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Thread: Grant and the Operational Art

  1. #31
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mihais View Post
    Now,that's will be an interesting read.I'm looking eagerly forward to it.

    Zraver and myself only disagree with the theory that op.art was born during ACW,as some authors claim,not its use by Grant.Apologies if the discussion turned away from the subject.
    No need to apologize - I learned something in the process about the Mongols, and that was the point of posting the thread. More minds usually means a better product. I'm still not so sure about the analysis on Alexander and Napoleon that you linked to, but I didn't have a chance to do more than just glanced through them, so I may have missed something there. However, I'll have to do more digging to see if there's some more recent publications on the operational art (even though I'm going to use the current JP 3.0 construct) to provide more rigor to my thoughts and to determine if a consensus has built in the mean time.

    However, don't hold your breath - I've probably got 2000+ pages of reading to go and still do my day job, so hopefully by the spring I'll have a good solid draft that's worth commenting on.
    "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

  2. #32
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    Quote Originally Posted by Shek View Post
    No need to apologize - I learned something in the process about the Mongols, and that was the point of posting the thread. More minds usually means a better product. I'm still not so sure about the analysis on Alexander and Napoleon that you linked to, but I didn't have a chance to do more than just glanced through them, so I may have missed something there. However, I'll have to do more digging to see if there's some more recent publications on the operational art (even though I'm going to use the current JP 3.0 construct) to provide more rigor to my thoughts and to determine if a consensus has built in the mean time.

    However, don't hold your breath - I've probably got 2000+ pages of reading to go and still do my day job, so hopefully by the spring I'll have a good solid draft that's worth commenting on.
    What about Cornwallis? AlbanyRifles is probalby better versed in it than me, but IIRC the British tried to follow a policy that resembled what we would call the operational arts during the Revolution.

  3. #33
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    I had a nice big answer to this earlier and then got VISTAed when I walked away from computer without logging off! LOVE those hard reboots!

    Zraver...good catch on the British Southern Campaign.

    I'll respond later this evening.
    “Progress isn't made by early risers. It's made by lazy men trying to find easier ways to do something.”
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  4. #34
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    Okay, here you go

    1. Clinton’s Southern Strategy. General Sir Henry Clinton was overall commander in America and was the commander when the British took Charleston in 1780. He turned over command to General Lord Cornwallis and returned to New York. The overall British strategy was to concentrate on Washington’s forces around New York and move into the interior of the Southern states with what was really an economy of force in order to liberate a perceived loyal population. Part of this was the antebellum practice of Virginia and South Carolina being seen as the pet colonies of the Crown. Both colonies were major revenue producing areas…South Carolina grew the grains which fed to slave populations of the West Indies and provided the prized Indigo. Virginia provided tobacco and naval stores. North Carolina came about by migrations of disgruntled colonists who chafed at the control of the FFVs and comparables in SC. The Crown tacitly encouraged this as well as a way to keep the royal governors in check. Georgia became a colony in 1733 purely to serve as a buffer against Spanish Florida.
    When Cornwallis began his plan he believed that a movement through the hinterland would free up these pockets of Loyalists and they would rush to the colors. The Crown’s belief in this matter was based on the inflated estimates of Loyalists who had fled to England early in the war. Cornwallis maintained this belief well into Virginia. He also believed that by freeing the slave population he would also assist the Crown’s efforts. The destruction of the American Southern Army at Charleston, Camden and the Waxhaws led the British to believe that there would be no organized resistance to them. To this end he sent far inland he sent MAJ Patrick Ferguson, IG of Militia with the mission to go to the Carolina back country and raise loyal militias to protect the Army’s left flank. Ferguson then went and provided the spark which would eventually help doom Cornwallis’ plan. He threatened the population of the high lands with Indian insurrection and “laying waste to the land with fire and sword…” as a challenge to the Patriot leaders. This became a GREAT recruiting tool for the Patriot forces. The result was the resounding defeat of the British forces at Kings Mountain on 7 OCT 80. So before he starts out his left flank is uncovered and he has lost one-eighth of his forces…with no resulting increase in militia. And he does not believe that Washington would send forces South to fight against him. But Washington sent 1,200 of his best troops and Nathaniel Greene South to take over.
    Next Cornwallis realizes his left is even more open as a result of King’s Mountain and hears that the Patriots are going to attack the Loyalists at Ninety Six, SC. He sent a force under Banastre Tarleton (cue the booing and hissing!) to rescue the fort from Daniel Morgan. Morgan is not there but Tarleton decides to pursue…and gets wiped out at Cowpens in Early January 1781. He loses another 1200 men…and flank still open. With these 2 reverses in hand he then heads off into the Carolina hinterland, bringing Greene to battle several times but not destroying him. In the process he only weakened his own army and discovered too late that the widespread Loyalist sympathies he sought were a chimera.
    So did Cornwallis practice the operational art as Shek is discussing? No, I believe he kept sub dividing his forces and fighting for unwinnable objectives. And more correctly, the question should also be asked about Clinton, since he was the overall commander. My belief is you have to DO something to be considered a practitioner of any form of art. Clinton sat on his butt in New York and allowed Washington to get away and join Greene and Lafayette at Yorktown. However, I believe Greene WAS. He utilized his spare forces in a superb manner to force the British to react to his moves or prevented them from landing killer blow. And as the British marched north the land they “liberated” turned to a bitter civil war with freed slaves fearing for their lives, Patriot and Loyalists at each other’s throats and an enraged hill population. All of these, along with the terrain and weather (see the Dan River crossings) Greene used to his advantage.
    2. Grant in 1864. When Grant became overall commander he resolved to concentrate all Federal forces against the main Confederate field Armies, Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia and Johnston’s Army of Tennessee. Prior to this each of the departments and divisions of the Federal army operated independently with objectives only at the local or regional level. Grant devised a plan that would involve all of the forces of national power and press against the Confederates to destroy their ability to wage war. Against Lee directly he sent the Army of the Potomac (Meade) reinforced with Burnsides’ XIth Corps. In fact Grant’s orders to Meade were to attack Lee’s army and not to worry about geography. Richmond was an objective only as a means to force Lee to fight to defend it. Supporting this attack were two other armies. Franz Sigel’s Army of West Virginia was to attack south up the Shenandoah Valley to destroy the bread basket of the ANV. Ben Butler’s Army of the James was to attack Richmond by way of the James, tying down defense forces there, keeping them from supporting Lee. Additionally the AOJ was to seize a lodgment near the confluence of the Appomattox and James Rivers for a logistics base. So here you had three field armies with the express mission f isolating and destroying Lee.
    In the Western Theater Sherman’s army group oriented on Joe Johnston’s Army of Tennessee with Atlanta as an economic and transportation objective which Johnston had to defend. The strategic and political advantages he Union would accrue by its capture made it decisive to any remaining chance for Confederate success in the West. Sherman had McPherson’s Army of the Tennessee, Thomas’ Army of the Cumberland and Schofield’s Army of the Ohio all directed at Johnston. In support of them Nathaniel Bank’s Army of the Gulf was supposed to attack from New Orleans and take Mobile. Additionally, MG AJ Smith’s XVIth Corps from the Department of the Tennessee was to attack into Mississippi to fix Confederate forces in place and securing Sherman’s lines of communication.
    All of this was part of Grant’s overarching plan. I would say this was a practice of operational art at the highest order. Now, I grant you (pun intended!) that in execution it did not come to full fruition but by the fall of 1864 it truly had become a matter of time. Bank’s hair brained Red River campaign diluted Union efforts somewhat. Siegel’s failed Lynchburg Campaign did eventually lead to Sheridan’s Valley Campaign which destroyed the Shenandoah and Early’s army. Butler’s effectiveness was marginal but he did secure the supply base which would become critical to the eventual success in the East.
    His plan in his own words
    U. S. Grant, Plans for the 1864 Campaign
    Now, did Grant first display the operational art during the Overland Campaign? I believe its genesis can be seen in the Vicksburg Campaign of the prior year. He spent 6 months trying to get at Vicksburg. His failed landward attempt in late 1862-early 1863 came about because of Van Dorn’s successes at Holly Springs and Sherman’s repulse at Chickasaw Bayou. He then moved down the right bank fo the Mississippi River and looked for every way imaginable to get at the city. His crossing to the eastern shore and then maneuvering cross country to invest Vicksburg from the landward side is a brilliant example of the operational art. It even included a cavalry raid to pull Confederate scouting resources away from the vital combat front.


    I don’t know if he was the first but I would argue Grant was the best practitioner of the operational art in the 19th Century.
    “Progress isn't made by early risers. It's made by lazy men trying to find easier ways to do something.”
    - Robert A. Heinlein

  5. #35
    Senior Contributor Mihais's Avatar
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    AR,sir,I'm not really in disagreement with you,but von Moltke might be.(although as Sheridan wrote in his memoirs the Germans did not fought so long over such vast expanses of land).Not to mean I don't apreciate as much info on Grant.
    Personally I consider the Ulm and 1806 campaigns to be the most beautiful examples of the art in the 19th century.
    Most surely subjectivity of ones knowledge come to play.
    Those who know don't speak
    He said to them, "But now if you have a purse, take it, and also a bag; and if you don't have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one. Luke 22:36

  6. #36
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    AR, that is why I asked for your opinion, I am just versed in the basics on Revolutionary War info.

    Next on the list for possibly contenders would the Mexican-American War, I am unclear if there was a single commander other than the President, or who drew up the plans but the execution gives the impression of at least conceptually understanding the operational arts. Distrubtive use of force, pursuit of national objectives, operations are the depth of the enemy, battles for position over battles of annihilation.

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