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View Poll Results: How would you rate Grant during the Overland Campaign?
10 stars 1 5.26%
9 stars 9 47.37%
8 stars 5 26.32%
7 stars 2 10.53%
6 stars 1 5.26%
5 stars 0 0%
4 stars 0 0%
3 stars 0 0%
2 stars 0 0%
1 star 1 5.26%
Voters: 19. You may not vote on this poll

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Old October 15th, 2012, 02:19 PM   #21

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Originally Posted by Baltis View Post
I went ahead and voted Grant an 8. Actually, in deference to his status as victor, I felt like Grant should get an 8.22. A victory margin of .05

What are Grant's other campaigns that should be scrutinized? Vicksburg? Shiloh?

What about Lee's other campaigns. Must be a bunch of them.
For Grant, there's Vicksburg, Shiloh, Forts Henry and Donelson, and Chattanooga in the west. He also played in a role in the Iuka and Corinth engagements as theater commander, but it was a subordinate commander who ultimately fought both the battles. There's also Belmont, which was a brief raid, Grant's first serious engagement. You could also count the 1865 operations that culminated in Appomattox, or count Petersburg collectively.

For Lee, you have West Virginia, Seven Days, Second Manassas, Maryland, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, and Overland. You also have some indecisive campaigning between Lee and Meade in late 1863.

Assuming Salah doesn't preempt me again (,) I intend to post a similar poll for the Vicksburg Campaign in the next couple of days, and perhaps one on Second Manassas for Lee.

Last edited by Viperlord; October 15th, 2012 at 02:25 PM.
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Old October 15th, 2012, 02:38 PM   #22

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Originally Posted by Viperlord View Post
Assuming Salah doesn't preempt me again (,) I intend to post a similar poll for the Vicksburg Campaign in the next couple of days, and perhaps one on Second Manassas for Lee.
Good deal. I get to bring out my 10s!!
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Old October 16th, 2012, 12:33 PM   #23
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I gave him an 8. I would have given him higher but he didn't replace or control weak commanders like Burnside and Butler and his use of cavalry wasn't enough to go higher.
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Old October 16th, 2012, 01:29 PM   #24

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I gave him an 8. I would have given him higher but he didn't replace or control weak commanders like Burnside and Butler and his use of cavalry wasn't enough to go higher.
Butler was a political general who was important in the 1864 election year; Grant couldn't get rid of him. Burnside was also politically connected, and inextricably linked to the Ninth Corps, which Grant brought back east with him. Replacing either general before or during the Overland Campaign was not possible unless Lincoln said so. The fact that Grant suggested officers like Buell and McClellan return to duty is an indication he may have been hoping to supplant the likes of Sigel and Butler with commanders who were at least professionals. As for controlling them, Grant gave Butler two professional subordinates whom he hoped could alleviate Butler's weak points, which is about the best he could have done from that distance, though neither man turned out to be very helpful. And he did in fact exert control over Burnside by making Cyrus Comstock a very frequent guest in Burnside's headquarters when any action was supposed to be occurring.
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Old October 16th, 2012, 01:38 PM   #25
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. And he did in fact exert control over Burnside by making Cyrus Comstock a very frequent guest in Burnside's headquarters when any action was supposed to be occurring.
Thanks, I'll have to look in to that. Was Comstock there at the crater?
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Old October 16th, 2012, 02:33 PM   #26
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i agree....i give lee a 8 and grant a 8 too;both generals are great Grants tactics suceeded in theend
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Old October 16th, 2012, 07:48 PM   #27

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Thanks, I'll have to look in to that. Was Comstock there at the crater?
Not to my knowledge; he was with Burnside at various points throughout the Overland Campaign, that probably didn't continue once siege operations were underway.

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i agree....i give lee a 8 and grant a 8 too;both generals are great Grants tactics suceeded in theend
I assume then you voted a "1" by mistake?
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Old October 17th, 2012, 06:57 AM   #28

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Grant inherited an Army with a culture of defeat. They were good enough to beat Lee, they’d proved it at Gettysburg, but much of the Army of the Potomac’s leadership was still worried that Lee was about to fall on both flanks and their rear at any moment. Grant did not have the clout to remove political generals yet – he was stuck with Butler to command the army of the James and Sigel to command in the Valley. Grant also had to coordinate between Meade and Burnside, since the latter had a separate force and outranked Meade.

Lee had years of experience in the theatre, years to learn the abilities and mettle of the officers and men of both armies, years to learn the terrain, years to show the Army of Northern Virginia that he could lead. Grant was new to the theatre. Pope’s blundering had left the AotP uncertain about any western general sent to take command. The Army of the Potomac had proved too big for any previous general to handle properly.

Grant faced the largest, best lead, and best supplied army in the Confederacy. The Confederates were fighting on home ground with good lines of communication and good defensive terrain. Every previous attempt against Lee had ended in defeat, often humiliating defeat for Union forces.

Forty days later, the Union Army was at the outskirts of Petersburg. Lee had already acknowledged it was just a matter of time for the Confederacy.
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Old October 17th, 2012, 09:53 AM   #29
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Grant inherited an Army with a culture of defeat. They were good enough to beat Lee, they’d proved it at Gettysburg, but much of the Army of the Potomac’s leadership was still worried that Lee was about to fall on both flanks and their rear at any moment. Grant did not have the clout to remove political generals yet – he was stuck with Butler to command the army of the James and Sigel to command in the Valley. Grant also had to coordinate between Meade and Burnside, since the latter had a separate force and outranked Meade.

Lee had years of experience in the theatre, years to learn the abilities and mettle of the officers and men of both armies, years to learn the terrain, years to show the Army of Northern Virginia that he could lead. Grant was new to the theatre. Pope’s blundering had left the AotP uncertain about any western general sent to take command. The Army of the Potomac had proved too big for any previous general to handle properly.

Grant faced the largest, best lead, and best supplied army in the Confederacy. The Confederates were fighting on home ground with good lines of communication and good defensive terrain. Every previous attempt against Lee had ended in defeat, often humiliating defeat for Union forces.

Forty days later, the Union Army was at the outskirts of Petersburg. Lee had already acknowledged it was just a matter of time for the Confederacy.

excellent points
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Old January 5th, 2013, 05:49 AM   #30
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I voted to give Grant a 7 for Shiloh in another one of these polls, but only after careful and lengthy deliberation. Despite all of the extra deliberation, I was still unsure that the number I had chosen was accurate. This is the thought that kept troubling me: Grant at Shiloh seems to rate a 7, but compared to what? Compared to the rebel performance on that same day, compared to the entire history of war in general, what?

So I thought, why not compare Grant's performance at Shiloh to his other battles and campaigns? And then I remembered that this other poll had been posted, so I decided to examine the thread.

Grant's management of the Overland campaign is rated very highly here. 12 out of 15 rate Overland a 10, 9, or 8 - the very top of the scale. Two others give Grant a 7 and a 6 (more reasonable). One clown gives him a 1. The average score would 7.3.

This was the same basic score that Grant earned for Shiloh (7.4 out of 23 votes). In that case, I voted squarely with popular opinion, but only after reflecting on the question in my own mind for quite a while. At first, I wanted to give him an 8, because his conduct was so perfect on the day of the rebel attacks, but the rebels did take Grant by surprise, and the federal defenses were poorly prepared, so I felt I could not go higher than 7.

One thing that helped me achieve clarity was to make a distinction between Grant's performance at Shiloh, and the overall performance of the Union itself. The union command, of which Grant was only one member, made its typical mistakes: after decisively repelling the attacks, they decisively failed to pursue the shattered rebel force the next day. The Union itself only gets a 5 for Shiloh, but the decisions that force me to rate them so low were partially or completely out of Grant's hands, so Grant retains his 7, for his own personal performance on the day of the attack. Now onto the Overland campaign.

The Union itself rates much higher for this campaign than at Shiloh. This was the decisive campaign which pressed Lee deeper and deeper into the south, forcing him for all time to abandon his offensive schemes against Union territory, and mercilessly whittling down his forces until he was forced to surrender. They never once put themselves in the great danger that they experienced on Pittsburgh Landing - the closest Lee ever got to delivering a decisive counter-strike was at the North Anna, and many dispute even that, because we only know about Lee's intentions from the account of the rebel general, Venable, who was an inveterate "lost-causer," and his account was written so many years after the fact. In other words, Lee's best offensive opportunity in Overland may have been a figment of the imagination, generated by the sour-grapes of the defeated Confederacy.

At Pittsburgh Landing, their inadequate preparations invited disaster, and their failure to pursue the rebels invited disaster in the future - a very weak performance, overall. Thank God Grant was there. In the Overland campaign, the rebels were driven decisively backwards, from one position to the next, and the pace of attacks was so furious that Lee was never again able to even contemplate offensive actions - this is how you win a war. If Shiloh was a 5 for the Union, Overland must have been a 7 or even an 8.

And the improvement is to be attributed to Grant. At Shiloh, Grant was at a lower level of command, and so he can't be solely blamed for the disaster. In the Overland campaign, Grant was the top general, and for his personal role in the Union's success here, he deserves much of the praise. If Grant's campaign in the east was more successful than Halleck's campaign in the west, that was because of Grant's personal influence. Now that he was in charge of the entire operation, and not enacting the plans of another, the operations were much more successful.

However, although the Union itself receives higher marks in the Overland campaign than they do at Shiloh, and even though Grant himself is personally to be credited with the improvement, still, I am reluctant to rate Grant's personal performance for Overland higher than a 7. At Shiloh, on the day of the rebel attacks, he was simply outstanding: the best performance of a general in a situation like that I have ever read. Everyone agrees that the man was incapable of panic, and his cool and clear head helped the federals to win the day, and almost turned this near disaster into a decisive victory (if only Buell had cooperated with Grant in a vigorous pursuit of Beauregard, as Grant was urging). Grant was so impressive that day at Pittsburgh Landing, it is impossible for me to rate his performance in the Overland campaign higher than Shiloh. So I am stuck with 7 or lower.

This confuses me. How can the Union do worse at Shiloh (5), even though Grant performed so well that day (7), and then the Union goes on to achieve greater success in the Overland campaign (7, or maybe 8), and even though Grant is now the commanding general of these more successful troops, his own personal performance is to be rated so low (6, because I have read nothing from Overland to make me believe that his personal performance was better than at Shiloh, and Shiloh was so good, everything else must be rated lower than that)?

It is a complex question, I know. I believe the problem lies in the complex relationship between tactics and strategy. This distinction is easy to make in the abstract, but often difficult in the concrete.

He gets a 7 at Shiloh, even though he was unprepared for the rebel attack. But once the attack was underway, his was one of the great all-time performances in the field: a perfect 10. He loses points for poor security at his LZ, inviting attack, but he gains points for his role in repelling those attacks. But that was just one battle.

The Overland campaign was a series of battles. They followed one another in rapid succession, which is what finally beat Lee. Grant set the pace of operations, so he is to be praised for his strategy. Grant's strategic direction earns a 7 or a 8. But as I said, this was more than one battle, and as we examine all of them, the mistakes accumulate. His two major mistakes were to detach the cavalry early in the campaign, depriving his army of its eyes and ears, and his failure personally to get closer to the front lines, depriving himself of the power to make more accurate decisions on the immediate tactical situation.

Neither mistake was fatal, and they are both quite understandable. He sent Sheridan off on his mission because he was so eager to strike a blow. This shows good instincts, but it is a bad decision to deprive yourself of cavalry. And he had to keep his command post further back from the action, because he was supervising other armies like Butler's and Sherman's, and how will the critical dispatches reach him, if he is at the front lines directing the action, as at Shiloh? At Shiloh his responsibilities were more limited. But still, if he had had his CP a little closer to the front, if he could have torn himself away from his dispatches and visited the scene of combat more frequently, his tactical decisions would have been more informed, and the disaster at Cold Harbor may have been averted. While not fatal, these mistakes were quite serious, and so I am unable to give him higher than 6 for any one of the engagements that make up Overland. On the other hand, I can't go too much lower than 5, because that would imply tactical defeat. Cold Harbor may have been a disaster, but it was not a rout.

In short, I do not know how to vote. The strategy-tactics distinction is more difficult here than in the case with Shiloh, where Grant can be absolved of blame in the larger strategic blunders. I suppose that, to be fair, he should be absolved for the tactical mistakes in Overland, to some degree, because his wider responsibilities did not allow him to pay close attention to every little detail.
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