Grant and the Problem of Virginia in 1864

If you want to watch it, here it is.


15 thoughts on “Grant and the Problem of Virginia in 1864

  1. Mark Curran June 21, 2014 / 3:58 pm

    IN September 64, Jeff Davis was in Macon explaining that 2/3 of the soldiers were awol, from desertion or whatever, not just around GA, but he said the Army of Virginia had the same problem. Im always surprised this is not mentioned more. Davis said specifically that if just half those guys returned, the South could not lose.

    Was he right? Apparently. If half of them returned, that would about double the men in the field! Hard to see how Grant gets through double the men, who would be man the earth works. — the slave built earth works, that for some reason, is also not talked about. According to Virginia newspapers in 1862, slaves were building the earthworks, each county had to send so many slaves to Richmond to build the earthworks. If you think the white soldiers dug them too, you don’t know much about black white relations, and what whites would do to avoid working along side a black man, or do the work of a black man While “historians” have tried to pass off Lee’s nick name “King of Spades” as jocular soldier thing — wrong, it was from NEWSPAPERS. Read Douglass Freeman carefully slippery language about this

    • Ryan Q. June 21, 2014 / 11:30 pm

      On the matter of ‘talking about’ slave-built earthworks and other projects, UNC published last year “Confederate Slave Impressment in the Upper South” by Jaime Amanda Martinez.

  2. Tony June 22, 2014 / 1:47 am

    Nice! Althought, I must say I was disappointed that you didn’t mention Grant mailing Halleck those XXXXXX-Large pair of panties while addressing Grant’s sense of humor.


  3. E.g. Schwetje June 22, 2014 / 6:27 am

    It was hysterical when you ripped Carmichael’s scarf. Great session yesterday.

  4. Joshism June 22, 2014 / 12:15 pm

    Good stuff with a great view of the big picture.

    Loved the Don Maynard comparison.

  5. centerforhistorystudies June 22, 2014 / 12:56 pm

    Here’s a question I would have asked you, Dr. Simpson, if I’d been there: If you could meet Grant, what would you say to him or ask him about 1864-65?

  6. Bert June 22, 2014 / 2:02 pm

    I recalled the Don Maynard decoy analogy from another discussion long ago (and liked it a lot then and now).

    I never heard the Grant/Sumner/Bible joke before. Pretty good.

    It was interesting how self-consistent the talk was with what you’ve been presenting here. Good work.

    PS: I really did laugh out loud when you made those comments about Al, and then suddenly saw his mug appear before the mic.

    • Al Mackey June 22, 2014 / 2:22 pm

      Brooks orchestrated that one, Bert. He saw me going to the mic before he started talking about questions. He was actually setting that one up since the beginning of the conference. 😉

  7. Roy June 24, 2014 / 1:54 pm

    This is tangential to the talk, but about the North Carolina Invasion plan:
    Would Grant’s proposed landing have been feasible shipwise?
    North Carolina had fewer horses to requisition, so to prevent the landing to simply be another large Union-held-coastal-enclave mules might have to be shipped.

    Of course Grant’s staff had a lot of experience in riverine operations but this distance on open ocean would be an entirely different class of planning. Would any operations actually carried out be close to this proposed landing?

    • Tony June 26, 2014 / 4:58 am

      The build up could have been phased for the operation … the Union jumping-off point was from the fortified position at New Bern, right?

      • Roy June 26, 2014 / 11:15 am

        Ah, I get it. I misunderstood the operation quite badly it seems. So it was aimed first at Raleigh, then Virginia/ANV?

        I thought he would land along Albemarle Sound wherever Burnside had landed and then try to fight Lee somewhere around Norfolk or somewhere in northern North Carolina.

  8. TF Smith June 26, 2014 / 6:34 am

    My impression is it would have been an amphibious invasion, but the disembarkation point would have been the US positions in North Carolina, New Bern and (presumably) out to Roanoke and Hatteras Inlet. Essentially, using the existing departments of North Carolina/Virginia as the “theater” command and then reinforcing; something like the Army of James’ concept of operations in the Overland Campaign, but writ large.

    Another way to look at it is an amphibious analogue to Sherman’s army group and its operations in Georgia and the Carolinas.

    Interesting question: if Grant had been sucessful in his maritime strategy, where is he stationed, and who commands the expeditionary force?

    Grant could not have made his headquarters in the field; being stationed with Meade’s army when the overland campaign was underway would be one thing, but having the general-in-chief on detached duty in North Carolina seems questionable. So if he is in Washington or Alexandria, how does that impact Grant’s ability to effect the field command?

    Also, who gets the Army of Carolina (?) Sherman, presumably, is facing JE Johnston; Meade faces Lee in Virginia; the most experienced US commanders in terms of amphibious operations and Burnside, Butler, and Tim Sherman, none of whom strike me as the right men for an army of 60,000 men.

    Hancock? Warren? Sedgwick? Sheridan? Ord?


    • Tony June 27, 2014 / 12:19 am

      My pick of course would be McPherson, but I don’t think Grant trusted him the same after his stunt at Raymond.

      • TF Smith June 30, 2014 / 4:16 pm

        McPherson could be a good choice; engineers tend to make good amphibians, but you are correct, his record was mixed. Ord strikes me as solid choice.

  9. Christopher Shelley June 26, 2014 / 8:14 am

    I very much enjoyed this talk. I always like that you take the strategic view as well as the tactical–your thesis (on whatever you’re discussing) always sees the Big Picture. Also, the goatee is working for you. And the banter with Al. And it’s good to hear the acerbic voice in this blog is the same you use in lectures. And the fact that you never, NEVER laugh at your own jokes contributes much to your presentation.

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