Overland The Overland Campaign

(Wilderness, Spotsylvania, North Anna, Cold Harbor)

bill shack

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I got hooked on the civil war with my first civil war book. On the Fields of Fury By Richard Wheeler. He uses the the written recollections of men who were there to tell the story. It comes across more as a story retold than a fact by fact history lesson. I strongly recommend it.
 

nitrofd

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"One hundred and fifty years ago this spring, Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant launched the campaign that marked the beginning of the end of the American Civil War. For over a month, he and General Robert E. Lee were locked in a remorseless struggle that took their armies across the woodlands and farm clearings of central Virginia on the road to the Southern capital of Richmond."

http://history.army.mil/news/2014/140500a_overlandCampaign.html

http://history.army.mil/html/books/075/75-12/cmhPub_75-12.pdf


Dave
Thanks for the website.It looks like this may have then one thinks at first glance
 

Mark F. Jenkins

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To wake up an older thread (and one that deals with matters farther inland than I typically venture), I'm up to the battles of the Wilderness and Spotsylvania (or Spottsylvania?) in J.F.C. Fuller's The Generalship of Ulysses S. Grant. Fuller makes the interesting observation that, to some extent, Lee and Grant surprised each other in the Wilderness, both misjudging the other's moves prior to and during initial contact, and then both misinterpreting each other's moves afterward (Lee telegraphed initially that Grant was falling back on Fredericksburg, and Grant thought Lee was falling back toward Richmond, whereas neither one was true). While crediting Lee's intelligent defensive stance prior to the Wilderness, he also criticizes Grant's (or, rather, the Army of the Potomac's) organization-- the concentration of more troops into larger corps organizations made them unsuitable for operations in the sort of terrain the Wilderness typified. He is also critical of the double-command arrangement (Grant/Meade) of the AotP, citing conflicting and confused orders to Hancock and Sheridan before Spotsylvania. Curious to know reactions on these items...
 

Henry Whitworth

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To wake up an older thread (and one that deals with matters farther inland than I typically venture), I'm up to the battles of the Wilderness and Spotsylvania (or Spottsylvania?) in J.F.C. Fuller's The Generalship of Ulysses S. Grant. Fuller makes the interesting observation that, to some extent, Lee and Grant surprised each other in the Wilderness, both misjudging the other's moves prior to and during initial contact, and then both misinterpreting each other's moves afterward (Lee telegraphed initially that Grant was falling back on Fredericksburg, and Grant thought Lee was falling back toward Richmond, whereas neither one was true). While crediting Lee's intelligent defensive stance prior to the Wilderness, he also criticizes Grant's (or, rather, the Army of the Potomac's) organization-- the concentration of more troops into larger corps organizations made them unsuitable for operations in the sort of terrain the Wilderness typified. He is also critical of the double-command arrangement (Grant/Meade) of the AotP, citing conflicting and confused orders to Hancock and Sheridan before Spotsylvania. Curious to know reactions on these items...

I agree that Union command structure was a mess. Grant being with the AOP but supposedly not being in charge of it created confusion then and still confuses us in terms of who is responsible for what. People always refer to this campaign as the time when Grant and Lee "went head to head" but it was more muddled than that.

But wasn't it probably the best they could do with what they had? I'd bet Grant was right that he couldn't sit in Washington or anywhere else and hope for Meade to drive that army to the point where they could corner and defeat the likes of Lee and the Army of Northern Virginia.
 

James N.

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To wake up an older thread (and one that deals with matters farther inland than I typically venture), I'm up to the battles of the Wilderness and Spotsylvania (or Spottsylvania?) in J.F.C. Fuller's The Generalship of Ulysses S. Grant. Fuller makes the interesting observation that, to some extent, Lee and Grant surprised each other in the Wilderness, both misjudging the other's moves prior to and during initial contact, and then both misinterpreting each other's moves afterward (Lee telegraphed initially that Grant was falling back on Fredericksburg, and Grant thought Lee was falling back toward Richmond, whereas neither one was true). While crediting Lee's intelligent defensive stance prior to the Wilderness, he also criticizes Grant's (or, rather, the Army of the Potomac's) organization-- the concentration of more troops into larger corps organizations made them unsuitable for operations in the sort of terrain the Wilderness typified. He is also critical of the double-command arrangement (Grant/Meade) of the AotP, citing conflicting and confused orders to Hancock and Sheridan before Spotsylvania. Curious to know reactions on these items...

Two "t"s; it's named for colonial Governor Spottswood, "cleverly" transformed into Spottsylvania.

One of the absolutely idiotic features of the organization of Grant's army ( and an important reason why he HAD to be present with it ) was the position of our old friend, Ambrose Burnside: When Burnside ignominiously left the AOP in Jan., 1863, he took the IX Corps with him; subsequently he served as a department commander in Ohio, Kentucky and Tenn., but at the same time retained the corps except for its temporary service under Ord at Vicksburg where it served facing Joe Johnston in the rear of the siege lines. After Burnside's successful defense of Knoxville from Longstreet during the Chattanooga Campaign, again commanding the IX Corps, his star had regained much of the luster it had lost at Fredericksburg and in the Mud March.

When Grant brought Burnside and the IX Corps back to Virginia for the Overland Campaign, naturally Burn refused to take orders from Meade, who had only been a brigadier commanding a division under him at Fredericksburg! The answer to this dilemma: Burnside and his corps were NOT considered part of the AOP, so Burnside wouldn't have to take orders from his former subordinate. That meant Grant had to issue entirely separate orders for the movement of the IX Corps, a significant reason it often acted out-of-concert with the rest of the army, like in its moves in the Wilderness, where it essentially got "lost" right in the middle of the battlefield!

WHY did Grant ( or Lincoln, for that matter ) put up with this ridiculous situation? POLITICS, of course! Burnside was from Rhode Island, and was for some reason considered important to the New England war effort. Besides, he was considered a likeable ( if dull-witted ) guy, whose heart was in the right place, even if his head wasn't. Henry Halleck could have just as easily pulled the same stunt, refusing to serve under his former subordinate, Grant, but fortunately for the Union war effort, unlike Burnside he rose above the situation.
 
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Mark F. Jenkins

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I'd bet Grant was right that he couldn't sit in Washington or anywhere else and hope for Meade to drive that army to the point where they could corner and defeat the likes of Lee and the Army of Northern Virginia.

Fuller approves of that; he said that it was appropriate for Grant to be where he was, as in the grand scheme, Sherman's success against Johnston depended to a degree on the AotP 'fixing' the ANV and preventing them from sending reinforcements elsewhere. (ETA: That was a partial thought-- I got interrupted. The importance of Grant being there was because that was more or less the keystone of the big picture; allowing Lee to reinforce other areas in the Confederacy would mess things up, so Grant's place was at the crucial location.)
 
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cash

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To wake up an older thread (and one that deals with matters farther inland than I typically venture), I'm up to the battles of the Wilderness and Spotsylvania (or Spottsylvania?) in J.F.C. Fuller's The Generalship of Ulysses S. Grant. Fuller makes the interesting observation that, to some extent, Lee and Grant surprised each other in the Wilderness, both misjudging the other's moves prior to and during initial contact, and then both misinterpreting each other's moves afterward (Lee telegraphed initially that Grant was falling back on Fredericksburg, and Grant thought Lee was falling back toward Richmond, whereas neither one was true). While crediting Lee's intelligent defensive stance prior to the Wilderness, he also criticizes Grant's (or, rather, the Army of the Potomac's) organization-- the concentration of more troops into larger corps organizations made them unsuitable for operations in the sort of terrain the Wilderness typified. He is also critical of the double-command arrangement (Grant/Meade) of the AotP, citing conflicting and confused orders to Hancock and Sheridan before Spotsylvania. Curious to know reactions on these items...

It just so happens I'm in the midst of a blog post of a book review of Horace Porter's book, Campaigning With Grant. In it, Porter tells us what Grant's view of the command arrangement was:

"An animated discussion took place at headquarters that day regarding General Meade's somewhat anomalous position, and the embarrassments which were at times caused on the field by the necessity of issuing orders through him instead of direct to the corps commanders. The general-in-chief always invited the most frank and cordial interchange of views, and never failed to listen patiently to the more prominent members of his staff. He seldom joined in the discussions, and usually reserved what he had to say till the end of the argument, when he gave his views and rendered his decision. It was now urged upon him, with much force, that time was often lost in having field orders pass through an intermediary; that there was danger that, in transmitting orders to corps commanders, the instructions might be either so curtailed or elaborated as to change their spirit; that no matter how able General Meade might be, his position was in some measure a false one; that few responsibilities were given him; and yet he was charged with the duties of an army commander; that if he failed the responsibility could not be fixed upon him, and if he succeeded he could not reap the full reward of his merits; that, besides, he had an irascible temper, and often irritated officers who came in contact with him, while General Grant was even-tempered, and succeeded in securing a more hearty cooperation of his generals when he dealt with them direct. The discussion became heated at times. At the close of the arguments the general said: 'I am fully aware that some embarrassments arise from the present organization, but there is more weight on the other side of the question. I am commanding all the armies, and I cannot neglect others by giving my time exclusively to the Army of the Potomac, which would involve performing all the detailed duties of an army commander, directing its administration, enforcing discipline, reviewing its court-martial proceedings, etc. I have Burnside's, Butler's, and Siegel's armies to look after in Virginia, to say nothing of our Western armies, and I may make Sheridan's cavalry a separate command. Besides, Meade has served a long time with the Army of the Potomac, knows its subordinate officers thoroughly, and led it to a memorable victory at Gettysburg. I have just come from the West, and if I removed a deserving Eastern man from the position of army commander, my motives might be misunderstood, and the effect be bad upon the spirits of the troops. General Meade and I are in close contact on the field; he is capable and perfectly subordinate, and by attending to the details he relieves me of much unnecessary work, and gives me more time to think and to mature my general plans. I will always see that he gets full credit for what he does.' " [pp. 114-115]
 

Mark F. Jenkins

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That partly answers another question, as to how detailed Grant's orders were-- did he specify placements of corps-level units (other than IX) or lower, or were all those dispositions arranged by Meade?
 

cash

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Two "t"s; it's named for colonial Governor Spottswood, "cleverly" transformed into Spottsylvania.

One of the absolutely idiotic features of the organization of Grant's army ( and an important reason why he HAD to be present with it ) was the position of our old friend, Ambrose Burnside: When Burnside ignominiously left the AOP in Jan., 1863, he took the IX Corps with him; subsequently he served as a department commander in Kentucky and Tenn., but at the same time retained the corps except for its temporary service under Ord at Vicksburg where it served facing Joe Johnston in the rear of the siege lines. After Burnside's successful defense of Knoxville from Longstreet during the Chattanooga Campaign, again commanding the IX Corps, his star had regained much of the luster it had lost at Fredericksburg and in the Mud March.

When Grant brought Burnside and the IX Corps back to Virginia for the Overland Campaign, naturally Burn refused to take orders from Meade, who had only been a brigadier commanding a division under him at Fredericksburg! The answer to this dilemma: Burnside and his corps were NOT considered part of the AOP, so Burnside wouldn't have to take orders from his former subordinate. That meant Grant had to issue entirely separate orders for the movement of the IX Corps, a significant reason it often acted out-of-concert with the rest of the army, like in its moves in the Wilderness, where it essentially got "lost" right in the middle of the battlefield!

WHY did Grant ( or Lincoln, for that matter ) put up with this ridiculous situation? POLITICS, of course! Burnside was from Rhode Island, and was for some reason considered important to the New England war effort. Besides, he was considered a likeable ( if dull-witted ) guy, whose heart was in the right place, even if his head wasn't. Henry Halleck could have just as easily pulled the same stunt, refusing to serve under his former subordinate, Grant, but fortunately for the Union war effort, unlike Burnside he rose above the situation.

He didn't put up with it for long. Burnside's IX Corps was incorporated into the AotP under Meade on 24 May 1864.
 

cash

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That partly answers another question, as to how detailed Grant's orders were-- did he specify placements of corps-level units (other than IX) or lower, or were all those dispositions arranged by Meade?

In some orders he did, in other orders he left them to Meade.
 

NedBaldwin

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My knowledge of this is superficial, so I am hoping for insight.

I have the impression that in April 1864 the 9th Corps was somewhere else from the Army of the Potomac. In Maryland maybe?

Then I think it was moved down to guard the railroad in Northern Virginia while the Army of the Potomac concentrated near the Rapidan.

Then Grant decided to have the 9th Corps move with the Army of the Potomac into the Wilderness.
My question is when did Grant decide this? Was it part of his plan from the beginning or was it something he decided last minute?
 

James N.

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He didn't put up with it for long. Burnside's IX Corps was incorporated into the AotP under Meade on 24 May 1864.

I guess even Lincoln finally got fed up with Burnside's dithering after his contribution to the bloodbaths of the Wilderness and Spottsylvania!
 

Elennsar

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As relates to the description of Grant's thinking on the command arrangement:

Frankly, it sounds like an arrangement that was destined to cause friction (in both the human relations and Clausewitz senses) - not that wanting Meade to direct the affairs of the AotP while Grant directed things "overall" was necessarily bad, but it would have to include things like Grant's response to "Sheridan is being an insubordinate little cuss." being less "I like the idea of my cavalry being aggressive." and more "So who do you want me to replace him with?"

It did not bring out the strengths of either Grant or Meade to have to suffer the other's ideas in a form that neither gave Meade the leeway to run the AotP within broad directions or Grant direct authority over its components (without Meade being in between him and those corps).
 

Carronade

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I think we all agree about IX Corps. Grant did eventually put it under Meade's command, which Burnside seems to have accepted with reasonably good grace, but it would have been better to resolve before opening the campaign. Burnside had already accepted a demotion [or two] in returning to command of the corps, since he had previously been commander of both the Army and Department of the Ohio.

Which brings up an intriguing question - what was the Army's intent in bringing IX Corps back east? It needed some time to rebuild strength, but was it planned to rejoin the AofP, or was there some other role envisioned for it? If the former, the command problem should have been apparent at the time Burnside was reassigned, and should have been dealt with before opening the campaign.

The number of subunits in a unit depends on how many the commander and staff can effectively control, the usual rule being three to five. With IX Corps and the cavalry, the AofP already had five corps, so there would not seem to be much opportunity to make them significantly smaller, even if that might have been helpful in one specific type of terrain.

Grant's intention was not to fight in the Wilderness anyway; the hope was to get through as quickly as possible and draw Lee into battle on more suitable ground. Grant also wanted to seize and keep the initiative rather than responding to the Confederates, but this all seems to have fallen apart when the armies first made contact.
 

James N.

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My knowledge of this is superficial, so I am hoping for insight.

I have the impression that in April 1864 the 9th Corps was somewhere else from the Army of the Potomac. In Maryland maybe?

Then I think it was moved down to guard the railroad in Northern Virginia while the Army of the Potomac concentrated near the Rapidan.

Then Grant decided to have the 9th Corps move with the Army of the Potomac into the Wilderness.
My question is when did Grant decide this? Was it part of his plan from the beginning or was it something he decided last minute?

Unfortunately I can't answer your question, but I seem to remember you're right as to the original disposition of the IX Corps ( i.e. not with the AOP ); originally in the beginning of the Battle of the Wilderness, Burnside had the separate and relatively unrelated function of guarding the river crossings and trains once the AOP had crossed. It was only after Lee stopped Meade in the Wilderness that Grant ordered Burnside to join the battle, which he did in a blind, fumbling, and relatively ineffective manner. Also note in the quote from Horace Porter above, he recalls Grant saying "I am commanding all the armies... I have Burnside's, Butler's, and Siegel's armies to look after in Virginia..." So evidently he definitely considered Burnside's force separate, even an army.
 

Elennsar

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On the issue of army reorganization:

http://markerhunter.wordpress.com/2014/03/04/meade-reorganization-plan/

And on the issue of corps size:

http://ebooks.library.cornell.edu/cgi/t/text/pageviewer-idx?c=moawar&cc=moawar&idno=waro0060&q1=Potomac, army of the&view=image&seq=795&size=100

On the issue of Ninth Corps:
http://ebooks.library.cornell.edu/cgi/t/text/pageviewer-idx?c=moawar;cc=moawar;q1=Ninth Corps;rgn=full text;idno=waro0060;didno=waro0060;view=image;seq=0703 - initial orders to report to Annapolis.

Burnside being reassigned to its command seems to have happened at the beginning of April/end of March.

And this on the 9th of April http://ebooks.library.cornell.edu/c...aro0060;view=image;seq=846;page=root;size=100 mentions assigning 9th Corps to "reinforce (Meade)" .
 

NedBaldwin

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....
Which brings up an intriguing question - what was the Army's intent in bringing IX Corps back east? It needed some time to rebuild strength, but was it planned to rejoin the AofP, or was there some other role envisioned for it? If the former, the command problem should have been apparent at the time Burnside was reassigned, and should have been dealt with before opening the campaign.
This is what I was trying to ask as well. I suspect it was not the former (planned to rejoin the AofP) and so the command problem was not apparent until a new arrangement was made late in the process.
 

NedBaldwin

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So close to three weeks from the start of the campaign, and Grant is saying:

1) Burnside hasn't arrived yet and isn't expected for over a week -- "Immediately upon his arrival, which will be shortly after the 20th instant"

and

2) Grant's intent at that time was for Burnside to be in the rear and not at the front with Meade -- "I will give him the defense of the road from Bull Run as far south as we wish to hold it."

Given that, what need was there to subordinate the 9th Corps to the Army of the Potomac? In other words, how much of this decision to keep it seperate had to do with Burnside's status/politics and how much of it was simply that the original plan didn't require consolidation as the 9th wasnt going along?

And if that, then when did Grant decide that the 9th was going to not defend the road and instead cross the Rapidan with the rest of the army?
 

Mark F. Jenkins

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This thread now has me thinking on the organization of the Union army... thinking about picking up Eicher and Eicher's Civil War High Commands...
 
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