View single post by PvtClewell
 Posted: Wed Feb 6th, 2008 09:17 pm
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Joined: Wed Jun 13th, 2007
Location: North Carolina USA
Posts: 420

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Wow. There's a lot of stuff going on here.

Mary Todd Lincoln's 'butcher' quote came during the seige of Petersburg, but I think you have to take her utterings with a grain of salt. She never liked Grant, thought him to be coarse and unmannered and wanted Lincoln to remove him as commander of the army. Good thing she wasn't Lincoln's military advisor, huh? MTL, I think, had her own biased platform about Grant apparantly based on manners and social graces. To my mind, she was commenting on something she knew nothing about when it comes to warfare.

As Lee's army had no wounded on the battlefield, it was only those very brave Yanks that lay there in the elements suffering for 4 days before Grant would finally follow protocal and ask for a proper truce. After which time, only two Yankees were found alive, the others whom were unable to crawl or unrescued by commrades had died excruciating deaths, no water, nothing for their pain, nothing to protect them from the elements.

Joanie, there's more to this story. In the 19th century, if a commander sent for a flag of truce to bury his dead and cart off his wounded, he was considered to have lost the field of battle. We have to view that incident through a 19th century lens and not from the 21st century, otherwise we should be truly and utterly appalled.

On top of that, Grant finally did ask Lee on June 5 (two days later) that each side be permitted to remove the dead and wounded 'when no action was in progress.' Lee refused, saying "I fear such an arrangement will lead to misunderstanding and difficulty. I propose therefore, instead, that when either party desires to remove their dead or wounded a flag of truce be sent, as is customary ..."

Grant thought it over for a day, roadblocked by the 'flag of truce' clause, and sent another message to Lee saying he would recover his dead and wounded immediately. Trouble was, there was no 'flag of truce' clause in this note either, and again, Lee declined. It wasn't until the fourth day that Lee allowed Grant to recover his dead and wounded. Two men were found alive.

Men died in this needless battle of wills and semantics, and a favorable light does not shine on either commander because of it. But it was a 19th century mindset — they were a product of their times, like we all are. They both had points of pride. And war is hell.

And, had he not known better prior to the start of the Overland Campaign, then the Wilderness, Spotsylvania, and North Anna River should have taught him a little about attacking field fortifications head on.

But after each of those battles, Grant was able to maneuver his army closer to Richmond. Rhea writes: "Lee had earned high marks as a defensive fighter, deadlocking an army nearly double the size of his own force, and Cold Harbor added to his laurels. But impressive as Lee's victories were, the pattern of the campaign remained troubling. Each time Lee fought Grant to a stalemate, the Union general shifted to new ground closer to Richmond, maintaining an intense regimen of maneuver and attack that prevented Lee from taking the initiative and steadily curtailed his ability to countermaneuver." (P. 393).

If the North was going to vanquish the South, it was incumbent upon Grant to be on the offensive, and an offensive army is almost always going to suffer more casualties. Most armies prefer to attack at odds of 3-to-1 at the point of contact, if possible, to provide the best hope of success.

Do we ever learn not to attack fortified positions in frontal assaults? In World War II, the Allies nearly broke themselves trying to take Monte Casino in Italy. Nearly happened again at Aachen, and the Hurtegen Forest. And, while we're at it, Operation Market-Garden.

Has anyone ever looked at the public’s perception, via newspapers, of Grant’s loses? Something is clicking on a back burner that Grant suppressed the newspapers and would not let them publish the actual number of loses that he sustained.

Again, Rhea writes: "A century later, conspiracy theory devotees claimed that Grant conspired to put a lid on his true casualties at Cold Harbor until the Republican convention, scheduled to convene on June 7, had nominated Lincoln. Nothing about the timing or accuracy of reports on Cold Harbor, however, differs significantly from the timing or accuracy of battle reporting throughout the campaign. On Monday, June 6, the New York Herald published a front-page report parroting Dana's latest dispatch that losses for the previous three days' fighting around Cold Harbor 'will not exceed, according to the Adjutant General's report, seven thousand five hundred.' The next day — June 7 — the New York Times ran a headline reporting 'heavy losses on our side' at Cold Harbor, in a battle that produced 'no decisive result.' The accompanying article estimated casualties at 5,000 to 6,000 and candidly described the failure of the attack. That same day, the Republican convention opened in Baltimore. The following day, delegates nominated Lincoln for president, fully cognizant of the bloodshed at Cold Harbor and of Grant's failure to achieve success there." (P. 385)

Whew. I'm wiped out.

Last edited on Sat Feb 9th, 2008 01:08 pm by PvtClewell

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