Shenandoah Valley 1864 Reinforcing Petersburg

Bryce

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I’m trying to understand why the union high command transferred Horacio Wright and his sixth army corps from the Shenandoah Valley to Petersburg In December 1864.

similarly, I want to learn why the Confederates transferred their second army corps under John Brown Gordon from the Shenandoah Valley to Petersburg in December 1864.

did the decision of one side influence the opposing side?

bryce
 
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I believe both Grant and Lee realized that the outcome of Cedar Creek, October 19, has prevented the Confederacy to threaten Washington once more. Early's Second Corps effective force was outnumbered and partly demoralized, it was useless to keep this formation in the Valley, waiting for destruction.

So Lee might have decided to reinforce his own line at Petersburg while leaving only a small force (3,000) in the Valley to halt temporarily any Union advance. Following this move, Grant can therefore transfer back the 6th Corps to Petersburg, leaving Sheridan with Crook's Command and most of the Cavalry Corps to deal with Early. Gordon took command of the depleted Second Corps because of Early's loss of fame.

Of course, there should be other military / political factors that can explain those multiple troops movements, but in my opinion, the Rebel inability to threaten the Federal capital is the main reason.
 

Jamieva

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Well on the confederate side what we call the second corps was a shell of itself at that point. Also, their main goals were all gone as they had lost the valley to Sheridan and he had engaged the burning of farms. Harvest season was over by December.

on the union side they had accomplished the goals grant had for them when he sent them out there. There was no threat to dc, the confederate force in the valley was completely neutralized and they had removed the valley as a food source for Lee’s army
 

Saphroneth

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on the union side they had accomplished the goals grant had for them when he sent them out there. There was no threat to dc, the confederate force in the valley was completely neutralized and they had removed the valley as a food source for Lee’s army
I'm not actually sure we can automatically ascribe that to Grant, because my understanding is that Grant was not especially happy to give up 6th Corps and wanted them back sooner.



The 6th & 19th Corps should be got here without any delay so that they may be used before the return of the troops sent into the valley by the enemy. - Grant to Halleck, 14th July 1862


I presume you had not yet received my dispatch directing the 6th Corps to be returned here and the 19th retained.- Grant to Halleck, 24th July 1864


If this can be done the 6th Corps might be brought here and the 19th left for other service. - Grant to Halleck, 29th August 1864



I have ordered back the 6th Corps and as as much as possible of the Cavalry. - Grant to Butler, 3rd October 1864 (struck out, perhaps by Butler)


After sending the 6th Corps and one Division of Cavalry here - Grant to Halleck, 11th October, 1864


I have directed the 6th Corps to march to Alexandria via Ashby's Gap to commence the march tomorrow morning. It will take four and a half days - Sheridan to Grant, 14th October, 1864
 

Saphroneth

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The general rule for 1862, 1863 and 1864 is that the Union army commander wants to concentrate force against Richmond somehow and the Confederate army commander is focused on (1) blocking them from doing so and (2) imposing enough of a "distraction" in the Valley area (strictly in the Gordonsville-Orange/Valley/Maryland/Pennsylvania area) to draw off that concentration of force. This happens over and over again, and the Union high command never had enough willpower to just accept the distraction even when they had the resources to prevent it hitting anything vital; by the end of 1864 the Confederate main army strength has been worn down enough they can't really afford to keep a distraction force "worthy of respect" in the Valley area.
 

AA484

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Grant's entire goal was to destroy the Confederate threat in the valley. When the remnants of the II Corps were ordered back to Petersburg, the Confederate forces in the valley were inconsequential enough to only be watched by Sheridan's cavalry. This allowed Grant to recall the VI Corps so he could marshal the full extent of his forces for the final push against Lee.
 

Saphroneth

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Grant's entire goal was to destroy the Confederate threat in the valley. When the remnants of the II Corps were ordered back to Petersburg, the Confederate forces in the valley were inconsequential enough to only be watched by Sheridan's cavalry. This allowed Grant to recall the VI Corps so he could marshal the full extent of his forces for the final push against Lee.
Though, as noted, he'd been asking for them back for months!
 

AA484

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He'd been asking since months before Fisher's Hill, though, and indeed wanted 6th Corps back before Early got back to Richmond.
Interesting. But Fisher's Hill being in September and the VI Corps only being dispatched to the valley in mid-July, I'm not sure if months is completely accurate. I can't remember exactly but there may have also been some misunderstanding about Early returning to the valley around that time. Considering Grant's goal of destroying Early's forces it seems odd that he'd want to reduce his forces in the valley (particularly after Crook's defeat) if there was no evidence of Early also leaving the valley.
 

Saphroneth

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Interesting. But Fisher's Hill being in September and the VI Corps only being dispatched to the valley in mid-July, I'm not sure if months is completely accurate. I can't remember exactly but there may have also been some misunderstanding about Early returning to the valley around that time. Considering Grant's goal of destroying Early's forces it seems odd that he'd want to reduce his forces in the valley (particularly after Crook's defeat) if there was no evidence of Early also leaving the valley.
I think what we need to do here is to question whether it was Grant's goal to destroy Early's forces in the Valley. I think Grant's goal was to get the men he wanted for an offensive against Richmond.

But yes, I would consider "months" to be accurate, since Grant was asking for 6th Corps back as early as 14th July (2 months and 7 days beforehand).
 

AA484

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I think what we need to do here is to question whether it was Grant's goal to destroy Early's forces in the Valley. I think Grant's goal was to get the men he wanted for an offensive against Richmond.

But yes, I would consider "months" to be accurate, since Grant was asking for 6th Corps back as early as 14th July (2 months and 7 days beforehand).
Thanks for the posts. I've had a reply in the hopper for a couple days but have been too busy to do so. I have the passages marked and hope to reply within the next day or so.
 

Jamieva

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Early withdrew from DC back towards Winchester with the arrival of the VI and XIX corps. He kept backing up and not having a major conflict with Sheridan's forces, to the point that Wright was going to be sent back to Petersburg with the VI Corps because they all believed Early was retreating back up the Valley to go back to re-join Lee (they had no confirmation of this, Sheridan was mostly guessing or hoping).

Early attacked (2nd Kernstown July 24) Wright to prevent his return to Petersburg, which retains the VI Corps in the Valley and starts what we know as the Valley campaign between Sheridan and Early. So when one is citing these communications from Grant to Halleck, you have to remember the strategic situation at the time.
 

Saphroneth

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Early attacked (2nd Kernstown July 24) Wright to prevent his return to Petersburg, which retains the VI Corps in the Valley and starts what we know as the Valley campaign between Sheridan and Early. So when one is citing these communications from Grant to Halleck, you have to remember the strategic situation at the time.
That's the thing, isn't it, though? Grant kept asking for 6th Corps back and it kept not happening, which explodes the theory that Grant left them in the Valley until they had met the objective he sent them for - he was repeatedly asking for them back when that objective had not been fulfilled on any kind of permanent basis.

He was asking for 6th Corps back before 2nd Kernstown, and also around the time of Smithfield Crossing (in August) when Sheridan was retreating up the Valley. He was asking for them back after Fisher's Hill, and before what would become Cedar Creek.
 

Jamieva

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That's the thing, isn't it, though? Grant kept asking for 6th Corps back and it kept not happening, which explodes the theory that Grant left them in the Valley until they had met the objective he sent them for - he was repeatedly asking for them back when that objective had not been fulfilled on any kind of permanent basis.

He was asking for 6th Corps back before 2nd Kernstown, and also around the time of Smithfield Crossing (in August) when Sheridan was retreating up the Valley. He was asking for them back after Fisher's Hill, and before what would become Cedar Creek.

Yes but he was asking for them back based on faulty intelligence supplied by Sheridan on multiple occasions. Every time he would tell Grant that Early was retreating up the valley, not an issue anymore, going back to Lee etc, he was wrong. It's almost like Sheridan was hoping Early would leave more than actually having to fight and force him to, even though he had the far superior numbers.
 

Saphroneth

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Yes but he was asking for them back based on faulty intelligence supplied by Sheridan on multiple occasions. Every time he would tell Grant that Early was retreating up the valley, not an issue anymore, going back to Lee etc, he was wrong. It's almost like Sheridan was hoping Early would leave more than actually having to fight and force him to, even though he had the far superior numbers.
Which means that it wasn't really Grant making the decision on whether 6th Corps should stay in the Valley. It was between Sheridan (supplying the faulty information) and whoever it was who was overriding or ignoring the times Grant sent orders to that effect (presumably Halleck, at a guess).
 
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