Overland Would Buford Have Done Better Than Sheridan As Cavalry Commander In The Overland Campaign?

(Wilderness, Spotsylvania, North Anna, Cold Harbor)

WScott

Private
Joined
May 6, 2021
I like Buford as a Cavalry Corps Commander than Little Phil. To me Sheridan was egotistical and difficult to deal with. He seems to consider himself above those of higher rank and the savior of the battlefield. He fought with Meade at the Wilderness, did clear out the Shenandoah Valley but faced a diminishing army under Early (which he barely defeated) and he canned Gouvenor Warren at Five Forks because Little Phil didn't like Warrens battle progress. I think Phil should have gotten down from his high horse but then again the horse was normal height and he wasn't.
 

Belfoured

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
Aug 3, 2019
I'm not so sure we can. Wittenberg said:

"On the Peninsula McClellan parceled out his volunteer cavalry regiments to specific infantry brigades, primarily using the horsemen as messengers and orderlies. This was a poor use for an expensive arm of the service like cavalry ... McClellan frittered them away."

But when I asked him for data about this he refused to provide any.

Obviously, if this is a statement which is not well supported by evidence (and if in fact the Army of the Potomac's cavalry was largely concentrated and used appropriately to screen the flanks, provide a reserve striking force and conduct recces) then the idea of the Army of the Potomac's cavalry having a low standard of performance is not well established.


Well, the Union cavalry did well in both campaigns at the scouting and screening role, driving Stuart's cavalry back through the Catoctins in Maryland and fighting multiple (successful) cavalry actions during the march south in the Loudoun Valley campaign. In particular the Union cavalry takes three guns from Stuart's horse artillery, which isn't something to sneeze at.

The scouting and screening in Loudoun is particularly worth noting, because there is a clear information disparity between the two sides.

On or about the 9th of November Lee's sense of where the Union army is is wrong by about fifteen to twenty miles (that is, he tells Jackson that the Union army is around Piedmont Depot and Rectortown, 35 miles from Culpeper; the Union army is actually mostly at Warrenton, 20 miles from Rectortown and 22 miles from Culpeper, and the 9th Corps is at Waterloo only sixteen miles from Culpeper). Conversely, the Union cavalry has a pretty good idea where most of Lee's army is (the details shift around slightly but for example they confirm on the 8th that Jackson and both Hills are still in the Shenandoah and are clearly aware that Longstreet is at Culpeper).
You appear to have "facts" to the contrary regarding McClellan's use of cavalry on the Peninsula, but they remain concealed for some reason - hence your resort to "if" as a predicate. Feel free to provide them, rather than the old debating tactic of requiring proof of their non-existence. Nobody who has looked into this has found evidence of anything remotely resembling a sizable, independent cavalry organization in that campaign, let alone one actually operating as such and performing the tasks you specify. By the way, Starr, vol. 1, concurs with the Wittenberg assessment - and each reached his conclusions after thorough research.
 

Belfoured

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
Aug 3, 2019
I believe if anyone is well versed on Eric,s opinion of Sheridan, then you know his opinion on this already.
One of Eric's strong suits is that he pulls no punches. And - consistent with that and to his credit - he states in Little Phil that he is presenting at least in part argument/advocacy. That doesn't detract from the merits of his points.
 

Saphroneth

Major
Joined
Feb 18, 2017
You appear to have "facts" to the contrary regarding McClellan's use of cavalry on the Peninsula, but they remain concealed for some reason - hence your resort to "if" as a predicate. Feel free to provide them, rather than the old debating tactic of requiring proof of their non-existence.
Well, what I'm actually asking for is proof that the cavalry on the Peninsula was packeted out. I am aware of one point in time where a cavalry regiment is assigned to an infantry brigade, during the Hanover Court House operation.

However, here are some points in time for which I have the information, or at least what my understanding is of those time points. This is my understanding of what the cavalry was actually doing.

1) The start of Stuart's ride.
A) screen north of the Chickahominy.
Most of the 8th Illinois is spread from the Chickahominy to Pole Green Church (except 1-2 squadrons)
1st NY is concentrated just behind 8th IL, possibly with pickets along the Chickahominy
2 squadrons of the 5th US at Pole Green Church.
8th PA picketing Tolopatamoy Creek.
Total 3 regiments or a little more (adding to 36-38 companies)
B) reserve.
1st US, rest of the 5th US, the 6th US and the 6th PA in camp at Cold Harbor.
Total 3 regiments (they add to 34 companies)
C) screen south of the Chickahominy:
3rd PA Cavalry
1 or 2 squadrons of the 8th Illinois
Total 14-16 companies.
D) residue, attached to infantry corps etc. as escorts and provost
2nd US (7 coys) (2 coys of this were Heintzelman's escort)
McClellan dragoons (2 coys) (attached to McClellan's HQ as escort)
Oneida coy (1 coy) (orderlies/couriers)
Det. 4th US (2 coys) (attached to McClellan's HQ)
The 3rd battalion of the 6th NY (4 coys total) (attached to 2nd and 4th Corps as escort)
Total 16 companies.

So most of the cavalry is north of the Chickahominy, in either (A) the screen or (B) the reserve which total to about 70 companies. The screen south of the Chickahominy (C) and the residue (D) sum to about 30 companies; thus more than 70% of the cavalry is doing what it is doing scout or screen work.


2) The Seven Days.

During the Seven Days, almost the entire cavalry force was fighting north of the Chickahominy by the 27th (regardless of their previous roles).


At the start of the Seven Days there was:

Stoneman
wing, 5th US Cav
6th US Cav
2 sqns, 6th Pa Cav

8th Illinois (picket duty north of the Chickahominy, goes to join Stoneman)

Cooke (at Hanover Ct House)
1st US (2 sqns) - rest of 1st US moves north of the Chickahominy as well
wing, 5th US
3 sqns, 6th Pa
Sqn, 4th Pa (joined on 26th)

11th PA (at White House Landing, 5 companies)
And the newly arrived elements of the 4th PA

Starts south of the Chickahominy:
1st NY - one sqn detached as 5th Corps HQ escort (and thus north of the Chickahominy, falls in with Stoneman). Remaining 5 sqns screening at Fair Oaks. 2 sqns accompanied Slocum.
3rd Pa - whole regt (went to join Stoneman)
8th Pa - whole regt (acting as bridge guards mostly)
2nd US & McClellan Dragoons - went south of the White Oak and protected the engineers who opened the crossings there.

I've not quite got data for the whole force, but it seems to be the case that the units north of the Chickahominy are fairly numerous; they were concentrated mostly into two significant commands.


If it's the case that "On the Peninsula McClellan parceled out his volunteer cavalry regiments to specific infantry brigades, primarily using the horsemen as messengers and orderlies." and that "McClellan frittered them away" etc. then it should be easy to show multiple examples of McClellan assigning volunteer cavalry regiments to specific infantry brigades and using them as messengers and orderlies as the main use to which he puts them. Instead:
When he has just landed, there's only the 5th US and 3rd PA available. One regular and one volunteer regiment; each goes to one column.
Williamsburg Stoneman's pursuit force is the 1st US, 6th US, 3rd PA and 8th IL (a mixed force of regulars and volunteers); at Hanover Court House Stoneman has his main body (8th IL, 1st NY, 1st US) and vanguard under Emory (5th US, 6th US, 6th PA), which is most of the regiments that have arrived by that point. There are two other cavalry regiments screening south of the Chickahominy, the 3rd and 8th PA.
Stuart's raid: the screen north of the Chickahominy contains about 33 volunteer companies and four regulars; the reserve there contains 22 volunteer companies and 12 regulars.
Seven Days: most of the available cavalry goes north of the Chickahominy and fights/screens there.

There does not seem to be any trend of volunteer cavalry regiments being assigned to specific infantry brigades, and there does not seem to be any trend of their primary use being messengers and orderlies. It is that (the trend of volunteer cavalry being "frittered away" and parceled out "to specific infantry brigades") which needs to be demonstrated; for example, which infantry brigade were the 1st NY, 3rd PA, 6th PA, 8th PA, 8th IL assigned to?

(I know the 6th PA was under Warren at Hanover Court House, but this is no longer the case by the time of Stuart's ride; it is the only example I am aware of.)
 

wausaubob

Colonel
Joined
Apr 4, 2017
Location
Denver, CO
Thanks, but I will pass. I was going to say a lot more about the reasons why I have substantially less than no interest in bantering with you, but have decided it's not worth the effort. You'll get over it. I promise.
Except we enjoy your comments, understanding that you think Sheridan was a jerk. He probably was a jerk. Which is how he survived.
 

Saphroneth

Major
Joined
Feb 18, 2017
Except we enjoy your comments, understanding that you think Sheridan was a jerk. He probably was a jerk. Which is how he survived.
I think he's referring to 67th specifically. I'm not sure why though; in a previous thread 67th presented an argument which was intended to challenge Eric's argument, and Eric just said "Whatever." and refused to defend his position.

I might have missed a previous argument between them though.
 

Belfoured

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
Aug 3, 2019
Well, what I'm actually asking for is proof that the cavalry on the Peninsula was packeted out. I am aware of one point in time where a cavalry regiment is assigned to an infantry brigade, during the Hanover Court House operation.

However, here are some points in time for which I have the information, or at least what my understanding is of those time points. This is my understanding of what the cavalry was actually doing.

1) The start of Stuart's ride.
A) screen north of the Chickahominy.
Most of the 8th Illinois is spread from the Chickahominy to Pole Green Church (except 1-2 squadrons)
1st NY is concentrated just behind 8th IL, possibly with pickets along the Chickahominy
2 squadrons of the 5th US at Pole Green Church.
8th PA picketing Tolopatamoy Creek.
Total 3 regiments or a little more (adding to 36-38 companies)
B) reserve.
1st US, rest of the 5th US, the 6th US and the 6th PA in camp at Cold Harbor.
Total 3 regiments (they add to 34 companies)
C) screen south of the Chickahominy:
3rd PA Cavalry
1 or 2 squadrons of the 8th Illinois
Total 14-16 companies.
D) residue, attached to infantry corps etc. as escorts and provost
2nd US (7 coys) (2 coys of this were Heintzelman's escort)
McClellan dragoons (2 coys) (attached to McClellan's HQ as escort)
Oneida coy (1 coy) (orderlies/couriers)
Det. 4th US (2 coys) (attached to McClellan's HQ)
The 3rd battalion of the 6th NY (4 coys total) (attached to 2nd and 4th Corps as escort)
Total 16 companies.

So most of the cavalry is north of the Chickahominy, in either (A) the screen or (B) the reserve which total to about 70 companies. The screen south of the Chickahominy (C) and the residue (D) sum to about 30 companies; thus more than 70% of the cavalry is doing what it is doing scout or screen work.


2) The Seven Days.

During the Seven Days, almost the entire cavalry force was fighting north of the Chickahominy by the 27th (regardless of their previous roles).


At the start of the Seven Days there was:

Stoneman
wing, 5th US Cav
6th US Cav
2 sqns, 6th Pa Cav

8th Illinois (picket duty north of the Chickahominy, goes to join Stoneman)

Cooke (at Hanover Ct House)
1st US (2 sqns) - rest of 1st US moves north of the Chickahominy as well
wing, 5th US
3 sqns, 6th Pa
Sqn, 4th Pa (joined on 26th)

11th PA (at White House Landing, 5 companies)
And the newly arrived elements of the 4th PA

Starts south of the Chickahominy:
1st NY - one sqn detached as 5th Corps HQ escort (and thus north of the Chickahominy, falls in with Stoneman). Remaining 5 sqns screening at Fair Oaks. 2 sqns accompanied Slocum.
3rd Pa - whole regt (went to join Stoneman)
8th Pa - whole regt (acting as bridge guards mostly)
2nd US & McClellan Dragoons - went south of the White Oak and protected the engineers who opened the crossings there.

I've not quite got data for the whole force, but it seems to be the case that the units north of the Chickahominy are fairly numerous; they were concentrated mostly into two significant commands.


If it's the case that "On the Peninsula McClellan parceled out his volunteer cavalry regiments to specific infantry brigades, primarily using the horsemen as messengers and orderlies." and that "McClellan frittered them away" etc. then it should be easy to show multiple examples of McClellan assigning volunteer cavalry regiments to specific infantry brigades and using them as messengers and orderlies as the main use to which he puts them. Instead:
When he has just landed, there's only the 5th US and 3rd PA available. One regular and one volunteer regiment; each goes to one column.
Williamsburg Stoneman's pursuit force is the 1st US, 6th US, 3rd PA and 8th IL (a mixed force of regulars and volunteers); at Hanover Court House Stoneman has his main body (8th IL, 1st NY, 1st US) and vanguard under Emory (5th US, 6th US, 6th PA), which is most of the regiments that have arrived by that point. There are two other cavalry regiments screening south of the Chickahominy, the 3rd and 8th PA.
Stuart's raid: the screen north of the Chickahominy contains about 33 volunteer companies and four regulars; the reserve there contains 22 volunteer companies and 12 regulars.
Seven Days: most of the available cavalry goes north of the Chickahominy and fights/screens there.

There does not seem to be any trend of volunteer cavalry regiments being assigned to specific infantry brigades, and there does not seem to be any trend of their primary use being messengers and orderlies. It is that (the trend of volunteer cavalry being "frittered away" and parceled out "to specific infantry brigades") which needs to be demonstrated; for example, which infantry brigade were the 1st NY, 3rd PA, 6th PA, 8th PA, 8th IL assigned to?

(I know the 6th PA was under Warren at Hanover Court House, but this is no longer the case by the time of Stuart's ride; it is the only example I am aware of.)
This is how to get lost in the rabbit hole. Here are the simple facts: the cavalry on the Peninsula was ineffective at the sorts of tasks you - not I - have said that cavalry does. Hence Stuart's embarrassing ride around McClellan, with the belated Union "pursuit" by squadrons acting semi-independently that were grievously outnumbered by Stuart; Porter's apparent failure to understand that he was moving forward at Hanover CH while an enemy force was to the rear of the attacking units; the ill-advised "charge" of a few squadrons of the 5th US at Gaines's Mill. If you look at how the cavalry was scattered about as parts of regiments, the failures become understandable. There are nearly as many reports from those involved in the poorly-handled raid by Stuart as you will find in battles involving larger forces, including a plethora of company commanders. Rush's 6th, for example, seems to have been operating in squadrons on a regular basis. Any OOB you try to put together for this period is unlikely to show that. Where was everybody else? And the cavalry wasn't used "as two significant commands". Last, there is a dearth of specific information about what these "commands" were supposedly doing after the action of isolated squadrons of the few units at Gaines's Mill.
 

Eric Wittenberg

1st Lieutenant
Keeper of the Scales
Joined
Jun 2, 2013
Location
Columbus, OH
I think he's referring to 67th specifically. I'm not sure why though; in a previous thread 67th presented an argument which was intended to challenge Eric's argument, and Eric just said "Whatever." and refused to defend his position.

I might have missed a previous argument between them though.
Yes, I am referring to 67th, with whom I have substantially less than no interest in engaging with in any fashion. It's a massive waste of time and energy, and I lack the time and interest in said massive waste.
 

wausaubob

Colonel
Joined
Apr 4, 2017
Location
Denver, CO
Yes, I am referring to 67th, with whom I have substantially less than no interest in engaging with in any fashion. It's a massive waste of time and energy, and I lack the time and interest in said massive waste.
Its a rational response to what might be considered fire hosing the truth. A person who packs multiple misstatements, distortions and logical mistakes into a single brief is trying to control the narrative and the time. Rather than use resources of time to respond to the multiple distortions, a person might conclude to make their best argument on their perception of the relevant and material facts and leave it to the reader to draw their own conclusions.
 

Irishtom29

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
Jul 21, 2008
Location
Kent, Washington
... He fought with Meade at the Wilderness, did clear out the Shenandoah Valley but faced a diminishing army under Early (which he barely defeated) and he canned Gouvenor Warren at Five Forks because Little Phil didn't like Warrens battle progress. I think Phil should have gotten down from his high horse but then again the horse was normal height and he wasn't.

Yes, he did clear out the Valley and defeat Early. Good things, no?

Warren needed to go; with all the corps commanders that were relieved during the war I wonder why Warren gets special attention. Because he was a "hero of Gettysburg"? I think McClernand was a better and more aggressive corps commander than Warren and nobody boo-hoos over his relief. Nor for Granger.

Sheridan had drive and energy and liked to fight and in the eastern Federal armies those were formidable virtues. But perhaps he was better as a kampfgruppe commander than as a cavalry commander.
 

JeffBrooks

Sergeant Major
Joined
Aug 20, 2009
Location
Manor, TX
Yes, he did clear out the Valley and defeat Early. Good things, no?

Sheridan had more than 40,000 men, well-fed and properly-armed. Early had around 15,000 half-starved and poorly equipped troops. Those are some of the best odds that any Civil War general had in a major campaign. Yet Sheridan very nearly botched the job at Third Winchester and the again at Cedar Creek. The impressive thing is not that Sheridan defeated Early, but that Early came so close to pulling off a win himself.
 

AA484

Private
Joined
Jan 17, 2020
Sheridan had more than 40,000 men, well-fed and properly-armed. Early had around 15,000 half-starved and poorly equipped troops. Those are some of the best odds that any Civil War general had in a major campaign. Yet Sheridan very nearly botched the job at Third Winchester and the again at Cedar Creek. The impressive thing is not that Sheridan defeated Early, but that Early came so close to pulling off a win himself.
Replace Sheridan with Sigel, Hunter, or even Wright and you don't get the same results.
 

Belfoured

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
Aug 3, 2019
Sheridan had more than 40,000 men, well-fed and properly-armed. Early had around 15,000 half-starved and poorly equipped troops. Those are some of the best odds that any Civil War general had in a major campaign. Yet Sheridan very nearly botched the job at Third Winchester and the again at Cedar Creek. The impressive thing is not that Sheridan defeated Early, but that Early came so close to pulling off a win himself.
It's remarkable how a guy who was caught with his pants down at Cedar Creek launched himself into the pantheon of legend with a dramatic ride to salvage an "unforced error". Sheridan and Stonewall are two ACW figures who have benefitted from a lot of superficial spin.
 

jackt62

Captain
Joined
Jul 28, 2015
Location
New York City
It's remarkable how a guy who was caught with his pants down at Cedar Creek launched himself into the pantheon of legend with a dramatic ride to salvage an "unforced error". Sheridan and Stonewall are two ACW figures who have benefitted from a lot of superficial spin.
The Cedar Creek assault was brilliantly conceived by Early and Gordon and perhaps Sheridan's absence from the field may have contributed to the initial Union rout. But there is no doubt that Sheridan's propaganda machine went into high gear and the poem "Sheridan's Ride" overshadowed in the public imagination and historical record any errors that he might have committed.
 

Jamieva

Captain
Forum Host
Joined
Feb 7, 2006
Location
Midlothian, VA
The Cedar Creek assault was brilliantly conceived by Early and Gordon and perhaps Sheridan's absence from the field may have contributed to the initial Union rout. But there is no doubt that Sheridan's propaganda machine went into high gear and the poem "Sheridan's Ride" overshadowed in the public imagination and historical record any errors that he might have committed.

That was all Gordon’s plan Early had really nothing to do with it. Gordon personally scouted the route and did all the leg work to prep it. Early does get credit for stopping the attack instead of pressing it which allowed VI corps to then make their counter attack
 

Jamieva

Captain
Forum Host
Joined
Feb 7, 2006
Location
Midlothian, VA
Sheridan had more than 40,000 men, well-fed and properly-armed. Early had around 15,000 half-starved and poorly equipped troops. Those are some of the best odds that any Civil War general had in a major campaign. Yet Sheridan very nearly botched the job at Third Winchester and the again at Cedar Creek. The impressive thing is not that Sheridan defeated Early, but that Early came so close to pulling off a win himself.

exactly this. Sheridan should have wiped the floor with Early but it took multiple battles and Sheridan was never eager to pursuit and finish the job which he should have done after Fishers Hill
 

Irishtom29

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
Jul 21, 2008
Location
Kent, Washington
Sheridan had more than 40,000 men, well-fed and properly-armed. Early had around 15,000 half-starved and poorly equipped troops. Those are some of the best odds that any Civil War general had in a major campaign. Yet Sheridan very nearly botched the job at Third Winchester and the again at Cedar Creek. The impressive thing is not that Sheridan defeated Early, but that Early came so close to pulling off a win himself.

He defeated Early and cleared the Valley, that's history. What he should'a, could'a or would'a done isn't.

I understand that around here we're like sports fans second guessing and rating players, and that's fun. But in the end Sheridan's accomplishments and their results stand; he was very important in the destruction of the rebellion in the east.
 

wausaubob

Colonel
Joined
Apr 4, 2017
Location
Denver, CO
It's remarkable how a guy who was caught with his pants down at Cedar Creek launched himself into the pantheon of legend with a dramatic ride to salvage an "unforced error". Sheridan and Stonewall are two ACW figures who have benefitted from a lot of superficial spin.
I think Confederate agents were very well posted on Sheridan's movements and location most of the time in DC and the Valley. I conjecture that they knew he had gone to Washington to enjoy some personal time, or a meeting.
 
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