Jerusalem Plank Road

nbforrest

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After reading about the Jerusalem Plank Road (or Weldon Railroad if you prefer) I have to further question the execution of Grant's move on Lee's supply lines. I think Grant had the right idea, but in execution the process was quite painful for a myriad of reasons. Grant was detached from the situation, as was Meade and they could not gain the cooperation of their corps commanders. The Plank Road fighting also displayed, I think, the crisis in the ranks of the AOP, particularly the II Corps.

Fights like Globe Tavern, Reams Station, etc seem to be largely repeats of the Plank Road.

I don't think that the Petersburg battles are studied enough (but what battles are?)
What are others' thoughts on the Plank Road affair?

Respectfully
 

SpartanGSG

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Great topic of discussion which I would like to participate in more detail as time allows. But your basic premise is right on, heck the Grant -Meade relationship is a topic in itself. It is clear that this relationship or lack there of alone impeded AOP success from the start of the Overland Campaign through Petersburg. Their communication and ability to be on the same page was weak at best, and in all candor it is fairly clear to me that Meade just wasnt the right fit for the strategic aims of the entire 64-65 plan. Meade did not simply have the bull dog tenacity to execute to the level the plan required. Couple that with the universally agreed notion that the AOP had largely shot its bolt and was a skeleton of its former self further complicated the issue. Your mention of the magnificent II Corps is right on, I believe it and its great leader Hancock was the "poster child" for demonstrating the condition of the AOP by the time of Petersburg.
It was an army with the strong ability to sustain the fight, but the elan wasnt there anymore.
 

samgrant

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Hancock, (and his II Corps?) was never the same after Gettysburg, tho there were moments at Spotsylvania.

Strategically, the battle was a draw with the Union losing more casualties, and a few guns, while extending the lines of their siege.

A summary from http://members.aol.com/Siege1864/jplank.html:

"The affair along the Jerusalem Plank Road was an inauspicious beginning to Federal siege operations. Although the overall plan was well-conceived, it was poorly executed and suffered from a degree of tactical carelessness that would bedevil the Yankees throughout the next nine months. Meanwhile, the Rebel reaction had been swift, decisive, aggressive, and (therefore) successful. But Mahone's success had not prevented Grant from extending his line closer to the Weldon Railroad; the next such operation would not have as far to go. Lee's decision to launch an aggressive counterstroke against Grant's right is to be applauded in the abstract, but the poor execution showed that his army was no longer the precision instrument he had once wielded to great effect. Moreover, he had seriously overestimated the degree of demoralization in the Federal army to think that a two division attack could raise the entire siege, as he appears to have hoped."
 

ole

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My study of Petersburg will have to be placed on the level of others who have confessed inadequacy. However:

Strategically, the battle was a draw with the Union losing more casualties, and a few guns, while extending the lines of their siege.
[Emphasis, mine.] Did Grant expect -- not hope for -- more than that extension? My understanding has been that throughout the siege, Grant expected only to complete encirclement of the position or, at the very least, cut all incoming railroads. That he kept trying for the killer right cross, he expected only to extend his line.

I could be wrong.
Ole
 

william42

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Great thread Forrest. I'm not familiar much at all with this battle/manuever other than it was part of the Petersburg siege. I will be following this thread closely. Thank you.

Terry
 

samgrant

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ole said:
My study of Petersburg will have to be placed on the level of others who have confessed inadequacy. However:

[Emphasis, mine.] Did Grant expect -- not hope for -- more than that extension? My understanding has been that throughout the siege, Grant expected only to complete encirclement of the position or, at the very least, cut all incoming railroads. That he kept trying for the killer right cross, he expected only to extend his line.

I could be wrong.
Ole

Yes, he wanted to cut that railroad for good. Didn't happen then. But the thinner the rebel lines the better, No?
 

nbforrest

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Glad to see this thread picked up. I'm a sucker for the Petersburg campaign. Grant's objectives certainly were to sever Lee's supply lines. That's what he intended to do with his offensives. And a lot of those offensives failed. However, Grant fully realized that he could still benefit by extending his lines and slowly stretching out Lee's lines. So...Grant's offensives after the seizure of the Weldon Railroad did fail in their immediate objectives yet did help Grant and he knew it. So one can't blame Grant all that much since he saw a winning strategy and went with it. That's the story of Grant in Virginia, at least as I see it...tactical failures but a winning strategy. Makes rating Grant rather difficult. Certainly there were a multitude of reasons for the limited tactical disasters that befell the AOP in front of Petersburg. But in the end it all came down to numbers. No matter how badly the Union troops were beaten up, there was no chance for an ultimate Confederate success. So, did Grant win by numbers or by skill. Open to debate but the safe and obvious answer is both.

Respectfully
 

bschulte

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ole said:
My study of Petersburg will have to be placed on the level of others who have confessed inadequacy. However:

[Emphasis, mine.] Did Grant expect -- not hope for -- more than that extension? My understanding has been that throughout the siege, Grant expected only to complete encirclement of the position or, at the very least, cut all incoming railroads. That he kept trying for the killer right cross, he expected only to extend his line.

I could be wrong.
Ole

Ole,

Not only did Grant and Meade expect to cut the Weldon Railroad, they also expected to encircle Petersburg in this first effort! Needless to say, their expectations were dashed pretty quickly...

Like nbforrest, I'm glad these Petersburg discussions are coming up. I've been extremely interested in the campaign for a few years now, and I really wish more books would come out covering individual actions, or at least individual offensives.
 

nbforrest

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Are there some obscure Petersburg books I'm missing? I would love to find others, but I'm afraid they're simply not there. The best would be Sommers' and the VA Battles and Leaders Series, I suppose. Aside from a handful of other studies on Five Forks and the Crater and of course some broad campaign overviews by Trudeau and Horn and the like, there isn't much else, is there? Cross' book on Weldon Railroad. I'm probably missing a few odds and ends, but the surface hasn't even been scratched. I think the rather unique results and circumstances of the engagements around Petersburg offer rich pickings for some interesting analysis. McFarland is coming out with a book about the 48th PA at the Crater. I won't cough up the money for McFarland's high prices, but will try to track down a used copy at some point.

Respectfully
 

bschulte

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nbforrest said:
Are there some obscure Petersburg books I'm missing? I would love to find others, but I'm afraid they're simply not there. The best would be Sommers' and the VA Battles and Leaders Series, I suppose. Aside from a handful of other studies on Five Forks and the Crater and of course some broad campaign overviews by Trudeau and Horn and the like, there isn't much else, is there? Cross' book on Weldon Railroad. I'm probably missing a few odds and ends, but the surface hasn't even been scratched. I think the rather unique results and circumstances of the engagements around Petersburg offer rich pickings for some interesting analysis. McFarland is coming out with a book about the 48th PA at the Crater. I won't cough up the money for McFarland's high prices, but will try to track down a used copy at some point.

Respectfully

nbforrest,

Your post pretty much sums it up. I've heard rumors that a multi-volume study of the Siege is being worked on, but I can't identify the author because it is still in its early stages. I also believe Gordon Rhea's last book in his Overland Campaign series will cover the initial actions at Petersburg. Bryce Suderow might eventually get around to writing several books on the Petersburg Campaign as well. Here's hoping he does.
 

nbforrest

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A multi volume overview of the campaign is certainly in order. Something like Rhea did to the Overland campaign...providing detailed, coherent overview. Then the individual engagements can be examined in greater detail. I'm sure someone will be up to the task. The most glaring omission I see currently is the October Hatcher's Run/Darbytown Road actions. Most of Grant's other offensives have received at least brief overviews. Even in the existing Petersburg literature, it doesn't seem like much analysis is present. There's a lot of interesting things to be analyzed, even more so than most battles. I don't think I've really read anything of much substance describing the deteriorating conditions of the AOP during the campaign. I kind of came to that that conclusion on my own, then tried to find some insight from writers, but couldn't really find much on it. A subject in itself, I suppose. The only book on any aspect of the campaign that I would even loosely call "definitive" would be Richmond Redeemed. Everything else is really just a tactical overview.

Respectfully
 

SpartanGSG

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nbforrest said:
A multi volume overview of the campaign is certainly in order. Something like Rhea did to the Overland campaign...providing detailed, coherent overview. Then the individual engagements can be examined in greater detail. I'm sure someone will be up to the task. The most glaring omission I see currently is the October Hatcher's Run/Darbytown Road actions. Most of Grant's other offensives have received at least brief overviews. Even in the existing Petersburg literature, it doesn't seem like much analysis is present. There's a lot of interesting things to be analyzed, even more so than most battles. I don't think I've really read anything of much substance describing the deteriorating conditions of the AOP during the campaign. I kind of came to that that conclusion on my own, then tried to find some insight from writers, but couldn't really find much on it. A subject in itself, I suppose. The only book on any aspect of the campaign that I would even loosely call "definitive" would be Richmond Redeemed. Everything else is really just a tactical overview.

Respectfully

nb, fear not. I posed a similar issue to Mr Rhea via e mail and he promptly replied that follow up work is in progress picking up where he left off at the North Anna and carrying forward through the Petersburg campaign.
Something to look very much forward to. That is the good news, the bad news is, release dates are well into '07.
 

nbforrest

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So, Rhea plans to examine the entire campaign? Kudos to him if he does. I wonder how many volumes it will encompass? Hopefully several. Certainly there will be much, much left to examine, but a good solid overview will be great. Rhea's Cold Harbor installment was a bit weak, so I hope he can redeem himself.

Respectfully
 

bschulte

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nbforrest said:
So, Rhea plans to examine the entire campaign? Kudos to him if he does. I wonder how many volumes it will encompass? Hopefully several. Certainly there will be much, much left to examine, but a good solid overview will be great. Rhea's Cold Harbor installment was a bit weak, so I hope he can redeem himself.

Respectfully

nbf,

I've been told by several very reliable sources that Rhea only plans to do the first assaults and be done with the series. I'm unsure if this would also include the Battle of Jerusalem Plank Road.
 

nbforrest

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Ah, too bad. I guess in one way it makes sense to end with the siege itself beginning after the failed attacks of June 15-18. On the other hand, Rhea would already be covering part of an entirely different campaign and then stopping. Oh well. If I can find the time, I'm going to try to make it to Petersburg again, but this time to use their library. After perusing the bibliography on Cross' book on the Vermont Brigade at the Weldon Railroad, the best source that seems to be on the Jerusalem Plank Road is Bearss' manuscript, although I don't know how in depth he goes. I'm sure Petersburg would have a copy in its collections.

Respectfully
 

lrd89

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nbforrest said:
So, Rhea plans to examine the entire campaign? Kudos to him if he does. I wonder how many volumes it will encompass? Hopefully several. Certainly there will be much, much left to examine, but a good solid overview will be great. Rhea's Cold Harbor installment was a bit weak, so I hope he can redeem himself.

Respectfully

I am looking forward to reading Rhea's work on the subject and, yes, I agree that Cold Harbor was the weakest in the series.
 

SpartanGSG

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Rhea Series

bschulte said:
nbf,

I've been told by several very reliable sources that Rhea only plans to do the first assaults and be done with the series. I'm unsure if this would also include the Battle of Jerusalem Plank Road.

Okay, with all due respect bschulte since "several reliable sources" claimed that Dewey beat Truman, pls do elaborate on your sources. Are you a publisher, "insider", or what? Please do kindly explain your sources so you do not have to passive-agressively refute what was stated by virtue of a response from his web site. And yes I am reading the North Anna piece again and have it on the brain, I stand corrected in omitting the Cold Harbor period of his work(I too agree it was the weak link of the bunch), that was my error. So I would love to have you elaborate on what is really coming out so as a big fan among fans I may know what to expect. Did your reliable sources also tell you he is coming out with a "coffee table" release, a pictorial piece on the war in 06? I look forward to your setting me straight. Best regards, Spartan
 

bschulte

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SpartanGSG said:
Okay, with all due respect bschulte since "several reliable sources" claimed that Dewey beat Truman, pls do elaborate on your sources. Are you a publisher, "insider", or what? Please do kindly explain your sources so you do not have to passive-agressively refute what was stated by virtue of a response from his web site. And yes I am reading the North Anna piece again and have it on the brain, I stand corrected in omitting the Cold Harbor period of his work(I too agree it was the weak link of the bunch), that was my error. So I would love to have you elaborate on what is really coming out so as a big fan among fans I may know what to expect. Did your reliable sources also tell you he is coming out with a "coffee table" release, a pictorial piece on the war in 06? I look forward to your setting me straight. Best regards, Spartan
Spartan,

I'm not an insider per se, but I'm in contact with a lot of authors and publishers via my ACW Gaming & Reading blog. I've been VERY interested in the Petersburg Campaign for quite some time, and I've asked questions at various Civil War forums. The thread at the CWDG, among other places, basically says that Rhea is done after this fifth book on the Overland Campaign. Here it is: http://www.cwdgonline.org/modules.php?name=Forums&file=viewtopic&t=869
 

SpartanGSG

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bschulte said:
Spartan,

I'm not an insider per se, but I'm in contact with a lot of authors and publishers via my ACW Gaming & Reading blog. I've been VERY interested in the Petersburg Campaign for quite some time, and I've asked questions at various Civil War forums. The thread at the CWDG, among other places, basically says that Rhea is done after this fifth book on the Overland Campaign. Here it is: http://www.cwdgonline.org/modules.php?name=Forums&file=viewtopic&t=869

Peace Brett, no problem. At the end of the day if thats what he is going to give us us Rhea fans then we will be all too ready to read what he delivers. Disappointed that he would stop short at where you say he intends to. This campaign has enough to offer the reader in it's entirety that he could easily match the detail of his Wilderness and Spotsylvania books. I think those two represent the zenith of his work but I do very much look forward to this release. With regards, Spartan.
 

SpartanGSG

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Follow Up/P.S.

By thw way, thanks for the link Brett. Beyond Trudeau's overview guess there is still slim pickings out there on the Petersburg Campaign huh? With regards, Spartan
 
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