View single post by PvtClewell
 Posted: Mon Feb 11th, 2008 04:45 pm
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Joined: Wed Jun 13th, 2007
Location: North Carolina USA
Posts: 420

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Yes; this is true in the sense of attrition. Why didn't Grant learn from these examples?

Why didn't Grant learn from these examples? Heck, why didn't anybody learn from these examples? All I can say is that this is the way wars were fought in the 1860s. Lee suffers 5,000 losses in a frontal assault at Malvern Hill; Burnside loses 13,000 in Fredericksburg, most of them in at least six (I think) repeated frontal assaults at Marye's Heights (would that be worse than Cold Harbor?); Lee, again, loses 5,000 in a frontal assault at the copse of trees (he must have forgot about Malvern Hill, huh?); five months after Cold Harbor, Hood loses 6,300 men in a frontal assault at Franklin. Guess he must have skipped class the day that the Cold Harbor lesson was being taught. As a friend PM'd to remind me, this was Napoleanic warfare fought with technologically advanced weapons. It was a hard lesson for all to learn.

So why continue to soley pick on Grant for his failure at Cold Harbor? What makes his performance there any different than the others I listed above?

I'm thinking that Grant's detractors must consider him a dim bulb capable only of throwing troops in wasteful frontal assaults against fortified positions because he knew he had endless resources from which to draw. That's way too simple and misses the mark. He knows when to disengage (Burnside, for one, apparently didn't, either at Fredericksburg or crossing that bridge at Antietam). His movements to outflank and outmaneuver Lee are brilliant, particularly after North Anna. I'm guessing it must be aggravating for Lee's admirers that Grant, the dim bulb, losses four major battles in the Overland campaign and is still the one to force Lee's surrender. How could that have happened to the brilliant Lee? It certainly isn't because Grant might be Lee's military equal, could it? So, for the Grant detractors, the feel-good answer must be to demonize the man who forced Lee's capitulation.

I know what's coming — Grant had superior numbers and resources. But I'll argue that the Overland campaign turned Lee into a master of defense, which the ferocity of the fighting demonstrates. He was forced to become a reactive general after Gettysburg because, being mostly entrenched, he'd sacrificed his offensive mobility. He probably had no choice. In any event, Lee's defensive genius — and his defensive stance — at least partially, if not wholly, negated Grant's advantage in numbers.

True, Lee was without the deceased Jackson and the wounded Longstreet, but that meant he was now more of a hands-on commander. No more implied or fuzzy, ('if practicable'), orders. In any case, there's not much need for tactical wizardry when the only place you can operate is from inside a trench in the middle of a siege.

Lee stated that if he was forced into a siege, he could not win. He was forced into a siege at Petersburg, yet he held out for nine months. If he knew the campaign was lost when he was besieged, then why not surrender sooner than he did? If the underlying issue of this thread is about not wasting lives, then why is Lee extending the misery of men on both sides? Mercy.

Naw, that's just an act to keep the Yankees nervous - is it working?

Nervous? No. Entertained? Could be. :)

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