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 Posted: Sun Feb 10th, 2008 01:10 pm
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PvtClewell
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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.



 Posted: Sun Feb 10th, 2008 04:04 pm
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ole
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(JUNIOR WINS the Budweiser shoot-out.  Ole must be ecstatic!
I've heard of a shootout or two; and I'm very familiar with a Budweiser. I think I was ecstatic once or twice.  The only junior I know is my brother's son. But putting them all together makes no sense at all.;)

ole



 Posted: Sun Feb 10th, 2008 04:18 pm
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ole
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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.
Masterful, Clewell! (Can't bring myself to address you as Pvt.) Simply masterful!

Grant at Cold Harbor was much like Lee at Malvern Hill or Day 3: The potential payoff was worth the risk. Sometimes the magic works ........

ole



 Posted: Sun Feb 10th, 2008 05:30 pm
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connyankee
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PvtClewell, I believe you hit the nail right on it's head with your last post (and others as well). Nice job!  Don't I wish to be so eloquent.  My short answer to the question of whether Grant should have attacked is "Why not?"  That's what he'd been doing all along - battering, probing the defenses to find a weakness.

It's important, I think, to view the spring campaign like Rhea does - one continuous battle.  The reason he is one of the leading "experts" is because he advances the thought that the nature or character of the fighting changed after Gettysburg - at least in the east.  It is indeed difficult to look at Cold Harbor without looking at North Anna, or Spotsylvania before that, or the Wilderness before that.

The attack failed on June 3 because the ANV had three days to entrench.  Your mention of Theodore Lyman rang a bell with me.  He believed that every minute of delay made the Confederate earthworks that much stronger when he said, "It is a rule that, when the rebels halt, the first day gives them a good rifle pit, the second, a regular infantry parapet with artillery in position; and the third a parapet with an abatis in front and entrenched batteries behind.  Sometimes they put this three-days work into the first twenty four hours." 

As for losses, I think we could also agree that Lee had at least comparable losses at Malvern Hill in '62 as Grant's on June 3, 1864.

This is a fun discussion because much has been written about Grant's disaster at Cold Harbor.  Less has been written about the lost opportunities of both sides.  This is a perfect scenario if you like being a "What if'er."  I am  definately not one of those, but it does sometimes make for good discussion.

regards,

connyankee

 

 

 



 Posted: Sun Feb 10th, 2008 06:04 pm
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JoanieReb
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Masterful, Clewell! (Can't bring myself to address you as Pvt.)

Oh, come on Ole, give him a break, he's trying hard; he'll be able to attain the rank some day!

Dang, guess I've gotta work my way thru a bunch of Yankee posts, now....

(Actually, Pvt. Clewell has attained a higher rank on several occasions.  He just keeps getting busted back to Private.  We don't talk about it here)



 Posted: Sun Feb 10th, 2008 06:54 pm
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ole
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Geez! Try to give a guy a compliment and some raging NASCAR fanatic finds a clever way around it!



 Posted: Sun Feb 10th, 2008 09:37 pm
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Michael C. Hardy
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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.

I whole heartly agree with that. Lee was a reactionary general. The Federals did something, and Lee reacted to what the Federals did, usually with great success. I’ve said that (sometimes not very loudly) for many years. Jackson, on the other hand, was a tactician. He was able to create opportunities where at times, they do not exist.

Someone wrote earlier about Grant having just as good a success against Lee in 1862. That, I most respectfully disagree with. Grant would have been facing the Lee, Jackson, Longstreet combination. I think it is most evident that the kind of mistakes that Grant committed (like along the North Anna River) would have been exploited fully had Lee not been sick, Jackson dead, and Longstreet wounded. Also, if there is no McClellan, who creates the AofP?

Also, someone wrote that Grant did in 11 months what the others did not accomplish in three years. I believe the only reason Grant accomplished what he did in eleven months was because of what the other Federal generals did those three years: they wore the ANV down to a shell of its former self. And a lot of that blame also falls on Lee, for such attacks like Malvern Hill and Gettysburg.



 Posted: Mon Feb 11th, 2008 01:27 am
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Still working my way through older replies....

"I also found this, which comes from the post-war diary of Cpl. M. Harrison Strong of the 72nd Illinois. Strong fought under Grant at Donelson, Shiloh and Vicksburg, but never made close contact with Grant until he became an acting adjutant on Grant's staff: 'Another thing that makes me want to hit someone is this notion of Grant the butcher. Nothing could be further from his character. It was exactly the opposite of what he was inside. His goodness was extreme. But he was always alone, totally alone and seemingly lonesome. He bore a terrific, awful responsibility all by himself.'

Not all of Grant's men thought he was bad."


Yeah, but I bet we could go one-for-one with this; you come up with a supportive quote, I come up with a negative one....


"Grant is fighting to preserve the Union. Invasion? What invasion? Grant was trying to quell a rebellion. (This one could lead to about 100 different threads, 50 of them by Joanie alone)."

Granted (there's a pun in there somewhere).  So let's let sleeping dogs lie with that one, until I'm feeling just downright ornery, anyway.

"I know that and made reference to that in a previous post. But it was mentioned that the losses at Cold Harbor damaged the Northern war effort, and I don't see how. I mentioned the support the AofP gave Lincoln to illustrate that even though the army suffered horrendous casualties, it still voted overwhelmingly to keep the present administration and thus continue its war aims. I don't see that as damage to the war effort."

OK, now this is another thread.  It could get a bit broader is scope, I'm sure.  You know what to do, General Clewell...


"Don't I know it, brother. It's aggravating how often I have to surrender the 'puter to QVC research. :("

Try having a 15-year-old-daughter with over 20,000 friends on MySpace (no exageration) - the deal is, if she gets straight A's and fulfills two healthy extra-curriclar activities a week, I don't limit her computer time.  I lose.

I'll try for a bit more substance in my next post, must relinquish the computer again....


Last edited on Mon Feb 11th, 2008 02:06 am by JoanieReb



 Posted: Mon Feb 11th, 2008 03:58 am
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PvtClewell
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And a lot of that blame also falls on Lee, for such attacks like Malvern Hill and Gettysburg.

On this I agree with you. Let's meet at the stone wall and shake hands.
(Paging JoanieReb, Paging JoanieReb. I agree. I agree.) :)

Someone wrote earlier about Grant having just as good a success against Lee in 1862.

That someone would be me. What I said was imagine if an aggressive Grant were running the Peninsula campaign, especially if he was facing Johnston. I tossed that out there as a throwaway thought. Certainly, it's speculative, a what-if-er. But, OK, I'll bite. Jackson spent much of the Peninsula campaign performing brilliantly in the Valley, and wasn't summoned to the Peninsula until after Seven Pines. When he does arrive, one of the first things he does is fall asleep for an hour at White Oak Swamp, squandering opportunity. Not his finest hour, I imagine, unless he had some really pleasant dreams. Anyway, in my imaginary scenario, there's no need for Jackson because Grant would have already overwhelmed Johnston and would be standing on Chimbarrazo Heights smoking a cigar. Because this is speculative, it's all posh, of course, but fun to consider. (I love that word 'posh.' I never used it until Johan got me hooked on it. Now whenever I use it in conversation at the coffee shop, people look at me funny. At least, I think that's why they look at me funny). Posh, posh, posh.

That's a nice point about Mac creating the AofP, though. He was a brilliant organizer and his men loved him. But as we've seen, Grant took an army that was inherently different than Mac's, and the men still threw themselves against the fortifications at Cold Harbor. I can only assume that such men would have followed Grant if he had been on the Peninsula, and possibly in the same way they actually did follow him in the west at Donelson, Shiloh and Vicksburg.

Yeah, but I bet we could go one-for-one with this; you come up with a supportive quote, I come up with a negative one....

After Cold Harbor, you could probably come up 10-to-1. I simply used this quote as an illustration. I came across it accidentally and it seemed to fit the discussion.

So let's let sleeping dogs lie with that one, until I'm feeling just downright ornery, anyway.

My mistake. I thought you were feeling ornery. ;)

OK, now this is another thread. It could get a bit broader is scope, I'm sure. You know what to do, General Clewell...

I'm a retired person, which means I no longer multi-task. No multiple threadwork from me.

***I need to throw in a mea culpa here. I said I had written in a previous post that I knew Lincoln was reelected as a result of Federal success in the west, but now I can't find it. More likely, I probably thought I had written it. Anyway, rest assured that I know it's true and I apologize for the false claim. As I said, I'm retired and suffer from occasional bouts of CRS.



 Posted: Mon Feb 11th, 2008 05:01 am
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"And a lot of that blame also falls on Lee, for such attacks like Malvern Hill and Gettysburg."

Yes; this is true in the sense of attrition.  Why didn't Grant learn from these examples?  Of course, the answer will be, because there were other, successful, frontal attacks.  But you'd think that after the first two waves, he'd have gotten the idea.  Am I correct in recalling that he was far back from the field and did not realize the true magnitude of the horror that had befallen those men?

"After Cold Harbor, you could probably come up 10-to-1.

Yeah, that's true.  About 7000 of his would-be positive reviewers died in about 40 minutes, and that kinda put off some of the others, :P.

"My mistake. I thought you were feeling ornery. ;)"

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

"I'm a retired person, which means I no longer multi-task. No multiple threadwork from me."

I'm not retired, which means I don't have time for the complications of multiple thread-work,=+++.



Last edited on Mon Feb 11th, 2008 09:42 am by JoanieReb



 Posted: Mon Feb 11th, 2008 11:15 am
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JoanieReb
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"This is a perfect scenario if you like being a "What if'er."  I am  definately not one of those, but it does sometimes make for good discussion."

I love "what ifs" - although I gather from what I've read here that many here do not care for them at all.

I'm still working my way through the last two day's posts in detail, and realize that I am going way off topic here, but I couldn't help but start to wonder, if Grant were with The ANV, what kind of general would he be?  Suppose he were working with limited, instead of a richness, of resouces?

Well, I doubt such a thread would fly here, and it is pretty far out there, but your bringing up "what if's" was just too tempting ....

Oh, well, back to business.

 

Last edited on Mon Feb 11th, 2008 11:16 am by JoanieReb



 Posted: Mon Feb 11th, 2008 11:29 am
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JoanieReb
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"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.'"

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


Get your defribulator, Pvt. Clewell:  Good arguments.  The second paragraph is a bit strongly stated - still haven't really looked into any possible alternatives to that specific frontal attack, but good arguments.  If he could employ no reasonable alternative strategy, I might concede on this.

As for McP., please remember, baby and bathwater.  As I said in another thread, I read 3-1/2 of his books, than just got tired of dealing with what I felt was his bias and moved onto other things.  But, he is useful and thought-provoking - even if the thought he provokes is "bias!".

We've already done the bias thing, the end.





 Posted: Mon Feb 11th, 2008 02:00 pm
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connyankee
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The command structure of the Union Army was awkward, to say the least, with Grant, Meade and, uh...Burnside.  The subject would probably be better served on another thread.

I came across this letter written by Meade to his wife on the evening of June 1st. 1864 and thought it interesting.  Here's a portion of it:

We are pegging away here, and gradually getting nearer and nearer to Richmond, although its capture is yet far off.  Our advance is within two miles of Mechanicsville, which, if you remember, is the place where the fighting commenced in Seven Days.  The rebs keep taking up strong positions and entrenching themselves.  This compels us to move around their flank, after trying to find some weak points to attack.  This operation has now occurred four times, namely, crossing the Rapidan, at Old Wilderness, at Spotsylvania Court House, and recently at North Anna.  We shall have to do it once more before we get them into their defenses at Richmond, and then will begin the tedious process of a quasi-siege, like that at Sebastopol; which will last as long, unless we can get hold of their railroads and cut off their supplies, when they must come out and fight.

Whilst I am writing the cannon and musketry are rattling all over our lines, over five miles in extent, but we have become so accustomed to these sounds that we hardly notice them.

The papers are giving Grant all the credit of what they call successes; I hope they will remember this if anything goes wrong.

Always interested in letters to wives.  Some of Little Mac's are prizes too.

connyankee

 

 



 Posted: Mon Feb 11th, 2008 03:03 pm
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Michael C. Hardy
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So does Meade not sound just a little dejected?

Lee wrote a letter home on June 5. I’ve seen this letter referenced, but I have yet to find the letter. Anyone seen it?

Regards,

Michael



 Posted: Mon Feb 11th, 2008 03:45 pm
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PvtClewell
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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. :)



 Posted: Mon Feb 11th, 2008 07:08 pm
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ole
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Thanks, Clewell.

It is not Grant's fault that he had superior supplies and numbers. From day #1 the Federal armies had superior supplies and numbers. (Make that day # 60 ... or at least modify it as the potential for.....) He did have advantages and, like a skillful general, used them. E.g., If your 40 cannon are 6-pounders and my 40 are 20-pounders, should I feel bad about reducing yours to scrap-metal?

I can understand why the Confederacy would not accept defeat: that old "death before dishonor" thing. It got "death" and "dishonor." Unfortunately, it was Johnny Reb who got the death part of it, but he earned honor. And all we can say is that Grant was a butcher.)))(

ole



 Posted: Mon Feb 11th, 2008 07:17 pm
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ole
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Posh
Johan is incorrect. He should have used "pish" or "tosh" or both as derogatives.

"Posh," if my understanding hasn't derailed again, describes highly favored accommodations; as in Port Out, Starbord Home: shipboard accommodations on the voyage to India.

(Just a little lightening up.)

ole:P



 Posted: Mon Feb 11th, 2008 07:17 pm
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Michael C. Hardy
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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.

I’ll be the first to admit that I have never been a Grant supporter. He gets credit for winning the war, and therefore "must" be a great general. The more I study about Grant, the more his bulb dims. I’m just finishing a intense study of the battle of Chattanooga. Yes, the Federals won, but no thanks to Grant. At the end of the battle, even Sherman was calling Grant "daft" for his management of the battle. Given Sherman’s mental condition, that’s saying a great deal. And at the end of the day, when Grant was writing his reports and his memoirs, Grant rewrote history, saying that Sherman’s attack on Tunnel Hill was a mere feint, and Thomas’s attack was the real thrust. Communication between Grant, Thomas, and Hooker was almost non-existent, and I don’t recall that Grant was ever actually on the field.

He knows when to disengage (Burnside, for one, apparently didn't, either at Fredericksburg or crossing that bridge at Antietam).

So that last attack that Grant called for at Cold Harbor, the one that the men in line refused to execute because all of the previous attacks had failed miserably, was Grant knowing how to disengage?

His movements to outflank and outmaneuver Lee are brilliant, particularly after North Anna.


But was it not at North Anna that he allowed a portion of his army to become isolated and almost destroyed? Then there is the whole fiasco at Petersburg when his army failed to waltz right into the city. A mere handful of Confederates stopped him. How about first and second Deep Bottom? We should also not forget his "brilliant" performance at the Crater. How about Ream’s Station?

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.

Grant forcing Lee to capitulate has much more to do with the loss of Georgia, the loss of the supplies from other areas that fed into the ANV, the loss of the AofT, the loss of Wilmington. Yes, Grant is overall commander, but he had almost no tactical control in those spheres of operation. Others are out making sure that Lee is forced out of his entrenchments.



 Posted: Mon Feb 11th, 2008 07:39 pm
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Michael C. Hardy
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Ole:

I hope no one takes offense. I love a good debate. My mom says that I should have been a lawyer, that I could argue with a telephone poll in my teenage years. Had a fortune cookie that said that not long ago - that I should be a lawyer.. I thought for a moment that I might have made a mistake in my profession. Na, probably not.

Regards,

Michael



 Posted: Tue Feb 12th, 2008 12:10 am
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JoanieReb
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After Cold Harbor,  Meade also wrote to his wife:  "I think Grant has had his eyes opened, and is willing to admit nowthat Virginia and Lee's army is not Tennessee and Bragg's army."

Sorry to go off-topic again, but:

"Always interested in letters to wives.  Some of Little Mac's are prizes too."

I think this would make for a really good thread!  When it comes to Little Mac, I've read some of those letters, always thinking, "I bet Miss Nelly regretted not marrying AP Hill to her dying day!"


 

Last edited on Tue Feb 12th, 2008 12:13 am by JoanieReb



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