The Wilderness battle v The Tuetoborg Forest Battle.

wausaubob

Lt. Colonel
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Denver, CO
General Lee's attempt to use the protection of the second growth wilderness forest to allow a smaller force with inferior war machinery to attack a superior force with strong advantages in open county is similar to what Arminius and the ancient tribesmen attempted to do the Romans in the German revolt of 9 A.D.
General Lee's attempt was not as successful as Arminius' attempt because the Confederates did not achieve the same level of surprise and the US Army of the Potomac protected its logistical train. The US army in the Civil War was never surrounded and never cut off from the rail heads it depended on.
But the forest did neutralize the US advantage in artillery. After the battle Grant did send his cavalry south to Richmond, to fight in more open country with better roads.
Lee's plan to attack in the Wilderness was the best plan available. It probably did not surprise Meade and Grant that the attempt would be made.
 
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wausaubob

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If you catch Barbarian on Netflix, the German series, do not watch the English language version. Watch with subtitles. It is an example of a freak occurrence of a local coalition defeating the only major power in Europe at that time. In a totally unexpected occurrence, the local tribes forced the Romans to accept the terms of Augustus' will which ruled that Germany should be outside the empire.
 

Rhea Cole

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Location
Murfreesboro, Tennessee
Apart from fighting on a forest, I don’t see much that is similar. The Roman general Valarius (sp?) was a political, not a military genius. He was led into a carefully prepared trap by a traitor. The ambush exploited the well known tactical doctrines of the Romans to defeat them. The Roman force was all but exterminated. Ten years or so ago, the battlefield was discovered & a treasure trove of artifacts were discovered. It also allowed for a forensic examination of the battlefield. Smithsonian Magazine has a very hood

The battle of that is analogous to the loss of the legions in the Toutoborg Forest was the disastrous retreat from Kabul by the British. A pompous politically connected general led a column into an ambush that resulted in analyzation. A very minor analogy is that my nephew, an OED expert, handled munitions left by that disaster.

At the Wilderness, Lee used his tried & true tactic of jumping onto the A of the P’s flank & watching them run for home. As Sherman said, Grant didn’t care what Lee did, his focus was on forcing Lee to bend to his will. Everything that happened from that point on was a tactical incident that ultimately led to achieving Grant’s strategic goal.

Lee was fighting the A of the P, Grant was managing a continental campaign of which the Wilderness was just one part.

The Roman defeat occurred during Augustus’ reign.
 
Joined
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interesting comparison. I don't know why Grant didn't just hold his western flank with Warren's and Sedgewick's corps and send Hancock and/or Burnside to Spotsylvania, getting between Lee and Richmond. I know he wanted to go after Lee, but the Wilderness was not the ideal terrain to do so.
 

Carronade

Captain
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Location
Pennsylvania
Despite their intent to maintain the initiative, Grant and Meade ended up dancing to Lee's tune. And I agree that they missed an opportunity:

What strikes me about the Wilderness was Grant and Meade losing control of events. Grant's intentions were to get through the Wilderness and engage Lee on more suitable ground, to retain the initiative, and to make use of maneuver rather than frontal assault; but they ended up mainly reacting to the Confederates and fighting head-to-head in the tangled forest.

Given the distance from their starting points, they probably couldn't avoid camping in the woods the night of May 4-5, but they were ready to resume their march southward in the morning when Ewell's troops appeared from the west. From that moment on the Yankees were reacting to events. Somehow Grant's general intent to engage Lee aggressively translated into a perceived need to make a frontal attack through the woods - though only after giving the rebs time to throw up field fortifications. Then when Hill's column was detected on the Orange Plank Road, the only thoughts seem to have been the danger of him cutting off Hancock's corps or getting into the army's trains - it does not seem to have occurred to anyone that the Confederates were thrusting themselves between two more powerful Union forces. Instead of opportunity they saw only danger; Hancock was pulled back and ended up engaging Hill frontally, another slugging match in the woods.

After the battle, Grant made his famous comment about the AofP commanders worrying more about what Lee might do to them than what they could do to Lee. I'd say he hit the nail on the head.
 

Rhea Cole

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Murfreesboro, Tennessee
Despite their intent to maintain the initiative, Grant and Meade ended up dancing to Lee's tune. And I agree that they missed an opportunity:
What tune was that... the “Out Flank Me & Drive Me Into Trenches Around Petersburg Rag” or the “The take Atlanta & March to the Sea” quick step, or perhaps “The Battle of Nashville Crescendo!” ? ;-)
 

Harms88

Sergeant
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Location
North of the Wall & South of the Canucks
Beyond the idea of the battle being fought in a wilderness, there is only the slightest of comparison's between the two.

Let's do some comparisons:

The forces involved: During the Civil War, the Union had a force of 101,000 engaged the battle while the South only fielded 61,000, which meant that the Union had a 39.61% superiority in manpower.

In the Teutoburg Wauld, Arminius had between 15-20,000 Germanic warriors, with Varus having between 14-22,000 Roman legionaries and auxilia. At the most generous, Varus only had a 31.82% superiority over his foes, at worst, he was outnumbered by 30%. At the most equalized amount with both sides at their peak estimated strength, the Romans only had a 9.91% superiority over their foes. In other words, the Massacre of the Iron Legions was a much more evenly matched affair than what was in the Civil War.

istock-483021282.jpg


The plan: Grant never intended to battle in the Wilderness, he was just using the Wilderness as a quick shortcut. It was only the slow movements of the AOTP that meant he didn't break out. This was also Varus' intention as he marched to put down the rebellion rebellion of a local tribe.

That's where the similarity ends.

Varus was unfamiliar with the land, so he relied upon his native scouts, especially the advanced auxilia under Arminius' command, where as the idea of local guides seemed not to be used by the AOTP, possibly because of familiarity with the area due to the Battle of Chancellorsville. Arminius always planned to trap the Legions within the Wauld, and as such had already set up his coalition within the forest to spring the ambush. Lee's intention was also to trap the AOTP in the Wilderness, but that was only if that was Grant's direction of march and only moved towards the Wilderness when he was assured of the movement. As such, the battle that was fought had more in common with Washington's movements during the Philadelphia Campaign of 1777 then with the Germanic Revolt.

te__sized.jpg


The commanders involved: Publius Quinctilius Varus was both a general and a politician. His reason for being in Germania was because he had already upset the people of the province of Judea by conducting mass executions of rebels, and had been lounging in Antioch before being sent to the "pacified" Germania by Augustus as the Roman Legate for that province. Arminius had spent years in the Roman military and had long since been planning to lead a revolt against Rome.

Ulysses S. Grant was a soldier, plain and simple. However, unlike Varus, he was the overall commander of the Union forces. Whereas Varus only had direct control over those legions within his own province, Grant was the grand poohbah and everything was his to do with as he pleased (within the bounds set by the Government). Lee had also served in the Union military, yet he never plotted to lead a revolt against the US until Virginia seceded and even when he became the leader of the ANV, he only had command over that army until the very short period where he was the supreme commander of the Southern military. Arminius on the other hand basically had free reign over the Germanic coalition, as long as they would follow him (which was for several more years).

5ef154fa8c95e.image.jpg


That's not even comparing the geopolitical realities of the situation. That's not even taking into account the final result.

So while the very basic premise of a comparison between Teutoburg and the Wilderness is interesting, it unfortunately is only drunken-goggled deep.
 

gjpratt

Corporal
Joined
Apr 14, 2019
Savas Beatie published a fantastic book chronicling the discovery of the lost Teutoburg Forest battlefield, including a good description of the strategy and tactics. Also remarkable to me, once the place of the final battle was pinpointed, the sites of the various Roman camp grounds were deduced from surviving accounts of the campaign and also located from artifacts.

 

RobertP

Lt. Colonel
Joined
Nov 11, 2009
Location
Dallas
Beyond the idea of the battle being fought in a wilderness, there is only the slightest of comparison's between the two.

Let's do some comparisons:


In the Teutoburg Wauld, Arminius had between 15-20,000 Germanic warriors, with Varus having between 14-22,000 Roman legionaries and auxilia. At the most generous, Varus only had a 31.82% superiority over his foes, at worst, he was outnumbered by 30%. At the most equalized amount with both sides at their peak estimated strength, the Romans only had a 9.91% superiority over their foes. In other words, the Massacre of the Iron Legions was a much more evenly matched affair than what was in the Civil War.

View attachment 386057

The plan: Grant never intended to battle in the Wilderness, he was just using the Wilderness as a quick shortcut. It was only the slow movements of the AOTP that meant he didn't break out. This was also Varus' intention as he marched to put down the rebellion rebellion of a local tribe.

That's where the similarity ends.

Varus was unfamiliar with the land, so he relied upon his native scouts, especially the advanced auxilia under Arminius' command, where as the idea of local guides seemed not to be used by the AOTP, possibly because of familiarity with the area due to the Battle of Chancellorsville. Arminius always planned to trap the Legions within the Wauld, and as such had already set up his coalition within the forest to spring the ambush. Lee's intention was also to trap the AOTP in the Wilderness, but that was only if that was Grant's direction of march and only moved towards the Wilderness when he was assured of the movement. As such, the battle that was fought had more in common with Washington's movements during the Philadelphia Campaign of 1777 then with the Germanic Revolt.

View attachment 386058

The commanders involved: Publius Quinctilius Varus was both a general and a politician. His reason for being in Germania was because he had already upset the people of the province of Judea by conducting mass executions of rebels, and had been lounging in Antioch before being sent to the "pacified" Germania by Augustus as the Roman Legate for that province. Arminius had spent years in the Roman military and had long since been planning to lead a revolt against Rome.

Ulysses S. Grant was a soldier, plain and simple. However, unlike Varus, he was the overall commander of the Union forces. Whereas Varus only had direct control over those legions within his own province, Grant was the grand poohbah and everything was his to do with as he pleased (within the bounds set by the Government). Lee had also served in the Union military, yet he never plotted to lead a revolt against the US until Virginia seceded and even when he became the leader of the ANV, he only had command over that army until the very short period where he was the supreme commander of the Southern military. Arminius on the other hand basically had free reign over the Germanic coalition, as long as they would follow him (which was for several more years).

View attachment 386059

That's not even comparing the geopolitical realities of the situation. That's not even taking into account the final result.

So while the very basic premise of a comparison between Teutoburg and the Wilderness is interesting, it unfortunately is only drunken-goggled deep.

“The forces involved: During the Civil War, the Union had a force of 101,000 engaged the battle while the South only fielded 61,000, which meant that the Union had a 39.61% superiority in manpower.”

Assuming your numbers are correct, Grant had a 66% superiority over Lee - 40k/61k - significantly greater than you say.
 

Harms88

Sergeant
Joined
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Location
North of the Wall & South of the Canucks
“The forces involved: During the Civil War, the Union had a force of 101,000 engaged the battle while the South only fielded 61,000, which meant that the Union had a 39.61% superiority in manpower.”

Assuming your numbers are correct, Grant had a 66% superiority over Lee - 40k/61k - significantly greater than you say.

This is how I did the math: 61k/101k = 0.6039 (with a few additional numbers beyond that).

Then I went 100.00-60.39.

That comes up at 39.61%.
 

wausaubob

Lt. Colonel
Joined
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Location
Denver, CO
Lee was outnumbered and Arminius was outnumbered at least at first. Both used the heavy forest to conceal their forces. The difference begins when Arminius is able to slow the Roman army down until it begins to abandon its baggage train and its non combatants.
 

Carronade

Captain
Joined
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Location
Pennsylvania
“The forces involved: During the Civil War, the Union had a force of 101,000 engaged the battle while the South only fielded 61,000, which meant that the Union had a 39.61% superiority in manpower.”

Assuming your numbers are correct, Grant had a 66% superiority over Lee - 40k/61k - significantly greater than you say.

This is how I did the math: 61k/101k = 0.6039 (with a few additional numbers beyond that).

Then I went 100.00-60.39.

That comes up at 39.61%.
Two ways of saying the same thing:
Grant had 66% more than Lee.
Lee had 39.6% less than Grant.
 

Carronade

Captain
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Location
Pennsylvania
The plan: Grant never intended to battle in the Wilderness, he was just using the Wilderness as a quick shortcut. It was only the slow movements of the AOTP that meant he didn't break out.

That, plus Grant abandoning his plan at the first sighting of rebels in the woods.
 

Harms88

Sergeant
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Location
North of the Wall & South of the Canucks
Two ways of saying the same thing:
Grant had 66% more than Lee.
Lee had 39.6% less than Grant.
That, plus Grant abandoning his plan at the first sighting of rebels in the woods.
That is certainly true, but at this point, it's really just arguing semantics. lol I guess we could also throw into it that Grant didn't throw himself on his sword when things went bad, unlike what Varus literally did.
 

Saphroneth

Major
Joined
Feb 18, 2017
I feel I should point out that if you measure the forces at the Wilderness by the same standard (that is, regulation PFD for example) the Union went into the Wilderness with:

Army of the Potomac (exc. 9th Corps): 121,964 PFD*
9th Corps: 20,780 PFD

And Lee entered the battle with 66,140 PFD in the same category.

Thus, Grant in fact had slightly more than a 2:1 advantage in the Wilderness fighting. (142,764 is more than twice 66,140.)

This does not take into account detachments left at Culpeper Court House etc.


* The ORs include a statement which is in a stripped down version of PDF; the 66,140 for Lee is regulation PFD not stripped-down, so I have used a regulation number here as well.
 

wausaubob

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Location
Denver, CO
There are many differences. However the US was able to maintain absolute naval supremacy and water borne logistical support from the Potomac to Norfolk, VA, which was a very short distance, made even shorter by steam power.
There were three years of invasion and retaliation by the Romans in northern Germany in 15-17 CE. It ended with an naval catastrophe which was attributed to a storm. However the Romans had adopted the shallow draft reversible boat designs used by the Germans and the Norse of the era. Thus the naval losses probably had more to do with the hit and run attacks of thousands of small clinker built rowing boats which could in tributaries of the major rivers and strike when they found weakness.
The cost of rebuilding a fleet and taking control of the North Sea coast and some part of the Baltic Coast was just not worth it for the Romans, at that distance from Italy, Sicily and north Africa.
The belligerent that gains naval dominance has an enormous logistical superiority. And the US systematically eliminated the Confederate ports and river towns.
 

Saphroneth

Major
Joined
Feb 18, 2017
There are many differences. However the US was able to maintain absolute naval supremacy and water borne logistical support from the Potomac to Norfolk, VA, which was a very short distance, made even shorter by steam power.
I think for the Wilderness it matters more that the US was able to provide logistical support to Port Royal on the Rappahanock.
 

wausaubob

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Denver, CO
I think for the Wilderness it matters more that the US was able to provide logistical support to Port Royal on the Rappahanock.
Correct. But the campaign was dependent on controlling other depots. I believe one was White House and I know the other was at City Point.
There may have been a reason why the US administration was much more patient with Grant's operation than the were with McClellan's campaign. By June 1864 the risk of British intervention was minimal. The US army in Virginia was not going to be cut off by a foreign fleet.
 

Saphroneth

Major
Joined
Feb 18, 2017
Correct. But the campaign was dependent on controlling other depots. I believe one was White House and I know the other was at City Point.
There may have been a reason why the US administration was much more patient with Grant's operation than the were with McClellan's campaign. By June 1864 the risk of British intervention was minimal. The US army in Virginia was not going to be cut off by a foreign fleet.
In theory the campaign could have fought down the RF&P rail road, though in practice maybe not.
 
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