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Do We Still Have Grants and Shermans?
Prime ^ | May 22, 2008 | Victor Davis Hanson

Posted on 05/22/2008 3:03:45 AM PDT by moderatewolverine

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To: Proud Legions

Thanks for that perspective...and for your service.

51 posted on 05/23/2008 7:24:06 AM PDT by Bahbah (Typical white person)
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To: PzLdr

52 posted on 05/23/2008 7:31:18 AM PDT by WVKayaker ( "Life is pleasant. Death is peaceful. It's the transition that's troublesome..." I. Asimov)
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To: PzLdr
I meant to post this pic...

53 posted on 05/23/2008 7:33:23 AM PDT by WVKayaker ( "Life is pleasant. Death is peaceful. It's the transition that's troublesome..." I. Asimov)
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To: Enchante

It is interesting that this topic came up again. My thoughts when it comes to Grant and Cold Harbor -

Grant’s true strength was in that he never gave up. Shiloh was a good early example of this. There would be many more such examples before the war was through. Unlike many of his contemporaries, Grant never lost a battle through inaction or inactivity. Grant was not afraid to try different things until he found a winning combination and once he found that combination he held on with the stubbornness and unswerving focus of a pit bull.

Once Grant took over the Army of the Potomac he pursued the Army of Northern Virginia with a dogged tenacity which would not be denied. Cold Harbor was one of the few times where he was forced to admit that he could not win through sheer force of will. The other battles which eluded him were faced during his two terms as president.

It is important to note specifically what Grant admits to in his memoirs when he expresses remorse over Cold Harbor. He doesn’t admit that the battle should never have taken place. He doesn’t admit that the early charges where so many men fell were ill conceived and which he ordered over the objections of his commanders. The fact that some of his commanders were slow to act likely created a bit of doubt in Grant’s mind about whether the failure of the charges was due to the fact that his Army was incapable of taking the Confederate positions or whether the earlier failures were the result of a lack of well timed coordination.

What Grant admitted to regretting specifically was the last charge that he ordered. That final charge was ordered over a vehemence of his subordinate commanders which approached mutiny. He seems to recognize that the other charges were necessary for learning and understanding the situation, but the last charge did not serve any other purpose than to confirm the grim reality of the futility of the situation, and that his commanders had been correct all along.

Given the earlier failures of his commanders to coordinate their attacks properly, Grant could have taken this as his excuse for why he ordered that final charge thus passing the blame onto the shoulders of other. The fact that he didn’t do this is a great testament to Grant’s sense of honor and responsibility.

The Siege of Petersburg was approached in the same manner Grant approached his other battles. Grant slowly felt around for his opponents weakness extending his lines day after day till he finally found the point at which Lee could no longer hold on.

54 posted on 05/23/2008 9:40:50 AM PDT by contemplator (Capitalism gets no Rock Concerts)
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To: WVKayaker
I meant to post this pic...

Man, does he ever look different without the beard! Just goes to show you what a spa makeover and the right shade of lipstick will do for a feller...oh, yeah, and losing the cigar...

55 posted on 05/23/2008 9:45:51 AM PDT by Billthedrill
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To: Enchante
Lee has simply enjoyed better PR

You can say that again. Not only Lee but the entire Southern cause. The whole "Lost Cause" mentality all but relegated Grant to the dustbin of history while elevating Lee to a status of near-godlike genius. The fact of the matter is that both Generals were very good in their own ways.

Grant's approach to reconstruction after the war also doomed him in the PR department especially when the early-mid 20th century historians got through with him. Grant held firm against the appeasers who wanted to let the South work out the issue of race relations on their own. The appeasers eventually got their way. It was to cost not only Grant's reputation but the civil rights of African Americans for almost 100 years. It is very telling that after all of this time, Grant's standing in the Presidential rankings is finally being re-evaluated in a positive manner and his star is rising again.
56 posted on 05/23/2008 9:58:30 AM PDT by contemplator (Capitalism gets no Rock Concerts)
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To: kb2614

What a great quote!

I didn’t know that he said that.

57 posted on 05/23/2008 10:10:02 AM PDT by bill1952 (I will vote for McCain if he resigns his Senate seat before this election.)
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To: contemplator

Grant conducted the greatest campaign ever fought on North American soil. At Vicksburg. Strategically sound, operationally innovative and tactically superb.

58 posted on 05/23/2008 2:47:12 PM PDT by PzLdr ("The Emperor is not as forgiving as I am" - Darth Vader)
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To: Proud Legions; alfa6; An Old Man; Archangelsk; archy; BCR #226; in the Arena; BlueLancer; ...

Very interesting post, and thank you for you service.

And a treadhead ping, since this is a very worthwhile article by VDH, and your post concerns Armor officers.

59 posted on 05/23/2008 4:13:16 PM PDT by FreedomPoster (<===Non-bitter, Gun-totin', Typical White American)
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To: af_vet_rr; Wavrnr10

>>Sherman proved in his writings both before the Civil War and after, that he understood warfare in a very unique way that few others do, and that has proven to be timeless - Hap Arnold and others in the US Army Air Forces were using Sherman’s tactics against the Japanese.

That willingness to really punish your adversary through to complete victory is one of the themes in Victor Davis Hansen’s “Carnage and Culture”. Recommended, if you haven’t read it.

60 posted on 05/23/2008 5:13:25 PM PDT by FreedomPoster (<===Non-bitter, Gun-totin', Typical White American)
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To: PzLdr
"Case in point, the run up to the Gettysburg campaign. There were major discussions in Richmond about sending Lee and two Corps of his army to the West, which was the critical theater of operations in the Civil War, to help Bragg.

Lee did NOT want to go. So he proposed the raid into Pennsylvania in its stead. That is strategic myopia to the level of near blindness. And the South paid. "

Here's my reference:

"Last Chance for Victory"

Bowden & Ward argue that Lee had the superior strategic vision. Lee knew, the only place the South could actually win the war was right there in the East, by defeating the Army of the Patomic on northern ground.

We see Lee's vision already in September 1862, when he first marched into Maryland and the Battle of Antietam.

In 1863 Lee proposed going back north. His arguments won the day with Jefferson Davis, though Davis did not give Lee all the units he asked for.

61 posted on 05/23/2008 6:59:57 PM PDT by BroJoeK (A little historical perspective....)
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To: moderatewolverine

Before long we will need an American Pinochet.

62 posted on 05/23/2008 8:03:57 PM PDT by Mmmike
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To: BroJoeK

I don’t agree with them. In 1862 Lee invaded the pro-Unuion half of Maryland and wondered why no one was rushing to enlist in the Army of Northern Virginia, and why no rebellion had broken out.

If they can see the strategy behind the Gettysburg Raid [I have trouble calling it a campaign], aside from gathering provender, giving Northern Virginia a rest, and frustrating any chance of Lee’s being sent west, more power to them.

The critical theater of war in the Civil War was the West. It’s where the Civil War was decided. And Lee either never grasped that fact, or deliberately ignored it in his desire to put Virginia first. Such parochialism does not a great strategist make.

63 posted on 05/23/2008 8:56:18 PM PDT by PzLdr ("The Emperor is not as forgiving as I am" - Darth Vader)
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To: moderatewolverine

The Air Force needs a few AFSOF generals also. The fighter pilot mafia needs a little counterbalance.

64 posted on 05/23/2008 9:41:31 PM PDT by Tailback
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To: bcsco
"For the Appomattox campaign, the chart shows 10,780 casualties for Grant; none for Lee. That’s obviously incorrect."

A curious omission. Just a couple of weeks ago I happened to be traveling near Appomattox, and had a few hours, so stopped in to visit the park there. They have all the details of the final battles, including casualty statistics. So the numbers are readily available.

They put the total war dead at (IIRC) 624,000 and since it's a national park, I'd presume that some kind of "official number."

In that final battle, near Appomattox, one civilian was killed -- a slave woman who did not evacuate with the others, was struck in her home by a stray bullet, and later died. According to the rangers, that was very typical of Civil War civilian deaths.

Finally, on the question of who had the more casualties, I think it was invariably true, that if the defenders stood their prepared ground, then the attacking army would suffer far more casualties.

65 posted on 05/24/2008 2:28:24 AM PDT by BroJoeK (A little historical perspective....)
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To: BroJoeK
The chart is not all inclusive. I see nothing of engagements West of the Mississippi, for instance. Your figure is far more reliable. I've seen figures upwards of 660,000 IIRC.

Finally, on the question of who had the more casualties, I think it was invariably true, that if the defenders stood their prepared ground, then the attacking army would suffer far more casualties.

The Civil War initiated trench warfare. While set-piece engagements where two opposing lines stood and slugged it out caused high casualty rates (usually for both sides), they could not compare with sending units against entrenched positions. Fredericksburg is a prime example. Of course, the propensity for not calling off such lop-sided carnage was also a factor.

66 posted on 05/24/2008 4:32:15 AM PDT by bcsco (To heck with a third party. We need a second one....)
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To: PzLdr
"If they can see the strategy behind the Gettysburg Raid [I have trouble calling it a campaign]..."

Hmmmm.... a very curious term that: "Gettysburg Raid."

What do you call a "raid"?
Was Hitler's 1944 Ardennes offensive a "raid"?
Was Napoleon's march to Waterloo a "raid"?

Each involved the largest military force their countries could muster.
Each was intended as a war-winning knockout blow to their enemies.
Each was an act of desperation by an out-gunned army hoping to turn the tide of war.
Each was launched by men often considered tactical geniuses.
The failure of each campaign eliminated all future possibility of eventual victory.

As to which theater was more important, East or West, when Lee surrendered at Appomattox, the war was effectively over. Doesn't that answer the question?

67 posted on 05/24/2008 4:11:38 PM PDT by BroJoeK (A little historical perspective....)
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To: PzLdr
Lee's Virginia-centric view had some very deep roots, going back to Jefferson, Madison, and the other Virginia Republicans, who certainly seemed to view the United States as Virginia writ large. This view was less emphatic among Federalists like Washington, Marshall, and, ironically, Lee's father, but it was still there. The Republican view of Virginia probably grew stronger with the decline of the Federalists after 1800, and probably dominated the sentiments of the Virginia planter class by the time of the Civil War.

Furthermore, Lee's own adherence to the Confederate cause was purely born of his devotion to Virginia. He was opposed to secession, and probably would have stayed in the U.S. Army and fought against the Confederacy had it not entailed warring against Virginia.

While the West was in many ways more important than the East, the loss of Virginia still probably would have crippled the Confederate cause politically. In fact, their only real option after Antietam and the Emancipation Proclamation ended any chance of a British intervention was probably to hold out until the fall of 1864 and offer some sort of settlement during the election season. Even with the fall of Vicksburg, this strategy might have met with some success had the Confederacy not squandered its power in Gettysburg.

Even after Gettysburg, I'm amazed they didn't try it anyway, as it should have been clear to them that they had no other chance at breaking the North's will to fight by then, and never had any chance of destroying its ability to fight without some European intervention. They might have forced Lincoln and Congress to accept peace, and probably reunification, on terms far more favorable than existed under reconstruction. If he refused, the real prospect of peace with a preservation of the Union may well have swung the election to McClellan and the Democrats.

In my eyes, this failure on the part of the Confederates to realize their only possible victory was a political one showed that strategic myopia was not limited to Lee.
68 posted on 05/26/2008 9:14:45 AM PDT by The Pack Knight (Duty, Honor, Country.)
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To: Proud Legions
but we are not promoting or giving Brigade Commands to many Field Artillery or Armor officers these days (we are all waiting to see what happens with Battalion Command Boards), and we are in danger of becoming myopically focused if we are not careful. Each of these three branches brings a unique viewpoint to the fight, and we need all three to remain viable in the future

Thanks for your very frank comments. They are appreciated by one who has been away from things for more than a few years. And by the way, I couldn't agree with your last comment more.

69 posted on 05/27/2008 9:57:07 AM PDT by colorado tanker (Number nine, number nine, number nine . . .)
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To: BroJoeK
Hitler's Ardennes offensive had an objective - Antwerp -and splitting the western Allied armies, and driving them back into France [aside from Antwerp, the major supply port was Cherbourg].

Napoleon's campaign was intended to split the Prussian and British Armies in Belgium, defeat them in detail, and consolidate those gains prior to Schwartzenberg and the Czar mobilizing in Germany to invade eastern France.

Both operations were undertaken with geographical and military objectives and with fairly detailed knowledge of both enemy strength, location, and probable movements.

Lee, at the start of the Gettysburg campaign lacked the first, and seemed unconcerned with the third. If you have a source that indicates memoranda, orders, etc. from Lee showing any of these things, I'd be honored if you'd share it/ them.

Lee's announced intention was to give the northern part of Virginia, especially the Shenandoah, a respite from combat and troops ‘living off the land’. The flip side of that intent was to ‘requisition’ whatever the Army of Northern Virginia could find.

When the meeting engagement at Gettysburg started, Lee had one Corps up near Carlisle, [Ewell], one Corps at the north end of the Blue Ridge mountains [A.P. Hill], and one Corps still coming up from Taneytown [Longstreet]. He had no idea where most of his Cavalry Corps was [Stuart] [although in fairness, Stuart left Lee with two brigades of cavalry he didn't much use], nor the Army of the Potomac. That's one hell of a campaign.

As to your second point, two Corps of Lee's Army, combined with Bragg's Army would have constituted the ‘largest military force’ the Confederacy could have mustered.

There is absolutely NO evidence that Lee's Gettysburg operation was intended as a ‘war winning knockout blow to [the South's] enem[y]’. Until the Iron Brigade was identified on the field, Lee didn't even know who he was fighting. And an argument he did militates strongly against the claim of tactical genius [based on that one battle], since Lee let the hostilities start when over two thirds of his Army was dispersed over an arc of considerable distance [Longstreet's last unit, Pickett's Division didn't close up until the night of day two - which was after Stuart showed up].

Gettysburg was not ‘an act of desperation’. It was an act of hubris. Lee could have pulled out at any time the first two days. He could have chosen to maneuver between the Army of the Potomac and Washington, D.C, and let the Union troops come to him. He didn't. He chose to engage in a series of dispersed frontal attacks against a superior enemy operating on interior lines some four miles shorter than his own. While Lee may have been a tactical and/ or operational genius [see Second Manassas, Fredericksburg, and Chancellorsville], he wasn't at Gettysburg.

And strategically, the South lost all future possibility of victory at Vicksburg, Atlanta and the March to the Sea. Lee didn't forfeit what chance he had until the Wilderness, when his penchant for offensive action [except at Frericksburg, and possibly second Manassas he always lost a higher percentage of his army than his Union opponent], finally ran up against the South's inability to furnish any more troops.

By the time Lee surrendered at Appomattox, the war had been effectively [not formally] over for months. Sherman had laid waste to Georgia and South Carolina, and was marching on Lee's rear through North Carolina [Lee's Army was deserting in droves]. Wilson was riding though Alabama on the biggest cavalry campaign of the Civil War. And AFTER Lee through it in Johnston surrendered the Army of Tennessee and the Trans-Missippi Department held out even longer.

70 posted on 05/27/2008 1:20:38 PM PDT by PzLdr ("The Emperor is not as forgiving as I am" - Darth Vader)
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To: Enchante
"I know someone who is a big Civil War buff (I’m not particularly) who argues that Grant has gotten a really unfair rap on the “butcher” charge and that when you analyze all of the battles and casualty figures as percentages, etc. that Grant comes off just as well (maybe badly, depending upon your views) as Lee, a bit better in fact, and that Lee has simply enjoyed better PR. Anyone know where to find that argument or the relevant stats?"

Lee had a much higher rate of casualties among his troops than Grant. Grant's Vicksburg campaign was as tactically brilliant as anything Lee ever did and effectively dictated the ultimate outcome. Although some thought him "slow", Grant ended up writing the best book ever penned by an ex-president. In hindsight, what some people called "slow" was really just quiet, calm deliberation and calculation.

71 posted on 05/27/2008 1:33:03 PM PDT by joebuck (Finitum non capax infinitum!)
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To: PzLdr

I'll confirm a couple of points first.

On June 28, 1863, Lee's three corps commanders were Ewell, Hill and Longstreet.
Ewell, as you said, was north of Gettysburg, near Carlisle and York.
Hill was on the road which is today US 30, just west of South Mountain about 20 miles west of Gettysburg.
Longstreet was in Carlisle, with Lee, about five miles behind Hill.

First contact was about 7:30 AM, July 1, (DAY 1) between lead units of Hill's forces and Union cavalry, about 3 miles west of Gettysburg.
At 9:30 AM, Hill's first major assault, now two miles west of Gettysburg.
Ewell arrived from the north a bit later, his first units assaults beginning around 1:30 PM (still DAY 1).

Longstreet's units began arriving the next morning, July 2, (DAY 2) but his attacks did not begin until after 4:00 PM.
Longstreet's problem was not so much distance, as the fact that the only road passes through a narrow gap in South Mountain, through which both Hill's & Longstreet's corps must pass.
I have driven that road (US 30), and tried to imagine 50,000 troops with artillery and supply wagons filing through it.
Even on today's road, it would take time.

Why did Lee march north in June 1863?

Bowden and Ward argue at length that this was the South's "Last Chance for Victory," and they define "victory" as another major defeat of Union forces which would force the North to accept a political compromise.

And we must first remember that before Gettysburg was Chancellorsville, in early May 1863 -- in which Lee handily defeated a Union force over twice his size (130,000 versus Lee's 60,000 on the battlefield).
So both Lee and his troops thought they were on a roll, and could win any battle they fought.

A short explanation comes from Lee's after action report:

"Upon the retreat of the Federal Army commanded by Major General Hooker from Chancellorsville, it reoccupied the ground north of the Rappahannock opposite Fredericksburg, where it could not be attacked except at a disadvantage. It was determined to draw it from this position, and if practicable to transfer the scene of hostilities beyond the Potomac..."

So Lee was trying to force the Union Army onto ground that better suited Lee.

As to why Lee lost the Battle of Gettysburg, B&W argue Lee could well have won it, if the battle had been fought as Lee intended.
They provide a long list of failures, nearly all of which were ultimately Lee's responsibility.
But the fact remains that each of Lee's corps commanders in turn, plus Stuart of course, let Lee down at critical points in the battle.
Why they did so has been a matter on endless debate, these now nearly 145 years.

I'll give the final words to Lee. June 8, 1863, in a letter to Secretary of War Seddon:

"As far as I can judge, there is nothing to be gained by this army remaining quietly on the defensive, which it must do unless it can be re-enforced. I am aware that there is difficulty and hazard in taking the aggressive with so large an army in its front, intrenched behind a river, where it cannot be advantageously attacked.

"Unless it can be drawn out in a position to be assailed, it will take its own time to prepare and strengthen itself to renew its advance upon Richmond, and force this army back within the intrenchments of that city.

"This may be the result in any event; still, I think it is worth a trial to prevent such a catastrophe.

"Still, if the Department thinks it better to remain on the defensive, and guard as far as possible all the avenues of approacfh, and await the time of the enemy, I am ready to adopt this course. You have, therefore, only to inform me...."

72 posted on 05/27/2008 6:25:26 PM PDT by BroJoeK (A little historical perspective....)
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To: BroJoeK
"Longstreet was in Carlisle, with Lee, about five miles behind Hill."

Sorry, my bad, a mistype.
Longstreet & Lee were not in Carlisle, northwest of Gettysburg.
Longstreet's units were coming into Chambersburg, nearly 30 miles straight west of Gettysburg.
And the key point here is that, on July 1, Longstreet was BEHIND Hill in filing through the narrow pass in South Mountain, on the way east to Gettysburg.

That's why it took him so long to get there.

73 posted on 05/28/2008 3:57:24 AM PDT by BroJoeK (A little historical perspective....)
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