Overland Why did Grant choose to go overland?

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m14msgt

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Hoping someone can help me. I am writing a college paper on the Overland Camp...specifically Spotsylvania and Upton's charge. In the realm of material I have recently read on this, I am SURE I read somewhere where Grant chose to go overland as opposed to employing troops via the Union navy into Virginia. Does this strike a familiar chord with anyone or am I delusional?
 

wausaubob

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Grant suggested other plans, but Henry Halleck told Grant the politicians could not tolerate any plan in which the Army of the Potomac was not between Lee's army and Washington, D.C., at all times. Grant accepted the political limitations on his options as inflexible, for the most part, and directed the Army to fight within those constraints.
 

m14msgt

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Grant had two plans disapproved by Washington prior to the overland route. One of those was naval transport to the Peninsula.

See Brooks Simpson's Triumph Over Adversity.
Edited.
thanks much...just ordered Simpson's book....
 

American87

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Grant suggested other plans, but Henry Halleck told Grant the politicians could not tolerate any plan in which the Army of the Potomac was not between Lee's army and Washington, D.C., at all times. Grant accepted the political limitations on his options as inflexible, for the most part, and directed the Army to fight within those constraints.

This.
 

RochesterBill

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Grant seemed more aware than most about civilian control of the military.

An understatement of the first water.

Grant was all about subordination and civilian authority. It's part of what endeared him to Lincoln and a big reason why he rose high. Unlike a McClellan or a Hooker or most anyone else he didn't second guess the administration, or if he did he kept it to himself. An order was an order, end.of story.

He also expected the same from his subordinates, which is why in turn he loved Sherman so much. Not that Sherman didn't have a big mouth and a lot of opinions, but when Grant ordered something it happened.

One of my favorite Western war tales is right after Grant headed west after taking Jackson Miss. He left Sherman to wreck the place but then discovered he was about to run into Pendleton at Champion Hill.

So he sent back word to Sherman that he wanted a division and an ammunition train sent to him, and literally within the hour a full division as on the road, followed closely by a mountain of ammo. As Grant knew it would be.

I've always laughed that the Army if the Potomac couldn't have pulled it off in much less than a week. There would have been a list of objections and problems and delays and shortages and excuses.

Grant expected prompt unquestioning obedience from his people and he gave it to those above him. It's a key insight to understanding the man.

As.for the overland vs. Waterborne approach Grant was probably right that the James was his best route but that had been the McClellan route and that was such a disaster that no one in Washington was going to approve a repeat.

By that point anything that smacked of Little Mac was anathema to the administration.
 

James N.

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An understatement of the first water.
... As.for the overland vs. Waterborne approach Grant was probably right that the James was his best route but that had been the McClellan route and that was such a disaster that no one in Washington was going to approve a repeat.

By that point anything that smacked of Little Mac was anathema to the administration.

I think this is probably the core issue and comes closest to being the best explanation.
 
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Noonanda

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I read somewhere that grant submitted a plan to move the AOP down to the peninsula, but 1 it left washington unguarded, and 2 it was really nothing more than McClellans Peninsula campaign part 2
 

Saphroneth

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Grant seemed more aware than most about civilian control of the military.
Eh?

Unlike a McClellan or a Hooker or most anyone else he didn't second guess the administration, or if he did he kept it to himself. An order was an order, end.of story.
McClellan didn't disobey any orders. He questioned suggestions (and they were often very foolish ones), but any orders were obeyed.

As.for the overland vs. Waterborne approach Grant was probably right that the James was his best route but that had been the McClellan route and that was such a disaster that no one in Washington was going to approve a repeat.
Though the reason it was a disaster was because Washington had so hampered McClellan's operations. If nothing else he'd been chronically deprived of resources compared to Grant and Washington repeatedly promised reinforcements, didn't send them, and acted like they'd arrived.

Not only do I see no reason an 1864 James approach would not have worked (after all, it did, once Grant got there at enormous cost), I see no reason an 1862 James approach would not have worked even after the Seven Days.
 

Saphroneth

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In the end I think the reason why Grant went overland was because he was willing to undergo a much more difficult military operation (and incidentally see colossal casualties suffered by his army) instead of advocating for the more sensible plan. It doesn't really reflect well on at least one of Grant and Lincoln, depending on how insistent (i.e. how close to an order it was) Lincoln was on the Overland route.
 

NedBaldwin

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In the end I think the reason why Grant went overland was because he was willing to undergo a much more difficult military operation (and incidentally see colossal casualties suffered by his army) instead of advocating for the more sensible plan. It doesn't really reflect well on at least one of Grant and Lincoln, depending on how insistent (i.e. how close to an order it was) Lincoln was on the Overland route.
Grant advocated for more sensible plans, but Halleck shot them down and told him he needed to go overland.
Its not clear that Grant's ideas ever got to Lincoln or to Stanton.
So the key person is the one you dont mention: Halleck.
 

Ole Miss

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m14msgt
The Battles for Spotsylvania Court House and the Road to Yellow Tavern, May 7-12, 1864 by Gordon C. Rhea is a very well written account of Grant's campaign and should be of great interest and assistance in your quest. One of the best if not the greatest accounts of the horrendous fighting during that crucial time span.

Good luck with your search for knowledge.
Regards
David
 

Saphroneth

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Grant advocated for more sensible plans, but Halleck shot them down and told him he needed to go overland.
Its not clear that Grant's ideas ever got to Lincoln or to Stanton.
So the key person is the one you dont mention: Halleck.
But why was Halleck so insistent on the overland approach? Recall that a similar debate took place in the first half of 1862 before Halleck was in place over overland vs. amphibious...
 

Saphroneth

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Something that occurs to me is that essentially the approach route is a matter of practicality in the military sense vs. practicality in the political sense. Consistently there is opposition by those in Washington to anything other than an overland approach (though even then sometimes an approach being overland won't save the commander from replacement!)

One thing which allowed Grant to go overland is that such an approach is more practical in 1864 than it was earlier in the war, and this is for two reasons:

1) The pockets of the Union are much deeper in terms of manpower, and the Confederacy's are much less deep.
Simple enough - the strength Lee could muster to defend Richmond in 1862 was much larger than could be mustered in 1864, while Grant's army was on the same order of size as McClellan's but had a lot more reinforcements fed into it to keep it at that strength despite heavy fighting..
2) The SLOCs have been opened.

In the 1862 summer campaign an Overland campaign is basically impossible for all kinds of reasons (torn up rail links, the Yorktown position blocking the York and James rivers), while in 1864 Grant can set off from the Rappahanock and go from there via several rivers before ending up at the James.


Essentially, in 1862 one could argue that an overland approach was politically very useful but militarily impractical. By 1864 it's practical (but costly) and the only political option.

Oddly this doesn't really explain why the Loudoun Valley campaign was called off, it was a well-timed manoeuvre south which looked like being able to allow an almost bloodless Overland as it caught Lee out of position... neither militarily nor politically unviable.
 
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