Civil War: Generals before Grant.

Discussion in '1800-1914' started by B-17engineer, May 27, 2010.

  1. B-17engineer

    B-17engineer Active Member

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    Since we know the 'hero' of the Union was Ulysses S. Grant, the study in school were doing as of now is a bit interesting....

    We are learning as of now of the commanders of Union forces who were not nearly as successful.

    The first of those is George McClellan: (1861-1862)

    McClellan was thirty-four when he was given command of the Union forces. His plan was to go by sea and take Richmond and other key cities but keep resistance to a minimum to show the Union would not interfere with the current slaves. The reconnaissance reports he got completely exaggerated the number of Confederate soldiers which delayed his action because he needed more troops. Due to early battles being lost McClellan was investigated by a committee to see how the war was being fought. During the meeting he said his actions are delayed because he needed to plan routes of retreat. After being essentially called a sissy after that statement he walked out of the room. After the meeting Lincoln had to force McClellan into action. He issued General War Order #1 it forced McClellan to begin an offensive. McClellans idea was to take Richmond from the east and was voted in favor of by commanders. Lincoln decided to remove McClellan from command because he was too cautious.

    What was he famous for?

    The Battle of Antietam where he beat Lee's army back. Lincoln was infuriated with McClellan because he did not proceed to follow Lee's battered army and he let them slip away. If he had followed Lee some say the war could have possibly ended in 1862...

    Ambrose Burnside (1862-1863)

    Ambrose Burnside was given command of the Union Army after the more conservative McClellan was removed. Lincoln, tired of his previous general being to cautious, pressure Burnside into aggressive action and approved of his plan to capture Richmond. Burnside approached Fredericksburg very rapidly but he waited to deploy troops. He could have sent men across fording points but he waited for pontoon bridges which gave the Confederate army time to prepare. It allowed Lee to repulse attacks coming from the west without having to worry about his other sides. The south part of the town where the Unions main attacks were focused were disorganized and when a breakthrough of Rebel lines occurred they went unsupported. Burnside was upset with his failure and tried a second campaign in Winter but this was bogged down. He offered to resign and Lincoln accepted that idea. He then was replaced with Joseph Hooker who actually conspired against Burnside.

    What was he famous for?

    The Battle of Fredericksburg and his choice not to send parts of his army through fording points. This caused many men dead since the Confederates could freely move about and repulse attacks from any direction.

    Joseph Hooker(1863)

    Joseph Hooker was different than the two generals before him. He had ambitious plans that he could crush the Rebels and be very bold. His plan of attack called for calvary to strike deep in the south and disrupt the rebels supply lines and distract Lee from the main attack. He would command an army going for Lee's flank. The calvary commander Brigadier General Stoneman conducted his raid with extreme caution. None of his objectives were accomplished. The march went surprisingly well and Hooker had the element of surprise but decided not to attack when he got enemy reports. Instead he stopped his army at a town named Chancellorsville and waited for Lee. Lee's army blew past Hookers army and began their invasion of the north. Lincoln asked Hooker to pursue and defeat Lee. Like the two before him Hooker was to cautious and decided to protect Washington instead. Lincoln lost his confidence and he to was replaced.

    What he was famous for?

    The battle of Chancellorsville. His men were passed by Lee's and Lee began his invasion of the north.

    George Meade(1863-1864)

    George Meade was the probably the best of the three previous men. George Meade was given command right before Gettysburg. At the small town Confederate soldiers were looking for shoes when they ran into parts of the Union army. Meade was pushed back on the first day of the battle. The second day his men dug in on Cemetery ridge and fought off attack from the Confederate troops. On the Third day Lee ordered a charge and the daring Rebel general Pickett charged. 7500 of his 15000 men were killed in the charged. Meade was celebrated for driving Lee out of the North. For some reason he did not pursue. Lincoln and others criticized him for his conservative attitude. Meade was not pressured to leave. He resigned after Grant was given command. Grant offered to let him serve under him but Meade was not happy and this lead to bad attitudes between the two.

    What was he famous for?

    The battle of Gettysburg where he drove back Rebel forces out of the North territory


    Then you have GRANT!!
     
  2. B-17engineer

    B-17engineer Active Member

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    Oh and the term 'Hookers' come from prostitutes following Hooker's army...the soldiers called them Hookers :lol:
     
  3. skipperbob

    skipperbob Member

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    I hope your study is not just about eastern generals. There were many other very good generals in the west including Sherman, Sheridan and Geo Thomas. Also of course some mediocre to bad generals like Rosecrans, Halleck, Buell. The list is endless. Also, the tale about Hooker and hookers is a myth. It has been found that the term was in use before Gen Hooker - but it makes a nice story.
     
  4. B-17engineer

    B-17engineer Active Member

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    So far thats what we are onto. I know Sherman and have been contemplating what if his roles and Grants roles were switched? Would Sherman do just as well ?
     
  5. michaelmaltby

    michaelmaltby Well-Known Member

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    "..... what if his roles and Grants roles were switched? Would Sherman do just as well ?" Can't say, but I think Grant and Sherman were like-minded. If I recall what I read, Sherman and Grant had a weekend meeting in Cincinnati immediately after Grant's promotion - in a hotel - and on the basis of that meeting tactics and strategy pretty much fell into place.

    The war was the North's to lose - Lincoln was his own best strategist - and he needed all those earlier appointments to find (Grant) the General who would listen to instruction and obey.

    Little Napoleon (George McClellan) was a weasel ....... :) IMHO

    MM
     
  6. R Leonard

    R Leonard Member

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    #6 R Leonard, May 27, 2010
    Last edited: May 27, 2010
    McClellan saddle; standard army saddle even today

    Sideburns . . . also invented a repeating carbine

    A man with an enormous appetite for adult entertainment. That's why they call them "Hookers"


    1864? No, he retained command of the Army of the Potomac until the end. Grant commanded ALL the US Armies. Meade can best be remembered for keeping his mouth shut and staying out of the way while Grant ran the show.
     
  7. B-17engineer

    B-17engineer Active Member

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    Yeah I was focused more on the battles. Thanks very much! Appreciate any extra info
     
  8. Messy1

    Messy1 Well-Known Member

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    Michael, I do believe you are correct about Grant and Sherman being like minded. After Grant's promotion, Sherman did met with Grant in a hotel room and gave Grant his proposal for Total War, Sherman's scorched earth policy. Grant approved the plan. The rest is history.
     
  9. michaelmaltby

    michaelmaltby Well-Known Member

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    Thanks Messy - my information and inspiration for all things Civil War is Shelby Foote's three-volume "Narrative History of the Civil War". B-17 Engineer - that's what you should be reading :). Masterpiece. On a par with Churchill writing about WW2.

    MM
     
  10. Messy1

    Messy1 Well-Known Member

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    I've been meaning to pick up some books pertaining to the Civil War. I'll keep it in mind.
     
  11. Messy1

    Messy1 Well-Known Member

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    Sherman's March to the Sea is still highly controversial. But the results cannot be argued with.
     
  12. BombTaxi

    BombTaxi Active Member

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    Meade did not take his subordination to Grant with good grace, especially during the fighting around Petersburg. Trudeau relates an incident in which one of Grant's aides sent out a report headed "The Army of the Potomac, commanded by Lieut. Gen. U. S. Grant in person, Major-General Meade second-in-command". While this was obviously a slip of the pen, it was a very telling one and was closer to the truth than Meade would have liked to admit. John Gibbon, commanding a division in Second Corps at Petersburg also noted that Meade felt constrained and frustrated, as he was a commander who could give no orders without first gaining approval of the real commander - Grant. (both quoted p. 35 of Trudeau, The Last Citadel)

    I would like to learn more about the Civil War in General, and the war in the west in particular. My ACW library is about 5 books, and only one is on the western theater, although I get the impression that there was a lot of literal fighting between Union generals in the early days of the western war.
     
  13. michaelmaltby

    michaelmaltby Well-Known Member

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    "... Shelby Foote's three-volume "Narrative History of the Civil War"" is what you want too, BombTaxi :). It is comprehensive, covers the western campaign(s) and - above all else - it is highly readable.

    Union Generals didn't think Lincoln knew how to conduct a war - so they often dismissed him. Whereas Lincoln KNEW that the North had the economy, the population, and the resources needed to defeat the South if the generals would just stop trying to be "generals".

    "... Sherman's March to the Sea is still highly controversial. But the results cannot be argued with." True. But it HAD to be done.

    My personal affection often falls with the Southern soldiery - because they soldiered and soldiered on - often marched bare foot - eating green corn from the fields. Amazing leadership from men like Jebb Stuart, Jackson and Forest. And Lee was able to split his army and get away with it - not once but several times. But the CAUSE was doomed.

    The most profound conclusion Foote reaches in his trilogy goes like this: -- before the war people would speak in the PLURAL about the US (as in, the United States are a young, proud nation, [example]). After the war people spoke in the SINGULAR, as in, the United States is a young, proud nation.

    I encourage all who love the United States or who would criticize her to read Shelby Foote.

    And Gore Vidal's "Lincoln" is another very insightful book that really takes a broad view of Lincoln the man, the lawyer, the politician and the President. (I'm NOT a Gore Vidal fan BTW :))

    Happy reading.

    MM
     
  14. Messy1

    Messy1 Well-Known Member

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    I agree with you 100% MM. Sherman's tactics were necessary to deal a huge blow to the south to hasten the end of the war.
     
  15. BombTaxi

    BombTaxi Active Member

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    Oddly enough, Foote's work was very nearly the first book(s) I bought on the ACW. I was actually in the US at the time, and my suitcase was dangerously overweight already, so I settled for McPherson's Battle Cry Of Freedom, which is a very handy single-volume overview. Foote goes on the 'to-buy' list... after the four volume history of 2nd TAF I've been eyeing up for about a year :lol:

    I must admit that I tend to take more interest in the Union soldiery - perhaps the first industrialised and partly urban citizen army in the world. In many ways, they set the template for the mass armies of Europe in the following half-century. And I am fascinated by Petersburg (especially as it's one of only two ACW battlefields I've visited, the other being Five Forks. Petersburg has almost the whole of WW1 in microcosm - trenches, mining and horrendous casualties for little gain in the early phases.

    Anyone else got any ACW reading recommendations?
     
  16. michaelmaltby

    michaelmaltby Well-Known Member

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    ".... In many ways, they set the template for the mass armies of Europe in the following half-century"

    True. Bismark observed the war very closely. :)

    MM
     
  17. B-17engineer

    B-17engineer Active Member

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    Total war was a necessary part because if he couldn't distract the Confederates he could destroy the will to fight. If you mention his name in the south it's not very well received :lol:

    Thanks MM for the book references
     
  18. parsifal

    parsifal Well-Known Member

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    Mclelllan was no field commander, but as a staff officer, he was probably one of the best in the war. He transformed the union army from an armed rabble into a professional force, with a rock solid repacement and training system. It was one of the defining differences between thye northern and southern armies. And that just didnt happen because of the superior resources of the North. It took organizers like Mclellan to transform that advatage to boots on the ground
     
  19. michaelmaltby

    michaelmaltby Well-Known Member

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    You're kind, parsifal :)

    MM
     
  20. BombTaxi

    BombTaxi Active Member

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    You have to hand it to Little Mac that he was a great administrator. His caution was his downfall, but as I understand it, his spymaster was very much at fault, accepting reports of colossal Confederate armies at face value. Either his sources were lying or incompetent, but either way he accepted their work uncritically, as I understand it. Not the first or last time a commander has been let down by an abysmal intelligence officer...
     
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