Richmond siege

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#1
Why was there no siege of Richmond? If you really wanted to continue the war, wouldn't it make sense to dig your army into Richmond, evacuate the civilians, salvage whatever food, supplies and stores you had, and continue to put up a fight? However low the chances of success, wouldn't they be higher than trying to evade Grant and link up with Johnston?

Did Lee just realize in his heart of hearts that it was over, so no reason to destroy Richmond? Were there other tactical reasons why this made no sense? Was Richmond never fortified, and hence no entrenchments to move into?

Mike
 

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jackt62

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#2
Actually, Richmond was surrounded by extensive rings of entrenchments from 1862 onward. McClellan planned to besiege that place but that plan was thwarted by Lee during the Seven Days offensive. Fast forward to 1864, and Grant and the AOTP are at the gates of Petersburg, (similarly surrounded by entrenchments) which, because it controlled the key rail routes through Virginia, was the key to seizing Richmond.
 
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#4
Why was there no siege of Richmond? If you really wanted to continue the war, wouldn't it make sense to dig your army into Richmond, evacuate the civilians, salvage whatever food, supplies and stores you had, and continue to put up a fight? However low the chances of success, wouldn't they be higher than trying to evade Grant and link up with Johnston?

Did Lee just realize in his heart of hearts that it was over, so no reason to destroy Richmond? Were there other tactical reasons why this made no sense? Was Richmond never fortified, and hence no entrenchments to move into?

Mike
Richmond would have been a very tough nut to crack. Not the least problem was that any Federal army would need to be supplied from a river. Both McClellan and Grant had used White House, supplied from the York River side of the Peninsula. McClellan found that base undefendable without dedicating huge numbers to its defense. McClellan established a base on the east side of the James. Grant chose the west side after he left Cold Harbor.
City Point, Grant's base, allowed troops to threaten Richmond from the south, while protecting the base itself. Richmond, was of course, on the opposite side of the river. But Petersburg could be approached by land, and its prize was most of Lee's rail support. The greater effort went toward Petersburg. Tactically, it was the best choice.
 
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#5
Richmond would have been a very tough nut to crack. Not the least problem was that any Federal army would need to be supplied from a river. Both McClellan and Grant had used White House, supplied from the York River side of the Peninsula. McClellan found that base undefendable without dedicating huge numbers to its defense. McClellan established a base on the east side of the James. Grant chose the west side after he left Cold Harbor.
City Point, Grant's base, allowed troops to threaten Richmond from the south, while protecting the base itself. Richmond, was of course, on the opposite side of the river. But Petersburg could be approached by land, and its prize was most of Lee's rail support. The greater effort went toward Petersburg. Tactically, it was the best choice.
Lee could not defend Richmond without rail support. Without the rail lines, everybody in Richmond would starve within a week of being surrounded. Without Petersburg, there was no rail support. Richmond was very well fortified, but dead soldiers could not defend it. Lee and Davis had discussed the matter for weeks. Should Petersburg fall, Richmond had to be abandoned. The one open rail line that did not come from Petersburg would fall within days no matter what, as it could not be protected if Richmond were defended.
From a military sense, Lee should have abandoned his positions two weeks earlier. That would have allowed a more efficient removal of the CSA government, and, given Lee a real chance to join Johnston near Raleigh. I think he would have done so, but did not, as Davis never really addressed the reality, rather than the possibility.
 

OpnCoronet

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#6
All good reasons as events turned out, but, Lee's Army of Northern Virginia, was Grant's target, not Richmond, i.e., Where Lee was,, Grant would be.

The two Armies landed at Petersburg, because that was where Lee's responses to Grant's repeated attempts to Outflank the ANV. led him and, Grant moved East to the James River, because that was where Butler and his Army of the James was holed up, in order toe replace the losses engendered by the overland Campaign.

Strategically, it worked out, but it was the Lincoln's strategy of locating Lee and pursue him constantly and force him to fight until one side or the other was whipped.
 

Carronade

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#7
Grant wouldn't have to worry about what his target was if the ANV allowed itself to be bottled up inside Richmond.

As others have noted, Richmond-Petersburg was essentially one position, which became hopeless when its rail supply routes were cut off. Grant could starve it out while Sherman, Schofield, Terry, Stoneman, etc. overran the rest of the Confederacy.
 

Jimklag

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#8
Grant wouldn't have to worry about what his target was if the ANV allowed itself to be bottled up inside Richmond.

As others have noted, Richmond-Petersburg was essentially one position, which became hopeless when its rail supply routes were cut off. Grant could starve it out while Sherman, Schofield, Terry, Stoneman, etc. overran the rest of the Confederacy.
Lee was forced to choose Petersburg because Grant had crossed to the south side of the James River after Cold Harbor and headed straight to Petersburg.
 
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#9
All good reasons as events turned out, but, Lee's Army of Northern Virginia, was Grant's target, not Richmond, i.e., Where Lee was,, Grant would be.

The two Armies landed at Petersburg, because that was where Lee's responses to Grant's repeated attempts to Outflank the ANV. led him and, Grant moved East to the James River, because that was where Butler and his Army of the James was holed up, in order toe replace the losses engendered by the overland Campaign.

Strategically, it worked out, but it was the Lincoln's strategy of locating Lee and pursue him constantly and force him to fight until one side or the other was whipTed.
This is reasonable.
i wonder, though, what Grant might have done had Lee sent Early to Richmond, after Cold Harbor, taken the rest of the ANV west.
I think Grant would have been conflicted.
 

Carronade

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#10
This is reasonable.
i wonder, though, what Grant might have done had Lee sent Early to Richmond, after Cold Harbor, taken the rest of the ANV west.
I think Grant would have been conflicted.
I don't think he'd be too conflicted. If Lee sent a fraction of his army to get bottled up in Richmond, Grant could besiege it with a comparable fraction of his own forces. Meanwhile the movement of the main armies westward would facilitate cutting the railroads and making Early/Richmond's position hopeless.
 

jackt62

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#11
This is reasonable.
i wonder, though, what Grant might have done had Lee sent Early to Richmond, after Cold Harbor, taken the rest of the ANV west.
I think Grant would have been conflicted.
Lee was always careful to avoid boxing the ANV into fixed positions, which would preclude its ability to maneuver in open territory. Furthermore, any movement away from the AOTP towards Richmond or points west in the late spring of 1864 could have been construed as a "defeat" of the ANV, which Lee would never have considered doing.
 
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#12
I don't think he'd be too conflicted. If Lee sent a fraction of his army to get bottled up in Richmond, Grant could besiege it with a comparable fraction of his own forces. Meanwhile the movement of the main armies westward would facilitate cutting the railroads and making Early/Richmond's position hopeless.
That would have been my first guess. But, Grant would be off his supply base if he followed Lee. And, as it happened, he did not have a stockpile of food. He had sent a note to White House warning to be careful of the commissary, as there was no more until the base change.
Grant had the wagon resources to supply a large force, but would need to collect what was needed first. That would be the big conflict in my mind, the need to move off a supply base.
 

Carronade

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#13
However low the chances of success, wouldn't they be higher than trying to evade Grant and link up with Johnston?
In 1865, anything the Confederates tried was basically a "Hail Mary", but we might keep in mind that during the Overland campaign, the ANV had always managed to move a bit faster than its opponents, frustrating their repeated attempts to outflank Lee and force him to fight on Grant's terms.

A siege could only have one end, however long it took. Prior to Lincoln's reelection, there was some hope that heavy casualties and lack of progress might lead to war-weariness in the north, but after November '64 they knew that wasn't going to happen. Mobile warfare and fighting on interior lines in their own country had been key advantages for the Confederates all along, and in those last months it was all they had left.
 

Carronade

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#14
That would have been my first guess. But, Grant would be off his supply base if he followed Lee. And, as it happened, he did not have a stockpile of food. He had sent a note to White House warning to be careful of the commissary, as there was no more until the base change.
Grant had the wagon resources to supply a large force, but would need to collect what was needed first. That would be the big conflict in my mind, the need to move off a supply base.
Good thought. Ironically I was just commenting on the Confederates' ability to move and sustain themselves in friendly territory.
 

DaveBrt

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#15
I wonder, though, what Grant might have done had Lee sent Early to Richmond, after Cold Harbor, taken the rest of the ANV west.
What do you mean by "taken the rest of the ANV west?" Do you intend to do something in the Shenandoah Valley or do you mean take the army to Georgia? If to western Virginia, I think you would quickly find Lee without a supply line for men, ammunition, etc.

If to Georgia, how? March? By what route -- down the railroads to Richmond, Danville, Charlotte, Columbia, Augusta, Atlanta? That is some 600 miles. And you think the Union army would let him do that without constant harassment?

If you mean go to Georgia by using the railroads, you are asking the impossible. It took a maximum exertion to get 2 divisions, without wagons, teams, supplies or artillery from Richmond to northern Georgia in the fall of 1863. This later move would be some 50 times as big a move, over railroads that had deteriorated for 9 more months (railroads that were full occupied sending food from southern Georgia to Richmond -- a movement that was totally stopped in 1863 for almost 3 weeks and resulted in Lee/Richmond having NO food reserves when the movement was restarted in emergency mode). And what would Grant do as the enemy army in front of him reduced itself by a division every day?
 
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#16
What do you mean by "taken the rest of the ANV west?" Do you intend to do something in the Shenandoah Valley or do you mean take the army to Georgia? If to western Virginia, I think you would quickly find Lee without a supply line for men, ammunition, etc.
By "west" I generally meant to meet Dave Hunter who was approaching Lynchburg. That was, in fact, what Early had been sent to do. I was switching roles some. Lee would be able to sustain a large force in the area. What Lee might have done had he moved west is probably beyond this thread.
 
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#17
By the end of the Overland Campaign, Grant had Lee constantly on the defensive. Lee was an offensive fighter. He had also followed the principle of protecting Richmond at all cost. Now Grant moved south of the James to swing around and flank Petersburg, leaving Lee at a loss for precious hours wondering where the opposing force had gone. Beauregard replied. At this point in 1864 and on into 1865 it had been determined if Richmond fell, all would be lost; the southern people would give up all hope. There had been talk out west between Generals Taylor and Hood about taking the army west of the Mississippi, if they could gather enough forces, and continue the fight in Texas. Due to Mobile and the containment there, no movement went beyond the discussion. Last ditch effort to escape came when Petersburg fell, and Lee was trying to save his army from total collapse. To believe he would abandon Richmond before the last trump would be an absolute fallacy. Good points all though in posts #8-16.
Lubliner.
 

OpnCoronet

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#18
This is reasonable.
i wonder, though, what Grant might have done had Lee sent Early to Richmond, after Cold Harbor, taken the rest of the ANV west.
I think Grant would have been conflicted.


It is certainly difficult to project results of actions that never occurred, but, from military precedents, one result of Lee's covering Richmond with a small force while retreating West(assuming Davis agreed, a Big If), the result would be for Grant to link up with Butler and the Army of the James, and continue pursuit of the ANV, taking Richmond in passing, by Butler's force or at least elements of it, or, if too strongly defended, to mask Grant's pursuit of Lee. Once Lee and the ANV is brought to ground, the defense of Richmond would be Moot.
 
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#19
It is certainly difficult to project results of actions that never occurred, but, from military precedents, one result of Lee's covering Richmond with a small force while retreating West(assuming Davis agreed, a Big If), the result would be for Grant to link up with Butler and the Army of the James, and continue pursuit of the ANV, taking Richmond in passing, by Butler's force or at least elements of it, or, if too strongly defended, to mask Grant's pursuit of Lee. Once Lee and the ANV is brought to ground, the defense of Richmond would be Moot.
I wholeheartedly agree that Grant would have followed Lee to the ends of the earth. That must have been a terrible burden on Lee's mind, and to have him flee westward would also conflict with the boldness of his character in giving battle. Lee had a stake in Richmond from the beginning. He was a Virginian fighting for his home State. That is why he drew sword for the south to begin with, and I can't see him fighting once Virginia is overrun.
Lubliner.
 

OpnCoronet

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#20
Lee did, in fact, try a variant of using Early to distract Grant, and, or, Lincoln and the War Dept., from his siege of Petersburg. Events proved that the North had enough forces available to settle accounts with Early's distraction and still maintain Grant's grip on the ANV.
 

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