Why Did Grant Go East?

MikeyB

Sergeant
Joined
Sep 13, 2018
What drove Grant's decision to go East? Did Lincoln request or order it? Did Grant feel like Meade needed more supervision than his officers in the West?

Strategically, one could make the argument the Western Front was still the more important theater and perhaps it would have made more sense to stay there and let Meade do his thing.
 

trice

Colonel
Joined
May 2, 2006
What drove Grant's decision to go East? Did Lincoln request or order it? Did Grant feel like Meade needed more supervision than his officers in the West?

Strategically, one could make the argument the Western Front was still the more important theater and perhaps it would have made more sense to stay there and let Meade do his thing.
Grant's initial thought was to stay in the West. Once he went to Washington and saw how things stood there, he changed his mind. From Grant's Personal Memoirs:

On the 10th I visited the headquarters of the Army of the Potomac at Brandy Station; then returned to Washington, and pushed west at once to make my arrangements for turning over the commands there and giving general directions for the preparations to be made for the spring campaign.


It had been my intention before this to remain in the West, even if I was made lieutenant-general; but when I got to Washington and saw the situation it was plain that here was the point for the commanding general to be. No one else could, probably, resist the pressure that would be brought to bear upon him to desist from his own plans and pursue others. I determined, therefore, before I started back to have Sherman advanced to my late position, McPherson to Sherman's in command of the department, and Logan to the command of McPherson's corps. These changes were all made on my recommendation and without hesitation. My commission as lieutenant-general was given to me on the 9th of March, 1864. On the following day, as already stated, I visited General Meade, commanding the Army of the Potomac, at his headquarters at Brandy Station, north of the Rapidan. I had known General Meade slightly in the Mexican war, but had not met him since until this visit. I was a stranger to most of the Army of the Potomac, I might say to all except the officers of the regular army who had served in the Mexican war. There had been some changes ordered in the organization of that army before my promotion. One was the consolidation of five corps into three, thus throwing some officers of rank out of important commands. Meade evidently thought that I might want to make still one more change not yet ordered. He said to me that I might want an officer who had served with me in the West, mentioning Sherman specially, to take his place. If so, he begged me not to hesitate about making the change. He urged that the work before us was of such vast importance to the whole nation that the feeling or wishes of no one person should stand in the way of selecting the right men for all positions. For himself, he would serve to the best of his ability wherever placed. I assured him that I had no thought of substituting any one for him. As to Sherman, he could not be spared from the West.
This incident gave me even a more favorable opinion of Meade than did his great victory at Gettysburg the July before. It is men who wait to be selected, and not those who seek, from whom we may always expect the most efficient service.
 

tony_gunter

Corporal
Joined
Feb 19, 2011
Location
Mississippi
What drove Grant's decision to go East? Did Lincoln request or order it? Did Grant feel like Meade needed more supervision than his officers in the West?

Strategically, one could make the argument the Western Front was still the more important theater and perhaps it would have made more sense to stay there and let Meade do his thing.
Haven’t read up on his decision. Seems logical, Sherman would have the easier lift, numerical superiority, and an integral understanding of the plan. No real reason to remain in the west.

In the East, Grant didn’t know much about the command dynamic and knew that the army had a morale problem when facing Lee on his turf.
 

jackt62

Captain
Joined
Jul 28, 2015
Location
New York City
Sherman actually advised Grant to remain in the West. But Grant understood that after the successful federal occupation of the Mississippi Valley and Middle Tennessee, the focus of attention would need to be on the destruction of the ANV. Grant was elevated to high command with the express purpose of ensuring that the war would be brought to a successful conclusion; while Grant could rely on Sherman to deal with the remaining Confederate resistance in Georgia, Grant needed to take charge in the east, stay closer to the political and military leadership in Washington, and make his own evaluation of the AotP. Grant was astute enough to know that he, as an outsider, might disrupt the equilibrium of that army by making wholesale command changes. Which is why he left Mead in command of the AotP even though he accompanied that army and exercised overall command.
 

jackt62

Captain
Joined
Jul 28, 2015
Location
New York City
Strategically, one could make the argument the Western Front was still the more important theater and perhaps it would have made more sense to stay there and let Meade do his thing.
By 1864, Grant conceived the key to victory as being a force concentration in space, rather than simply a concentration in time. That is to say, coordinated offensives in both west and east would ensure that Confederate forces would be unable to effectively defend against all federal movements, thereby negating the southern advantage in interior lines. Lincoln put it in terms of some could skin the hog while others could hold a leg. So Grant authorizes simultaneous campaigns in the Shenandoah Valley, northern and southeast Virginia, and Georgia. Not all of these were successful, but were meant to pin down Confederate forces in multiple locations.
 

wausaubob

Colonel
Joined
Apr 4, 2017
Location
Denver, CO
Grant's initial thought was to stay in the West. Once he went to Washington and saw how things stood there, he changed his mind. From Grant's Personal Memoirs:

On the 10th I visited the headquarters of the Army of the Potomac at Brandy Station; then returned to Washington, and pushed west at once to make my arrangements for turning over the commands there and giving general directions for the preparations to be made for the spring campaign.


It had been my intention before this to remain in the West, even if I was made lieutenant-general; but when I got to Washington and saw the situation it was plain that here was the point for the commanding general to be. No one else could, probably, resist the pressure that would be brought to bear upon him to desist from his own plans and pursue others. I determined, therefore, before I started back to have Sherman advanced to my late position, McPherson to Sherman's in command of the department, and Logan to the command of McPherson's corps. These changes were all made on my recommendation and without hesitation. My commission as lieutenant-general was given to me on the 9th of March, 1864. On the following day, as already stated, I visited General Meade, commanding the Army of the Potomac, at his headquarters at Brandy Station, north of the Rapidan. I had known General Meade slightly in the Mexican war, but had not met him since until this visit. I was a stranger to most of the Army of the Potomac, I might say to all except the officers of the regular army who had served in the Mexican war. There had been some changes ordered in the organization of that army before my promotion. One was the consolidation of five corps into three, thus throwing some officers of rank out of important commands. Meade evidently thought that I might want to make still one more change not yet ordered. He said to me that I might want an officer who had served with me in the West, mentioning Sherman specially, to take his place. If so, he begged me not to hesitate about making the change. He urged that the work before us was of such vast importance to the whole nation that the feeling or wishes of no one person should stand in the way of selecting the right men for all positions. For himself, he would serve to the best of his ability wherever placed. I assured him that I had no thought of substituting any one for him. As to Sherman, he could not be spared from the West.
This incident gave me even a more favorable opinion of Meade than did his great victory at Gettysburg the July before. It is men who wait to be selected, and not those who seek, from whom we may always expect the most efficient service.
I think Grant and Meade had a good idea of what was going to happen. The Army of the Potomac was going to advance overland, either by the central route or the eastern route. Duplicating McClellan's water transport operation was out of the question, though some elements might be possible. Tremendous battles would occur and the US had to prepare to triage and evacuate the wounded as fast as possible.
Meade may have realized that even after the US Army lost at Chanc. it still had a Gettysburg fight in it, so the army was tougher than it seemed. Grant and Meade wanted to maximize the % that no matter how things appeared after the initial collisions, the campaign would continue to the outskirts of Richmond and possibly the James River. I am pretty sure that Grant concluded that no matter what, the US would apply continual pressure on Virginia and Richmond to make it nearly impossible for Lee to reinforce any other Confederate army.
 

trice

Colonel
Joined
May 2, 2006
I think Grant and Meade had a good idea of what was going to happen. The Army of the Potomac was going to advance overland, either by the central route or the eastern route. Duplicating McClellan's water transport operation was out of the question, though some elements might be possible. Tremendous battles would occur and the US had to prepare to triage and evacuate the wounded as fast as possible.
Meade may have realized that even after the US Army lost at Chanc. it still had a Gettysburg fight in it, so the army was tougher than it seemed. Grant and Meade wanted to maximize the % that no matter how things appeared after the initial collisions, the campaign would continue to the outskirts of Richmond and possibly the James River. I am pretty sure that Grant concluded that no matter what, the US would apply continual pressure on Virginia and Richmond to make it nearly impossible for Lee to reinforce any other Confederate army.
The idea Grant said he liked best was to move south with his right flank on the Blue Ridge (west of Lee), then turn East towards Fredericksburg/Richmond. He said he would do this with 10 days of rations in the wagons, cutting loose from the RR. That is a bold and gutsy plan. Grant would have to win quickly or abandon his move and head back towards his supplies before about May 15. Failure could easily result in a major victory for Lee. The key point is that it turns all the river positions and threatens Richmond.

Grant said in his Memoirs that if he had known the AoP before the campaign (and if the AoP had known him), this is the plan he would have picked.
 

wausaubob

Colonel
Joined
Apr 4, 2017
Location
Denver, CO
The idea Grant said he liked best was to move south with his right flank on the Blue Ridge (west of Lee), then turn East towards Fredericksburg/Richmond. He said he would do this with 10 days of rations in the wagons, cutting loose from the RR. That is a bold and gutsy plan. Grant would have to win quickly or abandon his move and head back towards his supplies before about May 15. Failure could easily result in a major victory for Lee. The key point is that it turns all the river positions and threatens Richmond.

Grant said in his Memoirs that if he had known the AoP before the campaign (and if the AoP had known him), this is the plan he would have picked.
As things progressed he had Ingalls advising him how White House could be used as a forward depot, and the Confederates were reluctant to fight there, because of its heritage connected to George Washington. As time went on in 1864, Grant must have seen that something had to be done about central Virginia and the Shenandoah Valley. Eventually Sheridan solved this problem. By the time he wrote the Memoirs he was aware that the US had much more RR capacity then was anticipated in 1864. Still, I question whether the US could have sustained Sherman's railroad and a railroad down through Virginia. I think City Point worked better for everyone.
 

wausaubob

Colonel
Joined
Apr 4, 2017
Location
Denver, CO
At any rate, Grant went east because Sherman and Thomas and the rest of the western commanders were professionals, and not likely to be second guessed by Congress. Meade, Hancock, Sedgwick and Warren needed all the help he could provide, especially if Butler, Sigel and Burnside held important commands.
 

A. Roy

Sergeant Major
Forum Host
Joined
Sep 2, 2019
Location
Raleigh, North Carolina
Meade evidently thought that I might want to make still one more change not yet ordered. He said to me that I might want an officer who had served with me in the West, mentioning Sherman specially, to take his place. If so, he begged me not to hesitate about making the change. He urged that the work before us was of such vast importance to the whole nation that the feeling or wishes of no one person should stand in the way of selecting the right men for all positions. For himself, he would serve to the best of his ability wherever placed.

Great quote. This speaks well of Meade, doesn't it?

ARB
 
Top