity. Nothing changes those facts, or excuses his actual performance.

Grant's biggest blunder was lacking the power to remove Butler and Sigel from command positions in the first place (I would have loved to see Butler kept in administration, and Sigel kept in recruiting, but politics are politics). Grant bowed to the required political assignments and did what he could with them - and both Sigel and Butler failed to even come close to reasonable performances.

Poltroons blame others for their failures. Great commanders win despite the failures of poltroons.

Basta ya!
 

Carronade

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Good post, but I have to disagree with:
Grant's biggest blunder was lacking the power to remove Butler and Sigel from command positions in the first place
If someone doesn't have the power to do something, you can't blame him for not doing it. The power rested with Lincoln, who of course was influenced by the friends and political allies of Butler, Sigel, Banks, etc. We could ask if or how strongly Grant pressed for the removal or reassignment of commanders he did not consider up to the job. He was the Union's man of the hour; Congress had just re-established the rank of lieutenant general for him, presumably with the support of many of those same politicians. Might he have used his prestige to gain support for streamlining the Union command team?

Did the political generals or their supporters truly believe that they were competent combat commanders? Or was it really just about wanting the glory? Surely some of them could have made legitimately valuable contributions in non-combat roles. I'm reminded of Halleck, who seems to have taken his demotion to chief of staff with good grace and who did important work for the Union in the last year of the war in his administrative capacity.
 

Robin Lesjovitch

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Good post, but I have to disagree with:


If someone doesn't have the power to do something, you can't blame him for not doing it. The power rested with Lincoln, who of course was influenced by the friends and political allies of Butler, Sigel, Banks, etc. We could ask if or how strongly Grant pressed for the removal or reassignment of commanders he did not consider up to the job. He was the Union's man of the hour; Congress had just re-established the rank of lieutenant general for him, presumably with the support of many of those same politicians. Might he have used his prestige to gain support for streamlining the Union command team?

Did the political generals or their supporters truly believe that they were competent combat commanders? Or was it really just about wanting the glory? Surely some of them could have made legitimately valuable contributions in non-combat roles. I'm reminded of Halleck, who seems to have taken his demotion to chief of staff with good grace and who did important work for the Union in the last year of the war in his administrative capacity.
Butler could not be relieved unless he really screwed up. As a prominent pre-war Democrat, Lincoln felt he needed him. After Lincoln's reelection Grant was safe in using Butler's failure at FT. Fisher to dispose of him. Butler's career as a Union general was really mediocre, not really bad. Grant might have kept him except that Butler was senior to every officer opposing Lee but Grant himself. That made Grant nervous about leaving City Point.
 
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jackt62

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Grant cannot really be faulted for not relieving Butler earlier than he was finally able to do so. Grant was a shrewd enough "politician" to know that the cadre of so-called political generals like Butler were under higher protection. So Grant was savvy enough to wait for the right opportunity to rid himself of subordinate politicals, as he was previously able to do with McClernand during the Vicksburg campaign.
 
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Robin Lesjovitch

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Why couldn't they land at Norfolk with a large army? They would have time to collect themselves before making an assault. Of course the element of surprise would be lost.
Surprize,,,yes completely lost, and, for no reason. There was no need in landing farther from the objectives than necessary. The Union Navy had control of the James up to within a few miles of Richmond (as the crow flies). The Confederates did not have the means to oppose a river landing.
 
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