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Thread: The Campaigns of 1864

  1. #16
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    Shek,

    I concur with your analysis of Meade.

    Meade, with Humphries as a true Chief of Staff, was a doer. He may have been a little off on the selection of Warren as a corps commander...but Warren had been adequate the previous fall...maybe even very good when compared to Newton & French.

    Meade was aggressive in the fall of 1863 when one considers what he dealt with between SEP-NOV. After getting his Army reorganized on the fly in July he has to spend quite a bit of August getting the Army refitted...you and I would say reconstituted. He had to reorganize brigades and divisions. The AOP lost over 6,000 horses and mules in he Gettysburg campaign...some dead, the rest wounded and broken down. The Quartermaster Remount Service was good but it was not THAT good. He had to deal with a LOT of back stabbing from Washington (see the beginnings of HERDOTUS) which exploded that winter.

    In the Bristoe Campaign Meade moved out aggressively against Lee but made sure he had a secure base of supply along the rail line. Mid campaign he was ordered to send to send 2 corps to Chattanooga to reinforce the Army of the Cumberland in the wake of the Chickamauga disaster. While staying in a more defensive mindset than Lee, he used Lee's army's aggressiveness against at Bristoe Station and inflicted heavy casualties on AP Hill. Meade actually provided the most aggressive move of the campaign with his assault by the VIth Corps at Rappahanock Station. Meade showed aggresiveness durign the Mine Run campaign but was done in by the caution of French, Newton and Warren. Sedgwick's VIth Corps Vermont Brigade was actually able to breech the Confederate defensive line (something the VIth Corps was growing very adept at doing) but engineer that he was he could see he could not have success on a wide enough front so called of the assaults.

    So to your question...

    Meade did not fear Lee. Not surprising, Meade felt more comfortable on the defense than offense woudl prove to be just fine on the offense. He had a prediliction for fighting on favorable ground of his choosing. To that end I believe he and Humphreys would have pushed harder through the Wilderness (maybe even keeping a tighter reign on Sheridan since Grant would now be absent) and perhaps battle would have been joiined at Laurel Hill and vicinity ratehr than on the edge of the old Chancellorsville charnel house.

    The one wild card with Grant gone...what was the role of the IXth Corps going to be? Would Burnside early on ignore his date of rank and willingly serve under Meade or cause a problem.

    I normally hate what ifs...but this was a tasty one!
    “We had been hopelessly labouring to plough waste lands; to make nationality grow in a place full of the certainty of God… Among the tribes our creed could be only like the desert grass – a beautiful swift seeming of spring; which, after a day’s heat, fell dusty.”
    ― T.E. Lawrence, Seven Pillars of Wisdom: A Triumph

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    i suppose to better ask my question, was ANV strategic offensive capability destroyed following the Battle of Wilderness? IE if grant or whomever retreated after the battle, would the ANV still be able to execute an invasion of the North as it did in 1862 and 1863?
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    Quote Originally Posted by astralis View Post
    i suppose to better ask my question, was ANV strategic offensive capability destroyed following the Battle of Wilderness? IE if grant or whomever retreated after the battle, would the ANV still be able to execute an invasion of the North as it did in 1862 and 1863?
    No. It wasn't until after Spotsylvania that the ANV was severely attrited. For example, Ewell was down from 20K to 6K by the end of Harris Farm. It was only the collapse of the peripheral strategy (Butler getting corked and Sigel failing in the valley) that allowed for reinforcements from the Valley and Petersburg/Richmond to join the ANV and bring their #s up.
    "So little pains do the vulgar take in the investigation of truth, accepting readily the first story that comes to hand." Thucydides 1.20.3

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    The ANV's offensive ability was destroyed after Gettysburg.

    It had lost too many leaders to ever again effectively launch another Antietam or Gettysburg.

    It could fight but it could fight with the spade as its main weapon, not maneuver.

    At the Wilderness, what the ANV lost was the ability to determine where the fight was going to occur. While Lee seemed to be ahead of Grant/Meade at every step in the Overland, in reality he was desperately jumping from defensive positions ahead of being pinned into place by the AOP. In each case Lee pulled out to keep from being locked in place with no ability to move. The AOP dictated the terms for the rest of the war.

    What Lee was able to do was once the 2 armies got to Richmond he could detach forces to cause problems...but never a serious threat.

    But that is for another time.
    “We had been hopelessly labouring to plough waste lands; to make nationality grow in a place full of the certainty of God… Among the tribes our creed could be only like the desert grass – a beautiful swift seeming of spring; which, after a day’s heat, fell dusty.”
    ― T.E. Lawrence, Seven Pillars of Wisdom: A Triumph

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