Overland Something more clever than the Overland Campaign?

(Wilderness, Spotsylvania, North Anna, Cold Harbor)

Piedone

Private
Joined
Oct 8, 2020
I am impressed with this intense and informative discussion.
Might it be possible to agree on Grant being heavily influenced in his planning of the Overland Campaign by the leadership of the Union (just as every general in the East since the first days of the war was...)?
 

DanSBHawk

1st Lieutenant
Joined
May 8, 2015
Location
Wisconsin
I am impressed with this intense and informative discussion.
Might it be possible to agree on Grant being heavily influenced in his planning of the Overland Campaign by the leadership of the Union (just as every general in the East since the first days of the war was...)?
I think it's too narrow to consider the Overland Campaign in isolation. It was one part of a larger strategy. As I quoted earlier, here's Rhea:

Multiple armies were to move against Lee, with Meade’s​
Army of the Potomac directly engaging the Confederates,​
Sigel marching south through the Shenandoah Valley,​
Crook wrecking railroads in southwestern Virginia, and​
Butler advancing up the James toward Richmond. Grant’s​
multifaceted offensive was intended to disrupt the Army​
of Northern Virginia’s supply lines, threaten it with​
potential attacks from several directions, close off its​
retreat routes, and compel it to reduce its fighting​
capacity by reinforcing Confederate armies in the Valley​
and before Richmond. In sum, Grant’s overall strategy in​
Virginia was excellent.​
 

Piedone

Private
Joined
Oct 8, 2020
I think it's too narrow to consider the Overland Campaign in isolation. It was one part of a larger strategy. As I quoted earlier, here's Rhea:

Multiple armies were to move against Lee, with Meade’s​
Army of the Potomac directly engaging the Confederates,​
Sigel marching south through the Shenandoah Valley,​
Crook wrecking railroads in southwestern Virginia, and​
Butler advancing up the James toward Richmond. Grant’s​
multifaceted offensive was intended to disrupt the Army​
of Northern Virginia’s supply lines, threaten it with​
potential attacks from several directions, close off its​
retreat routes, and compel it to reduce its fighting​
capacity by reinforcing Confederate armies in the Valley​
and before Richmond. In sum, Grant’s overall strategy in​
Virginia was excellent.​
Yes, you are absolutely right with the Overland Campaign being part of a broader strategy, to point to be considered would be how free Grant in his planning in reality was.
 

Joseph A. Rose

Corporal
Joined
Jan 5, 2010
I am impressed with this intense and informative discussion.
Might it be possible to agree on Grant being heavily influenced in his planning of the Overland Campaign by the leadership of the Union (just as every general in the East since the first days of the war was...)?
But Grant denied being directed by Stanton and Lincoln and didn't indicate any real influencing.
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.
I did not misread anything. In fact, this posting of evidence concerning Grant's mindset included only one real conclusion: Grant was quite eager to target geographic objectives.

This disproves the common misconception that he was intently focused on beating the enemy's army in open battle and eschewed the targeting of cities and infrastructure. To a large degree, it was commendable of Grant that he was not single-minded about such matters.
 

67th Tigers

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Nov 10, 2006
But Grant denied being directed by Stanton and Lincoln and didn't indicate any real influencing.
Indeed, yet the operational scheme adopted was quite different from the one he told Halleck he wanted to adopt a few months prior. In fact Lee's army being the objective, and no regard being paid to Richmond, was Lincoln's opinion. He wrote this at least twice, and we can assume he told Grant such.

When Halleck asked for Grant's opinion in January 1864, which was likely a sounding board for Grant's suitability for promotion, Grant indicated he would avoid fighting Lee completely, and land at Suffolk or New Berne to threaten Goldsboro etc. (see here also).

It's clear that of the two opinions, Grant's and Lincoln's, it was Lincoln's whose were nominally adopted.
 

67th Tigers

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Nov 10, 2006
Halleck's reply of 12th February frames the planning:

There is evidently a
general public misconception of the strength of our army in Virginia and about
Washington. Perhaps it is good policy to encourage this public error. The entire
effective force in the fortifications about Washington and employed in guarding
the public buildings and stores, the aqueduct, and rail roads, does not exceed
eighteen thousand men. We have a few thousand more in the convalescent and
distribution camps, and in the cavalry and artillery depots; but these are mostly
fragments of organizations temporarily here for equipment and distribution, and
could contribute very little to the defence of the place. This force is, therefore,
less than one half of what General McClellan, and several boards of officers
recommended as the permanent garrison. Considering the political importance
of Washington and the immense amount of military stores here, it would be exceeding
hazardous to reduce it still further. The effective force of the Army of
the Potomac is only about seventy thousand. General Meade retreated before Lee
with a very much larger force, and he does not now deem himself strong enough
to attack Lee's present army. Suppose we were to send thirty thousand men from
that army to North Carolina; would not Lee be able to make another invasion of
Maryland and Pennsylvania? But it may be said that by operating in North
Carolina we would compel Lee to move his army there. I do not think so. Uncover
Washington and the Potomac river, and all the forces which Lee can collect
will be moved north, and the popular sentiment will compel the Government
to bring back the army in North Carolina to defend Washington, Baltimore, Harrisburg
and Philadelphia. I think Lee would tomorrow exchange Richmond,
Raleigh and Wilmington for the possession of either of the aforementioned cities.
But suppose it were practicable to send thirty thousand men from Meade's army
to North Carolina; where shall we get the other thirty thousand? We have there
now barely enough to hold the points which it is necessary to occupy in order to
prevent contraband trade. Very few of these would be available for the field.
Maryland is almost entirely stript of troops, and the forces in Western Virginia
are barely sufficient to protect that part of the country from rebel raids. The only
other resource is South Carolina. Generals Foster and Gilmore were both of
opinion at the commencement of operations against Charleston that neither that
place nor Savannah could be taken by a land force of less than sixty thousand
(60.000) men. ...

You will percieve from the facts stated
above that there are serious, if not insurmountable obstacles in the way of the
proposed North Carolina expedition. Nevertheless, as it has much to recommend
it, I shall submit it, with your remarks, to the consideration of the President and
Sect'y of War, as soon troops enough return from furlough to attempt any important
movement in this part of the theatre of war. Lee's army is by far the
best in the rebel service, and I regard him as their ablest general. But little
progress can be made here till that army is broken or defeated. There have been
several good opportunities to do this, viz; at Antietam, at Chancellorsville, and
at Williamsport in the retreat from Gettysburg. I am also of opinion that General
Meade could have succeeded recently at Mine Run, had he persevered in his attack.
The overthrow of Lee's army being the object of operations here, the question
arises how can we best attain it? If we fight that army with our communi-
cations open to Washington, so as to cover this place and Maryland, we can
concentrate upon it nearly all of our forces on this frontier; but if we operate by
North Carolina or the peninsula, we must act with a divided army, and on exterior
lines, while Lee, with a short interior line can concentrate his entire force
upon either fragment. And yet, if we had troops enough to secure our position
here, and at the same time to operate with advantage on Raleigh or Richmond,
I would not hesitate to do so, at least for a winter or spring campaign. But our
numbers are not sufficient, in my opinion, to attempt this, at least for the present.
Troops sent south of James river cannot be brought back in time to oppose Lee,
should he attempt a movement north, which I am satisfied would be his best
policy. Our main efforts in the next campaign should unquestionably be made
against the armies of Lee and Johnson. But by what particular lines we shall
operate cannot be positively determined until the affairs of East Tennessee are
settled, and we can know more nearly what force can be given to the army of
the Potomac. In the mean time it will be well to compare views and opinions.
The final decision of this question will probably depend, under the President,
upon yourself. It may be said that if General McClellan faUed to take Richmond
by the Peninsular route, so also have Generals Burnside, Hooker and Meade
failed to accomplish that object by the shorter and more direct route. This is all
very true, but no argument can be deduced from this bare fact in favor of either
plan of operations. General McClellan had so large an army in the spring of
1862 that possibly he was justified in dividing his forces and adopting exterior
lines of operation. If he had succeeded his plan would have been universally
praised. He failed, and so also have Burnside, Hooker and Meade on an interior
route; but their armies were far inferior in number to that which McClellan had
two years ago. These facts in themselves prove nothing in favor of either route
and to decide the question we must recur to fundamental principles in regard to
interior and exterior lines, objective points, covering armies, divided forces &c,
&c,. These fundamental principles require, in my opinion, that all our available
forces in the east should be concentrated against Lee's army. We cannot take
Richmond (at least with any military advantage), and we cannot operate advantageously
on any point from the Atlantic coast, till we destroy or disperse that
army. And the nearer to Washington we can fight it the better for us. We can
here, or between here and Richmond, concentrate against him more men than
any where else. If we cannot defeat him here with our combined force, we cannot
hope to do so elsewhere with a divided army. I write to you plainly and
frankly, for between us there should be no reserve or concealment of opinions.
As before remarked, I presume that, under the authority of the President the final
decision of these questions will be referred to you. Nevertheless, I think you are
entitled to have, and that it is my duty to frankly give my individual opinion on
the subject.
 

Piedone

Private
Joined
Oct 8, 2020
Halleck's reply of 12th February frames the planning:

There is evidently a
general public misconception of the strength of our army in Virginia and about
Washington. Perhaps it is good policy to encourage this public error. The entire
effective force in the fortifications about Washington and employed in guarding
the public buildings and stores, the aqueduct, and rail roads, does not exceed
eighteen thousand men. We have a few thousand more in the convalescent and
distribution camps, and in the cavalry and artillery depots; but these are mostly
fragments of organizations temporarily here for equipment and distribution, and
could contribute very little to the defence of the place. This force is, therefore,
less than one half of what General McClellan, and several boards of officers
recommended as the permanent garrison. Considering the political importance
of Washington and the immense amount of military stores here, it would be exceeding
hazardous to reduce it still further. The effective force of the Army of
the Potomac is only about seventy thousand. General Meade retreated before Lee
with a very much larger force, and he does not now deem himself strong enough
to attack Lee's present army. Suppose we were to send thirty thousand men from
that army to North Carolina; would not Lee be able to make another invasion of
Maryland and Pennsylvania? But it may be said that by operating in North
Carolina we would compel Lee to move his army there. I do not think so. Uncover
Washington and the Potomac river, and all the forces which Lee can collect
will be moved north, and the popular sentiment will compel the Government
to bring back the army in North Carolina to defend Washington, Baltimore, Harrisburg
and Philadelphia. I think Lee would tomorrow exchange Richmond,
Raleigh and Wilmington for the possession of either of the aforementioned cities.
But suppose it were practicable to send thirty thousand men from Meade's army
to North Carolina; where shall we get the other thirty thousand? We have there
now barely enough to hold the points which it is necessary to occupy in order to
prevent contraband trade. Very few of these would be available for the field.
Maryland is almost entirely stript of troops, and the forces in Western Virginia
are barely sufficient to protect that part of the country from rebel raids. The only
other resource is South Carolina. Generals Foster and Gilmore were both of
opinion at the commencement of operations against Charleston that neither that
place nor Savannah could be taken by a land force of less than sixty thousand
(60.000) men. ...

You will percieve from the facts stated
above that there are serious, if not insurmountable obstacles in the way of the
proposed North Carolina expedition. Nevertheless, as it has much to recommend
it, I shall submit it, with your remarks, to the consideration of the President and
Sect'y of War, as soon troops enough return from furlough to attempt any important
movement in this part of the theatre of war. Lee's army is by far the
best in the rebel service, and I regard him as their ablest general. But little
progress can be made here till that army is broken or defeated. There have been
several good opportunities to do this, viz; at Antietam, at Chancellorsville, and
at Williamsport in the retreat from Gettysburg. I am also of opinion that General
Meade could have succeeded recently at Mine Run, had he persevered in his attack.
The overthrow of Lee's army being the object of operations here, the question
arises how can we best attain it? If we fight that army with our communi-
cations open to Washington, so as to cover this place and Maryland, we can
concentrate upon it nearly all of our forces on this frontier; but if we operate by
North Carolina or the peninsula, we must act with a divided army, and on exterior
lines, while Lee, with a short interior line can concentrate his entire force
upon either fragment. And yet, if we had troops enough to secure our position
here, and at the same time to operate with advantage on Raleigh or Richmond,
I would not hesitate to do so, at least for a winter or spring campaign. But our
numbers are not sufficient, in my opinion, to attempt this, at least for the present.
Troops sent south of James river cannot be brought back in time to oppose Lee,
should he attempt a movement north, which I am satisfied would be his best
policy. Our main efforts in the next campaign should unquestionably be made
against the armies of Lee and Johnson. But by what particular lines we shall
operate cannot be positively determined until the affairs of East Tennessee are
settled, and we can know more nearly what force can be given to the army of
the Potomac. In the mean time it will be well to compare views and opinions.
The final decision of this question will probably depend, under the President,
upon yourself. It may be said that if General McClellan faUed to take Richmond
by the Peninsular route, so also have Generals Burnside, Hooker and Meade
failed to accomplish that object by the shorter and more direct route. This is all
very true, but no argument can be deduced from this bare fact in favor of either
plan of operations. General McClellan had so large an army in the spring of
1862 that possibly he was justified in dividing his forces and adopting exterior
lines of operation. If he had succeeded his plan would have been universally
praised. He failed, and so also have Burnside, Hooker and Meade on an interior
route; but their armies were far inferior in number to that which McClellan had
two years ago. These facts in themselves prove nothing in favor of either route
and to decide the question we must recur to fundamental principles in regard to
interior and exterior lines, objective points, covering armies, divided forces &c,
&c,. These fundamental principles require, in my opinion, that all our available
forces in the east should be concentrated against Lee's army. We cannot take
Richmond (at least with any military advantage), and we cannot operate advantageously
on any point from the Atlantic coast, till we destroy or disperse that
army. And the nearer to Washington we can fight it the better for us. We can
here, or between here and Richmond, concentrate against him more men than
any where else. If we cannot defeat him here with our combined force, we cannot
hope to do so elsewhere with a divided army. I write to you plainly and
frankly, for between us there should be no reserve or concealment of opinions.
As before remarked, I presume that, under the authority of the President the final
decision of these questions will be referred to you. Nevertheless, I think you are
entitled to have, and that it is my duty to frankly give my individual opinion on
the subject.
Sounds like he is deliberately downplaying the numbers.
The AoP numbers just 70.000 men? And there are only 18.000 in Washington, of whom many are only convalescents?
And they cannot scratch together some 30.000 men?

I am assuming this letter is an answer to Grant´s proposal and addressed to him?
Then I´d say there´s some foul play and manipulating taking place here - checking the numbers McClellan had less men (102.000) than all of the other northern generals (Hooker: 133.000, Burnside: 122.000, Meade: 104.000)

The more I am reading about Halleck the more I am eager to explore his actions and practices thoroughly....
 

67th Tigers

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Nov 10, 2006
Sounds like he is deliberately downplaying the numbers.
The AoP numbers just 70.000 men? And there are only 18.000 in Washington, of whom many are only convalescents?
And they cannot scratch together some 30.000 men?

I am assuming this letter is an answer to Grant´s proposal and addressed to him?
Then I´d say there´s some foul play and manipulating taking place here - checking the numbers McClellan had less men (102.000) than all of the other northern generals (Hooker: 133.000, Burnside: 122.000, Meade: 104.000)

The more I am reading about Halleck the more I am eager to explore his actions and practices thoroughly....
About 70,000 effectives by the January return, remembering that how PFD was reported was changed by Hooker. McClellan for his part reported as per the regulation, and noted the men doing extra-duty shouldn't be considered. Sick at the time were sent back to Washington, and there were probably about 85,000 PFD as per the regulations.

Yes, this was much smaller than Burnside's or Hooker's force. It was about the size of the Peninsula force before Franklin's division joined, or just after the Seven Days. It was greatly reinforced for the Overland campaign to over 140,000 by the regulation PFD.
 

Joseph A. Rose

Corporal
Joined
Jan 5, 2010
Indeed, yet the operational scheme adopted was quite different from the one he told Halleck he wanted to adopt a few months prior. In fact Lee's army being the objective, and no regard being paid to Richmond, was Lincoln's opinion. He wrote this at least twice, and we can assume he told Grant such.

When Halleck asked for Grant's opinion in January 1864, which was likely a sounding board for Grant's suitability for promotion, Grant indicated he would avoid fighting Lee completely, and land at Suffolk or New Berne to threaten Goldsboro etc. (see here also).

It's clear that of the two opinions, Grant's and Lincoln's, it was Lincoln's whose were nominally adopted.
Good points.

Another consideration is William F. (Baldy) Smith's connection. Smith was integral in determining the Brown's Ferry and Chattanooga battle plans, as well as the course of the North Carolina expedition. Grant then changed his thinking into the Overland supplemented by a thrust up the James. Baldy was apparently unhappy about this.
 
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