Overland Something more clever than the Overland Campaign?

(Wilderness, Spotsylvania, North Anna, Cold Harbor)

Piedone

Sergeant
Joined
Oct 8, 2020
I think we cannot make too much ground here if we tend to detect in the praise of one protagonist a criticism of his antagonist.

I‘d be extremely happy to hear if any other design (than the Overland Campaign) could have been maybe more promising - provided it had a chance to find approval and also had a chance to get properly executed.

If deliberating eg Grant‘s idea of a force of 60.000 operating in southern Virginia it would be highly relevant if a capable commander would have been available for that force in the spring of ´64.
 

Belfoured

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
Aug 3, 2019
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.
You're confusing two different issues - maybe unintentionally. Grant maneuvered Lee north to south over a distance of approximately 90 miles during a period of 6 weeks. As a result, Lee ended up where he did not want to end up - no ifs, ands, or buts. On at least a couple of those occasions Grant took Lee by surprise with his maneuver. Had it not been for screw ups by subordinates June 15-18, Grant likely would have taken Petersburg when Lee was tardy in getting it reinforced. Volia - no stalemate.

The fact that a siege ensued and that Union political issues made this unsatisfactory during the July-September period is an entirely separate issue from Grant's tactics in getting to Petersburg. And from Lee's perspective, his only remaining hope now was no longer a military one.

As for this - "I know there is this big push to polish up Grant's reputation in the Overland campaign, but facts are facts" - I'll assume you're not accusing me of that. If you are, you need to do a much better job of ascertaining motives before tossing simplistic labels around. You may note, by the way, that what I've used is in the realm of "facts are facts". And if you've even read Rhea, you'll be able to find criticisms of Grant in his five volumes. So much for the "hagiographer".
 

JeffFromSyracuse

Corporal
Joined
Jul 6, 2020
Location
Philly Suburbs
If deliberating eg Grant‘s idea of a force of 60.000 operating in southern Virginia it would be highly relevant if a capable commander would have been available for that force in the spring of ´64.
The key here is where the troops were coming from.

Many of the XIX Corps troops that were rushed up from the Deep South to help combat Jubal Early in the Summer of 1864 were a part of the Red River campaign in April 1864. Would these have already been committed if a push from SE Virginia was approved?

It's unlikely that the Heavies from Washington and other garrison units that joined the AoP to make up for Overland Campaign casualties would have been put into the field before campaigning began because they weren't in real life.

The Shen Valley also had military operations in the Spring of 1864, so there were no troops to pull from there.

The obvious source, then, for additional troops for this expedition was the Army of the Potomac. But sending troops from the AoP, with its significant numerical advantages over the ANV, violates military theory - it dilutes strength of one strong army to exchange for two prongs that can't support each other against an enemy with significantly shorter interior lines.

Also, there's no guarantee that a good commander could have been found to lead the expedition in the Spring of 1864. Burnside outranked everybody, and it's likely his IX Corps would have been the one to get the assignment in SE Virginia. People Grant liked in early 1864 who could be given an army based on rank, Baldy Smith especially, turned out to be duds. And Rhea points out that Hancock, Warren, Sedgwick / Wright all had uneven performances in the Spring of 1864. Ord / Terry / Sheridan weren't politically feasible at that juncture. So who should get the job?
 

Rhea Cole

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Nov 2, 2019
Location
Murfreesboro, Tennessee
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.
That is why I pay no attention to the words "greatest", "best", "legendary" etc. As no less than Jefferson Davis realized after the war, Forrest's talents were frittered away in backwaters that had no strategic impact on the war. Forrest was blitzed at Selma, the arsenal destroyed & Wilson went on to his next target... in other words, victory. One tactical success or another is just a footnote.

The monument to Scipio Africanus still exists in Spain. He is more my idea of a successful general than Hannibal. Like Grant, he defeated their best general & captured the enemy capitol. Standing before his triumphant marker was very thought provoking.
 
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67th Tigers

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Nov 10, 2006
Many of the XIX Corps troops that were rushed up from the Deep South to help combat Jubal Early in the Summer of 1864 were a part of the Red River campaign in April 1864. Would these have already been committed if a push from SE Virginia was approved?
The 19th Corps was slated by Grant to reinforce his forces at Petersburg-Richmond. They were designated for the Army of the James. Indeed, a significant chunk landed there and was engaged before insisted that they be sent to Washington, much to Grant's chagrin.
 

JeffFromSyracuse

Corporal
Joined
Jul 6, 2020
Location
Philly Suburbs
The 19th Corps was slated by Grant to reinforce his forces at Petersburg-Richmond. They were designated for the Army of the James. Indeed, a significant chunk landed there and was engaged before insisted that they be sent to Washington, much to Grant's chagrin.
Did not know that! That makes a lot more sense, given how quickly they got up to Washington.
 

Rhea Cole

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Nov 2, 2019
Location
Murfreesboro, Tennessee
Well, you should argue that with Trudeau, because he reads the story completely differently. And no Grant did not take Savannah -- Sherman did.
You are making a profound mistake. Sherman worked for Grant. Sherman was doing what he did because of Grant's orders. So was every other army commander in the Union army. What did Sherman do when he reached Savannah? He boarded a ship & went to report to Grant. During that meeting, it was decided that Sherman would advance up through South Carolina rather than move to Virginia by sea. The man who made the decision was Grant. Sherman & Grant were such a good team because they trusted each other absolutely & without reservation. I don't happen to care what Trudeau had to say, I will stick with what Sherman & Grant said to each other. That is good enough for me.
 

jdawg

Private
Joined
Aug 2, 2019
That is why I pay no attention to the words "greatest", "best", "legendary" etc. As no less than Jefferson Davis realized after the war, Forrest's talents were frittered away in backwaters that had no strategic impact on the war. Forrest was blitzed at Selma, the arsenal destroyed & Wilson went on to his next target... in other words, victory. One tactical success or another is just a footnote.

The monument to Scipio Africanus still exists in Spain. He is more my idea of a successful general than Hannibal. Like Grant, he defeated their best general & captured the enemy capitol. Standing before his triumphant marker was very thought provoking.

Oh, I thought you were serious. My mistake. Have a nice day pal.
 

Rhea Cole

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Nov 2, 2019
Location
Murfreesboro, Tennessee
Grant's objective wasn't Richmond. Grant's objective was to defeat the ANV. That narrowed his options tremendously.

The Peninsula was out because the Peninsula is a peninsula and is therefore narrow. Lack of flanks and the need to leave extra troops around Washington would have sapped Grant's superiority in numbers.

The Valley wasn't favorable, as it too is narrow and dominated by hills and passes, which makes maneuver difficult.

Going to the right through Culpepper was a possibility, but the manpower to guard precious rail lines from cavalry and partisans would have seriously sapped Grant's strength.

Lee wasn't going to follow Grant to NC or anywhere else outside of a Richmond perimeter.

So Overland it was.
You are correct. Grant used the defense of Richmond to pin Lee down. Lee's army was what Grant was after. Long after Grant could have walked into Richmond he left it in CSA hands. The strain that feeding the population of Richmond would have put a severe strain on Grant's logistics. Instead, Richmond was used as stone around Lee's neck that fixed him in place & drained vital supplies away from feeding the army. It was an excellent strategic move on Grant's part.
 

Belfoured

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
Aug 3, 2019
The key here is where the troops were coming from.

Many of the XIX Corps troops that were rushed up from the Deep South to help combat Jubal Early in the Summer of 1864 were a part of the Red River campaign in April 1864. Would these have already been committed if a push from SE Virginia was approved?

It's unlikely that the Heavies from Washington and other garrison units that joined the AoP to make up for Overland Campaign casualties would have been put into the field before campaigning began because they weren't in real life.

The Shen Valley also had military operations in the Spring of 1864, so there were no troops to pull from there.

The obvious source, then, for additional troops for this expedition was the Army of the Potomac. But sending troops from the AoP, with its significant numerical advantages over the ANV, violates military theory - it dilutes strength of one strong army to exchange for two prongs that can't support each other against an enemy with significantly shorter interior lines.

Also, there's no guarantee that a good commander could have been found to lead the expedition in the Spring of 1864. Burnside outranked everybody, and it's likely his IX Corps would have been the one to get the assignment in SE Virginia. People Grant liked in early 1864 who could be given an army based on rank, Baldy Smith especially, turned out to be duds. And Rhea points out that Hancock, Warren, Sedgwick / Wright all had uneven performances in the Spring of 1864. Ord / Terry / Sheridan weren't politically feasible at that juncture. So who should get the job?
Speaking of "OLd Burn", I would add only that one of the millstones hampering Grant in executing his maneuvers was the convoluted status of Burnside/IX Corps in the Army of the Potomac command arrangements that were dumped on Grant.
 

Rhea Cole

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Nov 2, 2019
Location
Murfreesboro, Tennessee
Speaking of "OLd Burn", I would add only that one of the millstones hampering Grant in executing his maneuvers was the convoluted status of Burnside/IX Corps in the Army of the Potomac command arrangements that were dumped on Grant.
Grant must have privately had some very powerful things to say about the creaky N of the P command structure. One of his virtues was that he kept that kind of thing to himself.
 

NedBaldwin

Major
Joined
Feb 19, 2011
Location
California
That is why I pay no attention to the words "greatest", "best", "legendary" etc. As no less than Jefferson Davis realized after the war, Forrest's talents were frittered away in backwaters that had no strategic impact on the war. Forrest was blitzed at Selma, the arsenal destroyed & Wilson went on to his next target... in other words, victory. One tactical success or another is just a footnote.

The monument to Scipio Africanus still exists in Spain. He is more my idea of a successful general than Hannibal. Like Grant, he defeated their best general & captured the enemy capitol. Standing before his triumphant marker was very thought provoking.
Liddell Hart wrote a great book about Scipio called 'Greater than Napoleon'.
Shame that people are so fixated on Hannibal (I think its because of the elephants), since he was the lesser general

And well Napoleon was great and all, but Wellington had a better record, never making the kind of scew-ups that Nappy did and when they finally went head to head at Waterloo, well we know how it ended.
 

Irishtom29

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
Jul 21, 2008
Location
Kent, Washington
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.

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.

I think both Scipio and Wellington were superior to their foes.

I don't care for what Shelby Foote would think one pinch of owl dung.
 

Rhea Cole

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Nov 2, 2019
Location
Murfreesboro, Tennessee
Liddell Hart wrote a great book about Scipio called 'Greater than Napoleon'.
Shame that people are so fixated on Hannibal (I think its because of the elephants), since he was the lesser general

And well Napoleon was great and all, but Wellington had a better record, never making the kind of scew-ups that Nappy did and when they finally went head to head at Waterloo, well we know how it ended.
Scorpio was, without doubt, the best general of his generation. Hannibal is the poster boy of tactical success decoupled from strategic victory. Beating the stuffing out of Roman armies up & down the peninsula meant nothing w/o taking Rome.
 

limberbox

Private
Joined
Apr 25, 2020
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"

This comparison of Sherman's Atlanta campaign to Grant's Overland campaign ignores a very big difference -- the opposing commander. How little time would it have take Grant to get to Richmond opposed by joe Johnston?
 

Rebforever

Lt. Colonel
Joined
Oct 26, 2012
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.
He should have fired Burnside sooner. He was like a blister. Showed up when all the work was done.
 

Irishtom29

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
Jul 21, 2008
Location
Kent, Washington
This comparison of Sherman's Atlanta campaign to Grant's Overland campaign ignores a very big difference -- the opposing commander. How little time would it have take Grant to get to Richmond opposed by joe Johnston?

And the geography--Sherman had much more room to work around Johnston. That Grant worked around Lee's right given the tight geographic constraints of the his campaign speaks well for Grant. Or if one isn't inclined to credit Grant it speaks badly for Lee.
 

leftyhunter

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Joined
May 27, 2011
Location
los angeles ca
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...
We have a previous thread where Grant in 1864 originally planned to invade Virginia via landing at New Berne, North Carolina and entering Virginia via the back door. Unfortunately Lincoln insisted on keeping the AoP between the AnV so Grant had no choice but to attack Richmond via the Overland Campaign.
Leftyhunter
 
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