Ulysses S. Grant: Overrated or Underrated?

DanSBHawk

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If I remember correctly, Rhea only questioned Grant's losses during assaults during a short period of time on June 3.

Campaign: Grant’s Overland Campaign (May-June 1864)


Date(s): May 31-June 12, 1864


Principal Commanders: Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant and Maj. Gen. George G. Meade [US]; Gen. Robert E. Lee [CS]


Forces Engaged: 170,000 total (US 108,000; CS 62,000)


Estimated Casualties: 15,500 total (US 13,000; CS 2,500)


Description: On May 31, Sheridan’s cavalry seized the vital crossroads of Old Cold Harbor. Early on June 1, relying heavily on their new repeating carbines and shallow entrenchments, Sheridan’s troopers threw back an attack by Confederate infantry. Confederate reinforcements arrived from Richmond and from the Totopotomoy Creek lines. Late on June 1, the Union VI and XVIII Corps reached Cold Harbor and assaulted the Confederate works with some success. By June 2, both armies were on the field, forming on a seven-mile front that extended from Bethesda Church to the Chickahominy River. At dawn June 3, the II and XVIII Corps, followed later by the IX Corps, assaulted along the Bethesda Church-Cold Harbor line and were slaughtered at all points. Grant commented in his memoirs that this was the only attack he wished he had never ordered. The armies confronted each other on these lines until the night of June 12, when Grant again advanced by his left flank, marching to James River. On June 14, the II Corps was ferried across the river at Wilcox’s Landing by transports. On June 15, the rest of the army began crossing on a 2,200-foot long pontoon bridge at Weyanoke. Abandoning the well-defended approaches to Richmond, Grant sought to shift his army quickly south of the river to threaten Petersburg.
Result(s): Confederate victory
https://www.nps.gov/abpp/battles/va062.htm
Yes that is my understanding as well, that he is speaking about the casualties of the initial assault on the 3rd being traditionally exaggerated. Of course those numbers of confederate casualties that you provided from the NPS have been questioned as well, for being too low.

Also, it's interesting that the 1864 battle is considered so bloody with about 18,000 total casualties (13000 US, 5000 CS) when the 1862 battle in the same location had 15,000 casualties (7000 US, 8000 CS).
 
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CSA Today

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Yes that is my understanding as well, that he is speaking about the casualties of the initial assault on the 3rd being traditionally exaggerated. Of course those numbers of confederate casualties that you provided from the NPS have been questioned as well, for being too low.

Also, it's interesting that the 1864 battle is considered so bloody with about 18,000 total casualties (13000 US, 5000 CS) when the 1862 battle in the same location had 15,000 casualties (7000 US, 8000 CS).
Let's see federal casualties too high and Confederate casualties too low? Sounds like somebody been reading Edward Bonekemper.
 
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The numbers seem impressive. But many of Grant's soldiers were nearing discharge. He tried to get as much from them as he could. Many thousands of short termers simply walked away and hoped to stay lost until they were furloughed. Especially in the Wilderness fight, there was less use of artillery and Union wounded included mostly gunshot wounds. Many of those men were able to go home.
I doubt that Confederate casualty returns were accurate after Gettysburg. I doubt they were admitting how fast the army was shrinking.
 
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From August to November of 1864 I think Grant's operations were impaired by lack of manpower. Beginning in November of 1864, he was reinforced and many veterans returned to the ranks to see the thing through.
 
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I think you may have been fooled by the attempts to excused Grant's butchery by converting to percentages. Grant lost far more men in every action of the Overland Campaign and the 1864 Petersburg siege operations.

Now, of course when Lee quit Richmond his army was completely destroyed, mostly by Sheridan's forces.

The numbers (not percentages) are:

View attachment 315763

Essentially, Lee bested Grant in every battle upto arguably Fort Stedman, where Lee attempted to break out and failed. Sheridan than overran Pickett at Five Forks and cut the last supply line, forcing Lee to evacuate. Grant assaulted during the evacuation, and gained Petersburg. Lee's forces did quite well when fighting rearguard actions, but at Sailor's Creek and Appomattox Court House, Sheridan got ahead of the retreating columns and cut them off, forcing their surrender.
Where does that chart come from? I'm only mildly curious, as it's obviously very incomplete on the Confederate side especially when it comes to prisoners.
 
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Lee probably had sufficient manpower most of the summer and the shrinking army probably was easier to feed. General Lee's problem's were that the Confederacy was losing horses and mules, in addition to men, that it could not replace. And could not properly feed and forage the horses and mules that survived. The Confederate armies were gradually losing mobility.
 
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The numbers seem impressive. But many of Grant's soldiers were nearing discharge. He tried to get as much from them as he could. Many thousands of short termers simply walked away and hoped to stay lost until they were furloughed. Especially in the Wilderness fight, there was less use of artillery and Union wounded included mostly gunshot wounds. Many of those men were able to go home.
I doubt that Confederate casualty returns were accurate after Gettysburg. I doubt they were admitting how fast the army was shrinking.
True, and very near to discharge, which meant that whatever was to be done with the most experienced soldiers in the AoP needed to be done very quickly, further affecting the decision-making process, and yet they were also less likely to want to vigorously assault entrenched positions so close to going home. Morale was a huge factor particularly in the Overland Campaign, but so was the awkward command relationship between Grant and Meade, and the dysfunction between Meade and his corps commanders and his corps commanders and each other. The AoP was a difficult weapon to wield at the best of times, and this was one of the worst of times with the presidential election so close at hand.
 

67th Tigers

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Where does that chart come from? I'm only mildly curious, as it's obviously very incomplete on the Confederate side especially when it comes to prisoners.
Generally the OR or NPS numbers, or Horn's Petersburg book. A few were filled in.

Lee's last state at Richmond in the OR is a 24th Feb- 1st March inspection report, and it gives:

Present for Duty: 46,398 infantry and cavalry
Aggregate Present: 56,895 infantry and cavalry
(arty not reported, as of 20th Feb they had 5,428 PFD and 6,113 present)

Aggregate Present, ANV thus was ca. 63,008 to which the 2,445 present in other commands should be added (65,453 present)

Working from the other end:
Surrendered: 35,505
Battle casualties since last report: 16,582
Total = 52,087

These are basically self-consistent, with men just walking off and the hospitals added in. Large numbers deserted when Richmond fell, and Lee couldn't take his wounded with him.

Early's force had finally been destroyed at Waynesboro a month earlier, and obviously isn't included. Three divisions were essentially captured at Sailor's Creek, and the remaining 8 infantry divisions and the cavalry surrendered at ACH.
 

DanSBHawk

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Let's see federal casualties too high and Confederate casualties too low? Sounds like somebody been reading Edward Bonekemper.
No, not lately.

Alfred C Young wrote a book, highly regarded by Gordon Rhea, titled Lee's Army during the Overland Campaign: A Numerical Study. Young showed that a lot of the numbers with the Overland Campaign were wrong.
 

DanSBHawk

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I think you may have been fooled by the attempts to excused Grant's butchery by converting to percentages. Grant lost far more men in every action of the Overland Campaign and the 1864 Petersburg siege operations.

Now, of course when Lee quit Richmond his army was completely destroyed, mostly by Sheridan's forces.

The numbers (not percentages) are:

View attachment 315763

Essentially, Lee bested Grant in every battle upto arguably Fort Stedman, where Lee attempted to break out and failed. Sheridan than overran Pickett at Five Forks and cut the last supply line, forcing Lee to evacuate. Grant assaulted during the evacuation, and gained Petersburg. Lee's forces did quite well when fighting rearguard actions, but at Sailor's Creek and Appomattox Court House, Sheridan got ahead of the retreating columns and cut them off, forcing their surrender.
If your numbers are correct, you are saying that Grant lost 115,000 casualties in order to defeat Lee.

And yet Grants predecessors in the east lost 144,000 casualties and had nothing to show for it.
 

67th Tigers

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If your numbers are correct, you are saying that Grant lost 115,000 casualties in order to defeat Lee.

And yet Grants predecessors in the east lost 144,000 casualties and had nothing to show for it.
Except massively draining Lee's manpower.

Lee was able to gather ca. 120,000 effectives against McClellan (including Evans and Drayton, who arrived after the Seven Days), yet in April '64 Lee was only able to put 65,000 into the field against Grant.

It's almost like Lee's army had suffered huge quantities of attrition in the previous two years...
 

DanSBHawk

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Except massively draining Lee's manpower.

Lee was able to gather ca. 120,000 effectives against McClellan (including Evans and Drayton, who arrived after the Seven Days), yet in April '64 Lee was only able to put 65,000 into the field against Grant.

It's almost like Lee's army had suffered huge quantities of attrition in the previous two years...
So you're saying Grant's predecessors were fighting a war of attrition?

Alfred Young puts Lee's numbers at 96,000 for the Overland Campaign. So Grant's predecessors lost 144,000 casualties to reduce Lee's strength by 24,000?
 
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Didn't Lee loose more soldiers then Grant? Didn't Lee sacrifice his soldiers for no gain at Malvern Hill and Pickett's Charge?
Others have pointed out that Lee list many men with nothing to show for it.
Leftyhunter
Yep.

Lee is just as guilty.

But this thread is about General Grant.

Not about General Lee.
 
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In total, the armies under Grant lost about 154,000 casualties throughout the war, and won the war.

Lee's army suffered 209,000 casualties throughout the war, and lost.

That's a 55,000 man difference. Lee was far more deserving of the "butcher" nickname.
I think those numbers came from Bonekemper's charts that he put together a while back. I remember he had Lee's losses for the Appomattox Campaign at something like 41,000 but I consider his entire army to have been casualties, considering they were all surrendered. Thousands of stragglers/deserters received their paroles after the remaining core of Lee's army (the roughly 28,000 of them) were surrendered, so it clearly applied to every soldier in the army. In other words, Lee's total losses were higher still, although not due to combat. I loathe the ancient "butcher" title regardless of who it's applied to, though. It was little more than a shield to handwave away why the invincible Lee lost to Grant in the end, and I don't care for it being used as a way to get back at Lee, either.
 

DanSBHawk

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I think those numbers came from Bonekemper's charts that he put together a while back. I remember he had Lee's losses for the Appomattox Campaign at something like 41,000 but I consider his entire army to have been casualties, considering they were all surrendered. Thousands of stragglers/deserters received their paroles after the remaining core of Lee's army (the roughly 28,000 of them) were surrendered, so it clearly applied to every soldier in the army. In other words, Lee's total losses were higher still, although not due to combat. I loathe the ancient "butcher" title regardless of who it's applied to, though. It was little more than a shield to handwave away why the invincible Lee lost to Grant in the end, and I don't care for it being used as a way to get back at Lee, either.
I don't care if Lee is known as a butcher or not, but as long as that label is applied towards Grant, the reality of the "butchery" should be known.
 



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