John Foskett poses the following question:
How should the Overland Campaign be evaluated vs. the option of redoing in some fashion the Peninsula Campaign? By constantly trying to turn Lee’s right and eventually ending up in the Cold Harbor vicinity, it seems that Grant landed where McClellan landed, at a far greater price. (This assumes that the campaign was over when Grant decided to back away from Richmond by crossing the James and going after Petersburg/the railroads).
Some people decided that they couldn’t wait until I posted the question separately to offer answers, suggesting that they also don’t color within the lines:
John, I’d offer that to a certain extent, they are apples and oranges. The policy in 1862 was conciliation, and so the Peninsula Campaign sought to coerce the Confederacy by seizing Richmond. In 1864, Union policy had shifted to the hard hand of war and it was clear that the Union would have to compel the Confederacy into surrender. Thus, while Richmond remained a decisive point, the prize was now the Army of Northern Virginia, and so Richmond was now a means to an end rather than the end. While Grant was unable to bring the ANV to a battle of annihilation with the Overland Campaign, he was able to attrit it to the point that it no longer was able to regain the initiative with offensive operations. Contrary to 1862, where Lee went north, in 1864, Lee was fixed, allowing Sherman the ability to move through the South without fear of portions of the ANV combining with another force to attack him. Also, by going Overland, Grant kept DC covered, and by always going to Lee’s right, he was able to leverage Union seapower and concentrate forces at the front rather than bleeding manpower to protect land lines of communication.
Nick Fry opined:
I would say that the objectives of the two campaigns were different. Peninsula was a campaign built around the capture of Richmond. Overland was a campaign built around the engagement, defeat and destruction of a field army.
What do you think?