Bermuda Hundred Learning about Bermuda Hundred

1SGDan

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Grant had explicitly ordered him to secure City Point. Petersburg was not mentioned in the written orders.

No but the two met and there was much discussion about this operation. The confusion arose from each of their remembrance of that meeting. Butler certainly can not be faulted for following the letter of his written orders. However lack of initiative is a serious deficiency for a field commander.
 
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NedBaldwin

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No but the two met and there was much discussion about this operation. The confusion arose from each of their remembrance of that meeting. Butler certainly can not be faulted for following the letter of his written orders. However lack of initiative is a serious deficiency for a field commander.
Its still funny to me how obedience to the orders from Grant is used against him.
If he had gone after Petersburg instead, people would probably be criticizing him for not following Grant's orders.
 

Mark F. Jenkins

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I posed this once before, but there didn't seem to be much of a good answer - why was it so bleeping impossible not to give these political generals important combat commands?

Not sure there is any good answer to be had.

I think there were a few influences along with the obvious (political power).

At least a portion of the armies depended upon the militia tradition-- if you start passing over senior militia officers willy-nilly, what does that do to the rest of the militia organization? (And Butler, for whatever reason, was indeed a senior militia officer.) Even career professional military officers would tend to shrink from ignoring seniority-- so long as West Pointers were given their proper position over the volunteers, of course. :wink:

Another item was that there was basically nobody who had commanded army-sized units before, in the Army or out of it, with the notable exception of Winfield Scott (and even then, if you compare the size of the unit he commanded in Mexico with even the smallest of the field armies during the Civil War...) plenty of professionals showed their limitations as well, on both sides. 'They were all green alike,' to paraphrase Lincoln...
 

BillO

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So, basically, you have Beauregard in top form (despite coming off an illness) against Union second- or third-stringers...

Another aspect I find interesting is that, at least from what I've read so far, it wasn't expected that the Army of the James would be alone for that long; Grant expected the Army of the Potomac to make more headway against the Army of Northern Virginia than it actually did. Some of Butler's actions make a bit more sense when placed in the context of "I'm here; where are you, Sam?" "Still trying to get there, Ben..."
Grant expected to hook up with Butler in front of Ricmond in a month.
 

1SGDan

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Its still funny to me how obedience to the orders from Grant is used against him.
If he had gone after Petersburg instead, people would probably be criticizing him for not following Grant's orders.

That's depends on how successful that effort was. The attack up Lookout Mountain was against orders but considered a great piece of military initiative.
 

Mark F. Jenkins

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Nor were his immediate subordinates. If there ever were a group of commanders better suited for picking out a plot of ground and then relentlessly sitting on it and defending it, I can't think of them... Gillmore was something of an engineer's engineer, plotting his Vauban parallels and experimenting with long range artillery, and neither Smith nor Kautz seem to have had much of the fire-in-the-belly that would drive a Grant, a Sherman, a Sheridan, or even a Burnside or a Pope for that matter. Put an unconventional-but-mostly-administrative-minded officer over them, and you've got a perfect recipe for inaction.

... What was Hooker doing at this stage of the game? Was he back with the Army of the Potomac?
 

NedBaldwin

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Nor were his immediate subordinates. If there ever were a group of commanders better suited for picking out a plot of ground and then relentlessly sitting on it and defending it, I can't think of them... Gillmore was something of an engineer's engineer, plotting his Vauban parallels and experimenting with long range artillery, and neither Smith nor Kautz seem to have had much of the fire-in-the-belly that would drive a Grant, a Sherman, a Sheridan, or even a Burnside or a Pope for that matter. Put an unconventional-but-mostly-administrative-minded officer over them, and you've got a perfect recipe for inaction.

... What was Hooker doing at this stage of the game? Was he back with the Army of the Potomac?

During the first 1/2 of 1864 Hooker commanded a corps in the army of the cumberland.
 

Mark F. Jenkins

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Hooker seems to have been a decent corps commander, even if his stint as top dog didn't go well. How might he have done in (say) William F. Smith's place in the Army of the James?
 

NedBaldwin

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Hooker seems to have been a decent corps commander, even if his stint as top dog didn't go well. How might he have done in (say) William F. Smith's place in the Army of the James?
Hooker had issues getting along with others so I could see the same disfunction with Butler and Gillmore
 

Mark F. Jenkins

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Finished Schiller, starting on Robertson's Back Door to Richmond. Interestingly, it appears that William Farrar Smith was championing an up-the-James move the year before it happened... makes his recalcitrant behavior on the actual campaign seem even more bizarre.

My overall feeling after finishing Schiller is that the Bermuda Hundred Campaign was well-planned and (initially) superbly executed, but foundered on two big rocks: 1) The lack of a clearly-defined objective and therefore the failure to maintain an objective: There was disagreement and confusion in the Confederate high command as to whether Petersburg or Richmond was the objective. This was great, except that it was mirrored by equal confusion over the same question in the Union command. 2) The failure of celerity/audacity; the Army of the James made its push on May 16, a week too late to do any good. Had they made the exact same push on May 9, they could have been in Richmond; no exaggeration. (Or in Petersburg. Assuming they could agree on a place to aim at.)
 

1SGDan

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My piece on this campaign has been published by the Essentialcivilwarcirriculum. In it I conclude exactly what you have suggested. Poor communication of commander's intent to commanders that lacked initiative doomed this campaign.
 

Mark F. Jenkins

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Midway through Robertson's Back Door to Richmond... should've finished it by now, but have been overtaken by life to an unpleasant extent. :: grumble :: [Any time not spent reading is as close as darnit to time wasted.]

It appears that what I doubted may indeed have been the case... Ben Butler, the "arrogant amateur and supreme egotist," appears to have actually backed down from his subordinates, particularly Baldy Smith, on more than one occasion, apparently yielding to their experience! And yet, in at least one case, had Smith and Gillmore actually gotten off their duffs and put Butler's order into operation instead of coming up with a list of reasons why it couldn't be done, they could have either had Petersburg or have at least put a lodgement in place across the railroad that would have put it out of commission for all intents and purposes. Richmond would still have had the railroad to Danville, of course, but that would have cut the available arteries in half, and made the one remaining just that much more vulnerable...

One of the ironies here is that if Butler was actually a true military leader, he should have been able to make his orders stick, no matter if he had the military/tactical know-how or not. He proved himself unable to manage his subordinates. Beauregard, by contrast, at the very same time wasn't having any of that foolishness-- when he found out that one of his subordinates was communicating directly with Bragg at Richmond, he addressed that problem immediately (this was Colonel J. W. Hinton, commanding at Weldon: p. 123, citing Official Telegrams, Beauregard Papers, Library of Congress). Meanwhile, Butler had the free rein and distant superior command that Beauregard would have loved to have had...
 
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