Petersburg/Richmond This is part one of a history series On the siege of Petersburg

Lubliner

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My definition in the glossary of A Legacy in Brick and Stone: "Siege: The protracted taking of a fort, beginning with investment and continuing through the breaching and ultimate reduction of the work. By the time of the Third System, it was understood that ultimately no fort could hold out indefinitely to a siege." This glossary applies to the Third System of American Coastal Forts, 1816-1867, and is built on D. H. Mahan's Treatise on Permanent Fortifications, Scott's Military Dictionary, and other period sources. I hope this helps!
I believe Grant's ultimate goal was to fully encircle Petersburg and Richmond if Lee had stayed put. If the fort or structure is evacuated before the full encirclement occurs, then how would/should it be referenced? Thanks,
Lubliner.
 

jrweaver

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I published a glossary of fortification terms prior to the first edition of Legacy, with that becoming the glossary of Legacy. In between editions, I published a revised glossary as I learned more and found more contemporary sources. Finally, I revised (minor changes) that second glossary to generate the glossary in the Second Edition of Legacy.
As an engineer, I guess I can easily fixate on terminology and its proper usage. The ironic thing is that the engineers designing Third System forts didn't necessarily follow the terminology that they learned at West Point. I sometimes chuckle at the terms used, and at time at the made-up terms that an engineer used in his drawing when he couldn't find - or decide upon - the proper term. The caveat I often use when speaking on the subject is that "The engineers called structures what they darn well pleased!" Even now, among historians there are differences of opinion on what a structure should be called. A great example is at Fort Knox in Bucksport, Maine. There are structures overlooking the external gun batteries of the fort. What should they be called? Are they redoubts, detached caponiers, casemated traverses? They could be called any of those things!
I believe Grant's ultimate goal was to fully encircle Petersburg and Richmond if Lee had stayed put. If the fort or structure is evacuated before the full encirclement occurs, then how would/should it be referenced? Thanks,
Lubliner.
The first step of a siege, by classic definition, is investment. I don't think it would matter if the fort was evacuated prior to that investment, but I could be wrong. I do think that to be a siege, investment must occur.

6-5 Knox Casemated Traverse Rev02.jpg
 

Bryce

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Interesting to read this -- thanks for putting it together. One thing that would be helpful would be a map showing things like the lines of entrenchments, major roads, railroads, and maybe locations of some of the offenses.

I've read some comments to the effect that this wasn't technically a "siege." What's meant by that, and is this just a technicality, or does the question really matter?

Roy B.
Roy and others

I just photographed this map which shows the Dommock line. Please let me know if you can read it and if you have any questions. I plan to send you more maps soon

Bryce

21C73B27-2E0B-4187-90A3-DD1A24D15BA2.jpeg
 

Bryce

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I believe Grant's ultimate goal was to fully encircle Petersburg and Richmond if Lee had stayed put. If the fort or structure is evacuated before the full encirclement occurs, then how would/should it be referenced? Thanks,
Lubliner.
I guess I’m inconsistent because sometimes I refer to it as a siege and sometimes they simply say it’s a campaign
 

A. Roy

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I just photographed this map which shows the Dommock line. Please let me know if you can read it and if you have any questions. I plan to send you more maps soon

I like this map. What do the various points represent? (No. 33, No. 34 etc.) Forts? And what was the point in time for this map? I'm curious to know how this line might have changed over the course of the campaign, and where the various assaults took place. I know there are folks here who know these details, but my knowledge is pretty sketchy, and you offered to do some teaching!

Roy B.
 

thomas aagaard

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Denmark
So when an army surround castle/fort on land, but cant cut its line of communication by ship... is that then not a siege?

If the attacker is spending days to drag up siege artillery building a camps and expecting this to take weeks or even month, then I say Siege is a fitting word.
And that would use one set of tactics. And the engineer officers would be critical.

Similar for the defender. Are you planning for a big battle that take a day or maybe two?
Or planning for how to preserve combat ability over the next few month.

Iam sure Lee, McClellan and others would have called Sevastopol during the Crimean war for a siege... despite the allied never cutting Russian supply lines.
How about Toulon, when Napoleon first made his name?

Yes investment is a very high priority, but I would say that military history is full of sieges where this was not done... or only partly done.

Then with the great war, think become a little harder, since a lot of methodic and tactics used for sieges became the norm... and not something you only use for specie occasions.
 

bschulte

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Roy and others

I just photographed this map which shows the Dommock line. Please let me know if you can read it and if you have any questions. I plan to send you more maps soon

Bryce

View attachment 385441
Bryce is having trouble with his account right now due to the email address he uses having an issue. He is working to get the email address (and by extension his posting privileges here) fixed. In the meantime, he asked me to mention that the map he posted above is "sideways." That is, North is to the upper left. See the arrow just above the scale in the lower right corner of the map.
 

jrweaver

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Dec 9, 2020
So when an army surround castle/fort on land, but cant cut its line of communication by ship... is that then not a siege?

If the attacker is spending days to drag up siege artillery building a camps and expecting this to take weeks or even month, then I say Siege is a fitting word.
And that would use one set of tactics. And the engineer officers would be critical.

Similar for the defender. Are you planning for a big battle that take a day or maybe two?
Or planning for how to preserve combat ability over the next few month.

Iam sure Lee, McClellan and others would have called Sevastopol during the Crimean war for a siege... despite the allied never cutting Russian supply lines.
How about Toulon, when Napoleon first made his name?

Yes investment is a very high priority, but I would say that military history is full of sieges where this was not done... or only partly done.

Then with the great war, think become a little harder, since a lot of methodic and tactics used for sieges became the norm... and not something you only use for specie occasions.
That's a very good point! A siege is really based on a set of tactics, and I must agree with you that while investment is a very high priority, it should not be considered a requirement for an attack to be called a siege. I think that intent is the key here - whether or not that intent is accomplished. Thank you for clarifying that in my mind!
 

Joseph A. Rose

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How many non-sieges, in your opinion, have been incorrectly called sieges during the Civil War, in its entirety?

The "Sieges" of Petersburg (Jun. 1864 on) and Nashville (Dec. 1864) were definitely not sieges in proper parlance. The "Siege" of Chattanooga (Sept.-Oct. 1863) came closer, but still was not one (in my opinion). I think that a better description of Petersburg would be "static warfare," which featured many of the same activities as siege warfare.

I think that the inaccurate use of the word,"siege," in the above instances was due, in part, to the public relations efforts of various individuals.
 

A. Roy

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Bryce is having trouble with his account right now due to the email address he uses having an issue. He is working to get the email address (and by extension his posting privileges here) fixed. In the meantime, he asked me to mention that the map he posted above is "sideways." That is, North is to the upper left. See the arrow just above the scale in the lower right corner of the map.

Just a follow-up: Did Bryce resolve the problem with logging in? Do we need to do something to help him with that?

Roy B.
 

bschulte

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Just a follow-up: Did Bryce resolve the problem with logging in? Do we need to do something to help him with that?

Roy B.

He is working on it. He is trying to get his Juno email account back up and running. He did not give me a time frame for when that is going to happen.
 

bschulte

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Very good. Also not a proper siege, and another one where misusage of the term helps the usual suspects.

This is the second time you've hinted at this. What do you mean, specifically? Why would calling the end stages of the Atlanta Campaign the "Siege" of Atlanta help someone post-war, and to whom, specifically are you referring?
 

Joseph A. Rose

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Joined
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This is the second time you've hinted at this. What do you mean, specifically? Why would calling the end stages of the Atlanta Campaign the "Siege" of Atlanta help someone post-war, and to whom, specifically are you referring?

Besieging someone is positive. Being besieged is negative.

Rosecrans and Thomas were supposedly besieged at Chattanooga and Thomas at Nashville.

Sherman was supposedly besieging the Confederates at Jackson, MS and Atlanta and Grant at Petersburg.

As Grant wrote in his Memoirs: "To me his [Thomas' at Nashville] delay was unaccountable--sitting there and permitting himself to be invested, so that, in the end, to raise the siege he would have to fight the enemy strongly posted behind fortifications."
 

Bryce

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Location
Washington, D.C.
So when an army surround castle/fort on land, but cant cut its line of communication by ship... is that then not a siege?

If the attacker is spending days to drag up siege artillery building a camps and expecting this to take weeks or even month, then I say Siege is a fitting word.
And that would use one set of tactics. And the engineer officers would be critical.

Similar for the defender. Are you planning for a big battle that take a day or maybe two?
Or planning for how to preserve combat ability over the next few month.

Iam sure Lee, McClellan and others would have called Sevastopol during the Crimean war for a siege... despite the allied never cutting Russian supply lines.
How about Toulon, when Napoleon first made his name?

Yes investment is a very high priority, but I would say that military history is full of sieges where this was not done... or only partly done.

Then with the great war, think become a little harder, since a lot of methodic and tactics used for sieges became the norm... and not something you only use for specie occasions.
Thomas, you have convinced me. Bryce
 
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