Overland Something more clever than the Overland Campaign?

(Wilderness, Spotsylvania, North Anna, Cold Harbor)

Carronade

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Pennsylvania
I think you underestimate Grant's intentions (as opposed to the execution). When checked at the Wilderness, at Spotsylvania, at North Anna, and at Cold Harbor he ultimately resorted to maneuver each time,

Agreed, and I would add that Grant also started with maneuver on each of those occasions, but was narrowly forestalled by the rebels - just barely at Spotsylvania and Cold Harbor.
 

Coonewah Creek

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Jun 1, 2018
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Northern Alabama
I think it has been alluded to in previous posts, and I apologize that I don't have the source handy, but IIRC, Grant bemoaned the fact that the Army of the Potomac simply could not be made to move as swiftly as the forces he had commanded in the West, so it frustrated his maneuver plans on several occasions. I think had the AoP not been as "ponderous" and tied to its logistical trains, etc., Grant many have had more success in the execution of his early plans.
 

jdawg

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In the tradition of Douglas Southall Freeman there’s a lot of Grant-bashing regarding the ways the Overland Campaign developed and was led.
I’d ask: Is another plan imaginable which could also produce victory over the South but would involve smaller losses and/or need less time. But the special situation of Grant’s and the AoP (and especially the political situation in Washington) shouldn’t be neglected in such a calculation...

Yes!!! Absolutely!!! Sherman's tactics in the Atlanta campaign and maneuver warfare would have been much better.

Modern day strategists such as Colonel John Boyd have noted the superiority of this strategy versus the old Army idea of hey diddle straight up the middle.

Grants campaign lacked any imagination. It was just strength on strength.

Sherman did much better albeit against weaker competition. Grant should have been constantly manuevering.
 

jdawg

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Grant strategically turned Lee's left flank five times and ended up 92 miles as the crow flies from where he started.

And I wouldn't call Boyd "modern."

Compared to the 1860s, Boyd is modern.

What Grant did was anything but Maneuver Warfare. It was brunt force with little turning movement.

No Spotsylvania Court House and for the love of all that good Cold Harbor were not in the Maneuver warfare field.

Sherman's Atlanta campaign is a great example of maneuver warfare and strategic thinking, not the Overland campaign.

One could even say that Sherman saved Grant's rear end by taking Atlanta before the 1864 election. Gary Gallagher has noted the frustration the north had with the stalemate in Virginia. More frontal assaults were not going to help that stalemate.

There is much to learn from the Atlanta campaign, not from the Overland campaign.

Sherman had it correct when he thought about the campaign as a "big Indian war"
 

Rhea Cole

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Location
Murfreesboro, Tennessee
Compared to the 1860s, Boyd is modern.

What Grant did was anything but Maneuver Warfare. It was brunt force with little turning movement.

No Spotsylvania Court House and for the love of all that good Cold Harbor were not in the Maneuver warfare field.

Sherman's Atlanta campaign is a great example of maneuver warfare and strategic thinking, not the Overland campaign.

One could even say that Sherman saved Grant's rear end by taking Atlanta before the 1864 election. Gary Gallagher has noted the frustration the north had with the stalemate in Virginia. More frontal assaults were not going to help that stalemate.

There is much to learn from the Atlanta campaign, not from the Overland campaign.

Sherman had it correct when he thought about the campaign as a "big Indian war"
It is important to understand that Sherman's March to the Sea was an integral element of Grant's plan to defeat the Confederacy, not an independent operation. The majority of Lee's supplies came from the Atlanta Depot & through Savannah. The defeat of Hood meant that forty gunboats could escort convoys of transports that transferred a corps from the Tennessee River to New Orleans. From there, they would attack Mobile. Grant was commanding an army on a continent wide campaign. The Peninsula was just one of many fronts on which Grant was managing from his HQ at City Point.
 

jdawg

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It is important to understand that Sherman's March to the Sea was an integral element of Grant's plan to defeat the Confederacy, not an independent operation. The majority of Lee's supplies came from the Atlanta Depot & through Savannah. The defeat of Hood meant that forty gunboats could escort convoys of transports that transferred a corps from the Tennessee River to New Orleans. From there, they would attack Mobile. Grant was commanding an army on a continent wide campaign. The Peninsula was just one of many fronts on which Grant was managing from his HQ at City Point.

I am referring to Sherman's flanking tactics actually during the Atlanta campaign. I am talking about Snake Gap Creek, movements in present day Bartow County, the flank move away from the Kennesaw battlefield, Jonesboro.

I am talking about the tactics that Grant did not adopt in Virginia.

Sherman only lost his patience once at Kennesaw mountain.
 
Joined
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I am referring to Sherman's flanking tactics actually during the Atlanta campaign. I am talking about Snake Gap Creek, movements in present day Bartow County, the flank move away from the Kennesaw battlefield, Jonesboro.

I am talking about the tactics that Grant did not adopt in Virginia.

Sherman only lost his patience once at Kennesaw mountain.
Mountain passes versus crossing rivers, where and how the army was supplied, a politically-important rear to protect.

All critical differences between the two theaters that need to be considered.
 

DaveBrt

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Mar 6, 2010
Location
Charlotte, NC
It is important to understand that Sherman's March to the Sea was an integral element of Grant's plan to defeat the Confederacy, not an independent operation. The majority of Lee's supplies came from the Atlanta Depot & through Savannah. The defeat of Hood meant that forty gunboats could escort convoys of transports that transferred a corps from the Tennessee River to New Orleans. From there, they would attack Mobile. Grant was commanding an army on a continent wide campaign. The Peninsula was just one of many fronts on which Grant was managing from his HQ at City Point.
According to Trudeau, Southern Storm, the post-destruction of the AOT (Sherman's assigned task), was still up in the air until Hood headed north on Sherman's supply line. Sherman had rightly decided that taking Atlanta was more important than chasing the AOT -- let the AOT come to him as he headed toward Atlanta. Once he had Atlanta and Hood had headed north, Sherman realized that HE, not Grant, could take Savannah. He then had to talk Grant into this idea in the fall.
 

Rhea Cole

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Location
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According to Trudeau, Southern Storm, the post-destruction of the AOT (Sherman's assigned task), was still up in the air until Hood headed north on Sherman's supply line. Sherman had rightly decided that taking Atlanta was more important than chasing the AOT -- let the AOT come to him as he headed toward Atlanta. Once he had Atlanta and Hood had headed north, Sherman realized that HE, not Grant, could take Savannah. He then had to talk Grant into this idea in the fall.
Actually, the telegraphic traffic between Sherman & Grant discussing the March still exists. The purpose of Sherman’s March & Grant’s order to proceed are there for anyone to read. For what it is worth, Sherman took Savana under Grant’s orders & command, so Grant did take Savannah.
 

Belfoured

Sergeant Major
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Aug 3, 2019
Compared to the 1860s, Boyd is modern.

What Grant did was anything but Maneuver Warfare. It was brunt force with little turning movement.

No Spotsylvania Court House and for the love of all that good Cold Harbor were not in the Maneuver warfare field.

Sherman's Atlanta campaign is a great example of maneuver warfare and strategic thinking, not the Overland campaign.

One could even say that Sherman saved Grant's rear end by taking Atlanta before the 1864 election. Gary Gallagher has noted the frustration the north had with the stalemate in Virginia. More frontal assaults were not going to help that stalemate.

There is much to learn from the Atlanta campaign, not from the Overland campaign.

Sherman had it correct when he thought about the campaign as a "big Indian war"
I'll side with Gordon Rhea on this issue. Spotsylvania resulted from the fact that Grant's movement past Lee's right was poorly executed by subordinates and the race to the court house was lost. The armies were at Cold Harbor in the first place because Grant - again - had moved south from North Anna. And while there was indeed a fruitless attack at Cold Harbor, Grant then maneuvered once more, crossed the James, and but for inexplicable delays by subordinates would likely have taken Petersburg. The armies started out well north of Richmond and ended up where Lee definitively did not want to end up. Not sure how that happened without "Maneuver Warfare".
 

DaveBrt

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Location
Charlotte, NC
Actually, the telegraphic traffic between Sherman & Grant discussing the March still exists. The purpose of Sherman’s March & Grant’s order to proceed are there for anyone to read. For what it is worth, Sherman took Savana under Grant’s orders & command, so Grant did take Savannah.
Well, you should argue that with Trudeau, because he reads the story completely differently. And no Grant did not take Savannah -- Sherman did.
 

jdawg

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Aug 2, 2019
I'll side with Gordon Rhea on this issue. Spotsylvania resulted from the fact that Grant's movement past Lee's right was poorly executed by subordinates and the race to the court house was lost. The armies were at Cold Harbor in the first place because Grant - again - had moved south from North Anna. And while there was indeed a fruitless attack at Cold Harbor, Grant then maneuvered once more, crossed the James, and but for inexplicable delays by subordinates would likely have taken Petersburg. The armies started out well north of Richmond and ended up where Lee definitively did not want to end up. Not sure how that happened without "Maneuver Warfare".
Gordon Rhea is a Grant hagiographer. It people discount Douglas Southall Freeman, they should discount Gordon Rhea also.

Also, people just do hand waving to say well Lee did not want to be in Petersburg and discount the situation the federals were really in.

The truth is that it was a stalemate. If Sherman did not break through, it could have lost the Presidency for Lincoln.

It is definitely not where Grant wanted to be. In fact, Sherman saved him from a disaster.
 
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Gordon Rhea is a Grant hagiographer. It people discount Douglas Southall Freeman, they should discount Gordon Rhea also.
Rhea's focus was the battles of the Overland Campaign over the course of five books. Freeman's focus was a macro-assessment of Confederate leadership across the entire war. So no, Rhea should not be discounted, especially if you use his battle-ography to draw your own conclusions. (Also, Rhea holds Grant responsible for quite a bit, especially Cold Harbor.)
The truth is that it was a stalemate. If Sherman did not break through, it could have lost the Presidency for Lincoln. It is definitely not where Grant wanted to be. In fact, Sherman saved him from a disaster.
While victories in the Valley and in Georgia certainly did far more for Lincoln's re-election bid than Grant's efforts around Richmond/Petersburg, I'd argue Petersburg wasn't a stalemate.

Once the theater of war became restricted to the Richmond/Petersburg metroplex, movements became more constricted. But after July 30, Grant staged offensives (i.e. maneuver) in August, September, October, December, February, March, and April to cut Confederate supply and force the ANV back into the open. The process was slow and agonizing, but it eventually worked - and Grant never stopped moving.
 

Piedone

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Oct 8, 2020
The most obvious step would be removing the politically protected deadwood in the Army of the Potomac's command structure. Butler et al thwarted Grant's plan to envelop Lee. Grant's strength was always to take what actually was happening in the battle space & keep fighting. As Sherman said, Grant really didn't care what Lee or Butler for that matter did. He was going to keep pounding away no matter what either one of them did.

An interesting thing that could have been accomplished was the destruction of the Augusta Arsenal. By 1864-65, the majority of Lee's powder was coming from Augusta. A raid could have left no stone standing. There was absolutely no way for the CSA to replace the supply of superb quality powder from Augusta. It is possible that Lee would have run out of ammunition. In any case, I am happy it did not happen. If the Yankees had blown up the arsenal, the explosion would have flattened my wife's family home & who knows if we would have ever met.

As a mature student of the Civil War, to me it is more than passing strange that anybody takes D.S. Freeman's depiction of the losers as the best generals & best fighting men. The tactical victories without strategic impact of the A of NV are glorified. The Overland Campaign that beat Lee like a drum until he holed up at Petersburg & awaited defeat is held up as one long string of A of NV victories. Perhaps it is because I study the Western Theater where victory is defined by surrounding & accepting the surrender of your opponent that I find the that I find the D.S. Freeman version an artifact of a age rather than an objective history.
Please excuse my belated response - and I am obviously also late in the progress of this thread - but I really didn´t want to leave one of your remarks uncommented.
Of course you are right with regarding Freeman as outdated - but I deem it is a work of high literary quality and hence still a great pleasure to read - and disregarding his (of course) biased appraisals he is often meticulously exact regarding dates and events.
Regarding your categorization of "loser" and "winner" I am a bit shiftless what to reply - as I never looked upon history out of that perspective.
 
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jdawg

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Please excuse my belated response - and I am obviously also late in the progress of this thread - but I really didn´t want to leave one of your remarks uncommented.
Of course you are right with regarding Freeman as outdated - but I deem it is as a work of high literal quality still a great pleasure to read - and disregarding his (of course) biased appraisals he is often meticulously exact regarding dates and events.
Regarding your categorization of "loser" and "winner" I am a bit shiftless what to reply - as I never looked upon history out of that perspective.

It is strange. Napoleon and Hannibal both lost wars. However, I don't think anyone would say that they are the lesser generals of their competition.

It matters how many men and well equipped an army is. Also, the previous description of the Overland Campaign is terrible.

General Forrest lost to greater numbers at Selma. However, if you told Shelby Foote that Wilson was a better General than Forrest, he would look at you like you are stupid.
 

Belfoured

Sergeant Major
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Gordon Rhea is a Grant hagiographer. It people discount Douglas Southall Freeman, they should discount Gordon Rhea also.

Also, people just do hand waving to say well Lee did not want to be in Petersburg and discount the situation the federals were really in.

The truth is that it was a stalemate. If Sherman did not break through, it could have lost the Presidency for Lincoln.

It is definitely not where Grant wanted to be. In fact, Sherman saved him from a disaster.
You don't appear to know much about Rhea if you think he's a "hagriographer". For only one relevant fact, there is no record of Rhea driving daily by Grant's Tomb and stopping on reverently-bended knee. I guarantee that he has never done that.

As for this - "people just do hand waving to say well Lee did not want to be in Petersburg" - try Lee's own words: "We must destroy this Army of Grant's before he gets to the James River. If he gets there it will become a siege and then it will be a mere question of time".
 

jdawg

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You don't appear to know much about Rhea if you think he's a "hagriographer". For only one relevant fact, there is no record of Rhea driving daily by Grant's Tomb and stopping on reverently-bended knee. I guarantee that he has never done that.

As for this - "people just do hand waving to say well Lee did not want to be in Petersburg" - try Lee's own words: "We must destroy this Army of Grant's before he gets to the James River. If he gets there it will become a siege and then it will be a mere question of time".

This is exactly what I am talking about. People just use that quote on Petersburg to obfuscate the stalemate that was dangerous for the Union cause.

It was a matter of time. However, with the election coming up a stalemate in Petersburg would not be a good thing. Atlanta solved that. The war was won in Atlanta.

I know there is this big push to polish up Grant's reputation in the Overland campaign, but facts are facts.
 
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