"Strategies of the 1864 Overland Campaign:
From the Rapidan River Crossing through the Wilderness"

This is a Civil War Chat Room discussion that occurred on March 12, 2000.  The two moderators, BW-South and Mike-Union normally go by the name(s) BW and Mike in the chat room. However, for the sake of the discussion each took a side to explain. Thus the change in the names. This had nothing to do with the "politics" of the war, in that one cared more about one side than the other.  Rather it was so that both sides could be addressed separately.   Although  you will be able to read through the discussion in a matter of minutes, it actually took about two hours to complete. Enjoy.

BW-South - logged on.

Mike-Union - logged on.

JR - A Southern BW and a Unionist Mike? Wuzzup wit dat?

BW-South - All about perspective, JR...

Mike-Union - Good evening, folks. Tonight's topic is the initial stages of the Overland Campaign. Only a few ground rules. First, we're not lecturing or conducting a seminar. Our hope is that y'all will think about the issues and obstacles facing both N and S, and chime in with your opinions (PLEASE!!)

ks - Mike-Union - Second, in order to facilitate the chat a bit, we only ask that side issues or conversations be taken "off line" (sorry about that consultant talk!). In other words, let's make a list of the other issues which come up and we can address them at a later time. Although our main goal is to discuss the strategic issues surrounding the campaign, we understand interests in other areas. But, let's make a list so that we can move through the discussion.

BW-South - Just for clarification, as you can see by our handles, we have divided this topic up so that each of us has prepared info for a "side", Mike as the Union army, and myself as the southern...we will move back and forth on the various sub-topics so as to provide a better perspective for everyone...To begin, I'd just like to post a short poem to "set the mood" if you will. It may be familair to you already, as it appeared in the Ken Burns film s a background voice...

BW-South - "In Glades they meet skull after skull,

BW-South - Where pine cones lay- the rusted gun, green shoes full of bones, and scores of such-some start as in drems, comrades lost bemoan-by the wilds Stonewall had charged...but the year and the man...were gone..." -Herman Melville

BW-South - Sorry, butchered that all to pieces...go ahead Mike, the floor is yours...

Mike-Union - In March, 1864, Major General Ulysess S. Grant was summoned to Washington D.C. to accept both the commission of Lt. General and the command of all Federal armies. Although intially planning to base himself with the Army of the Tennessee, Grant subsequently decided that his place was with the Army of the Potomac and made his headquarters there.

Mike-Union - His plan was simple: cross the Rapidan River with the AoP, while General Benjamain Butler moved from the East and Franz Sigel down from the Shennendoh Valley. With simultaneous threats, Grant hoped to draw strength from the Army of Northern Virginia (ANV) and beat Lee in the open field.

BW-South - A.) As of late April, early May, 1864, Lee's army was still in its camps behind the Rapidan River, where it had spent the river. It was protected by the river as well as Clark's Mountain, which served as a screen, providing an observation post where the Confederate's could keep a close watch on the movements of Grant's army.

BW-South - B.) From the observation tower on Clark's Mountain, Lee could see the Federal army in its camps. He could also view the surrounding countryside for miles around. As Lee had a knack for doing throughout the war, he was able to put himself in his opponent's shoes, and guess correctly what his opponent's intentions were. Lee was looking through his fieldglasses and paused as he studied Ely's and Germanna's Ford's, downstream to the east on the Rapidan River. He said "Grant will cross by one of those fords". He was correct as it turned out; Grant used both fords to cross. Therefore, Lee could claim to have a slight advantage at the outset, being prepared for his enemy's move before it began. He could also plainly see that Grant, in crossing there, would have to pass his army through the "Wilderness of Spotsylvania", the same place Lee had beaten Joe Gen Hooker the year before. Lee understood that the Wilderness was a good place for an army with inferior numbers to be. First, it offset the numerical superiority of the Union Army, and second, it made artillery virtually non-existant in a battle there, thereby taking away another advantage the Federal's would have.

BW-South - B.) The army had seen little fighting since Gettysburg the previous July. After sending Longstreet's Corps to Tennessee, and noting the transfer of two Federal Corps to the same theatre, Lee launched a brief campaign against Meade, hoping to maneuver him closer to Washington, which he did, but ending in a repulse of Hill's Corps at Bristoe Station. In late fall, Meade launched a campaign of his own, terminating in a stalemate at Mine Run, where he refused to attack Lee in a fortified position. With his withdrawal, both armies settled in for the winter. As spring came on, Longstreet had returned from Tennessee, and his 1st Corps was resting in camps near Gordonsville, about two days' march from the rest of the army.

Mike-Union - However, the key to the Confederate advantage was that the AoP would halt in the Wilderness. As 'luck' would have it, after crossing on May 4, the Army of the Potomac halted in the Wilderness with the intention of moving further in the early morning. The decision came from both George Meade and Andrew Humprheys, and it proved to be an important one...

BW-South - My bad, disregard that first "B" post...it is out of context...consider only the second post titled "B"

Mike-Union - Let's start from a Union perspective. There were a number of 'wildcards', if you will, in the command structure of the Army of the Potomac. First, there is the issue of Grant and his role in commanding the army while George Meade remained the Army's commander. In addition, since Ambrose Burnside superceded Meade in terms of rank, his IX Corps did not fall under his command. What troubles might this have caused?

Mike-Union - In addition, the Corps command structure was tenuous at best. Both Gen. Winfield S. Hancock and John Sedgwick were Corp. veterans, but there were some new faces. G. Warren was relatively unproven in command of a large combat unit, and Ambrose Burnside was unreliable at best.

JR - Well, let's see, that would have been a logistical, chain-of command nightmare. Burnside gets and order. Is it from Meade and therefore one he doesn't have to follow, or is it from Grant. The same problem could be faced by the other corps commanders, esp. if Grant and Meade had differing ideas on certain issues.

Mike-Union - The question then needs to be asked: given the command structure both at the Corps level as well at the top echelon, what is the AoP facing in terms of obstacles?

BW-South - Very good point JR...

Mike-Union - Exactly right, JR, and what compounds the matter further is that Gen. Burnside's IX Corps does not report to Meade, but to Grant, while the other Corps commanders report to Meade directly. It causes a lot of logistical nightmares in the very near future...

WuzReb- Communication problems, I would guess, as well as conflicts as to who had authority to order what. Which would, I suspect, make cooridination even more difficult in what amounted to jungle contitions. My guess, anyhow...

BW-South - Take into accoun the terrain, as well, Mike and JR, with the confusion of a large scale battle, and I would argue that harmony and co-ordination between units would be close to impossible...

Mike-Union - Most importantly, no Corps commander, or Meade, has seen any significant combat experience since Gettysburg (excluding Mine Run and Bristoe Station). Most have not seen extensive combat in almost a year...

JR - Could be some resentment on the part of Meade as well, who has ideas on what he wants his army to do, but has to get ok from Grant before it can be done.

BW-South - I would definitely agree with that, WuzReb...

Mike-Union - Terrain, yes, but there were inherent problems with the Union command structure which were almost fatal on May 5-6. This isn't a question of landscape, but of discretion...IMHO>...

WuzReb- "The Wilderness itself was no place for a battle. Even the best of its roads were no better than enclosed lades; its long stretches of forest were full of spiky little saplings and heavy underbrush, there were few clearings, and the whole country was criss-crossed with meaningless little streams that created unexpected ravines or dark fragments of bogland..." - Bruce Catton.

BW-South - Mike has presented some very valid questions about the Union chain of command at the start of the campaign...Now let's turn to the situation on the other side of the river...

BW-South - C.) The command structure of Lee's Army at this time was similar to that of Gettysburg. It was still divided into 3 Corps, Longstreet commanding the 1st, Ewell the 2nd, and A.P. Hill the 3rd. Each Corps contained three divisions, but one of Longstreet's, that of George Pickett, had spent the winter convalescing in Richmond, still not having recovered from Gettysburg. It would be unavailable for the opening of the spring campaign.

newyawk- BUt Wuz it was perfect for a small army, like Lee's. Larger numbers wouldn't be as effective as a small army IMHO

BW-South - There were also three changes at the divisional level in the army since Gettysburg. Cadmus Wilcox led the 3rd Corps division that had been Pender's, who died of his Gettysburg wound. Hood had not yet recovered from his leg amputation at Chickamauga, so his division was led by Charles Field, a commander untested at the division level. McLaws' division, like Hood's belonged to the 1st Corps, and it too had a new leader. McLaws had been arrested by Longstreet for mismanaging the affairs of his division in the Knoxville Campaign and he was still pleading his case to the Richmond authorities. In his absence, the senior brigadier of the division, Joseph Kershaw, would have the command. Such was the command structure of the southern army at the time of the opening of the campaign. Lee had about 64,000 effectives of all arms, to oppose the 110,000 plus of Grant's Army.

BW-South - The condition of Lee's Army, in my opinion, by the spring of 1864 was in decline. It's best years were behind it, many of its best leaders were dead. I would argue that before Grant crossed the Rapidan River, lee had one more "good punch" left in him. He could attack once more and try to deliver a knockout blow, but only once. As events showed, he threw a pretty solid punch at Grant but Grant, though staggered, stayed on his feet and moved forward. My question, then, is, was Lee wrong in attacking the enemy at the Wilderness? It was arguably a good place to defend, to oppose, but to attack? I would argue that he would have had more success saving his "best punch" for later in the campaign, when Grant was out in the open more and Lee could follow up a victory more easily. At Chancellorsville he was unable to follow up Jackson's success, and when Longstreet fell in the Wilderness, his attack bogged down and Lee's chances at complete victory went by the wayside. This then, I would throw out to the forum for discussion...

WuzReb- Newyawk, that's just what Lee thought, too. "Lee had no intention of waiting for his enemy to get out in the open country to make their fight. He was outnumbered and outgunned, but here in the almost trackless forest, those handicaps would not matter so much..." - Catton

Mike-Union - And, while the Army of the Potomac mustered 110,000 men for duty, roughy 70,000 were considered combat-ready troops. The army was well rested, but command structure at the Corps and Army level threatened the cohesiveness of the Army, as well as its effectiveness in the field. The losses of Chancellorsville and Gettysburg had been largely replaced, but mostly by new recruits and consctripts, which degredated the brigade and regiment effectiveness as well. As you can see, there were many 'issues' which confronted the AoP as it crossed the Rapidan River on May 4...

shotgun - Not that familiar with the Wilderness, but didn't Grant have to "pause" after crossing the Rapidan to wait for his supply trains to catch up? Ain't this the reason he was in the right place at the right time? Seems to me this presented Lee with the opportune time to attack. Just asking of course.

newyawk- I agree with BW that Lee should have been on the defensive. If he had done that in the Wilderness he may have been able to beat Grant. Grant would have had to send his units in almost completely unaided

Mike-Union - Wuz, there is a lot fo debate as to whether Grant intended to fight Lee in the Wilderness. Most contemporary historians assert that Grant made a mistake in stopping, although Horace Porter, of Grant's staff, asserts that Grant actually didn't mind fighting there, because the terrain would work against both the AoP and ANV, thereby nullifying Lee's advantage...welcome, shotgun...

newyawk- Mike didn't Grant plan on attacking Lee wherever Lee was. Whether that was in the open or in a place like the Wilderness?

BW-South - I think it's clear that the terrain nullified the Federal advantage in both numbers and artillery...but attacks in that jungle were prone to be straight ahead and lacking cooperation from supporting units...thus the high casualties I would say...

Mike-Union - Supposedly, newyawk, but the fact is that most relatively intellegent folks knew from experience that the Wilderness would nulify any sort of advantage which the AoP held in terms of numbers and artillery. But, let's move to May 5, because, newyawk, Grant followed the axion which you state, to fight 'em whereever they were. On the morning of May 5, Grant ordered Warren to attack with the V Corps, whatever troops were in front of him, regardless of the fact that his Corps was spread out. His orders were essentially to attack with what he had, and press the ANV. What's wrong with this equation, given what we've talked about, and given the basic facts?

BW-South - Any more votes as to the decision of Lee to attack, even with a weaker force? Would like to hear everyone's views in that regard...

WuzReb- Mike, given the seeming pugnaciousness of Grant, might his "wanting" to fight in the Wilderness or not be almost a moot point? That was where he found the fight, and it would seem Grant was only too happy to pitch into the fight, wherever he found it... I do wonder if any concerns about his chain of command entered his head, or did he just figure they would wade into the fight and start whuppin', regardless? Thoughts?

BW-South - Thats a good thought, WuzReb, Grant knew the "arithmetic" as Lincoln explained...he good lose as many men as Lee did and win, and could almost afford two to one in casualties...he had the manpower, lee did not...The "Smash 'em up" policy of Grant was reckless perhaps, and cost many lives, but in the end one would have to say that the end justified the means...

Mike-Union - Wuz, good points. I'd say that, if he didn't consider both the terrain and his current chain of command, then he was grossly negligent (IMHO). He knew from the start that the Burnside/Meade situation would be problematic at best. As to the Wilderness, those AoP commanders who had fought there the previous Spring knew of the terrain and the problems it posed, and it is my opinion that one of Grant's fatal flaws was not heeding the advice of those AoP commanders who knew better...

BW-South - Mike, one side question i have is...where was Sheridan with the cavalry? Wasnt he in Fredericksburg chasing Stuart, rather than guarding the flanks, both of which were turned in the battle?

WuzReb- Mike, so would you say Grant's problems at the Wilderness were two-fold, both potentially fragmented command structer, as well as terrain in itself fragmenting to an army?

Mike-Union - Excellent point, BW, although it's jumping ahead a bit. Phillip Sheridan, a division commander under Grant out West, was assigneed by Grant to command of the AoP's cavalry. Unfortunately, as the IX Corps was independent of Meade's command, so too, it seems, was Sheridan's cavalry. This would also prove to be disasterous in the days ahead...

Mike-Union - Exactly right, Wuz! He faced two problems, both of which he indirectly or directly created for himself He created an untenable command structure, and he allowed Meade/Humphreys to cease marching on the 4th of May. It was two fold, and both of which Grant should accept responsibility for...gee, can you tell my bias???

shotgun - Lee, in my opinion, was going to attack, weaker force or no. This was Lee's ground. He knew the field. He also knew that to remain in position, awaiting Union action was to invite disaster. This was the way Lee fought. Especially in this campaign. No choice in my opinion.

Mike-Union - Let's move ahead to the first day's action in the Wilderness, May 5th, 1864. Warren has hit Ewell's Corps unsuccessfully, as has Sedgwick. Hancock is in position on the Left, and Burnside is moving up....

BW-South - That's a very good point, Shotgun, delay would only complicate Lee's problems...

Mike-Union - Bingo, shotgun! Lee knew that he had that advantage, given that he was going to hit them, although both Ewell and Hill had orders to maintain a defensive posture until events developed....

BW-South - Mike, quickly to clarify the ground a bit...both armies faced each other on almost 90 degree angles to the two roads that bisected their positions, the Orange Turnpike to the North, and the Brock Road to the South...the two raods were seperated by almost two miles and more at some points, therefore Ewell who faced Warren and Sedgwick on Lee's left, was seperated from AP Hill's Corps who faced Hancock on the Plank Road near where it intersected the Brock Road...therefore the battle on the first day was really two battles, seperated by the dense wilderness in between...

BW-South - Excuse my error, it was the Plank Road to the South, not the Brock Road...oops...

Camp - The wilderness is not my cup of tea but did lee choose to fight to get the moral of army up or was there a high moral to begin with

Mike-Union - Very true, BW, and as we see on the 6th of May, the circumstances surrounding both of these actions was very different. Both commanders (Ewell and Hill) were hit at different times and with varying effectiveness, and their preparations on the night of the 5th would very much dictate how each of these actions turned out...

BW-South - I believe that Grant tried to send Burnside through the center of the gap, ride into the very heart of the Wilderness to break through Lee's Center, but Burnside got lost...Mike can clarify that further...Hill shifted two of his divisions to meet the threat and there was fierce fighting throughout the afternoon and evening of the first day...Lee had told both ewell and Hill to attack, and he expected Longstreet to arrive from Gordonsville that night to support Hill, but Longstreet was late, and as it turned out, did not arrive until after daybreak the next day...

WuzReb- Camp, IMHO, Lee fought because a fight was neccesary, not for morale but the simple fact of winning. He fought there because he felt that ground and that opportunity was the best he was handed, at that time. Just my .02....

Mike-Union - Burnside got lost, but he was also hindered by the terrain. Both Col. Porter and Comstock went to Burnside to guide him, but even they conceded, as they did on May 6th, that the delay was not necesarily his doing...(of course, I beg to differ, BUT...)

BW-South - Camp, my view is that Lee wanted the campaign to be as short as possible. He did not take Grant lightly but he wanted to test him in a pitched battle at the earliest possible moment...My argument was essentially that if Lee chose to fight Grant in the Wilderness right away, he should have been on the defensive, rather than trying to attack a superior army in dense wooded terrain...

shotgun - Sorry, but have to go. Just let me throw this in for an after though. Grant was on the move, Lee had to defend. When Grant paused after crossing the Rapidan, this offered Lee the opportunity he needed. Just a thought. By the way, my thoughts on this came about after having to answer a question some time back on "why in the world did Grant stop after crossing the Rapidan?" Simple answer (found in "Battles and Leaders"), to wait for the Supply Trains. See ya.

BW-South - Again, Lee also counted on Longstreet being up in the afternoon of that first day(sound like G'burg??) but Longstreet simply couldn't march fast enough to get there in time...As Hancock had handled Hill roughly on the southern part of the battlefield(Plank Road), Longstreet was sorely needed to relieve Hill, and that leads nicely into my next point...

Mike-Union - LOL...shotgun, IMHO, that was Meade's obsession, not Grant's. Grant proved at Vicksburg that he didn't care a d*mn for supply.....

BW-South - 1.) At the close of battle on the first day, the Third Corps was in an unstable position, and it's commander(Hill) was sick. Lee however, when approached by both Heth and Wilcox to explain the necessity of fortifying or pulling back to a safer position, adopted his usual "hands off" command policy and both times demurred to General Hill. The subsequent attack by Hancock the next morning routed both divisions. Should Lee, noting Hill's illness, have taken a more active role in troop deployments? Should he have removed Hill from command and led the Corps himself? Was Hill's bad decision the result of poor judgement, or in his own misunderstanding of the situation?

WuzReb- Camp, as to Confed morale, here is a quote from Gen. Porter Alexander; "We all knew of the tremendous preparationds of the enemy & enormous odds we would have to face... But we were only anxious for it to begin. We weanted to see Grant introduced to Gen Lee & the Army of Northern Virginia, & to let him have a smell of our powder. For weknew that we simply could never be driven off a battlefield...."

Mike-Union - Folks, let's move on a bit to the end of the 5th of May, after some pretty hectic combat has taken place....let's hear the Confederate perspective....

shotgun - LOL, Meade's correct! That's the report you will find it in. Gone!

BW-South - To clarify a bit, the reason AP Hill ignored the warnings of his two division commanders, Heth and Wilcox, was because he expected Longstreet to arrive before morning and that he would not have to face attack. But the records clearly show that Lee knew that Longstreet would be late. Obviously Hill and Lee were not on the same page, and taking into account the fact that Hill was sick(again), what are everyone's thoughts??

Mike-Union - What concerns me, BW, is that Lee and Hill WERE on the same page, and that neither chose to fortify. Heth, among others, was deeply concerned about the fact that his troops were laying on the ground they defended without any protection whatsoever. Hill, from a tactical perspective, should have instructed his people to entrench and Lee, KNOWING that Longstreet was behind schedule, should have instructed Hill appropriately. Both were at fault...IMHO...

WuzReb- Should we perhaps fault Lee, for not making it clear that Hill would NOT be supported by Longstreet for several hours? Or fault Hill for ingoring his own commanders? Or both? It would seem Lee failed to stress Longstreet's tardiness to Hill.... The matter of sickness may or may not have relevance on a commander's ability to command. That would have to be an on-the-spot decision...

Mike-Union - Regardless of Lonstreet's position, in the face of a reinforced enemy (i.e. Hancock's II Corps), it should have not even been a question as to entrenching. Ewell had been doing it all day, and it paid enormous dividends. What would have happened if Hill DID entrench? What would have Hancock faced then?

BW-South - It just seems to me that it is Gettysburg all over again, Lee not giving enough attention to the work of his corps commanders and the result being a near calamity...

newyawk- Definetly Mike, Hill's men should have constructed breastworks. Whenever a smaller army(or for that fact larger) has time to make defenses they should have

Mike-Union - Precisely, BW...Lee seemed to judge everyone in Jackson's mold, and yet Lee saw from Gettysburg that Ewell and Hill were NOT in Jackson's mold. Incidentally, kudos to Ewell...he performed splendidly on May 5th....

BW-South - Mike what was the proportion of Grant's army that faced Hill? Hill obviously represented only a third of Lee's total force, while Hancock, when reinforced constituted what? Just for clarification...

Mike-Union - And they had the time, newyawk...at least 4 hours, and Ewell's men proved that ample protection could be erected in less time than that...a fatal mistake...

BW-South - And Hancock's troops, at that point in the campaign, were arguably Grant's best for offense, while Hill was not exactly Lee's "Sunday punch" anymore...

newyawk- Any men who know that an assault is coming can make breastworks(good ones in 15 min.). In four hours you can only imagine what they could have done(especially with the availability of trees).

Mike-Union - From Gordon Rhea, the brigades under Hancock's command were: Stone, Rice, Baxter, Cutler , Webb, Carroll, Eustis, Owen, Wheaton, Ward, Grant, Hays, Brewster, McAllister...about 1/3 of the AoP...

BW-South - Well, then, should Heth and Wilcox also recieve some blame for not acting on their own volition to arrange for a better defense? It seems they put the responsibility on Hill, then went to Lee, and then back to Hill...if they knew they couldn't hold their position in the morning, they should do anything to save themselves, even if it means disobeying orders, in my opinion...

Mike-Union- Well, we're at May 6th, it seems, and Hancock has amassed a considerable offensive force which, for one of the few times in AoP history, was organized appropriately. When they hit Hill, he never had a chance...

Mike-Union - BW, Rhea puts the blame on both Heth and Wilcox as well because they didn't push the issue as vigorously as they could have. Heth tried to see Lee twice, but in the end, didn't get the permission to fortify...

BW-South- I think it was Heth that said, during the night of May 5th "A skirmish line could rout my diviison where it now stands..." Obviously he understood the dire situation, but...

newyawk- BW, as Lee was used to having Jackson as a subordinate(still seems he thought the same at G'burg and Wilderness) Heth and Wilcox may have thought the same about Hill. Maybe Hill would have attacked, or if they disobeyed orders would be court-martialed(remember Garnett). Besides Conf. division commanders weren't used to disobeying orders, as witnessed many times over at Gettysburg and other battles.

BW-South - That's true NewYawk, I'm glad you brought that up...Also, Heth and Wilcox weren't the best of Major Generals in the first place...it was Wilcox's first major battle in that position, and Heth's second since Gettysburg, where his division was mauled...

Mike-Union - Hancock's brigades slam into Hill's tired Corps at sunrise on May 6th, 5am. A.P. Hill's Corps never had a chance as thousands of Union troops overran his position (an unfortified one at that!) At this point, Lee seriously feared the worst...

BW-South - Okay, time to shift gears to May 6th...

BW-South - Lee watched from his headquarters as Hill's fugitives ran past him...he tried to rally them, but it looked like his army was dissolving...

BW-South - Hancock gained the intersection and closed in on lee's HQ's at the Tapp Farm, and Lee himself barely escaped capture...that is when Longstreet arrived...The Texas Brigade of Hood's old division was in the van...they taunted Hill's troops as they passed, "You're worse than Bragg's men!", etc...

BW-South - Lee asked what unit it was and when told it was the Texans he gave his famous cry "Texans alsways move 'em"...Longstreet with his two divisions was able to repair the damage done by Hancock's rout of Hill...

BW-South - With the stopping of Hancock, Lee wanted Longstreet to take the offensive, to try to flank Hancock from the south and throw his troops back against the river...Longstreet's AAG, Moxley Sorrel, along with the army's cheif engineer, found an old railroad cut that led through the forest unseen and right into Hancock's flank...Sorrel led three brigades through the cut and attacked...

BW-South - It was Chancellorsville all over again...Longstreet, to qoute hancock, "rolled me(Hancock) up like a wet blanket"! It was barely noon time on May 6th and the Federals on Grant's left were flanked and running...

newyawk- With one corps routed I don't think it was the best idea to have Longstreet go on the offensive. It was only a fluke that Sorrel found that railroad cut.

Mike-Union - By this point, Hancock was becoming increasingly concerned. As with most large-scale assaults, this one was becoming increasing disorganized, and he was screaming to Grant and Meade for reinforcements. He didn't see Sorrel's attack coming, but he knew that he was very vulnverable. Lee merely capitalized on it...

BW-South - It was at this point that Longstreet and a group of officers rode toward the front to observe the attack's progress...in the smoke and confusion they were fired upon...Gen Micah Jenkins was killed instantly, and Longstreet took a bullet in the throat/shoulder area and had to be borne from the field...with his wounding, the attack degenerated and stalled outright...

Mike-Union - Not a fluke, per se, newyawk. Had he not found it, then Lee would have either stopped an attack, redirected it, or done it on the other flank. Lee was looking for a means to attack and the railroad cut, which SHOULD HAVE been known by Meade and Hancock, was the best means....

BW-South - from noontime until four o'clock Lee personally reorganized his now confused troops for a renewal of the assault...this delay of nearly four hours was put to good use by hancock and the Federal's, as Mike will explain now...

Mike-Union - Essentially, Hancock had his troops erect and reinforce a series of log breastworks. As the Confederate brigades attacked, they actually managed to force the Federals away from these breastworks. However, the prevailing forest fires caught the breastworks on fire and, with the aid of this flame, the Federals were able to drive the Confederates from that line with serious loss....

newyawk - Yep Mike, I see what you mean

Mike-Union - In addition, the Corps command structure was tenuous at best. Both Gen. Hancock and Se

BW-South - .) On the second day, Lee found it necessary to remain on the right of his position(Tapp Farm, Brock Road) and supervise the early defense of Hill and the later offense of Longstreet. He remained out of touch with the left of his army and sent few messages inthat direction. The ones he did send to Ewell were of the ambiguous variety that had brought such ill results at Gettysburg. Had Lee not learned his lesson?

Mike-Union - Apparently not...as Grant was learning his lessons as to his Corps commanders' strengths, Lee was a bit out of step because he had precedent to fall back on (Gettysburg) and ignored it. Hill was hasty and often unprepared, and Ewell was overly cautious....

BW-South - Ewell chose not to attack, and let Jubal early speak for him...one of the best brigade commanders in his corps was John B Gordon...Gordon saw that the right of Grant's line(Sedgwicks Corps) was "in the air", not anchored on the river as it should have been...Gordon pressed his case all day long seeking permission to attack, and each time was refused by Ewell and Early...

Mike-Union - Interestingly, a long, drawn-out debate as to who took the credit for initiating the actual attack...Gordon insisted in his memoirs that it was he who suggested it to Lee, and yet he was no where near Lee to do so. Most likely, it was Ewell...amazingly enough...

BW-South - Finally, when lee rode to the left at the end of the day 5:30 pm, and asked Ewell why he had not attacked, Gordon presented his case...Lee let him attack immediately, and Gordon's Georgia brigade of 7 regiments, the largest in the army, aided by another brigade on its right, drove the right of Grant's line nearly a mile, bagged 600 prisoners, and captured two generals...Why was this attack not made earlier in the day? Was Ewell to blame? Were Lee's orders to blame? Was it his "hands off" policy again??

Mike-Union - Well, my personal opinion would be to slam Early, because he was Gordon's division commander and had full knowledge of Gordon's situation...

BW-South - Well, with Gordon's late hour success on the left of Lee's lines, the battle of the Wilderness was about over...time to rap it up, I suppose...I would encourage youa ll to throw out any questions you might have at this point...

Mike-Union -
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Mike-Union - Sorry about that!! Rhea got trapped on the keyboard!

BW-South - Is there anyone still awake???

newyawk BW, I'm still here!!!!

ks - Wide awake and copying, Sir!

JIM TNO - Yea this is soooo fasinating!!!! Keep going !

newyawk - Mike and BW I also copied the conversation

WuzReb - I would say that the blame for Gordan's late attack should fall on his immideate commander, who KNEW the situation. That being, of course, Early. Lee might not now what was before them, whereas Early was right there. IMHO...

BW-South - Casualty figures are in some dispute, but in general terms it was about 19,000 lost on the Union side, 9,000 on the Confederate side at the close of the two days' of fighting...not to mention the many wounded who burned to death when the Wilderness caught fire...

Mike-Union - Folks, the casualties were simply enormous. "According to Federal returns, Grant had had 2,246 soldiers killed, 12,037 wounded, and 3,383 captured. The official loss was reckoned at 17,666 men...but it is fair to estimate that the Battle of the Wilderness cost Grant's expeditionary force some 17 percent of its number." (Rhea, pgs. 435-436)

BW-South - Lee could claima tactical victory, though he lost many valuable officers and men...Longstreet would be sorely missed...his decision in naming a successor to Old Pete, and the subsequent decision to move to Spotsylvania will be taken up at a later time...

Camp - I'm awake jsut doin some homework

WuzReb - Did Early have any idea where ol' Burnside was? Wasn't Burnside supposed to be out there somewhere, an unknown if the Confederates advanced too far? Just a question...

BW-South - With that, I would say I'm about through...Mike, add anything else of note that you may have, and then I would open the forum to any thoughts/questions/opinions from the wonderful audience...

JIM TNO - Oh MY !!!!!!!

Camp - what percentage of loss did lee have

BW-South - Hit the nail on the head Wuzz...Burnside was lost in the center, and the Reb high command couldnt account for him...Early feared he was in reserve and that if Gordon attacked, he'd run into Burnside...Gordon of course had scouted, and knew that this was not the case at all...

Mike-Union - Nope, nothing in particular, although Wuz, Early pretty much had his head up his a*s! He simply didn't want to believe that Gordon's line of attack was clear, when in fact it was. Burnside was really no where near there, and let's be honest, even if he was, what are the odds that he would have attacked??? Sorry, my opinion jumping in there...

newyawk - Mike I do have one question. Even though Burnside did have seniority over Meade wouldn't Meade still have command over Burnside, because Meade was given command of the AoP

Mike-Union - No, newyawk, because it came down to a question of seniority in terms of when each general was promoted to the rank of major general. There was simply no way around the fact that in terms of time, Burnside had the edge. Grant understood this, although after the Wilderness, he saw the folly in such a command structure and simply assiged Burnside to Meade, as it should have been from the start....

JIM TNO - TO Mike and BW .. THANKS GUYS!

Mike-Union - Although, my personal opinion is that Burnside was humble enough to recognize the benefits of reporting to Meade and would have acquiesed to such an arrangement from the start...IMHO...

BW-South - Camp, considering that Lee, in round numbers carried 65,000 into the fight, and he lost roughly 10,000 give or take, you can see that he lost somewhere in the vicinity of 1/6th of his army...

Mike-Union - Jim, always a pleasure...we'll take up the chat in a couple of weeks and talk about Grant's decision to move South, and Spotsylvania....

WuzReb - BW & Mike, so sounds like the CS army also had its own command structure flaws, with commanders unwilling to trust or heed their subbordinates. Tragic, when you think how a battle such as the Wilderness, whose sheer physical complexion is destructive, requires the utmost in coordination, communication, and and cooperation. Which brings it back to my rather myopic opinion of old; no matter the reasons the Wilderness was fought where and how it was, it amounted to two big duges with blindfolds and razorblades, beating each other stupid in a burning house...

JIM TNO - Mike, I think you hit that one on the mark. From what I have read, though tactily Burnside was an idiot! He was a decent man.. Just never made to lead a full ARMY!

Mike-Union - I hope that answered your question, newyawk. Unfortunately, I have to run now and give my wife a call in Chicago. As usual, I'll be on first thing in the morning. Folks, it has truly been a pleasure!! And Jim, ditto on Burside...nice guy, moron of a Corps commander....

BW-South - Thats about correct, WuzReb!

ks - Thank you, Mike & BW. Mike, I'll keep copying any pertinent discussion and send it to you later tonight.

newyawk - Yes Mike, thanks you guys

newyawk - Understand how Burnside would have higher rank, but find it rather stupid that he would be able to override the army commanders orders

WuzReb - Mike & BW, thanks for a great discussion! You guys did real good. I have really missed our Sunday talks, and look forward to seeing more. Good on ya, and thanks!

Mike-Union - Absolutely, newyawk...absolute madness, and it haunted Grant not only in the Wilderness, but at Spotsylvania...but that's for a LATER discussion... take care...

BW-South - NY, I think there is an army regualtion that says when two independent forces are on the same field, the man with the higher rank commands by seniority...Mike made the point that Burnside's Corps DID NOT belong to Meade's army at first, but was an independent entity...Grant solved the problem later by assigning the 9th Corps to the AoP...

WuzReb - Newyawk, stupid, sure, but it was how that mans' army ran. Rank was rank. Dumb and dumber...

newyawk - Yep BW, I missed it that the IX corps was independent. It makes a little more sense, but....

BW-South - Well let me thank you all for being such a well behaved, respectful audience...I guess were about done for now...

Plain ol BW - Hey, i noticed that the scrollback is longer than usual...if that is you at work, Henry, then thank you!

ks - BW, Mike said you plan to take up the chat again in a couple of weeks. Literally are we speaking of the 26th?

WuzReb - BW, LOL, I guess next time we should try to be a little more rowdy, huh? Just so you know we are all still out here.

newyawk - I guess this means that we have some more Gettysburg quotes now

newyawk - Hey Wuz, I tried to, but didn't want to make a complete idiot of myself

Plain ol BW - No, I dont think i can commit to anything definite yet,ks, but we'll get back to you on that when we have something for certain...

WuzReb - Newyawk, LOL, at least this time I kept my generals straight... The other night I lost track whether they were talking about Longstreet or Jackson, and turns out Jackson was dead at the time under discussion..

newyawk - Yes Wuz I remember the Jackson reincarnation for the Wilderness(just to get wounded again)

ks - You two make a very good team (for more than quoting THE MOVIE). :) My knowledge of the Overland Campaign is so limited as is my time. I did read the online magazine articles Mike suggested as well as watch the Ken Burns tape dealing with before, after and during the Wilderness. Really enjoyed beginning to put the pieces together.

WuzReb - Newyawk, LOL, that's right, you were there... And like I said, I am a visual thinker. At least it was SOME old dead general with a beard!

newyawk - LOL WuzReb, didn't think about the beards

Plain ol BW - I think the format we used helped as well, so everyone out there knew where we were coming from, what side's perspective we were presenting...

WuzReb - Ks, I agree. Hearing it discussed, and opinions why and how, really helps a battle make sense. I have a really hard time just reading dry facts and absorbing them. I need to have them hammered into my head, methinks! So these discussions help a lot.

Plain ol BW - Well, I just wanted to make sure that we didn't disappoint you folks...I mean, there was plenty of HYPE beforehand...

newyawk - Naw BW was just what I expected(if not better)

WuzReb - Something I just PM'd to BW, that I want to put on record for the group; BW, I was really impressed with the way you and Mike "passed the ball" between you. Made for an excellent discussion, especially getting the view from both sides. Many discussions tend to lean one way or another, and I found this "dynamic duo" presentation very enjoyable.
Plain ol BW - Thankee Wuz, that's very kind of you...makes me want to exclaim "Jeezeopeeete!"

newyawk - Yep Wuz, it wasn't biased towards one side or the other

ks - BW, my only disappointment is that more from the camp were unable to log on...for whatever reason. But a copy will be available. "We'll make them sorry they didn't chat!"

WuzReb - Newyawk, I am only half joking about the visual thinking stuff. One reason I have such trouble grasping battles, is that I cannot picture them without help. To really understand a big fight, I need to look at maps and trace routes with a pencil and all sorts of silliness. I'm awful at math, too.

Plain ol BW - LOL ks, thank you! I was very glad to see those that did make it, however, we had a great audience, and that made it easier, no stage fright at all! LOL, nice job with the quote, too!

newyawk - ks, what do you mean were unable to log on? Could they not get in the room?:-29

newyawk - Don't worry Wuz, I'm awful at math too

Plain ol BW - Does this mean we can get silly now?...LOL...

ks - No, newyawk. I'm giving folks the benefit of the doubt that other things came up...like memory lapses!

newyawk - LOL ks

Plain ol BW - I was pleased to see Shotgun make the cameo appearance...

newyawk - BW thanks for the chat. I must be going to bed now

WuzReb - Silly?? Who ever gets silly in THIS camp?

Plain ol BW - Take care NY, and thanks again! Have a good rest, pal...

ks - Goodnight newyawk. Pleasant dreams.

WuzReb - Good night, Newyawk. Take care.

Plain ol BW - You know, it just occurred to me that, "moderating a discussion has one great trap..." LOL, nevermind...

Plain ol BW - ks, it's okay to put my hat and goggles back on now, right??

ks - You had them on earlier, BW. Don't think I didn't notice.

WuzReb - Gee, wonder if we could get Henry to make an icon with a cowboy hat? For us Western folks, ya know....

Plain ol BW - Well, I s'pose I should be getting to bed now as well...Spring break is over, back to school tomorrow...Can't wait!...Yeah right...anyhow, thanks again to all and have a good night!...

ks - You have a good rest there, BW. You've earned it. And have fun at school. Night.

WuzReb - Good night BW, and thanks for a terrific chat.

This Page last updated 10/06/01

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