Question of the Week: 5/23-5/29/16

Question-Header

152 years ago today, the Eastern armies clashed along the banks of the North Anna River—a phase of the Overland Campaign that tends to get overlooked in light of the more sensational and dramatic actions before and after. Yet the NAR phase of the campaign offers insights into the army not as readily seen in other phases of the campaign, too.

What is the most interesting phase of the Overland Campaign to you and why?

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7 Responses to Question of the Week: 5/23-5/29/16

  1. David L. Lady says:

    Breaking contact at Cold Harbor, and crossing the James…after that, more heartbreaking than interesting, but down to arriving before Petersburg it was a very interesting feat of logistics and screening actions.

  2. Eric Sterner says:

    Turning south after the bloodletting in the Wilderness rather than moving back across the Rappahannock. It sent the message to the Army of the Potomac that Grant still had confidence in it and didn’t consider it defeated. It also sent the message to Lee that the Confederates were facing a different kind of general.

  3. The entire thing? (OK, not the answer you wanted, but my snark-indulgence couldn’t resist.) I’m going to go with two periods of maneuver:

    1. May 4, when the stage was set for the unexpected clash in the Wilderness; if the Federal cavalry (in particular Wilson’s 3/Cav) had performed better, the outcome of the Wilderness might have been very different.

    2. June 15, when “Baldy” Smith had a real chance to shorten the war and blew it.

  4. Dan Walker says:

    Above are all excellent, but I wouldn’t overlook: (1) Lee was always thinking about (especially at N.Anna) how to leverage defensive positioning to take the offensive. (2) Lee was still much more successful in managing cavalry. Often had numerical superiority at p. of contact (Trevlliian).

  5. David L. Lady says:

    Excellent point Dan, I think that there are at least six attempts at a corps-sized counter stroke that Lee either initiated or ordered during the campaign…a series of jabbing counter punches as Grant threw Meade’s army into another left hook. Lee always sought to regain the initiative, but his numbers and less-skilled commanders just could not achieve it.

    I take to heart that Porter Alexander always thought that hesitating east of Richmond instead of rushing the entire I Corps to Petersburg or attacking toward Malvern Hill as Army of the Potomac crossed the James was Lee’s major mistake during the Overland /Campaign. That seems, to me, the last opportunity for a telling stroke.

  6. HOW AN ARMY[ CSA] WITH 66,000 MEN MANEUVERED A FIGHTING FORCE FOR SO LONG AGAINST A ARMY OF 118,00O{ USA} AND STILL MAINTAINED THE MORALE AND GUTS TO FIGHT IT OUT .AND NOT SIMPLY GIVE UP.

  7. Tim Kelly says:

    I have three favorites: The what if? Longstreet wounded by his own troops at the Wilderness after a successful surprise attack. It might have caused a Confederate victory and he would have been know as the Hero of the Wilderness, not the scapegoat of Gettysburg. It might have changed the out come of the war or Lincoln’s reelection that fall too. I also love the story of the Union troops turning South after the Wilderness instead of retreating back toward Washington too but Grant’s comments after his alarmed generals warning Grant to Lee’s movements during the Wilderness and his reply ‘I don’t care what Lee is doing I care what we are going to do to Lee” is classic Grant! The pure tactical: after three years of Napoleonic infantry tactics against overwhelming technological weapons (rifled gun), Union General Upton’s new assault technique of Hancock’s corps upon the Mule Shoe at Spotsylvania. Troops in a smaller line but deeper in-depth, Initially successful but repulsed. I can’t imagine the carnage, the men further back in the attack had to run over a formation of planked killed and wounded men. Time for trench warfare!

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