View Full Version : Grant at Cold Harbor

23 Nov 09,, 00:54
I've got all four of the Gordon Rhea books on the Overland Campaign (he has yet to publish his fifth and final book) and was thumbing through the Cold Harbor book last night. Some very fascinating analysis and I think he frames it beautifully within the context of the campaign and the conditions. He thinks the assault on June 3 was a logical choice for Grant, and I think his arguments were compelling, especially in light of the casualty numbers he derives, 3500 for the AOP and 500 for the ANV, which cuts the ratio in half from the most oft cited figures.

Was the assault a good idea poorly executed or a bad idea from the start?

Albany Rifles
23 Nov 09,, 22:23
And I'll have an expansion on this later...I know its a shock that I would have an opinion on this!

24 Nov 09,, 22:25
And I'll have an expansion on this later...I know its a shock that I would have an opinion on this!

Did you get stuck in the mud reconnoitering the assault line or did Vista crash again :))?

Albany Rifles
24 Nov 09,, 22:32
Did you get stuck in the mud reconnoitering the assault line or did Vista crash again :))?

I am looking around for Baldy Smith and I can't find him!

I got caught up trying to redo the architecture for future systems requirmeents in the BCTs...damn work!

But I did get my operational art homework done! Go check it out.

I'll try to ellucidate after Scouts tonight...

01 Jul 10,, 14:02
Having just finished the 4th book of Rhea's 5-volume set, I'd have to agree with his assessment of the attack at Cold Harbor. The risk vs. reward equation was skewed heavily in favor of the attack, and while the assault on 3 June ended up as the 5th bloodiest day of fighting for the Union army during the Overland Campaign, had they succeeded in exploiting the breakthrough of the salient in Hancock's zone of attack, then they would have been able to turn the flank of the ANV while the ANV had its back essentially pinned to a river.

In the end, I see a strategically correct decision that was executed poorly because of Grant and Meade being too disengaged from the corps commanders. I'd like to read up more on Meade and specifically on the Grant-Meade relationship, as I don't know whether to pin the rose on Grant for not having removed Meade (thus burdening Grant with tactical control of the AoP, detracting from his ability to keep abreast of all Union activities and shape them) or on Meade for being sour grapes and not adapting to Grant being in charge.

Ironically, had Grant attacked 18 hours earlier, instead of being a Confederate (Pyrrhic) victory, it could have been the end of the ANV and Grant may have delivered Richmond to President Lincoln in time for the GOP Convention a few days later.

03 Jun 13,, 00:41
Having traveled the ground a few times since the original post, I still agree with the decision to make the assault. Ironically, the state of Confederate prisoners from North Anna gave Grant the read that ANV morale was low, this was the last chance to get at it north of the James River, and the clock towards the expiration of the three year enlistments was inching ever closer for many units.

Albany Rifles
03 Jun 13,, 03:56

You are hitting all of the high points I believe

01 Jun 14,, 13:33
We are upon the 150th of Cold Harbor. Today's assault would penetrate Confederate lines and motivate Grant that all it would take was one more hard push and they would crack. Luckily for the Confederates, PGT Beauregard finally relented and released Hoke's Division from the Richmond garrison on 31 May, and they would fall in on the line where Wright had penetrated the Confederate earthworks on 1 June.

Albany Rifles
01 Jun 14,, 17:07
This was a campaign that was continuous Confederate "just in time" reinforcements or Federal mishaps.

Imagine if the Federals along the Brock Road knew about the unfinished railroad line, Warren gets up and supports Upton as well as Mott, the Federal staff work was better at Spotsylvania, Hunter takes Lynchburg and keeps Breckenridge in the Valley, Sheridan is able to pull a corps of infantry into the fight on 31 May.

But agree, Grant needed to attack. Just wish it had been on 2 June rather 3 June.

22 Sep 17,, 18:56
I have been re-reading one of my favorite ACW books, "Grant in Command".

one of the very easy things to overlook is just how unwieldy the Union army command structure was-- especially with all the politicals who were too important to fire, and the continuous set of decisions which Grant faced wherein the easy military choice was complicated by the necessity of bowing down to political directives from elsewhere.

and no real staff structure to speak of, wherein staff officers present the boss with a set of COAs and contingency plans.

so just considering all the things that must have been going through Grant's head while he was calmly whittling a stick during battle...enough to make my head hurt!