Overland The Overland Campaign

(Wilderness, Spotsylvania, North Anna, Cold Harbor)

cash

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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.

Those were the two you specifically mentioned in the post to which I replied--two people who are not historians and really not scholars of the war.

The consensus among scholars today goes with Rhea. You won't find many current scholars who substantially disagree with Rhea's numbers.
 

Jimklag

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You should cross McPherson and Catton off your list. Neither states "7000 in 30 minutes."
This is from #59 above after the chart of historians' casualty estimates.

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.

How long did the major assault on June 3 take?
 

Jimklag

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Those were the two you specifically mentioned in the post to which I replied--two people who are not historians and really not scholars of the war.

The consensus among scholars today goes with Rhea. You won't find many current scholars who substantially disagree with Rhea's numbers.
I will not post "noted withoit comment," My post that you quoted also quoted my post #59 which lists a large number of historians. And second, have the OR and casualty lists changed since my list of historians wrote their works? And I don't consider Trudeau and Eicher to be has beens, I believe they are still scholars today. And Rhea's Cold Harbor book is 15 years old. I don't trust the internet any more than the next guy, but the statistics I cite were taken from reputable sites that list their sources today.
 

Eric Calistri

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Location
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This is from #59 above after the chart of historians' casualty estimates.

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.

How long did the major assault on June 3 take?

See #73 above.
 

Jimklag

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You know it's funny. I made the 7000/30 statement in response to a post whose author was doubting the veracity of a statement that a battle had a 1300 or so casualties (or maybe kia) in two days. We have now posted a zillion times citing casualties ranging from 6000 in a day to my 7000/30 minutes. I have pulled seven books off the shelf and visited a dozen websites and been told it doesn't matter. So, okay, it doesn't matter. Are we not splitting the proverbial hair? I give up. Gordon Rhea is 100% right and my seven sources are 100% wrong. You may assign the number of casualties and time frame any values you want. Have a nice night.
 

cash

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You know it's funny. I made the 7000/30 statement in response to a post whose author was doubting the veracity of a statement that a battle had a 1300 or so casualties (or maybe kia) in two days. We have now posted a zillion times citing casualties ranging from 6000 in a day to my 7000/30 minutes. I have pulled seven books off the shelf and visited a dozen websites and been told it doesn't matter. So, okay, it doesn't matter. Are we not splitting the proverbial hair? I give up. Gordon Rhea is 100% right and my seven sources are 100% wrong. You may assign the number of casualties and time frame any values you want. Have a nice night.

Well, since you mentioned "seven sources," I would have to say that we don't take a poll to determine what's right.

As a general comment on Trudeau, his book is best used as a supplement to Rhea, as he gives much more of the soldiers' view. His book is filled with quotations and vignettes from the soldiers, but I would point to Grimsley as having the best one-volume account of the entire campaign and Rhea as having the best detailed view. You said Grimsley put the casualties at 7,000. Here's what Grimsley says directly: "In later years a myth would circulate that the Army of the Potomac 'lost ten thousand [killed, wounded, and missing] in twenty minutes'--a factoid sometimes modified to seven thousand men in half an hour. The figures are wrong, though not by much. An exact number cannot be determined because the Army of the Potomac only recorded casualties for the entire period it spent at Cold Harbor--June 1 through 15. Most estimates agree that the army lost seven thousand men on June 3, the majority of these in the first hour of the attack." [Mark Grimsley, And Keep Moving On: The Virginia Campaign, May-June 1864, p. 219]

So Grimsley specifically says the 7,000 in twenty minutes is wrong. He also says 7,000 in half an hour is wrong. He just says the majority of a total of 7,000 for the whole day were in the first hour. The whole day means all the attacks along the line, not just the main attack.

In his footnote, Grimsley says A. A. Humphreys estimated the loss at 4,517 while Livermore estimated the "the total Union loss at not over 7,000." Grimsley says, "This is as good an estimate as we are likely to get." [p. 268 Note 56]

Rhea puts the casualties of the main assault at "probably did not exceed 3,500." [Gordon C. Rhea, Cold Harbor: Grant and Lee, May 26-June 3, 1864, p. 359. Note that is for one attack only, not the entire day. For the entire day, he calculates "approximately 4,500 men and officers dead, wounded, and missing." [p. 362]

Note that Mark Grimsley is using Livermore as his source while Gordon Rhea is using the handwritten returns at the National Archives.
 
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Jimklag

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Well, since you mentioned "seven sources," I would have to say that we don't take a poll to determine what's right.

As a general comment on Trudeau, his book is best used as a supplement to Rhea, as he gives much more of the soldiers' view. His book is filled with quotations and vignettes from the soldiers, but I would point to Grimsley as having the best one-volume account of the entire campaign and Rhea as having the best detailed view. You said Grimsley put the casualties at 7,000. Here's what Grimsley says directly: "In later years a myth would circulate that the Army of the Potomac 'lost ten thousand [killed, wounded, and missing] in twenty minutes'--a factoid sometimes modified to seven thousand men in half an hour. The figures are wrong, though not by much. An exact number cannot be determined because the Army of the Potomac only recorded casualties for the entire period it spent at Cold Harbor--June 1 through 15. Most eestimates agree that the army lost seven thousand men on June 3, the majority of these in the first hour of the attack." [Mark Grimsley, And Keep Moving On: The Virginia Campaign, May-June 1864, p. 219]

So Grimsley specifically says the 7,000 in twenty minutes is wrong. He also says 7,000 in half an hour is wrong. He just says the majority of a total of 7,000 for the whole day were in the first hour. The whole day means all the attacks along the line, not just the main attack.

In his footnote, Grimsley says A. A. Humphreys estimated the loss at 4,517 while Livermore estimated the "the total Union loss at not over 7,000." Grimsley says, "This is as good an estimate as we are likely to get." [p. 268 Note 56]

Rhea puts the casualties of the main assault at "probably did not exceed 3,500." [Gordon C. Rhea, Cold Harbor: Grant and Lee, May 26-June 3, 1864, p. 359. Note that is for one attack only, not the entire day. For the entire day, he calculates "approximately 4,500 men and officers dead, wounded, and missing." [p. 362]

Note that Mark Grimsley is using Livermore as his source while Gordon Rhea is using the handwritten returns at the National Archives.
Whipping a dead horse. I already surrendered in the post you quote. I'm having a nightcap and no longer care. But, Grimsley is not cited among my 7 sources, He is in a note following the #59 chart. NPS, civilwar.org, Catton, Foote, McPherson, Trudeau and Eicher are my 7. Don't care anymore. You win. You have the unalienable right to choose whomever you like as your source - as do I.
 

cash

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Whipping a dead horse. I already surrendered in the post you quote. I'm having a nightcap and no longer care. But, Grimsley is not cited among my 7 sources, He is in a note following the #59 chart. NPS, civilwar.org, Catton, Foote, McPherson, Trudeau and Eicher are my 7. Don't care anymore. You win. You have the unalienable right to choose whomever you like as your source - as do I.

Well, it's not a question of winning or surrendering. It's a question of how we trust our sources. What did Catton, Foote, McPherson, Trudeau, Eicher, and the NPS use as their sources? For Trudeau, since he didn't use footnotes it's difficult.

"There was never an accurate accounting of Union losses for this day. A surgeon in Hancock's corps guessed the casualties to be 'not much less than 5,000.' The Confederate First Corps artillery chief, E. P. Alexander, later estimated the number to be seventy-three hundred, while Provost Marshal Marsena Patrick of the Army of the Potomac was told by General Meade that heir losses exceeded eight thousand. Drawing upon hospital records, Meade's chief of staff, Andrew Humphreys, put the June 3 totals at 4,517 wounded and 'at least 1,100' killed." [Noah Andre Trudeau, Bloody Roads South: The Wilderness to Cold Harbor, May-June 1864, p. 298] The numbers you gave in post #59 were for the entire Cold Harbor actions, from June 1-June 12, not just the June 3 attack. Those tables where you got that were compiled by Bryce Suderow using Dyer's Compendium of the War of the Rebellion and tables in the OR. Again, Rhea used the handwritten casualty returns in the National Archives. As pointed out before, Trudeau doesn't support the 7,000 in a half hour claim.

The NPS figures you quote in #59 also appear to be the entire Cold Harbor campaign from June 1-June 12.

Eicher claims 7,000 in under an hour, but he gives no source for this claim. Without a source it's merely an unsubstantiated opinion.

Foote can easily be discounted because he's neither a historian nor a scholar. What source did he use? He doesn't tell you. That's another mere unsubstantiated opinion.

What exactly does McPherson day?
What exactly does Catton say?
@Eric Calistri quotes from both and neither of them make a 7,000 in half an hour claim.


Is there a URL for the NPS?

I found the Civil War Trust site you referenced: https://www.civilwar.org/learn/articles/cold-harbor
It has no source and is an unsigned article so we don't know who wrote it and what their qualifications are.

Here's what the Civil War Trust says about Gordon Rhea:

"Gordon C. Rhea is considered a foremost expert on the Overland Campaign. He is the author of numerous books and articles on the battles of Cold Harbor, North Anna, Spotsylvania Court House and the Wilderness, as well as a respected attorney in Charleston, S.C."
https://www.civilwar.org/contributors/gordon-c-rhea

Their go-to source for their Cold Harbor video is Gordon Rhea.
https://www.civilwar.org/learn/videos/cold-harbor-gordon-rhea

It seems the most updated information for the Civil War Trust takes what Gordon Rhea says as correct, whereas that other page appears to need updating.

Again, as I said, it's not a question of winning or surrendering, but using this as a discussion of how we can interrogate our sources to see what they are telling us and whether or not what they're telling us is reliable.

If there's anything to make these other sources more reliable than Rhea, I'm all ears.
 

Jimklag

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Chicagoland
Well, it's not a question of winning or surrendering. It's a question of how we trust our sources. What did Catton, Foote, McPherson, Trudeau, Eicher, and the NPS use as their sources? For Trudeau, since he didn't use footnotes it's difficult.

"There was never an accurate accounting of Union losses for this day. A surgeon in Hancock's corps guessed the casualties to be 'not much less than 5,000.' The Confederate First Corps artillery chief, E. P. Alexander, later estimated the number to be seventy-three hundred, while Provost Marshal Marsena Patrick of the Army of the Potomac was told by General Meade that heir losses exceeded eight thousand. Drawing upon hospital records, Meade's chief of staff, Andrew Humphreys, put the June 3 totals at 4,517 wounded and 'at least 1,100' killed." [Noah Andre Trudeau, Bloody Roads South: The Wilderness to Cold Harbor, May-June 1864, p. 298] The numbers you gave in post #59 were for the entire Cold Harbor actions, from June 1-June 12, not just the June 3 attack. Those tables where you got that were compiled by Bryce Suderow using Dyer's Compendium of the War of the Rebellion and tables in the OR. Again, Rhea used the handwritten casualty returns in the National Archives. As pointed out before, Trudeau doesn't support the 7,000 in a half hour claim.

The NPS figures you quote in #59 also appear to be the entire Cold Harbor campaign from June 1-June 12.

Eicher claims 7,000 in under an hour, but he gives no source for this claim. Without a source it's merely an unsubstantiated opinion.

Foote can easily be discounted because he's neither a historian nor a scholar. What source did he use? He doesn't tell you. That's another mere unsubstantiated opinion.

What exactly does McPherson day?
What exactly does Catton say?
@Eric Calistri quotes from both and neither of them make a 7,000 in half an hour claim.


Is there a URL for the NPS?

I found the Civil War Trust site you referenced: https://www.civilwar.org/learn/articles/cold-harbor
It has no source and is an unsigned article so we don't know who wrote it and what their qualifications are.

Here's what the Civil War Trust says about Gordon Rhea:

"Gordon C. Rhea is considered a foremost expert on the Overland Campaign. He is the author of numerous books and articles on the battles of Cold Harbor, North Anna, Spotsylvania Court House and the Wilderness, as well as a respected attorney in Charleston, S.C."
https://www.civilwar.org/contributors/gordon-c-rhea

Their go-to source for their Cold Harbor video is Gordon Rhea.
https://www.civilwar.org/learn/videos/cold-harbor-gordon-rhea

It seems the most updated information for the Civil War Trust takes what Gordon Rhea says as correct, whereas that other page appears to need updating.

Again, as I said, it's not a question of winning or surrendering, but using this as a discussion of how we can interrogate our sources to see what they are telling us and whether or not what they're telling us is reliable.

If there's anything to make these other sources more reliable than Rhea, I'm all ears.
I couldn't agree more about the reliability of sources. I started posting sources to show a sceptic that I didn't invent the 7000/30 statement out of whole cloth. All now say okay there are sources for this 7000/30 thing but they're wrong. Okay. They're wrong.
 

Jimklag

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Well, it's not a question of winning or surrendering. It's a question of how we trust our sources. What did Catton, Foote, McPherson, Trudeau, Eicher, and the NPS use as their sources? For Trudeau, since he didn't use footnotes it's difficult.

"There was never an accurate accounting of Union losses for this day. A surgeon in Hancock's corps guessed the casualties to be 'not much less than 5,000.' The Confederate First Corps artillery chief, E. P. Alexander, later estimated the number to be seventy-three hundred, while Provost Marshal Marsena Patrick of the Army of the Potomac was told by General Meade that heir losses exceeded eight thousand. Drawing upon hospital records, Meade's chief of staff, Andrew Humphreys, put the June 3 totals at 4,517 wounded and 'at least 1,100' killed." [Noah Andre Trudeau, Bloody Roads South: The Wilderness to Cold Harbor, May-June 1864, p. 298] The numbers you gave in post #59 were for the entire Cold Harbor actions, from June 1-June 12, not just the June 3 attack. Those tables where you got that were compiled by Bryce Suderow using Dyer's Compendium of the War of the Rebellion and tables in the OR. Again, Rhea used the handwritten casualty returns in the National Archives. As pointed out before, Trudeau doesn't support the 7,000 in a half hour claim.

The NPS figures you quote in #59 also appear to be the entire Cold Harbor campaign from June 1-June 12.

Eicher claims 7,000 in under an hour, but he gives no source for this claim. Without a source it's merely an unsubstantiated opinion.

Foote can easily be discounted because he's neither a historian nor a scholar. What source did he use? He doesn't tell you. That's another mere unsubstantiated opinion.

What exactly does McPherson day?
What exactly does Catton say?
@Eric Calistri quotes from both and neither of them make a 7,000 in half an hour claim.


Is there a URL for the NPS?

I found the Civil War Trust site you referenced: https://www.civilwar.org/learn/articles/cold-harbor
It has no source and is an unsigned article so we don't know who wrote it and what their qualifications are.

Here's what the Civil War Trust says about Gordon Rhea:

"Gordon C. Rhea is considered a foremost expert on the Overland Campaign. He is the author of numerous books and articles on the battles of Cold Harbor, North Anna, Spotsylvania Court House and the Wilderness, as well as a respected attorney in Charleston, S.C."
https://www.civilwar.org/contributors/gordon-c-rhea

Their go-to source for their Cold Harbor video is Gordon Rhea.
https://www.civilwar.org/learn/videos/cold-harbor-gordon-rhea

It seems the most updated information for the Civil War Trust takes what Gordon Rhea says as correct, whereas that other page appears to need updating.

Again, as I said, it's not a question of winning or surrendering, but using this as a discussion of how we can interrogate our sources to see what they are telling us and whether or not what they're telling us is reliable.

If there's anything to make these other sources more reliable than Rhea, I'm all ears.
Hey @cash . I stipulate to the correctness of Gordon Rhea. But, something just occurred to me. On July 3, 1863, Pickett's charge was made by three small divisions against a position with only a low stone wall and there were about 6,000 casualties in an hour or so. At Cold Harbor, three full corps attacked full entrenchments more than a mile long that are still clearly visible after 150 years and the casualties, according to the most reliable source, were the same 6000 in all-day fighting. Go figure.
 

wausaubob

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The Overland Campaign determined the outcome of the war. For three years the combatants had worked themselves to this point of unrestrained violence and death.
In the first episode the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia launched a huge shooting match in a second growth thicket in which neither side was likely to stay organized enough to make a decisive difference. The main purpose that could be anticipated was that each side was going to suffer very high casualties.
That was the outcome. The United States army suffered very high casualties, but its logistics were still intact and its casualty evacuation abilities functioned.
In the second episode, the United States Army of the Potomac confronted the Confederates who were in a fixed position.
Attacking those fixed positions depended entirely on the yardage between cover and the Confederate lines. Bad weather hurt the defenders and improved the odds of the attacker. Both sides incurred very high casualties.
In the third episode the Confederates became aware that they had not deflected the United State from its strategic purpose.
Due to a cavalry raid by the United States cavalry, the Confederates then knew that they had to defend all of Virginia.
The United States' army then took a very weak position at the North Anna River, but the Confederates declined to attack.
If the Confederates did not make a decisive attack, they knew that the Army of the Potomac could reach the York and James Rivers and that a new logistical situation would result, in which the United States' army could supply itself by a seaborne route which at that state of the conflict was completely immune from attack and would run on coal, not oats and forage.
By the time the armies made it to Cold Harbor it became obvious that the Confederates could not win a decisive battle to end the war. The only hope was that by causing heavy loses to the United States they would achieve a change in the political will of the people of the United States that would lead to the election of a peace party.
For three months, June, July and August of 1864, the Confederates and their Democratic allies in the United States had only one viable criticism, that Grant was incompetent, and that the war was too costly.
That verbal onslaught was nearly successful and it was continued after the war and continues to this day.
 

wausaubob

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The fact that the Confederates had no other strategy left in 1864 other than to outlast their more numerous opponent is the reason that the casualty toll of 1864 was so high.
 

James N.

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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.

Don't you think most of those historians from the post-WWII era just accepted the figures from Livermore's Numbers and Losses? It's only been in this more recent crop of historians looking in part to make a name for themselves outside the shadow of those you mention and others like Freeman and Shelby Foote that long-established and accepted "facts" have been now routinely called into question and closer research into original sources been made.
 

Jimklag

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Don't you think most of those historians from the post-WWII era just accepted the figures from Livermore's Numbers and Losses? It's only been in this more recent crop of historians looking in part to make a name for themselves outside the shadow of those you mention and others like Freeman and Shelby Foote that long-established and accepted "facts" have been now routinely called into question and closer research into original sources been made.
Yep. You're right. I have long ago stipulated that point.
 
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Greywolf

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The fact that the Confederates had no other strategy left in 1864 other than to outlast their more numerous opponent is the reason that the casualty toll of 1864 was so high.
The fact that Grant did not disengage and retreat after the Wilderness, Spotsylvania, or Cold Harbor contributed to the massive toll. He was checked by Lee at each engagement. At that time the war was still in doubt. Lee wasn't going to quit when he hadn't been beaten.
 

Jimklag

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The fact that Grant did not disengage and retreat after the Wilderness, Spotsylvania, or Cold Harbor contributed to the massive toll. He was checked by Lee at each engagement. At that time the war was still in doubt. Lee wasn't going to quit when he hadn't been beaten.
Lee was never going to quit until, as actually happened, he was forced to.
 
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Don't you think most of those historians from the post-WWII era just accepted the figures from Livermore's Numbers and Losses? It's only been in this more recent crop of historians looking in part to make a name for themselves outside the shadow of those you mention and others like Freeman and Shelby Foote that long-established and accepted "facts" have been now routinely called into question and closer research into original sources been made.

If seeking more accurate information is due to people wanting to make a name for themselves, so what? It's the result that counts. No one's disputing Rhea's research methods.

Freeman and Foote didn't go digging in the National Archives to look at those sources firsthand.

Next we'll hear that claiming that the earth is round is a revisionist plot hatched by egomaniacs who can't stand the truth and who want to be politically correct.
 
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The fact that Grant did not disengage and retreat after the Wilderness, Spotsylvania, or Cold Harbor contributed to the massive toll. He was checked by Lee at each engagement. At that time the war was still in doubt. Lee wasn't going to quit when he hadn't been beaten.
Ah, but the key to understanding the Overland campaign is ... neither was Grant.
 
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