Overland Something more clever than the Overland Campaign?

(Wilderness, Spotsylvania, North Anna, Cold Harbor)

Joshism

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
Apr 30, 2012
Location
Jupiter, FL
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.

For the most part Grant operated in the West with smaller armies, with less artillery and much less cavalry, and usually with reliable, consistent river supply lines. (Cavalry and artillery require a much greater rate of supplies per soldier because of the horses.)

For example, the swift movements of the Vicksburg Campaign involved almost no cavalry operating with the AOTT and total forces half that of the AOTP in 1864 (Grant's army was significantly reinforced during the siege.)

AOTP, including IX Corps, was over 100,000 men with a large cavalry corps and substantial artillery train, in territory picked clean of provisions, with no railroad and limited help from rivers for supply.

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.

By that logic, Lincoln took Savannah.

Grant appointed Sherman and approved Sherman's strategy. The strategy was Sherman's, and the details of logistics, tactics, and execution where Sherman's and his staff & subordinates.
 

67th Tigers

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Nov 10, 2006
Grant made it very clear that Lee's army was the objective.
Indeed, he made very public statements to that effect before the campaign. He also gave his plan of campaign as to rush to the James and link up with Butler, to attack Richmond. A few days after the campaign start he explicitly stated to Halleck that his objective was Richmond, not Lee's Army.

"Lee's Army is your objective" was PR. As soon as the campaign started it was forgotten.
 

67th Tigers

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Nov 10, 2006
AOTP, including IX Corps, was over 100,000 men with a large cavalry corps and substantial artillery train, in territory picked clean of provisions, with no railroad and limited help from rivers for supply.
Actually above 140,000 using the regulation PFD measure, and about 70,000 reinforcements were added in the month following the crossing of the Rappahanock.
 

67th Tigers

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Nov 10, 2006
Instead of Butler on the James and Burnside with the AOTP, why not combine them to operate against Wilmington or from New Bern?
The 9th Corps was supposed to operate against Wilmington, supported by elements from Butler.

Lee, for his part, expected the 9th Corps to sail and join Butler, and this force either to attack Wilmington or ascend the James. This is why a relatively strong force was covering these areas.
 

DanSBHawk

Captain
Joined
May 8, 2015
Location
Wisconsin
Indeed, he made very public statements to that effect before the campaign. He also gave his plan of campaign as to rush to the James and link up with Butler, to attack Richmond. A few days after the campaign start he explicitly stated to Halleck that his objective was Richmond, not Lee's Army.

"Lee's Army is your objective" was PR. As soon as the campaign started it was forgotten.
As I said, no credible historian agrees with you.

Grant made it very clear, not just in public but in private letters like the one to Butler that I cited, that the objective was Lee's army.

The reason why McClellan fans deny this, is because they want to pretend that both McClellan and Grant had the same objective, but they did not. McClellan wanted to camp out on the Peninsula and surrender the initiative to the confederates. Grant wanted to defeat the confederate army.
 

Joseph A. Rose

Corporal
Joined
Jan 5, 2010
It doesn't matter what historians conclude if there is first-hand evidence from Grant on his own plans.

Certainly, Grant had suggested geographic goals when forwarding Baldy Smith's North Carolina plan to Halleck on January 19, 1864:
"I would respectfully suggest whether an abandonment of all previously attempted lines to Richmond is not advisable, and in lieu of these one be taken farther south. I would suggest Raleigh, N. C., as the objective point and Suffolk as the starting point. Raleigh once secured, I would make New Berne the base of supplies until Wilmington is secured...."

In Grant's final OR, he again revealed that he had geographic goals, not limited to attacking the enemy's armies:
"The accompanying map, a copy of which was sent to General Sherman and other commanders in March, 1864, shows by red lines the territory occupied by us at the beginning of the rebellion, and at the opening of the campaign of 1864, while those in blue are the lines which it was proposed to occupy."

Furthermore, Grant accepted (at that time and after the war) Sherman's strategy of raiding the Confederate interior, as opposed to going after Hood.

Most importantly, Grant's plan to meet up with Butler upstream from Richmond bespeaks a geographic destination for his 1864 operations.
 

JeffFromSyracuse

Corporal
Joined
Jul 6, 2020
Location
Philly Suburbs
It doesn't matter what historians conclude if there is first-hand evidence from Grant on his own plans.

In Grant's final OR, he again revealed that he had geographic goals, not limited to attacking the enemy's armies:
"The accompanying map, a copy of which was sent to General Sherman and other commanders in March, 1864, shows by red lines the territory occupied by us at the beginning of the rebellion, and at the opening of the campaign of 1864, while those in blue are the lines which it was proposed to occupy."
This is a considerable misreading of said report.

The line you refer to about "holding Richmond" states: "Holding the blue line from Saluda, VA via Richmond and the James River to Lynchburg, thence via Liberty and along there and the Smoky Mountains to connect with red line 2." That refers to the rail link that connected Richmond to Eastern Tennessee by that point of the war, according to the map mentioned in the report you cite. So it wasn't about holding Richmond - it was about controlling railroads and destroying Confederate ability to supply.

In the same report, Grant says in different instances:

"General Meade was instructed that Lee's army would be his objective point; that wherever Lee went he would also go."

"The Army of the Potomac will act from its present base, Lee's army being the objective point."

Grant also specifically states that he left Butler to capture Richmond at the start of the campaign while the AoP battled Lee - forcing the ANV to either be destroyed or to be split in order to combat both the AoP and protect Richmond.

In other words, Richmond was a pawn - the key was to defeat the ANV.
 

67th Tigers

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Nov 10, 2006
As I said, no credible historian agrees with you.

Grant made it very clear, not just in public but in private letters like the one to Butler that I cited, that the objective was Lee's army.
Ah yes, "credible historian". Of course, what you mean is "people whose opinions I agree with".

You continue to cite Grant's PR statements designed to assuage Lincoln. Of course, his operational movements, and his statements of what he was doing as her was doing them, show that Grant was indeed intent on taking Richmond. You assiduously ignore the fact that if "Lee's Army was Grant's objective", then he did a terrible job of it because he was operating to take Richmond.
 
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DanSBHawk

Captain
Joined
May 8, 2015
Location
Wisconsin
Ah yes, "credible historian". Of course, what you mean is "people whose opinions I agree with".

You continue to cite Grant's PR statements designed to assuage Lincoln. Of course, his operational movements, and his statements of what he was doing as her was doing them, show that Grant was indeed intent on taking Richmond. You assiduously ignore the fact that if "Lee's Army was Grant's objective", then he did a terrible job of it because he was operating to take Richmond.
I haven't quoted a PR statement to Lincoln. I quoted a private letter to Butler.
 

67th Tigers

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Nov 10, 2006
I haven't quoted a PR statement to Lincoln. I quoted a private letter to Butler.
A public letter, which passed through the War Department. A letter that, in it's second-to-last paragraph, confirms that "the army of the Potomac would follow [the Army of the James] and, by means of transports, the two armies become a unit." Butler's verbal instructions from Grant were that this union would occur ten days after crossing the Rappahanock.

Grant's campaign plan is well understood. He'd make a lunge at Lee to satisfy Lincoln, and then march to join Butler and besiege Richmond. The lunge was over by 8th May, since Grant wrote Halleck that he was making for Butler.
 

DanSBHawk

Captain
Joined
May 8, 2015
Location
Wisconsin
A public letter, which passed through the War Department. A letter that, in it's second-to-last paragraph, confirms that "the army of the Potomac would follow [the Army of the James] and, by means of transports, the two armies become a unit." Butler's verbal instructions from Grant were that this union would occur ten days after crossing the Rappahanock.

Grant's campaign plan is well understood. He'd make a lunge at Lee to satisfy Lincoln, and then march to join Butler and besiege Richmond. The lunge was over by 8th May, since Grant wrote Halleck that he was making for Butler.
I'd recommend Gordon Rhea's books to get a better understanding of the Overland Campaign.

Also, you misrepresent the Butler letter by leaving out the "Should the enemy be forced into his intrenchments in Richmond..."
 

67th Tigers

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Nov 10, 2006
I'd recommend Gordon Rhea's books to get a better understanding of the Overland Campaign.

Also, you misrepresent the Butler letter by leaving out the "Should the enemy be forced into his intrenchments in Richmond..."
Indeed, and on 8th May he told Halleck he was going to join Butler...
 

DanSBHawk

Captain
Joined
May 8, 2015
Location
Wisconsin
A public letter, which passed through the War Department.
A public letter? Why does it say "private and confidential?" Here's the letter:

To Maj. Gen. Benjamin F. Butler
(Private & Confidential)*
Head Quarters of the Army, In Field Fortress Monroe Va Apl. 2d 1864 Maj. Gen. B. F. Butler, Comd.g Dept. of Va & N. Carolina, General,

In the spring campaign, which it is desirable shall commence at as early a day as practicable, it is proposed to have co-operative action of all the Armies in the field as far as this object can be accomplished. It will not be possible to unite our Armies into two or three large ones, to act as so many units, owing to the absolute necessity of holding on to the territory already taken from the enemy. But, generally speaking, concentration can be practically effected by Armies moving to the interior of the enemy's country from the territory they have to guard. By such movement they interpose themselves between the enemy and the country to be guarded, thereby reducing the numbers necessary to garrison important points and at least occupy the attention of a part of the enemy's force if no greater object is gained.
Lee's Army, and Richmond, being the greater objects towards which our attention must be directed in the next campaign it is desirable to unite all the force we can against them. The necessity for covering Washington, with the Army of the Potomac, and of covering your Dept. with your Army, makes it impossible to unite these forces at the beginning of any move. I propose therefore what comes nearest this of anything that seems practicable. The Army of the Potomac will act from it present base, Lee's Army being the objective point. You will collect all the force from your command, that can be spared from Garrison duty, I should say not less than twenty thousand effective men, to operate on the south side of James River, Richmond being your objective point.—To the force you already have will be added about ten thousand men from South Carolina under Maj. Gen. Gilmore who will command them in person. Maj. Gen. W. F. Smith is ordered to report to you to command the troops sent into the field from your own Dept.

Gen. Gilmore will be ordered to report to you at Fortress Monroe, with all his troops on transports, by the 18th inst. or as soon thereafter as practicable. Should you not receive notice by that time to move you will make such disposition of them, and your other forces, as you may deem best calculated to deceive the enemy ef as to the real move to be made.
When you are notified to move take City Point with as much force as possible. Fortify, or rather intrench, at once and concentrate all your troops for the field, there, as rapidly as you can.

From City Point directions cannot be given at this time for your further movements. The fact that has already been stated, that is, that Richmond is to be your objective point, and that there is to be co-operation between your force and the Army of the Potomac must be your guide. This indicates the necessity of your holding close to the south bank of the James River as you advance.Then should the enemy be forced into his intrenchments in Richmond the Army of the Potomac would follow and by means of transports the two Armies would become a unit. [Note the word "should!"] All the minor details of your advance are left entirely to your direction. If however you think it practicable to use your Cavalry south of you so as to cut the rail-road about Hicksford, about the time of the general advance, it would be of immense advantage.

You will please forward for my information at the earlyest practicable day all orders, details and instructions you may give for the execution of this order.
I am Gen. very respectfully
your obt. svt.
U. S. Grant
Lt. Gen Com
 

DanSBHawk

Captain
Joined
May 8, 2015
Location
Wisconsin
Here's Grant's letter to Sherman explaining the spring campaign, and again explaining the objectives:

To Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman​
Private & Confidential​
Washington, D. C, Apl. 4th 1864. Maj. Gen. W. T. Sherman, Comd.g Mil. Div. of the Miss.​
General,​
It is my design, if the enemy keep quiet and allow me to take the initiative in the Spring Campaign to work all parts of the Army together, and, somewhat, towards a common center. For your information I now write you my programme as at present determined upon.​
I have sent orders to Banks, by private messenger, to finish up his present expedition against Schrievesport with all dispatch. To turn over the defence of the Red River to Gen. Steele and the Navy and return your troops to you and his own to New Orleans. To abandon all of Texas, except the Rio Grande and to hold that with not to exceed four thousand men. To reduce the number of troops on the Miss, to the lowest number necessary to hold it and to collect from his command not less than twenty-five thousand men. To this I will add five thousand from Mo. With this force he is to commence operations against Mobile as soon as he can. It will be impossible for him to commence too early.​
Gilmore joins Butler with ten thousand men and the two operate against Richmond from the south side of James River. This will give Butler thirty-three thousand men to operate with, W. F. Smith commanding the right wing of his forces and Gilmore the left wing. I will stay with the Army of the Potomac increased by Burnsides Corps of not less than 25.000 effective men, and operate directly against Lee's Army wherever it may be found. Sigel collects all his available force in two columns, one under Ord & Averell to start from Beverly Va. and the other under Crook to start from Charleston on the Kanawphy to move against the Va. & Ten. rail-road. Crook will have all Cavalry and will endeavor to get in about Saltville and move East from there to join Ord. His force will be all cavalry whilst Ord will have from ten to twelve thousand men of all arms. You I propose to move against Johnston's Army, to break it up and to get into the interior of the enemy's country as far as you can, inflicting all the damage you can against their War resources.​
I do not propose to lay down for you a plan of Campaign but simply to lay down the work it is desirable to have done and leave you free to execute in your own way. Submit to me however as early as you can your plan of operation.​
As stated Banks is ordered to commence operations as soon as he can. Gilmore is ordered to report at Fortress Monroe by the 18th inst, or as soon thereafter as practicable. Sigel is concentrating now. None will move from their places of rendezvous until I direct, except Banks. I want to be ready to move by the 25th inst, if possible. But all I can now direct is that you get ready as soon as possible I know you will have difficulties to encounter getting through the mountains to where supplies are abundant, but I believe you will accomplish it.​
From the expedition from the Dept. of West Va. I do not calculate on very great results. But it is the only way I can take troops from there. With the long line of rail-road Sigel has to protect he can spare no troops except to move directly to his front. In this way he must get through to inflict great damage on the enemy, or the enemy must detach from one of his armies a large force to prevent it. In other words if Sigel cant skin himself he can hold a leg whilst some one else skins.​
I am General, very respectfully​
your obt. svt.​
U. S. Grant​
Lt. Gen.​
 
Joined
Aug 4, 2019
My modest studies thereof conclude that I must vote there was no alternative to the Overland operation as it historically was played out. Lincoln and Congress were not going to allow the main Union Army venturing too far away from the protection of Washington. They could not stomach another McClellan like route of advance nor another inland railroad route as in the past. Grant was the perfect candidate using his riverine mobile river depots with aggressive flanking maneuvers. I have been strongly critical of the Grant and his Faction playing loose with the historical record and wrongly using others as scapegoats.

Let us start from the beginning. At first Grant had his pet General Baldy Smith put out front the dangerous plan of commencing the campaign from North Carolina. Grant would quickly reject this once an apparent opposition quickly appeared in the Lincoln government. Grant submitted to the more traditional approached as played out but some of our readers may be surprised as to the original construction thereof: Grant/Meade was to directly drive Lee into Richmond for a fatal siege within roughly ten (10) days solely north of the James River; Butler/Army of the James was assigned to meet Grant/Meade at Richmond within the same stated ten (10) days by sealing off Richmond solely south of the James River; Sigel was to invade the Valley thus pinning down potential reinforcements; Hunter was to do the same south of West Virginia.

On 04/01/1864, Grant appeared before Army of James Commander Butler at Fort Monroe and conducted an infamous conference that has since almost been erased from the historical record. Only Butler openly presented the event in his writings which mainly have been ignored by historians so to enhance Grant’s reputation. The sticky point was that Ben Butler had encouraged Grant to commence the campaign with a landing invasion on the south bank of the James River. Grant outright rejected this Butler proposal, but Grant did say he may fall back on it if the main Overland campaign collapsed. I feel assured that Grant never for once believed his and Meade’s main Overland campaign would fail and having to stomach coming to Ben Butler’s area of operations on the James River.
 
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