View single post by PvtClewell
 Posted: Sun Feb 10th, 2008 02:10 pm
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Joined: Wed Jun 13th, 2007
Location: North Carolina USA
Posts: 420

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While grazing through my resources in attempts to support my arguments, I came across Emory Upton, Theodore Lyman and Gouverneur Warren who wrote scathing commentary against the assault at Cold Harbor. Rhea cites even more sources, and I'm sure it wouldn't require much effort to find hundreds more, all that can be used to support the 'Grant the butcher' theme. The real challenge, no doubt, will be finding the men who supported the assault, and who's going to support a failed assault? But it also supports Rhea in that Grant and his subordinates were frustrated.

You restate your original questions. Should Grant have fought at Cold Harbor? I thought I responded to this on page 1 of this thread with my quote from Rhea that viewed in the campaign's larger scope, the decision to attack made sense.

I'll try again. Sheridan arrives first with cavalry and asks for support. Rhea writes: 'More by circumstance than by planning, each army shuttled troops toward Cold Harbor. Determined to maintain the initiative, Grant launched an attack on June 1 with two army corps. The Confederate line collapsed across a broad front, but nightfall prevented the Federals from exploiting their gains. The next day — June 2 — afforded Grant a superb chance to hurt Lee, but again he missed an opportunity. Poor cavalry work was partly to blame, as was Grant's apparent disbelief that Lee would leave his line exposed. Of all of Grant's mistakes in the Cold Harbor campaign, his failure to exploit the gap between Lee's southern flank and the Chickahominy looms largest.'
Then Rhea continues with the quote I used on page 1.

It seems Cold Harbor began essentially as a meeting engagement, similar to Gettysburg. The difference is that Lee is now the defender, with all the advantages that that implies.

About the failed June 3 assault, Rhea adds: "Aggressive by nature and accustomed to taking risks, Grant seized the moment. If the offensive worked, the rewards would be tremendous. If it failed, he would simply treat the reverse as he had his earlier disappointments at the Wilderness, Spotsylvania Court House, and the North Anna River and try another tack. In short, the consequences of not assaulting, thereby forfeiting the chance for quick victory and extending the war, seemed worse than those of attacking and failing.'

To me, Cold Harbor on June 3 is Grant's Pickett's Charge. Many folks treat Grant's assault at Cold Harbor as a barbaric waste of his own men. Many of those same folk grow wistful and weepy over Pickett's Charge — which resulted in roughly the same number of casualties as Grant's June 3 assault — as a valiant but glorious failure. But nobody is yelling 'Lee the butcher.' What's the difference? Yet Lee is lionized and Grant is castigated.

What were Grant's alternatives?
Not to attack at all. And if that happens, he's no better than McClellan, Pope, Burnside or Hooker.

Joanie, your continued selective referencing to McPherson only leads me to believe he must not be as biased as you yourself assert. ;)

Maybe the idea that Grant & Co. thought they had done rather well, manuvering Lee, when it sounds as if Lee had more control of the strategy than the above quote would lead one to believe.

I would argue that Lee didn't control the strategy, since he was the one always rushing around trying to block Grant's next maneuver. Unless, of course, you want to consider that to be a strategy. Seems to me it's more a case of Grant forcing Lee's hand.

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