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 (1861-1865) Civil War Battles (Eastern Theater)
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mikecmaps
CAMARILLO CA USA
Posts: 105
Joined: 2020
Overland campaign numbers and effectiveness.
2/2/2021 1:12:19 PM
Overland campaign numbers and effectiveness.

In Rhea’s forward to Young’s Overland Campaign: a numerical study, he says,
“The implications that follow from Young’s analysis are profound. Lee’s numbers at the campaign’s outset were greater than historians have formerly assumed, and his casualties by its end were considerably larger than anecdotal accounts have led us to believe. When compared against the respective sizes of the armies at the campaigns outset, Confederate losses approximate 50 percent, while Federal losses were about 45 percent, suggesting that Grant lost soldiers at a lower overall rate than did Lee. As Young convincingly demonstrates, the campaign thoroughly gutted many of the Army of Northern Virginia’s veteran units.”

This statement appears to confirm the purpose of Grant’s strategy to win by attrition, a gradual grinding down accomplished by spending more union troops than confederates but in a favorable proportion. However, it is clearly shown that the new data on numbers and losses brings the attrition strategy into some question as an advisable approach. With union losses being 45% and Lee’s just under 50% this approach produced a result only roughly 10% overall more favorable to the Union. Also, since the new data shows Lee had more troops available the efficacy of the attrition approach is also less viable. Given the new data showing Lee’s total force in the campaign was as much as 96,000, nearly 20,000 more than previously documented, Grant’s advantage was reduced and attrition likely to be less effective. Recognizing that Grant in no way had access to this new and more complete data, the marginal effect of the strategy is clarified. The new data set shows that Lee lost some 34 thousand of 96 thousand total available forces for an over all loss of about 35%. Taking about 162 thousand as the most favorable (lower) number of total force available to Grant, his percent loss was about 33%. The overall principle in the new data set is that Lee’s numbers of troops and losses are under reported in the Livermore data. The new data increases Lee’s force from 62,000 at the beginning of the Overland Campaign to 66,000; a 7% increase only. Lee’s losses rise from about 30,000 to 33,500 or about 12% more casualties. Both of these numbers may be seen as marginal increments and not large increases. The force ratio of 162 to 96 is about 2 to 1 (1.7) which has always been the generally stated proportion understood at the beginning of the campaign. Stated in the inverse Lee employed 58 men for each 100 available to Grant. Yet, the respective percent losses of 45% to 50% represent a loss of 500 in each 1000 for Lee and 450 in each 1000 for Grant. With a 2 to 1 advantage a net gain of only 50/1000 was achieved. This can only be seen as a very low gain for very substantial losses. (Young, Overland Campaign, pp218-225)
What is more, it is often said the strategy was to cause losses Lee could not replace while Union losses would be “absorbed”, thus gaining advantage long term. In fact, while losing some 33,500 Lee received 30,000 additional troops. These largely replaced the losses making the effectiveness of the so-called attrition highly questionable. Lee replaced 88% of his losses or losses exceeded gains by only 12%.

While the general purpose of the new records evaluation was largely successful in providing more complete data, the overall impact can not be seen as really significant, and not in fact really profound, given the marginal sums added to the Livermore data set. The research performed to collect the enhanced data set for the campaign is admirable and valuable and clearly provides more complete and accurate records. The overall evaluation of the campaign numbers and losses and relative tactical performance, based on the data, of Lee and Grant is not appreciably altered. Yes, after 11 months of attrition Lee’s army was worn down but the campaign must be seen as spending much Union blood for very marginal effects. Grant stated he wanted to catch Lee in the open. Yet his attrition approach became a slow push, push, push, forward acting against his stated purpose. By standing off at a distance, and possibly concealing a portion of his force, and maneuvering, he may have brought Lee to a decisive battle in the open. Lee may have been able to avoid this effort. The most skilled commanders use concealment, maneuver and surprise to create a favorable strategic/tactical advantage which when followed up results in decisive victory at minimum cost. Grant did not achieve and only weakly attempted any such effort. Against Lee’s considerable skill, Grant’s approach cost excessive blood.

On page 222 it is stated “it is possible, if not likely, that the actual confederate casualties during the Overland Campaign were higher than those offered by this study.” After over two hundred pages of analysis and 78 tables in 100 pages, the claim of incomplete numbers and records is reasserted; indicating a really strained and ardent effort to exonerate Grant’s reputation as a primary motive for this study. And, yes, while there is some possibility, following this study, any additional numbers of Lee’s troops and losses must be an even smaller incremental impact in the range of inconsequential. If this ten year study collecting from the broadest range of available sources may not be taken as comprehensive then it is difficult to imagine that Grant adherents will ever acknowledge the marginal effectiveness of his attrition strategy.

(page x, forward, by G. Rhea; Young, Alfred; Lee’s Army during the Overland Campaign: a numerical study; Baton Rouge, LSU 2013)

Ps:
The obvious response is “but Grant won.” Who can suggest that allied losses in June-August 1944 France running to 1 million of total force of 2 million vs. German 500,000 of 1 million could have been acceptable. Both being 50% losses. And not suggesting any real comparison between the campaigns, but simply trying to convey in more contemporary terms just how really appalling the 1864 losses were. (Actual 1944 allied loss was about 226,000)

Hit per 1000; Union 206 (33500/162)
Confed 552 (53000/96) 2.68 C/U
Antietam U;156 C;225 1.44 C/U
Fredericksburg U;44 C; 88 2.0 C/U
Vicksburg Assault U;71 C;246 3.4 C/U (U 71, 2500/35; C 246, 3199/13)

Copyright © 2021 Michael Collie
Phil Andrade
London  UK
Posts: 5094
Joined: 2004
Overland campaign numbers and effectiveness.
2/2/2021 2:40:09 PM
Mike,

The numbers presented in Young’s study convince me that Grant failed in a conspicuous manner.

In every major campaign in 1862 and 1863 - excepting Fredericksburg - the AoNV suffered higher percentages of casualties. Chancellorsville stands as a good example : 13,000 confederate casualties being proportionately significantly heavier than the 17,000 suffered by the Union.

The Overland Campaign broke with this tradition, exacting a toll of five union casualties for every three confederate, and, essentially , resulting in equal proportionate attrition for the two sides.

The South was better inured to this kind of punishment than the North.

Worse than that - and this is something that doesn’t get sufficient recognition - the Confederates were very successful in the composition of their casualties : a higher proportion of their wounded were slight cases ; the percentage of fatalities among the men who were hit was lower in the southern ranks than it was for the yankees. The most remarkable feature of the casualties presented by Young is the very small number of rebel wounded who were left in federal hands. We need to look beyond the total numbers, an assess the make up of the casualty totals.

With the aid of Fox’s regimental data, I have been able to extrapolate that, of the 55,000 Union casualties between the Wilderness and the Crossing of the James, more than 14,000 were killed or mortally wounded, compared with fewer than 6,000 confederates.

The most punishing feature of Lee’s casualty list was the large number of unwounded prisoners who were captured, especially at Spotsylvania. In this respect, the attrition did bear heavily on the AoNV.

In terms of depletion of morale and reduction of fighting prowess, I opine that the damage was very much more apparent in the union ranks.

It's my view that the qualitative edge in combat performance was more in the south’s favour at the end of the Overland than it had been at the beginning.

An attritional success for Lee, I reckon.

Regards, Phil
----------------------------------
"Egad, sir, I do not know whether you will die on the gallows or of the pox!" "That will depend, my Lord, on whether I embrace your principles or your mistress." Earl of Sandwich and John Wilkes
mikecmaps
CAMARILLO CA USA
Posts: 105
Joined: 2020
Overland campaign numbers and effectiveness.
2/2/2021 5:40:32 PM
Phil,
Thanks.
I like what you say.
“In terms of depletion of morale and reduction of fighting prowess, I opine that the damage was very much more apparent in the union ranks.”

“It's my view that the qualitative edge in combat performance was more in the south’s favour at the end of the Overland than it had been at the beginning.”

And to confirm the quantitative evidence, there are a number of primary source accounts by Union officers stating that the repeated attacks, with little real prospect of success, were ill-advised and definitely resulted in negative morale/cohesion on the union troops.
Of course heavy confederate losses, especially in brigade & regimental officers, eventually took its toll. But even at the end ANV showed excellent cohesion until Richmond was evacuated.
Yours, Mike_C
Phil Andrade
London  UK
Posts: 5094
Joined: 2004
Overland campaign numbers and effectiveness.
2/3/2021 8:09:35 AM
Mike,

The subsequent fighting around Petersburg in the summer of 1864 revealed the extent of the damage the Overland had done to the fighting prowess of the AoP. The proud II Corps was not only defeated, but actually routed at Ream's Station in August, and the earlier affairs in the Weldon Railroad and Jerusalem Plank Road battles attested this too.

In the Overland , the fate of the New England Heavy Artillerymen - deployed as infantry - indicated the extent to which inexperienced troops were being used up in the most murderous fighting : literally massacred by battle wise veterans.

In attritional terms, the exchange rate achieved by McClellan and Hooker was far more favourable to the North than the Overland. Gettysburg speaks for itself. Lee's loss in killed in three days there nearly rivalled what he lost in thirty days from the Wilderness to Cold Harbor. Likewise the Seven Days.

I think that you're right to emphasise how appalling the slaughter of the yankees was in the Overland. Not only in terms of the numbers, but also in the manner in which that toll was exacted. The anecdotes I've read about the fate of the wounded and dying are harrowing.

Regards, Phil
----------------------------------
"Egad, sir, I do not know whether you will die on the gallows or of the pox!" "That will depend, my Lord, on whether I embrace your principles or your mistress." Earl of Sandwich and John Wilkes
Lightning
Glasgow  UK
Posts: 745
Joined: 2005
Overland campaign numbers and effectiveness.
2/3/2021 8:51:24 AM
Quote:
In attritional terms, the exchange rate achieved by McClellan and Hooker was far more favourable to the North than the Overland. Gettysburg speaks for itself. Lee's loss in killed in three days there nearly rivalled what he lost in thirty days from the Wilderness to Cold Harbor. Likewise the Seven Days.

-Phil


Hi Phil,

This comment interests me. Does this reinforce the view (of some) that Grant was a blunt butcher, who used weight of numbers to wear down the AoNV forces? Or does it suggest that McLellan, Hooker and Meade, whilst relatively prudent in casualties suffered, failed to grasp the inevitable reality that to win outright was a numbers game after all?

Could the Union have won outright (i.e. the Confederacy completely folds) without suffering heinous losses?

Cheers,

Colin
----------------------------------
"There is no course open to us but to fight it out. Every position must be held to the last man: there must be no retirement. With our backs to the wall and believing in the justice of our cause, each one of us must fight to the end."
Phil Andrade
London  UK
Posts: 5094
Joined: 2004
Overland campaign numbers and effectiveness.
2/3/2021 9:41:29 AM
Colin,

You ask a very challenging series of questions.

I'll do my best to do justice to them.

The view that Grant was a butcher - and a blunt one - could certainly be endorsed by a survey of the casualty figures, especially if the exchange rate is assessed.

I would not subscribe to that view, because I reckon that Grant sought to win by manoeuvre, rather than by a process of mutual slaughter in which the more numerous side was bound to prevail.

That it ended up in a sustained killing match is obvious : but I really don't think that this was what Grant designed or desired.

It's apparent from Grant's memoirs that he retained an optimistic take on how the fighting was progressing. He was adamant that, with the notable exception of Cold Harbor, Lee's casualties were comparable with his own. This was definitely not the case, but Grant clung to that approach with the same persistence that his British counterpart, Douglas Haig , displayed fifty two years later when he fought the Battle of the Somme. Both Grant and Haig have been castigated as profligate proponents of head on fighting with insufficient regard for the lives of their men. I am reluctant to make such a damning judgement.

Incidentally, Haig once complained that a senior British politician - I think it might have been Lord Derby - resembled a cushion, who bore the imprint of the last person who sat on him. I worry that I might be a bit of a cushion, too ! It's so easy - with constantly varying accounts of both Grant and Haig- to be persuaded one way and then another by different historical commentary. Having just read Chernow's account of Grant, I was left with a distinctly favourable impression of his conduct as a man and a soldier, only to enjoy a webinar lecture by Joseph Rose a couple of weeks ago that thoroughly shattered my previous impressions.

This is why I make it my business to investigate the casualty figures, in the hope that they might enable me to make some kind of independent judgement. Of course, these are themselves disputed and contentious, but the excellent research of people like Young and Busey has really opened up new vistas.

Lee was Grant's problem : of the two, I opine that it was Lee who was more inclined to engage in attritional battle, with the proviso that he would secure tactical advantage by dint of use of terrain and the remarkable fighting skills of his men. In this, he came close to success. He wore down his enemy and got the better of the exchange.

As for the other Union generals, I'll need to plump the cushion and hope to make some comments that might convince myself, as well as those that read them !

Please allow me to retire, think, and return.

Regards, Phil
----------------------------------
"Egad, sir, I do not know whether you will die on the gallows or of the pox!" "That will depend, my Lord, on whether I embrace your principles or your mistress." Earl of Sandwich and John Wilkes
Steve Clements
Toronto ON Canada
Posts: 808
Joined: 2004
Overland campaign numbers and effectiveness.
2/3/2021 10:51:51 AM
Phil,

Quote:

The view that Grant was a butcher - and a blunt one - could certainly be endorsed by a survey of the casualty figures, especially if the exchange rate is assessed.

I would not subscribe to that view, because I reckon that Grant sought to win by manoeuvre, rather than by a process of mutual slaughter in which the more numerous side was bound to prevail.

That it ended up in a sustained killing match is obvious : but I really don't think that this was what Grant designed or desired.


Completely agree.

I think that it is helpful to remember that Grant's original thought process involved landing an army in North Carolina (maybe 60,000 men?), and using it to cut off the rail lines to Petersburg etc. Politically, that would not fly, and Grant (to his credit) did not whine about it.

Grant's actual plan to go after Lee/Richmond involved three different armies, acting in concert. Of course, politically appointed Butler and Sigel completely blew their assignments.....and the opportunity to take Richmond from below was thrown away (it was thrown away a second time, after Grant crossed the James later in the summer).

And Grant's original plan for Meade's army (AoP plus Burnside) was to get through the Wilderness before engaged Lee, not fight in the Wilderness. For a variety of reasons, this did not happen...

I do think that - during Overland - Grant was consistently too optimistic about the relative casualties taken vs. Lee (Grant appears to have badly overestimated the ANV's casualties) and too optimistic about the morale of the ANV....continuing to believe that just one more blow would do it, so to speak.

Phil, at the risk of putting words in your mouth, you and I both believe that the AoP was effectively gutted (for any decent offensive operations) by the time that it had crossed the James. So, to the extent that "attrition" was the policy, planned or not, it clearly had not worked. And without Sherman taking Atlanta (which appears to have done a lot to get Lincoln re-elected) and maybe Sheridan's victories in 'the valley', would the war have been won...?

s.c.
Steve Clements
Toronto ON Canada
Posts: 808
Joined: 2004
Overland campaign numbers and effectiveness.
2/3/2021 12:10:12 PM
Quote:
Or does it suggest that McLellan, Hooker and Meade, whilst relatively prudent in casualties suffered, failed to grasp the inevitable reality that to win outright was a numbers game after all?


Colin,

In Meade's defense, he often did not operate with the overwhelming advantage in numbers that Mac had at Antietam or that Hooker had at Chancellorsville. Certainly not in 1863, post Gettysburg.

At Antietam, on the morning of the 18th, Mac arguably had more fresh troops, that had not been engaged on the 17th, than Lee had men in total. I would guess that Lee would have struggled to put even 28k men into the line, the morning of the 18th. And Hooker outnumbered Lee's six divisions (Longstreet and two of his divisions were not at Chancellorsville) by at least two to one. And yet let Lee drive him back over the river!!!

Yes, Meade did have something like 105k in the AoP (if you include Burnside) in May of '64. So he certainly outnumbered Lee on paper. But a lot of Meade's veteran three year men had either just left the army, or would leave the army during the first six weeks of the campaign. And men that are about to be mustered out are very reluctant to get shot just before they get to go home-:) And big chunks of the AoP (May '64) were relatively green...and much of Meade's reinforcements that summer were also relatively green - either bounty jumpers, the "heavies" from the forts of Washington, or units that came to Virginia from much further south (X an XVIII corps), and were not used to dealing with troops such as Lee's veterans. I think that the disparity in casualties in battles such as The Wilderness or parts of the Spotsylvania battles bear this out. In contrast, Lee's reinforcements tended to come either from 'the valley', after the Sigel and Hunter fiascos, or from some of the units that had been used against Butler, once Butler was safely bottled up on the Bermuda Hundred, and they were no longer needed there.

s.c.
Steve Clements
Toronto ON Canada
Posts: 808
Joined: 2004
Overland campaign numbers and effectiveness.
2/3/2021 12:40:09 PM
Mike,

Quote:
Given the new data showing Lee’s total force in the campaign was as much as 96,000, nearly 20,000 more than previously documented, ...


First of all, thank you for introducing the topic...

Gotta say that I did a double take when I read your (Young's) 96,000 figure. And my first reaction is that 'this can't be true'. And given that the "consensus" is that Lee had around 64,000 men, the 96k figure that you give is 50% higher than what conventional wisdom tells us is the case. Gotta admit, I have to wonder where the extra men came from -:)

So....I guess that I need to get a copy of Young's book....although the cheapest copy I could find was north of $50 US (Amazon is sold out themselves).

Anyone else had a chance to read this book ????

s.c.
mikecmaps
CAMARILLO CA USA
Posts: 105
Joined: 2020
Overland campaign numbers and effectiveness.
2/3/2021 1:11:14 PM
Steve,
“96,000, nearly 20,000 more than previously documented”
My post is based on Young’s “summary conclusion”, that’s his number and I don’t doubt it. Its lees total including 30+k reinforcements received during the campaign up to Cold Harbor. Young’s research is excellent and comprehensive I don’t doubt his numbers. I found a used copy online about a 2-3 years ago I think less than $50 but not much less. Also warning: its driest dry, except for the civil war addicted and a simple unit by unit accounting of Lees losses with no real action/campaign narrative.

Yours, Mike_C.
mikecmaps
CAMARILLO CA USA
Posts: 105
Joined: 2020
Overland campaign numbers and effectiveness.
2/3/2021 1:14:41 PM

Colin & Phil,
“inevitable reality that to win outright was a numbers game after all?”

Lincoln made Grant’s appointment conditional on his adopting Lincoln’s own strategy of fighting overland. But after the Wilderness and certainly Spotsylvania Grant was entirely justified in ordering the movement of large forces to Suffolk to apply his own preferred strategy to cut of Richmond from the south. Grants own condition was that he be given no interference to command.
Grants relative forces were comparable to Sherman in GA. Of course Johnston was not Lee. But Grant’s “maneuvers” did not exceed a distance of 5 miles beyond Lee’s lines. Sherman’s wide swing to Rome covered about 20 miles out from the main rail line. And Grant’s superiority in Cavalry would make movements more viable and effective.
Assuming an overland strategy; a wide swing through Charlottesville to Lynchburg may have forced Lee to battle in a favorable position and allowed Richmond to be uncovered. Lynchburg is about 120 miles from WDC about the same distance as Chattanooga-Atlanta. An army under Mead vs Lynchburg and one under Grant from Suffolk vs Petersburg/Richmond may have taken Richmond without prolonged battering. Grant ultimately employed 150K men, two 75k armies would have likely been far more effective than a single bludgeon.
So, my conclusion would be that no it never needed to be a numbers game but the overland strategy turned in into one resulting in excessive losses.

Phil,
“Lee was Grant's problem: of the two, I opine that it was Lee who was more inclined to engage in attritional battle, with the proviso that he would secure tactical advantage by dint of use of terrain and the remarkable fighting skills of his men. In this, he came close to success. He wore down his enemy and got the better of the exchange.”

Given the size and condition of Lee’s army in 64 he was limited to attempting to block any move to get past him to Richmond. I find it a little funny to suggest that Lee inclined to attrition. Lee had to make one man count as two and largely did so without flinching at the numbers. His alternative was to either retreat into Richmond and stand a siege or abandon Richmond completely neither was acceptable. Also the state of tactics meant a continuous line be held or retreat meaning counter attacks were necessary to hold the line. Lee generally succeeded in blocking Grant’s narrow movements and heavy losses were unavoidable if he was to defend effectively and protect Richmond for as long as he could. Grant punctuated each narrow movement with and major avoidable attack. Lee took position and waited and Grant obliged each time. Clearly Grant inclined to attrition.

Yours, Mike_C
Phil Andrade
London  UK
Posts: 5094
Joined: 2004
Overland campaign numbers and effectiveness.
2/3/2021 2:01:06 PM
Mike,

Allow me to qualify.

Lee inclined to attrition does look counter intuitive, I admit. He went on the record as saying that once it becomes a matter of " ciphering", the game is up.

Yet I feel that he sought to impose unacceptable bloodshed on the enemy, and, in so doing, demoralise sufficiently as to bring Lincoln's government down. That qualifies as a form of attrition. In this sense, I get the impression that he came close to success. In terms of actual bloodshed, by which I allude to men killed or wounded, the exchange was so preponderantly in his favour as to justify his aspiration. What did make a balancing difference, however, is the inordinately heavy loss in prisoners which hurt the AoNV badly. That notwithstanding, the outcome of the May and June battles was, IMHO, very much in the South's favour, and apologies for repeating myself.

Regards, Phil
----------------------------------
"Egad, sir, I do not know whether you will die on the gallows or of the pox!" "That will depend, my Lord, on whether I embrace your principles or your mistress." Earl of Sandwich and John Wilkes
Phil Andrade
London  UK
Posts: 5094
Joined: 2004
Overland campaign numbers and effectiveness.
2/4/2021 8:30:45 AM
Quote:
Mike,

Quote:
Given the new data showing Lee’s total force in the campaign was as much as 96,000, nearly 20,000 more than previously documented, ...


First of all, thank you for introducing the topic...

Gotta say that I did a double take when I read your (Young's) 96,000 figure. And my first reaction is that 'this can't be true'. And given that the "consensus" is that Lee had around 64,000 men, the 96k figure that you give is 50% higher than what conventional wisdom tells us is the case. Gotta admit, I have to wonder where the extra men came from -:)

So....I guess that I need to get a copy of Young's book....although the cheapest copy I could find was north of $50 US (Amazon is sold out themselves).

Anyone else had a chance to read this book ????

s.c.


Steve,

It's not a book that invites a read : it's absolutely first rate as a source of reference : invaluable for me . Ironically, while the southern losses have been so meticulously investigated, those of the North remain to be subjected to the same research. It had always been a trope that it was impossible to determine Lee's casualties, because the records were not available. Young shows us what regimental muster rolls and newspaper articles can provide if the right degree of scholarship is deployed with online sources. Now we know how many confederates were killed outright, how many died of wounds almost immediately, how many wounded subsequently died in hospital, how many were wounded, and how many of those wounded fell into enemy hands, and how many unwounded rebel soldiers were captured. No such figures have been revealed for the Union army : we don't know how many of the nearly nine thousand missing in action were dead, and how many of the thirty eight thousand wounded were fatally hit. I myself have investigated a large number of individual regimental samples provided by Fox, and the results suggest that the official figure of 7, 620 confirmed killed in action might be nearly doubled if the mortality among the wounded and the missing is taken into account, but here I admit to being reliant on extrapolation and a degree of conjecture.

Regards, Phil




----------------------------------
"Egad, sir, I do not know whether you will die on the gallows or of the pox!" "That will depend, my Lord, on whether I embrace your principles or your mistress." Earl of Sandwich and John Wilkes
Steve Clements
Toronto ON Canada
Posts: 808
Joined: 2004
Overland campaign numbers and effectiveness.
2/4/2021 9:57:08 AM
Quote:
Steve,
“96,000, nearly 20,000 more than previously documented”
My post is based on Young’s “summary conclusion”, that’s his number and I don’t doubt it. Its lees total including 30+k reinforcements received during the campaign up to Cold Harbor. Young’s research is excellent and comprehensive I don’t doubt his numbers. I found a used copy online about a 2-3 years ago I think less than $50 but not much less. Also warning: its driest dry, except for the civil war addicted and a simple unit by unit accounting of Lees losses with no real action/campaign narrative.

Yours, Mike_C.


Mike,

Thanks for your response....bit of a brain freeze on my end...I was interpreting the 96k figure as being the number that Lee started the campaign with....not thinking that it was going into the Wilderness with 66k, and receiving 30k of reinforcements during the next 40 days..

I had never heard of Young's book....and I see it came out about 8 years ago.

Curious, conventional wisdom has a significant disparity in casualties for the Battle of the Wilderness. Which has always been difficult to explain.... What are Young's figures for Confederate casualties for this battle??

s.c.
Phil Andrade
London  UK
Posts: 5094
Joined: 2004
Overland campaign numbers and effectiveness.
2/4/2021 11:22:04 AM
Quote:
Quote:
Steve,
“96,000, nearly 20,000 more than previously documented”
My post is based on Young’s “summary conclusion”, that’s his number and I don’t doubt it. Its lees total including 30+k reinforcements received during the campaign up to Cold Harbor. Young’s research is excellent and comprehensive I don’t doubt his numbers. I found a used copy online about a 2-3 years ago I think less than $50 but not much less. Also warning: its driest dry, except for the civil war addicted and a simple unit by unit accounting of Lees losses with no real action/campaign narrative.

Yours, Mike_C.


Mike,

Thanks for your response....bit of a brain freeze on my end...I was interpreting the 96k figure as being the number that Lee started the campaign with....not thinking that it was going into the Wilderness with 66k, and receiving 30k of reinforcements during the next 40 days..

I had never heard of Young's book....and I see it came out about 8 years ago.

Curious, conventional wisdom has a significant disparity in casualties for the Battle of the Wilderness. Which has always been difficult to explain.... What are Young's figures for Confederate casualties for this battle??

s.c.


Steve,

For the Wilderness Young tabulates confederate casualties :

Killed : 1,477 ( including 210 mortally wounded who died very soon) ; Wounded : 7,633 ( including 431 who subsequently died of wounds) ; Wounded and captured : 233 ( of whom 28 died ) ; missing ( almost certainly prisoners) 1,690. Total : 11,033, including 1,936 killed or died from wounds. Note the remarkably small number of wounded who were left in enemy hands : always a testament to successful battle craft, IMHO.

Union casualties were returned as 17,666, with a rather higher proportion of them being fatal.

The disparity is attributable to the greater skill of the Confederates. The Union deployment was profligate and clumsy. The Confederates made better use of cover and conducted counter attacks that were well handled and very effective. They exploited the advantage of fighting on the defensive for the greater part of the battle, which allowed smaller numbers to prevail over densely packed masses of advancing bluecoats. The experience of the 55th North Carolina Regiment stands as a good example of the nature of the fighting. The regiment's Adjutant reported :

We had held the enemy in check. Not one yard of our line had given one foot during the three hours the fearful onslaughts had been made upon us, but of the 340 of the regiment, 34 lay dead on the line where we fought and 167 were wounded. The sergeant of the ambulance corps counted the next day 157 dead Federal soldiers in front of our regiment.

That shows how fierce and bloody the fighting was, and how much punishment was meted out.

I thought I would check the account of Adjutant Cooke with the figures tabulated by Young for the 55th N.C..

There is striking harmony, with Young giving figures of 36 killed ( including 4 mortally wounded) ; 146 wounded ( 12 of them dying from wounds) ; 10 wounded and captured ; 9 missing : a total of 201 casualties.

Regards, Phil
----------------------------------
"Egad, sir, I do not know whether you will die on the gallows or of the pox!" "That will depend, my Lord, on whether I embrace your principles or your mistress." Earl of Sandwich and John Wilkes
Phil Andrade
London  UK
Posts: 5094
Joined: 2004
Overland campaign numbers and effectiveness.
2/6/2021 2:18:11 PM
Not sure about this, but from what I can piece together it looks as if the medical record of Lee’s army in this campaign was better than that experienced by Grant’s men.

I remember reading that Grant changed his base, and that this entailed worse conditions for the transport of his wounded, by road, rail and water.

The southerners, fighting on home ground, were closer to their hospitals and enjoyed the succour of the local populace.

More than that, the terrible repulses suffered by the yankees at Cold Harbor and elsewhere entailed horrific abandonment of wounded in front of the enemy lines.

The figures I cited above for the Wilderness reveal that fewer than ten per cent of the confederate wounded died from their wounds. This is a better rate than the fourteen per cent that Union records suggest was the average for the war. Lee himself reported that, while the number of his wounded in that battle was large, there were many slight cases, because there was so little artillery deployed in the woods. The reports of Union regiments in the Wilderness indicate a much higher death rate among the wounded. There was also, of course, the ghastly prospect of being burnt alive in the fires that raged there, and General Humphreys estimated that two hundred federal wounded suffered that fate.

I have noticed that, in this and other wars, the failure to provide decent care for the wounded has a dramatically bad effect on morale.

Here again I would suggest that this was an aspect of the numbers game that went badly against the North in the Overland .

Regards, Phil
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"Egad, sir, I do not know whether you will die on the gallows or of the pox!" "That will depend, my Lord, on whether I embrace your principles or your mistress." Earl of Sandwich and John Wilkes
mikecmaps
CAMARILLO CA USA
Posts: 105
Joined: 2020
Overland campaign numbers and effectiveness.
9/5/2021 2:45:41 PM

09052021
Group,
So sorry, this thread expired but was looking for reference mentioned in Luvass and Horace Porter.

In Luvass; he cites a English writer that references “the deliberate hammerings of Grant” vs mobility of Jackson. (Military Legacy p200) In Porter, “there were critics who were severe in their condemnation of what Grant called “hammering” and Sherman called “pounding.”” And “he (Grant) felt that in campaigning the hardest blows bring the quickest relief” (Campaigning with Grant p180, 181) There Grant referred to his strategy of “hammering” Lee’s army and keeping closely engaged allowing Lee no chance to rest or bring up new troops.
Now I don’t like to use the B-word in reference to the attrition strategy, but Grants own talk of hammering may be something of a synonym. Now I regard Grant as a pretty good commander especially compared to most of his contemporary generals. But Sherman himself acknowledged that Grants real military knowledge was rudimentary at best.
I believe Lee resorted to entrenching (1864), he knew he could not expect to take the initiative and make any large offensive action and that he would be ever outnumbered about 2-1, by local forces and more from grants supports.
Grant was the one with the initiative and large superior numbers that may have been used other ways. Grant choose to use attrition apparently because he considered it safe and sure – not risk. And since Lincoln preferred it. Grants condition on accepting command was no interference. After Wilderness and Spotsylvania he was justified in taking a new line (which he finally did) and moving the main army to Suffolk as he originally proposed.
Grant made the attrition by his own choice.

OR ser1 v46 pt 1 p 11 Grants report of operations Mar 64 to May 65
“From the first I was firm in the conviction . . . I therefore determined, first, to use the greatest number of troops practicable against the armed force of the enemy, preventing him from using the same force at different seasons against first one and then another of our armies, and the possibility of repose for refitting and producing necessary supplies for carrying on resistance; second, to hammer continuously against the armed force of the enemy and his resources, until, by mere attrition, if in no other way, there should be nothing left to him but an equal submission with the loyal section of our common country to the constitution and the laws of the land.”
I now hope we can admit Grant planned attrition “From the first” and held the initiative and Lee responded the best he could given the resources available 1864. Lee’s inclination was to hold and defend Richmond; which was his only practical logistic base (supported from NC). Grant “hammered” as the safe way but actually at cost of many thousands more than necessary IMHO.

And the ineffectiveness was shown by the negative morale/cohesion demonstrated by union troops by fall 64, and Lee actually did feel secure enough to make a large detachment into Shenandoah and Maryland.
Together these show a failure of the strategy. And after one month Grant had to changed his line ("fight it out on this line if it takes all summer") by failure of his strategy; in finally crossing the James.

Mikec_C
mikecmaps
Phil Andrade
London  UK
Posts: 5094
Joined: 2004
Overland campaign numbers and effectiveness.
9/6/2021 5:08:33 AM
Mike,

Did he plan attrition, or was he reconciled to it if in no other way ?

That qualification might be significant.....was he hoping for that " other way" ?

In the event, the attrition has been cited as the rationale, and I'm in heated agreement with you that, by virtue of the exchange rate, and the condition of the two armies by the late summer, Grant's campaign was a failure.

I would like to know more about the wounded : they comprised roughly seventy per cent of the fifty five thousand union battle casualties, and a lot depends on the proportion of them that were recoverable and returned to duty.

I have opined repeatedly that the comparisons afforded by the research of Young and Fox indicate a higher mortality rate among the yankee wounded than that among their rebel counterparts. To measure the impact of attrition in terms of the casualty exchange, we need to know more about the proportion of wounded who were lost for good. The CSA figures compiled by Young are so comprehensive that we really can gauge the extent of Lee's permanent loss in terms of killed, died of wounds and prisoners - the latter accounting for thirty per cent of the total casualties - but we can only guess at the proportion of his surviving wounded who were fit enough to fight again.

If we take the Union casualties, and consign all the confirmed killed, all the missing, and, say, half the wounded to permanent loss, that equates to roughly two thirds of the fifty five thousand. It might be that the ten thousand prisoners captured by the yankees throws a greater proportion of irrecoverable loss onto the rebel casualty list, but one would have to be more than circumspect about this.


Regards, Phil
----------------------------------
"Egad, sir, I do not know whether you will die on the gallows or of the pox!" "That will depend, my Lord, on whether I embrace your principles or your mistress." Earl of Sandwich and John Wilkes
mikecmaps
CAMARILLO CA USA
Posts: 105
Joined: 2020
Overland campaign numbers and effectiveness.
9/6/2021 1:42:00 PM

Phil,
“If in no other way “
I think I incline to interpret Grants statement of strategy the other way, in that he clearly states intent to “hammer” and the if in no other way language is cover if hammering is not sufficient which it really proved not to be. He was unquestionably aware of the several other ways since his own first proposal was not to attack overland at all but land his major force at Suffolk, but Lincoln required an approach from north directly (apparently to pin lees army). Also its important that he leads off saying “from the first” which again indicates his choice was “Hammering”
“was he hoping for that " other way"
I say not, the statement in this report clearing sets the strategy as “hammering”, apparently he thought it the safe low risk strategy, but he later stated he was surprised at the desperate fight that was far more bloody than he had seen in the west and Lees ability to hold his army together in the face of such “hammering.”
Even after wilderness/Spotsylvania several other ways were available; transfer to fort Monroe (McClellan Strategy, which was working until lee took command). Again move to sufflolk as he originally intended. And the “mike” strategy to maneuver to Charlottesville & then Lynchburg. I don’t get why not? From Lynchburg there are three options, continue to Danville and into NC cutting RRs making Richmond untenable. Move direct on Petersburg from east where no major river lines to cross. Move back to east vs Richmond with chance to catch ANV on move for major engagement. Not really 20/20 hindsight cause was available but apparently never considered? Sherman used single track line Chattanooga to atlanta about same distance as WDC to Lynchburg. So, to me, seems like was workable & AOP had superior cavalry to cover RR and also would uncover SHND Valley and neutralized valley as distraction IMHO.
From Spotsylvania to crossing of James, Grant took about 17k casualties, unnecessary imho, on top of the ~30k in the first two weeks.
Yours, Mike_c.
mikecmaps
Phil Andrade
London  UK
Posts: 5094
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Overland campaign numbers and effectiveness.
9/6/2021 2:16:23 PM
Thanks Mike.

Who, of the two rival commanders, do you think was better suited to endure the awful ordeal of that campaign ?

Here I’m thinking about the personalities of Lee and Grant, their respective backgrounds and their abilities to cope with the unimaginable stress.

Do you think that Lee’s courtly demeanour concealed a deadly ruthlessness that transcended ?

Or did Grant’s early experience of failure and obscurity impart a special flair for coping with setbacks that a more exalted personality would find unbearable ?

Looking away from the ciphering, and thinking about the robustness and fragility of individuals, it’s important to consider the attritional impact here, too.

I wonder who felt more secure in his position . Did Grant enjoy Lincoln’s confidence to the same extent that Lee enjoyed Davis’s ?

Grant was the younger man, and, presumably, there was a health advantage here.

Regards, Phil
----------------------------------
"Egad, sir, I do not know whether you will die on the gallows or of the pox!" "That will depend, my Lord, on whether I embrace your principles or your mistress." Earl of Sandwich and John Wilkes
mikecmaps
CAMARILLO CA USA
Posts: 105
Joined: 2020
Overland campaign numbers and effectiveness.
9/6/2021 3:43:39 PM

Or ser 1 v32 pt. 2 p143 from Nashville to Thomas jan19 1864
Grant states recommend 60k men in New Bern or Suffolk (preferred) and not fight overland from Rappahannock.
But Move against Raleigh, New Bern, Wilmington, Grants plan to bypass
Richmond and move into NC directly cutting off Lee from any support in NC or SC.
Remember that with Sherman in NC mar 65 and Weldon RR cut by Nov 64.
This plan would have likely saved many thousands in casualities. Cut off from NC Lee had to abandon Richmond.


Phil,
Excellent questions since personality is huge in military leadership, strategy & combat. I repeat the mind of the opposing general is the important target. I guess I give a slight edge to Lee for pure toughness, he was no brute but maintained a determination to keep fighting until compelled to abandon Richmond his only viable logistic base. Grant showed much the same but knew he always had numbers advantage much easier situation and always had much larger margin for error. But Grant did squander some advantage by hammering. Davis v Lincoln, yes not much advantage there since neither had much option by proven performance G & L only ones with consistent success.

Bring to mind slightly different thought. Don’t know now but book titled WAR WITHIN UNION HIGH COMMAND (dont remember author now) talks about difference treatment by Lincoln Professional vs Political generals. Professionals dismissed for one defeat; Political given second (or more) Chance.
Now from this I tend to see grant as a political general; yes he was west point, but when he offered to war dept – crickets. His reputation in old army was known and not regarded well. He came to command by appointment from Ill Gov and influence of Congressmen and rose & certainly made the most of it. Shiloh, holly springs and Three failures before Vicksburg would have seen the end of a professional – he survived by his political bonafides IMHO. He finally proved himself pretty effective if clumsy at times. From grants whole life experience I think he saw he had nowhere to go but up and nothing to lose. Which was the source of his huge determination in any situation, never a down side to just keep slogging forward. My problem with this is I dont see it as a good example to other generals of today. Such a political, numbers/resources, personal profile is untenable as a model for today IMHO. i see the lesson from his example is largely negative. Yes his finally movement vs Vicksburg rear and Cross James were excellent but only after unsuccessful slogging first.
Thanks, Mike_C
mikecmaps

The War Within the Union High Command: Politics and Generalship during the Civil War (Modern War Studies (Hardcover))
by Thomas Joseph Goss 2003
Phil Andrade
London  UK
Posts: 5094
Joined: 2004
Overland campaign numbers and effectiveness.
9/7/2021 5:15:01 AM
This personality factor is so interesting .....it brings the humanity to the fore.

There are anecdotes or vignettes that come to mind, indicating the way the two leaders coped - or didn’t - with the strain of command.

There is folklore that depicts Grant braking down and weeping in his tent after the first day in the Wilderness. Is this true ? He also evinced strain when he reacted with outrage to the bluster of a Union Division commander, Griffin, when he stormed up to the assembled HQ and raged about being let down by everybody..... Who is this General Gregg ? He ought to be court martialed ! , protested Grant. Meade went up to Grant, buttoned up his blouse and smoothed down his collar, and in an avuncular and soothing tone replied His name is Griffin, not Gregg, and that’s his way of talking.. Here we see Grant as an arriviste, fresh from the West, playing in the big boys’ playground, and being put in his place by a seasoned warrior who knew what it means to cope with Lee. For me, this anecdote caries significance.

Then , of course, we have that triumphant forward to Spotsylvania ! moment, which displays Grant in a triumphant pose, moving on and defying the horrific ordeal of a battle which had been even worse than Shiloh, which thereto Grant had considered to be the ultimate in sustained violence.

On the loss of friends, his composure was tested when he heard news of Sedgwick’s death Is he really dead ? he asked twice.

Lee, of course, had the advantage of fighting on home turf and being not only accepted but thoroughly revered. He had his moments....when he saw McGowan’s Brigade in retirement under great pressure, he turned to the commander : Why is this splendid Brigade running like a flock of geese ? . The response was as close to a rebuke as one might dare to give to Lee They are not running, General Lee, they’re retiring to a position where they can best deploy to hold the enemy.

Lee’s torment at being ill and confined to his tent in the North Anna fighting speaks volumes about the predicament he realised he was in We must strike them a blow ! he raged in his delirium.

His grief at the loss of JEB Stuart was very apparent I can scarcely think of him without weeping.

His legendary reaction to the Texans at the Widow Tapp Farm on 6 May, and several days later at Spotsylvania , reveals his tempo of stress. Lee to the rear yelled his men. Another Texan is alleged to have yelled, in tears, I would charge Hell itself for that old man !

A commander who enjoys that level of devotion is blessed indeed.

I wonder how the yankees at Cold Harbor felt about Grant in the aftermath of their assault on 3 June. Far from saying Grant to the rear , they might have wanted to drag him forward to see what he had done !


Regards, Phil
----------------------------------
"Egad, sir, I do not know whether you will die on the gallows or of the pox!" "That will depend, my Lord, on whether I embrace your principles or your mistress." Earl of Sandwich and John Wilkes

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