Overland The Overland Campaign

(Wilderness, Spotsylvania, North Anna, Cold Harbor)

Jimklag

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I thought this shorter (only around 200pp.) treatment told me all I wanted to know without overwhelming me with detail; of course you might want something more than an overview, but you also presumably want multiple sources, too - not necessarily an easy thing to find concerning this particular battle.

View attachment 154998
I'm not familiar with this book. I'll have to get a copy. I have a couple other books from the Great Campaign series. You're right, James. Good overviews.
 

James N.

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I'm not familiar with this book. I'll have to get a copy. I have a couple other books from the Great Campaign series. You're right, James. Good overviews.

It impressed me with its accounts of the week following the Bloody Angle and the horrific condition of the battlefield where piles of corpses were literally shot to pieces in the overwhelming mud! The story of the battle in most secondary accounts I've read really ends with Bloody Angle as if nothing happened afterwards until the armies moved on, so it enlightened me about all that.
 

Jamieva

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So, you are right. Rhea does not support my statement. But Catton, Eicher, Trudeau, McPherson and the National Park Service do.

All comes down to what their sources are. A lot of NPS stuff is old info based on the way the part was interpreted since it was opened decades ago, and nobody bothers to change it.
 

Jimklag

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All comes down to what their sources are. A lot of NPS stuff is old info based on the way the part was interpreted since it was opened decades ago, and nobody bothers to change it.
And the other four? Are they tainted too? Bloody Roads South is probably the most recent campaign study. So, is Trudeau's source data bogus?
 

Jimklag

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All comes down to what their sources are. A lot of NPS stuff is old info based on the way the part was interpreted since it was opened decades ago, and nobody bothers to change it.
This is a direct quote (copy & paste) from civilwar.org's article on Cold Harbor.

"An estimated 7,000 men were killed or wounded within the first thirty minutes of the assault and the massacre continued through the morning."
 

Eric Calistri

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I'm readin pp. 385-386 as we write. Can't find a definitive casualty estimate only a bunch of he said, he said. NPS estimates 13,000 U.S. and about 2500 total rebel casualties. Here is a chart.

Casualty Estimates for the Battle of Cold Harbor
Source
Union Confederate
Killed
Wounded Captured/
Missing
Total Killed Wounded Captured/
Missing
Total
National Park Service 13,000 2,500
Kennedy,Civil War Battlefield Guide 13,000 5,000
King,Overland Campaign Staff Ride 12,738 3,400
Bonekemper,Victor, Not a Butcher 1,844 9,077 1,816 12,737 83 3,380 1,132 4,595
Eicher,Longest Night 12,000 "few
thousand"
Rhea, Cold Harbor 3,500–4,000
(June 3) 1,500
Trudeau,Bloody Roads South 12,475 2,456 14,931 3,765 1,082 4,847
Young, Lee's Army 788 3,376 1,123 5,287
Some authors (Catton, Esposito, Foote, McPherson, Grimsley) estimate the casualties for the major assault on June 3 and all agree on approximately 7,000 total Union casualties, 1,500 Confederate. Gordon Rhea, considered the preeminent modern historian of Grant'sOverland Campaign, has examined casualty lists in detail and has published a contrarian view in his 2002 book, Cold Harbor. For the morning assault on June 3, he can account for only 3,500 to 4,000 Union killed, wounded, and missing, and estimates that for the entire day the Union suffered about 6,000 casualties, compared to Lee's 1,000 to 1,500.

You see where I got the 7000 number.


For more from Rhea on Cold Harbor See also page xv and 359.
 

Eric Calistri

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Nah. I'm done. You guys wore me out tag-teaming me. Rhea is a minority of one on his casualty estimates on Cold Harbor. He may be right. If so, literally everyone else is wrong.

I'm not sure how familiar you are with the actual casualty reports, but Rhea has a position supported by the evidence. 7000 casualties in 30 minutes is a great anecdote, and oft repeated, but try and document that using the casualty reports.
Can't be done.
 

Jimklag

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I'm not sure how familiar you are with the actual casualty reports, but Rhea has a position supported by the evidence. 7000 casualties in 30 minutes is a great anecdote, and oft repeated, but try and document that using the casualty reports.
Can't be done.
Before I go, I have a question. Do you believe Bruce Catton, James McPherson, Noah Andre Trudeau, Noah Eicher et al. were familiar with "acrual casualty reports?" I do.

Correction David Eicher.
 

Jamieva

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And the other four? Are they tainted too? Bloody Roads South is probably the most recent campaign study. So, is Trudeau's source data bogus?

Yeah Bloody Roads South is late 80s/early 90s. I remember reading it in high school. It's a good 1 volume overview, but Rhea did a lot of numbers digging that these other guys just didn't bother with.
 

Eric Calistri

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Before I go, I have a question. Do you believe Bruce Catton, James McPherson, Noah Andre Trudeau, Noah Eicher et al. were familiar with "acrual casualty reports?" I do.

Correction David Eicher.

I want to be clear that you understand that "7000" is not the problem, it's "7000 in 30 minutes" or as in other versions, 10 minutes or less than an hour. Or sometimes even 8 minutes. There is simply no way to convert the casualty data into such a small time window.

Neither Catton ("... on June 3 the Federals lost rather more than 7,000 men, most of them in the first two hours of fighting." _Grant Takes Command_ page 267) nor MacPherson ("The Yankees suffered 7,000 casualties this day." _Battle Cry of Freedom_ page 735) repeat the "30 minutes."

Rhea's position is that breaking down the official casualty number (12,788) for the Cold Harbor Campaign into the various actions that occurred is "elusive." His analysis of the casualties covers about 30 pages, but his best approximation (pg 392) is that Federal losses were about 5,000 May 28- June 2 and 6,000 on ALL of June 3, not just the failed assault early in the am. The remaining casualties occurred through June 15th, the end of the reporting period.

So Catton's and MacPherson's figures are higher than Rhea's, by about 15%. However, having read all three (I've read Trudeau as well, but don't have it at hand) none repeat the "30 minutes" and their actual estimates look to all of June 3 and not just the AM assault.

Rhea spends 30 pages on the casualty numbers, Catton and MacPherson, not much more than a sentence. I don't doubt Rhea put forth a much greater effort digging through the reports and that his number is most likely the better one. It's certainly the one best supported by the available evidence.

So Rhea has a rather minor difference from Catton and MacPherson, but none of these 3 support the statement "At Cold Harbor there were 7000 casualties in about a half hour."
 
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shermans_march

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7000 casualties in 30 minutes equates to 233 per minute which is quite a lot and not very believable. Even with modern weapons these numbers would be immensely hard to match.

Logically it doesn't make sense either. The battle of Cold Harbor took place from May 31-June 12 1864, a period of 13 days. The casualties for those 13 days was 18,000. We are expected to believe that 39% of all the casualties took place in 30 minutes? Ridiculous.
 

Jimklag

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I want to be clear that you understand that "7000" is not the problem, it's "7000 in 30 minutes" or as in other versions, 10 minutes or less than an hour. Or sometimes even 8 minutes. There is simply no way to convert the casualty data into such a small time window.

Neither Catton ("... on June 3 the Federals lost rather more than 7,000 men, most of them in the first two hours of fighting." _Grant Takes Command_ page 267) nor MacPherson ("The Yankees suffered 7,000 casualties this day." _Battle Cry of Freedom_ page 735) repeat the "30 minutes."

Rhea's position is that breaking down the official casualty number (12,788) for the Cold Harbor Campaign into the various actions that occurred is "elusive." His analysis of the casualties covers about 30 pages, but his best approximation (pg 392) is that Federal losses were about 5,000 May 28- June 2 and 6,000 on ALL of June 3, not just the failed assault early in the am. The remaining casualties occurred through June 15th, the end of the reporting period.

So Catton's and MacPherson's figures are higher than Rhea's, by about 15%. However, having read all three (I've read Trudeau as well, but don't have it at hand) none repeat the "30 minutes" and their actual estimates look to all of June 3 and not just the AM assault.

Rhea spends 30 pages on the casualty numbers, Catton and MacPherson, not much more than a sentence. I don't doubt Rhea put forth a much greater effort digging through the reports and that his number is most likely the better one. It's certainly the one best supported by the available evidence.

So Rhea has a rather minor difference from Catton and MacPherson, but none of these 3 support the statement "At Cold Harbor there were 7000 casualties in about a half hour."
See the chart in my #59 above. Rhea, who seems to be the only source you trust, has about half as many total casualties as everybody else. I did not invent the 7000/30 minute thing. It's stated by Shelby Foote, both in his 3-volume history and in Ken Burns' documentsry and in the other places I have posted today ad nauseum. The historians who don't agree with Rhea are not chumps, yet you completely ignore them and rely solely on Rhea. That's your prerogative. I'll stick to the consensus.
 

shermans_march

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See the chart in my #59 above. Rhea, who seems to be the only source you trust, has about half as many total casualties as everybody else. I did not invent the 7000/30 minute thing. It's stated by Shelby Foote, both in his 3-volume history and in Ken Burns' documentsry and in the other places I have posted today ad nauseum. The historians who don't agree with Rhea are not chumps, yet you completely ignore them and rely solely on Rhea. That's your prerogative. I'll stick to the consensus.
I think that quote in Ken Burns the Civil War was added for effect.
That intro still gives me chills.
 

cash

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See the chart in my #59 above. Rhea, who seems to be the only source you trust, has about half as many total casualties as everybody else. I did not invent the 7000/30 minute thing. It's stated by Shelby Foote, both in his 3-volume history and in Ken Burns' documentsry and in the other places I have posted today ad nauseum. The historians who don't agree with Rhea are not chumps, yet you completely ignore them and rely solely on Rhea. That's your prerogative. I'll stick to the consensus.

Well, yes. If it comes down to believing Shelby Foote and Ken Burns or Gordon Rhea, I'm going with Gordon Rhea.

By the way, the consensus among scholars today is with Rhea.
 

Jimklag

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Well, yes. If it comes down to believing Shelby Foote and Ken Burns or Gordon Rhea, I'm going with Gordon Rhea.

By the way, the consensus among scholars today is with Rhea.
First, I didn't rely on Foote and Burns only. Catch up with all the posts concerning casualties. See #59 above. The consensus has twice as many casualties as Rhea. When it comes to NPS, civilwar.org, Catton, Foote, McPherson, Trudeau and Eicher vs. Rhea, I'll take the first seven sources.
 

Eric Calistri

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First, I didn't rely on Foote and Burns only. Catch up with all the posts concerning casualties. See #59 above. The consensus has twice as many casualties as Rhea. When it comes to NPS, civilwar.org, Catton, Foote, McPherson, Trudeau and Eicher vs. Rhea, I'll take the first seven sources.

You should cross McPherson and Catton off your list. Neither states "7000 in 30 minutes."
 
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