Overland Something more clever than the Overland Campaign?

(Wilderness, Spotsylvania, North Anna, Cold Harbor)
Joined
Aug 4, 2019
You Mr. Hughes are right! Your key word is “likely” and that is why Grant needs Richmond and believed he could bottle up Lee there fatally. The unfair question asked many times here is: what was the main objective, Lee or Richmond. The correct answer is BOTH. It likely could not be understood by Grant and others to separate one from the other. Few believed it possible Lee would quit Richmond without a siege. Few believed the near fatal siege would happen at Petersburg. Lee was not going to behaves like a Pemberton at Vicksburg which surprised Grant and others.
 

DanSBHawk

Captain
Joined
May 8, 2015
Location
Wisconsin
There was no guarantee that Lee would let himself get bottled up in Richmond. Here is Gordon Rhea again:

Contrary to his critics’ arguments, the general in chief​
employed a judicious mixture of maneuvers and attacks to​
achieve his purpose. At no point was his goal simply to​
win by “attrition”—rather, he strove to defeat Lee on the​
battlefield, removing the Army of Northern Virginia as a​
factor in the war. His style of warring was opportunistic,​
for there could be no certainty about Lee’s reaction once
Grant set his multiple forces in motion. Lee would likely
retreat toward Richmond, though he might flee instead
toward Lynchburg and the Shenandoah Valley. Grant’s
plan had the flexibility to cover those contingencies.

The objective for the AOTP was Lee's army.

Other Union armies had their own objectives assigned by Grant, but Grant clearly and repeatedly stated that Meade was to go after Lee's army, regardless of any geographic location.
 
Joined
Aug 4, 2019
Gordon Rhea is wrong on this point. Here is Grant own words about the subject in question:

From General U.S. Grant

CONFIDENTIAL FORT MONROE, VA. APRIL 2, 1864

MAJOR GENL. BENJ. F. BUTLER, Comdg. Dept. of VA. & N. C., FORT MONROE, VA.

“Lee’s army and Richmond being the greater objects toward which our attention must be directed in the next campaign, it is desirable to unite all the force against them.”------“The fact that HAS ALREADY BEEN STATED (yesterday 04/01/1864), that is, that RICHMOND IS TO BE YOUR OBJECTIVE POINT, and that there is to be cooperation between your force and the Army of Potomac, must be your guide.”------“THEN SHOULD THE ENEMY BE FORCED INTO HIS INTRENCHMENTS IN RICHMOND, THE ARMY OF THE POTOMAC WOULD FOLLOW, AND BY ANY MEANS OF TRANSPORTS THE TWO ARMIES WOULD BECOME A UNIT (at Richmond). All the minor details of your advance are left entirely to your directions.”

U.S. GRANT, Lieut. General

My dear friend DanSDHawk please note the first word phrase: "Lee's army and Richmond being the greater objects". The confusion arises when elsewhere the bragging gets involved about "going anywhere Lee goes". This is within the mind frame that it was not believed Lee would fled anywhere but Richmond! Thus both are needed and more truthful statement. It is not possible to destroy a major Civil War entire Army in an open battlefield you have to have a location to make it flee to for your fatal siege.
 

DanSBHawk

Captain
Joined
May 8, 2015
Location
Wisconsin
Gordon Rhea is wrong on this point. Here is Grant own words about the subject in question:

From General U.S. Grant

CONFIDENTIAL FORT MONROE, VA. APRIL 2, 1864

MAJOR GENL. BENJ. F. BUTLER, Comdg. Dept. of VA. & N. C., FORT MONROE, VA.

“Lee’s army and Richmond being the greater objects toward which our attention must be directed in the next campaign, it is desirable to unite all the force against them.”------“The fact that HAS ALREADY BEEN STATED (yesterday 04/01/1864), that is, that RICHMOND IS TO BE YOUR OBJECTIVE POINT, and that there is to be cooperation between your force and the Army of Potomac, must be your guide.”------“THEN SHOULD THE ENEMY BE FORCED INTO HIS INTRENCHMENTS IN RICHMOND, THE ARMY OF THE POTOMAC WOULD FOLLOW, AND BY ANY MEANS OF TRANSPORTS THE TWO ARMIES WOULD BECOME A UNIT (at Richmond). All the minor details of your advance are left entirely to your directions.”

U.S. GRANT, Lieut. General

My dear friend DanSDHawk please note the first word phrase: "Lee's army and Richmond being the greater objects". The confusion arises when elsewhere the bragging gets involved about "going anywhere Lee goes". This is within the mind frame that it was not believed Lee would fled anywhere but Richmond! Thus both are needed and more truthful statement. It is not possible to destroy a major Civil War entire Army in an open battlefield you have to have a location to make it flee to for your fatal siege.
Read the entire letter again. He is clearly telling Butler that BUTLER'S objective is Richmond. And MEADES objective is Lee's Army.

Grant specifically says "SHOULD the enemy be forced into his entrenchments in Richmond, the Army of the Potomac would follow..."

So yes, that is correct: SHOULD Lee's army end up in Richmond, then Meade will be following him. Because that is Meade's objective. Lee's army. Wherever Lee goes, that's where Meade is going.

Is it a possibility that Lee could have chosen to let Richmond fall and flee? That's what he ended up doing anyway. And if he did, Meade was to have followed him.
 

DanSBHawk

Captain
Joined
May 8, 2015
Location
Wisconsin
Here's a letter that Grant writes to Halleck on June 5th '64 that sums up what he's been trying to do. Ideally, and first, try to beat Lee north of Richmond. Second, besiege him in Richmond or follow him south if he flees.

To Maj. Gen. Henry W. Halleck​
Cold Harbor Va. June 5th 1864 Maj. Gen. H. W. Halleck, Chief of Staff of the Army,​
General,​
A full survey of all the ground satisfies me that it would not be practicable to hold a line Northeast of Richmond that would protect the Fredericksburg rail-road to enable us to use it for supplying the Army. To do so would give us a long vulnerable line of road to protect, exhausting much of our strength in guarding it, and would leave open to the enemy all of his lines of communications on the South side of the James. My idea from the start has been to beat Lee's Army, if possible, North of Richmond, then after destroying his lines of communication North of the James river to transfer the Army to the South side and besiege Lee in Richmond, or follow him South if he should retreat.
I now find after more than thirty days of trial that the enemy deems it of the first importance to run no risks with the Armies they now have. They act purely on the defensive, behind breast works, or feebly on the offensive immediately in front of them and where, in case of repulse, they can instantly retire behind them. Without a greater sacrifice of human life than I am willing to make all cannot be accomplished that I had designed outside of the City. I have therefore resolved upon the following plan. I will continue to hold substantially the ground now occupied by the Army of the Potomac, taking advantage of any favorable circumstance that may present itself, until the cavalry can be sent West to destroy the Va. Central rail-road from about Beaver Dam for some twenty-five or thirty miles West. When this is effected I will move the Army to the South side of James River either by crossing the Chickahominy and marching near to City Point, or by going to the mouth of the Chickahominy, on the North side, and crossing there. To provide for this last, and most probable, contingency six or more Ferry boats of the largest size ought to be immediately provided.​
Once on the South side of James river I can cut off all sources of supply to the enemy except what is fumished by the Canal. If Hunter succeeds in reaching Lynchburg that will be lost to him also. Should Hunter not succeed I will still make the effort to destroy the Canal by sending Cavalry up the South side of the river with a pontoon train to cross wherever they can.​
The feeling of the two Armies now seems to be that the rebels can protect themselves only by strong intrenchments, whilst our Army is not only confidant of protecting itself, without intrench¬ ments, but that it can beat and drive the enemy whenever and wherever he can be found without this this protection.​
Very respectfully​
U. S. Grant​
Lt. Gen.​
 

67th Tigers

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Nov 10, 2006
So when Stanton and Lincoln said they did not want to know Grant's plans, they were lying?
One must remember that Lincoln had continued the process started by Jefferson Davis of undercutting the office of General-in-Chief. He apparently didn't want Grant made GinC, since his people in Congress defeated attempts to tie the Lieutenant-Generalcy to the office in GinC. Grant only became GinC because after Grant was promoted (and simultaneously ordered to the field rather than to take command of the armies), Halleck resigned the office, citing that the Law allowed that the GinC was above all Major-Generals, because the GinC was placed above all officers in the same grade, but there was no mechanism he could see that allowed him to be above Grant. Hence the awkward creation of the Chief-of-Staff to the War Department, a role simultaneously above and below the GinC. Lincoln and Stanton had apparently desired to retain Halleck as GinC.

Nothing had been discussed before Grant departed for Nashville, and when Grant departed, he hadn't been made GinC. Grant had told Sherman that he wouldn't accept the Lieutenant-Generalcy if it meant leaving the west, but he'd gone back on this. His visit was primarily to transfer Grant's old command to Sherman.

Grant returned from Nashville on the 23rd March, and he has a meeting with Lincoln on the evening of the 24th. It is apparently here that Lincoln gives Grant an outline of the plan of campaign for 1864. On the 27th there is a formal meeting at the War Department with Lincoln, Stanton, Halleck and Grant in attendance. It is here that the operational plans are drawn up. Over the next week Grant and Halleck will write the appropriate orders, and make recommendations for changes in command.

There apparently are differences between Lincoln and Grant, which are the subject of the next meeting on 20th April. Grant insists that the 9th Corps should be assigned to him. Lincoln wants the planned desant against Wilmington to go ahead. We know that Grant gets Lincoln to agree to the 9th Corps moving forward, citing a potential threat of Longstreet ascending the Shenandoah to move them to Manassas Junction; hence as soon as battle was joined in the Wilderness, an order to Burnside from Grant brought him south of the river.

However, the plan is essentially Lincoln's. Simultaneous advances on all front was something Lincoln had been advocating for several years (and something taken from McClellan's planning). A direct advance against Lee was what Lincoln had been advocating for the same period. Very little, if any, of Grant's ideas made it into the plans. However, after the Wilderness Grant turns away from Lee and tries to march south to the James, as he'd told Butler he would.

You, of course, are referring to Lincoln's 30th April communication. Whilst Lincoln states he doesn't know "the particulars" of Grant planned movement (and indeed Grant didn't yet know - he is still vacillating), it is clear he knows the general plan. Indeed, it is Lincoln who is the primary author of it.

You claim "Stanton and Lincoln said they did not want to know Grant's plans, they were lying?", and the answer is, you are misremembering. They did know Grant's plans, and their knowing was a prerequisite of Grant being allowed to act.
 
Last edited:

DanSBHawk

Captain
Joined
May 8, 2015
Location
Wisconsin
One must remember that Lincoln had continued the process started by Jefferson Davis of undercutting the office of General-in-Chief. He apparently didn't want Grant made GinC, since his people in Congress defeated attempts to tie the Lieutenant-Generalcy to the office in GinC. Grant only became GinC because after Grant was promoted (and simultaneously ordered to the field rather than to take command of the armies), Halleck resigned the office, citing that the Law allowed that the GinC was above all Major-Generals, because the GinC was placed above all officers in the same grade, but there was no mechanism he could see that allowed him to be above Grant. Hence the awkward creation of the Chief-of-Staff to the War Department, a role simultaneously above and below the GinC. Lincoln and Stanton had apparently desired to retain Halleck as GinC.

Nothing had been discussed before Grant departed for Nashville, and when Grant departed, he hadn't been made GinC. Grant had told Sherman that he wouldn't accept the Lieutenant-Generalcy if it meant leaving the west, but he'd gone back on this. His visit was primarily to transfer Grant old command to Sherman.

Grant returned from Nashville on the 23rd March, and he has a meeting with Lincoln on the evening of the 24th. It is apparently here that Lincoln gives Grant an outline of the plan of campaign for 1864. On the 27th there is a formal meeting at the War Department with Lincoln, Stanton, Halleck and Grant in attendance. It is here that the operational plans are drawn up. Over the next week Grant and Halleck will write the appropriate orders, and make recommendations for changes in command.

There apparently are differences between Lincoln and Grant, which are the subject of the next meeting on 20th April. Grant insists that the 9th Corps should be assigned to him. Lincoln wants the planned descant against Wilmington to go ahead. We know that Grant gets Lincoln to agree to the 9th Corps moving forward, citing a potential threat of Longstreet ascending the Shenandoah to move them to Manassas Junction; hence as soon as battle was joined in the Wilderness, an order to Burnside from Grant brought him south of the river.

However, the plan is essentially Lincoln's. Simultaneous advances on all front was something Lincoln had been advocating for several years (and something taken from McClellan's planning). A direct advance against Lee was what Lincoln had been advocating for the same period. Very little, if any, of Grant ideas made it into the plans. However, after the Wilderness Grant turns away from Lee and tries to march south to the James, as he'd told Butler he would.

You, of course, are referring to Lincoln's 30th April communication. Whilst Lincoln states he doesn't know "the particulars" of Grant planned movement (and indeed Grant didn't yet know - he is still vacillating), it is clear he knows the general plan. Indeed, it is Lincoln who is the primary author of it.

You claim "Stanton and Lincoln said they did not want to know Grant's plans, they were lying?", and the answer is, you are misremembering. They did know Grant's plans, and their knowing was a prerequisite of Grant being allowed to act.
This is like some bizarre alternate history.

This is what I'm going to do. I'm going to believe that what Grant wrote to his subordinates was actually what he wanted them to do.

You can believe whatever.
 
Last edited:
Joined
Aug 4, 2019
I respect your opinion, but I remain convinced of my position. You ignore the “our” in “our attention”. Meaning of “our” is Grant, Meade, Butler, and subordinates. The meaning of “next campaign” is not just narrowly confined to the Army of James/Butler but the entirety of the Overland Campaign. Your narrow interpretation restricts unnecessary the meaning of Grant instructions to be directed only to Butler as if Butler were an unattached role in a distance Army without bearing to Grant/Meade Army of Potomac. Butler/Army of James was a significant part of a trio of Grant/Meade/Butler in which all were to box Lee into Richmond as per the cited major plan. Butler to only hold the back door on south bank at Richmond while Grant/Meade drove Lee into the front door on north bank. I may note that Butler/Army of James faithfully appeared at the southern most fortifications of Richmond but Grant/Meade failed to appear driving Lee into the city’s northern fortifications.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Sbc

DanSBHawk

Captain
Joined
May 8, 2015
Location
Wisconsin
I respect your opinion, but I remain convinced of my position. You ignore the “our” in “our attention”. Meaning of “our” is Grant, Meade, Butler, and subordinates. The meaning of “next campaign” is not just narrowly confined to the Army of James/Butler but the entirety of the Overland Campaign. Your narrow interpretation restricts unnecessary the meaning of Grant instructions to be directed only to Butler as if Butler were an unattached role in a distance Army without bearing to Grant/Meade Army of Potomac. Butler/Army of James was a significant part of a trio of Grant/Meade/Butler in which all were to box Lee into Richmond as per the cited major plan. Butler to only hold the back door on south bank at Richmond while Grant/Meade drove Lee into the front door on north bank. I may note that Butler/Army of James faithfully appeared at the southern most fortifications of Richmond but Grant/Meade failed to appear driving Lee into the city’s northern fortifications.
We'll just have to respectfully disagree then. There were several different armies, each with their own orders and objectives, but all part of the overall strategy. I don't consider my interpretation "narrow." I think it's pretty clear what Grant expected of the AOTP.
 

JeffFromSyracuse

Corporal
Joined
Jul 6, 2020
Location
Philly Suburbs
I respect your opinion, but I remain convinced of my position. You ignore the “our” in “our attention”. Meaning of “our” is Grant, Meade, Butler, and subordinates. The meaning of “next campaign” is not just narrowly confined to the Army of James/Butler but the entirety of the Overland Campaign. Your narrow interpretation restricts unnecessary the meaning of Grant instructions to be directed only to Butler as if Butler were an unattached role in a distance Army without bearing to Grant/Meade Army of Potomac. Butler/Army of James was a significant part of a trio of Grant/Meade/Butler in which all were to box Lee into Richmond as per the cited major plan. Butler to only hold the back door on south bank at Richmond while Grant/Meade drove Lee into the front door on north bank. I may note that Butler/Army of James faithfully appeared at the southern most fortifications of Richmond but Grant/Meade failed to appear driving Lee into the city’s northern fortifications.
I read this as a pincer movement - Butler threatens Richmond, so Lee has to fall back, and then Grant can hit Lee on two sides.
 

67th Tigers

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Nov 10, 2006
This is like some bizarre alternate history.
By which you mean it is outside of the scope of your believes. That may be so. However, do you really think the President of the United States and the Secretary of War abrogated their responsibilities? I find that belief far more bizarre.
 
Joined
Aug 4, 2019
DanSBHawk

Please note that this letter you cited and that was directed to Halleck is dated 06/05/1864. Significantly, that date is two days after the close of the terrible defeat at Cold Harbor for Grant. During those couple of days, Grant appears to have had very depressed moments and believed he could be removed from command. There was great reflection on how to handle the situation. The product was brilliant: he simply re-invented himself and wrote a different historical process for the World. My meaning is that Grant did not openly accept his defeat and failure in the Overland Campaign and implied to all that the brilliant idea to transfer his axis of attack to the south bank of the James River was simply his continuation of his original intent from the beginning if required. The ten-day Lee driven into Richmond was erased and now we have a continuation of flank maneuvering. The notion of Ben Butler having first requested a south bank James River landing of the Army of Potomac (back on 04/01/1864) is carefully ignored by Grant and everyone goes along with it, including Butler, so to not to embarrass Grant. Butler refrained from saying, “I told you so!” as Butler is fully aware of the power of Grant and his Faction. I really have little serious issue with this deceitful behavior by Grant as its propaganda value did prove to have a positive effect.

Finally, Dan I fail to understand why you think this letter supports your contention that the goal was Lee’s army wherever it flees. I do not think we can describe Lee movement to Petersburg as fleeing and Grant/Meade following a fleeing Lee to said place.
 
Joined
Aug 4, 2019
JeffFromSyracu

You are correct Sir! A pincer movement and an encirclement leading to a fatal siege. Note the 06/05/1864 letter above nicely posted by Dan in which Grant reinvented the issue by saying it was his plan always to destroy the railroads north of Richmond and then move the Army (Grant/Meade Army) to south bank of Richmond and besiege the city. This is not a pincher movement and it solely does not even cite the Army of James/Ben Butler. The original pincer movement is now disappeared!
 

DanSBHawk

Captain
Joined
May 8, 2015
Location
Wisconsin
DanSBHawk

Please note that this letter you cited and that was directed to Halleck is dated 06/05/1864. Significantly, that date is two days after the close of the terrible defeat at Cold Harbor for Grant. During those couple of days, Grant appears to have had very depressed moments and believed he could be removed from command. There was great reflection on how to handle the situation. The product was brilliant: he simply re-invented himself and wrote a different historical process for the World. My meaning is that Grant did not openly accept his defeat and failure in the Overland Campaign and implied to all that the brilliant idea to transfer his axis of attack to the south bank of the James River was simply his continuation of his original intent from the beginning if required. The ten-day Lee driven into Richmond was erased and now we have a continuation of flank maneuvering. The notion of Ben Butler having first requested a south bank James River landing of the Army of Potomac (back on 04/01/1864) is carefully ignored by Grant and everyone goes along with it, including Butler, so to not to embarrass Grant. Butler refrained from saying, “I told you so!” as Butler is fully aware of the power of Grant and his Faction. I really have little serious issue with this deceitful behavior by Grant as its propaganda value did prove to have a positive effect.

Finally, Dan I fail to understand why you think this letter supports your contention that the goal was Lee’s army wherever it flees. I do not think we can describe Lee movement to Petersburg as fleeing and Grant/Meade following a fleeing Lee to said place.
I disagree. The letter shows his original intent for the campaign (beating Lee north of Richmond), and then he describes how he intends to change his approach based on the circumstances. I'd expect any competent commander to do the same.

I don't agree with your characterization at all.
 

Sbc

First Sergeant
Joined
Aug 18, 2015
Location
Easley, South Carolina
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.
Wellington did not win at La Belle Alliance by himself. No Prussians no Allied victory.
 

JeffFromSyracuse

Corporal
Joined
Jul 6, 2020
Location
Philly Suburbs
JeffFromSyracu

You are correct Sir! A pincer movement and an encirclement leading to a fatal siege. Note the 06/05/1864 letter above nicely posted by Dan in which Grant reinvented the issue by saying it was his plan always to destroy the railroads north of Richmond and then move the Army (Grant/Meade Army) to south bank of Richmond and besiege the city. This is not a pincher movement and it solely does not even cite the Army of James/Ben Butler. The original pincer movement is now disappeared!
If Grant's plan all along was to besiege Richmond, why did he lock the ANV up at Petersburg?
 
Joined
Aug 4, 2019
Jeff
Grant did not lock up ANV at Petersburg. Grant/Meade were forced to cross the James River secretly so as to appear quickly within the confines and protection of the Army of James/Ben Butler. The Army of Potomac had been checked by the ANV/Lee north of the James River and only alternative was the old McClellan axis of attack or the Army of James environment south of the James. Grant chose the latter route which completely caught the Confederates by surprise except Beauregard but they ignored him. After Cold Harbor the idea of locking up Lee/ANV inside Richmond was somewhat abandoned. Grant moved across the James River was now to force Lee/ANV to either abandon Richmond by severing all railroad supply lines or forcing that final and fatal siege in an unsupplied Richmond. Latter was looking unrealistic at this point. The Army of Potomac could now catch a breathing period of some rest and receive reinforcements while in the confines of Ben Butler's domain. A great engineering feat was performed on the James with that massive pontoon bridge built in record time. Lee forced the fight at Petersburg and flees just before all collapsed. The Army of Potomac was an exhausted group of veterans and all was a struggle to continue with many inexperienced green troops.
 

JeffFromSyracuse

Corporal
Joined
Jul 6, 2020
Location
Philly Suburbs
Jeff
Grant did not lock up ANV at Petersburg. Grant/Meade were forced to cross the James River secretly so as to appear quickly within the confines and protection of the Army of James/Ben Butler. The Army of Potomac had been checked by the ANV/Lee north of the James River and only alternative was the old McClellan axis of attack or the Army of James environment south of the James. Grant chose the latter route which completely caught the Confederates by surprise except Beauregard but they ignored him. After Cold Harbor the idea of locking up Lee/ANV inside Richmond was somewhat abandoned. Grant moved across the James River was now to force Lee/ANV to either abandon Richmond by severing all railroad supply lines or forcing that final and fatal siege in an unsupplied Richmond. Latter was looking unrealistic at this point. The Army of Potomac could now catch a breathing period of some rest and receive reinforcements while in the confines of Ben Butler's domain. A great engineering feat was performed on the James with that massive pontoon bridge built in record time. Lee forced the fight at Petersburg and flees just before all collapsed. The Army of Potomac was an exhausted group of veterans and all was a struggle to continue with many inexperienced green troops.
I'm well aware of what happened. I'm challenging your assertion that Grant's intention was to take Richmond.

I also disagree with your statement of "many inexperienced green troops", but that's a different conversation.
 
Joined
Aug 4, 2019
Jeff
I am unsure what your intentions are as you have not develop any narrative to support the supposed claim. I am happy to see your narration if it appears. First you have a problem as it was Grant's own words in his original plan in April 1864 to make Richmond siege his goal to trap and destroy Lee. I just indicated that plan was revised and explained why.
 
Top