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tv   Lectures in History The Civil War in Virginia  CSPAN  August 12, 2022 1:56pm-2:49pm EDT

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to begin
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talking about your 1864 and we're going to start with the well, today we are going to begin talking about the year 1864, and we are going to start with the action in virginia in 1864. focusing especially, now today, on the action in may, june and the famous duel between ulysses s grant and robert e. lee. the big showdown between the best generals that each side had. i think this campaign has been more misunderstood, more misinterpreted than maybe any other campaign in the civil war. i think the reason is because of expectations. today
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in politics you would see, a presidential campaign or primary campaign going on. several candidates are seeking the nomination of one of the parties, and they're coming up on one of the nominating primaries the state primaries -- typically you'll hear some politicians say, if i finish in the top three, that will be a win. if i could finish in the top three than i would be happy, or something like that. of, course trying to manage expectations. if he does that successfully, and if people and the press so forth by it, yeah, top three finishes a win for him. if you finishes number two, and that's great! he exceeded expectations. but, on the other hand, if he doesn't bother to manage expectations or if he is not successful at it, people don't buy it, then he finishes second then oh wow, what a loser! what a defeat for him!
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he finished second. i think with this campaign right here, the over land campaign grants campaign how he got to petersburg, is that -- the thing with this is the guy who finishes first winds up being looked at as a loser because of expectations. grant, we have already met grant before. you have seen some of the reasons why expectations are high for him. we saw his brilliant success at the battle of fort donaldson. it catapulted him to national recognition, fame, and promotion to major general. then we saw him stand off a very determined confederate counterattack at shiloh. in 1863, he conducted a
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brilliant campaign of maneuvering at the interior of mississippi. in may of 63, which enabled him to the feed vicksburg, which then, six weeks later, surrendered to him. not only the town of vicksburg, a confederate bastion of mississippi, but the confederacy's main army in mississippi, which was trapped in vicksburg at the result of grant's campaign. the victory at vicksburg winds up giving the union complete control of the mississippi river. it's a huge success. not a turning point but certainly another nail in the confederacy's coffin. and the fall of 1863, grant is brought in to remedy a situation that has risen from a disaster that happened from william s rosencrantz. rose currents was defeated at the 19th to 20th 1863 battle of chickamauga, and roast trans
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then allows himself to be quasi-besieged inside of chattanooga. they bring in grant, and grant straighten things out. he defeats the confederates in november. at the battle of chattanooga, wins a big victory. at this point, grants reputation has become huge nationwide. there is a consensus among the northern people, not unanimity, but a heavy majority of the northern people are very eager to see grant promoted, given command of all the union armies. there really is a feeling that as commander of all union armies, grants of two, at least, a company the army of the potomac, if not outright commands it in virginia and take on lee, and finally beat lee and accomplishment the union has been trying to you, futilely, that union futility in virginia
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now for three years. grant should do that, that should happen. northern politicians are for it. actually, it's a bipartisan thing. it's not just republicans who want to see that happen. it helps that grants political background is unclear. grant, by this time, really is a republican but his antecedents were democrat. he has never under a political, anyway. both parties are eager to see him make general. in fact the democrats would like to recruit him to one for president in 64, he's hearing nothing of that! he won't have that at all. he gets the promotion, lincoln is eager to promote him. he gets the promotion to lieutenant general. the only lieutenant general, three star general with the union army at that time. the only person to hold a rank of full three star lieutenant general since george washington, kind of a select company there. when field scott who we saw before was a private
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lieutenant general, honorary lieutenant general. grant is a regular, full lieutenant general, outranks every officer in the union army, and is officially given the position of commanding officer of all union armies. here you go, grant, here are the keys. take it away! go win the war for us. i do not think there was anything that grant could have done to manage expectations after all that. the expectations where that grant was going to come to virginia, he was going to win, quickly, cheaply, and easily. within a matter of weeks grant would of course when the war, certainly by the end of the summer! grant will have won the war. we will be defeated and everything will be fine. that is radically unrealistic. the generals that grant had
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defeated at mississippi, at chattanooga, they were good generals, john pemberton in mississippi, bratton brag in chattanooga, they were good generals but decidedly second dear. tier. albert sidney johnston was viewed as a first tier general we don't know how good or that he was, grant beat him too quickly and he died at shiloh. but lee's obviously the best the confederacy hat. lee, his stature and reputation are towering, dominating. his soldiers have very high morale. they do not believe he can be defeated, they don't believe they could be defeated. this will serve them in good stead. they are quite good! lee had put together quite a winning team. one advantage that lee have had in putting together a winning team with the army of northern virginia is that lee knows how to handle
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jefferson davis. when and when li wants and offered transferred out of my army, he's not getting the job done! davis will let him do it. lee has to do it right. he asked you some tact and some finesse but he knows how to do that and he can get it done. lee has the team that he wants there in virginia. he well, he doesn't have stonewall jackson because he's dead. he would've liked to have had him. otherwise, but lee gets the officers he wants in virginia. he is very, good his armies good. it was totally unrealistic for grant to win within a matter of weeks, to win very cheaply and easily. another unrealistic aspect of expectations about what we are seeing here was that, somehow, not that picture -- let's look at this one. somehow with an officer like grant, people expect that he is
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going to call his shots. like babe ruth, the famous time he points to the center field stand and then he hits the ball there. i think ruth probably got lucky. you really have to get lucky to be able to do that. here is a plan, i'm gonna do this and this and actually, to some extent, grant did actually do that, which we will see but -- you know grant really is an opportunistic general. he will look for you to make mistakes if you are his opposing general. he will take advantage of them. he cannot necessarily tell you everything that is going to happen in a campaign before it does. anyway, we are going to see is grant does pretty well. but because he doesn't meet the expectations, the unreasonable expectations that people had going into the campaign, both then that summer of 64, and
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since then. fair has been a tendency to look at this campaign as a failure for grants, or as a success for lee. i'm going to argue that it was not that at all. so grant, let's go over there. he has plans with this campaign. briefly telling you very quick, in a day campaigning through virginia. you can see this old map of the interior of virginia. i labeled the railroad to richmond. we discuss this topic already. we will review it again in a minute. before we discuss that, grant does have a couple of peripheral campaigns planned in virginia. it's not just taking care of the potomac, we will not be the army of the potomac commander, we will be there in a minute. he is going to be supervising the army of the potomac, directly. from a distance he will be supervising a couple as other small armies in these
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peripheral campaigns that he hope will pay off for him. one of those is going to be the shenandoah valley. we've seen that out there. jackson was there he made a real headache for the union in the spring of 62. grant is going to send the army into the shenandoah valley, a small army, which he hopes will keep the confederates from using the shenandoah valley to distract from his main campaign. hopefully will distract from confederate troops out there himself. he is also going to send another small army on a campaign somewhat similar to what we saw mcclellan do back in 62, which is approaching richmond from the rivers. here, the james river right there. now, mcclellan went up to york river and then followed the new york river railroad for various
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reasons. this little peripheral campaign that grant is planning with the smaller army is going to go along the james river. we'll be able to strike either richmond or the small a town of petersburg. so what about petersburg? in order for the confederates to feed lee the army and the people of, richmond, they need supplies. supplies come on for railroads. the confederates would have to keep at least two of the railroads, at least two, in order to keep richmond fed, to keep lee its army fed, to maintain their position in virginia. they have to keep two out of the four. three out of the four come together at petersburg. so that union forces that subsidiary army, that smaller army, were to go to petersburg and take petersburg, the commander has the option of
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richmond or petersburg. if the confederates cover richmond in the petersburg uncovered. that smaller union army take petersburg, their confederate are done in richmond! they will not be able to hold richmond, they will not be able to maintain lee's army north of richmond. they are going to lose northern virginia and most of the state with it. this is a very sensitive target. grant is poking at it with a smaller army. it could be, grant is entirely open to the possibility, that while he is up here in northern virginia directly supervising the army of the potomac, these guys will win the war! and they might happen. he hopes that by stretching lee in all of these directions he will be able to get an advantage over him. that leads to another problem, though. another thing that grant will have to deal with. he has good things going for him, and then there are some things going against him. going against
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grant is this is 1864! this is an election year. there is going to be a presidential election. lincoln is up for reelection. now they were actually some republicans who said or suggested to lincoln we ought to postpone the elections we should not be holding this election in the midst of the civil war we have the huge war going on! the major faction of the democratic party at this time believes that war is a failure. they've been saying it for. years the war is a failure, you have to negotiate, and the subtexts of that is except confederate independence. but if the democrats were to win this election, there is a chance -- historians still argue about how much of a chance, there is a chance that the confederacy could have become independent. there is almost an certainty that emancipation would've been revoked and slavery would've
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survived. people said the lincoln, you want to cancel this election. lincoln said no! we are fighting to prevent the -- to preserve the government. we are fighting the idea that if you lose the election, you get to start a. war we are fighting against that kind of idea. if we were to postpone the election because of the war, we've already lost the cause we are fighting. for if we postpone the election, we would stay in power, but we are fighting to maintain the idea of self government. we can't do that! we are going to hold election exactly is scheduled. we're gonna do exactly what the constitution says. right. but politics is tricky. how is that going to affect grants campaign? there is going to be a lot of scrutiny. it's going to be a lot of importance. but another thing. i already told you about the idea political generals, these are generals who are actually
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politicians because we can't trust the experts, i'm not saying that. the people kind of, there is a belief among some people, i know that sounds incredible today -- we cannot trust experts. they have been educated on this, they've studied it, they are naturally bad at it. we need to trust guys we don't know anything about it. that idea was around back then, to, specifically with regard to the military. they've got political generals. why are they generals? because they gain political support. and grant has been very respectful of lincoln's need to have some political generals now and then. guys like mclaren tolerated him for quite a while. grant knows that in 1864, lincoln is going to need to have some of these generals. they've been in the army for a while and have done well. they're going to need to have
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important roles because they garner support for lincoln. but unavoidably, both of these two subsidiary campaigns lined up being under political generals. that campaign out in the shenandoah valley, or the shenandoah river, it's right over there. the campaign out in shenandoah valley is intrusted to a german born general. i think 20th century history, or 19th century history, to, has showed us that german born generals can be very good, indeed. but fronds's eagle was not. he was not very good. he had this command. you just hope that maybe this time he would perform better, and he will do something good, hopefully. and then the command of this smaller expedition along the james river, this goes to a real american born guy named
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benjamin butler. he has a massachusetts politician, a democrat. and he is important. so lincoln needs these guys, he needs ziegel because having ziegel in uniform helps lincoln win the german american vote. there was a lot of german americans voting at the time. having butler in important command helps secure lincoln the support of new england democrats were former democrats. so ben butler it's importance, too. this leads to where i can dismiss these subsidiary campaigns and say they are not going to do anything much. because both guys performed at the level we have come to expect from political generals. both subsidiary campaigns were complete failures. butler didn't take richmond, didn't take petersburg. he got his command bottled up in the and
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of a peninsula between the james and appomattox river's. that was that. the confederates were able to contain him with minimal force, and detach the rest of their troops to leave. ziegel also failed in the shenandoah valley. so these two subsidiary campaigns that had the potential to help, they are out. so now it's all going to be all on grant, and the army of the potomac, which he is not commenting, but he is supervising. more on that in the moment. it's time for that right now. let's talk about the commands, because this is a problem that grant has. what would really work best, we can say this with the benefit of hindsight, is that it would work best if there were two of ulysses grant. one of them commanded the army at the potomac, and the other one commanded the armies for the union. but unfortunately, there aren't too, and the confederacy would like to clone robert e. lee. you can't do that, you can't clone grant. you could,
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potentially, and maybe this would have been better, it's hard to say. you you could just give grant, say, all right, grant. you wear two hats. you're the commander of the army of the potomac, and you are also involved with a union armies. he had that job briefly in the spring of 62, but it didn't work out well. probably, you can't expect it to work. that's too big a job for one man, something is going to get neglected. so, grant is traveling. what he does is he makes his headquarters with the army at the potomac. the headquarters of grant and the headquarters of the potomac commander are co-located. they are literally adjacent to each other. most of the time during a campaign, they are together. but grant tells meade, i want you to be
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as independent as you would be if you are commanding the potomac and i was in washington. but they can't be, that's not realistic, that's not going to happen. in that, grant really is trying to do something he can't do. because grant is present with the army, so grant is responsible for what the army does. if grant were in washington, and meade decided to do something dumb with the army, grant would be responsible in the sense that he was in command of meade, but he wouldn't have known what happened, so grant could say, meade, what did you do? whereas with grant is present with the army, he is responsible to a greater degree. he almost has to intervened and tell meade no, don't send those guys over, they're sent them over here. send that core over here. he's got to do that. this sets up a constant tension through the whole camp and through the rest of the war between grant trying to supervise meade, and yet trying to give meade some
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degree of independence, to let him command the army of potomac. probably, again, what might be better would be if meade recognized himself as a chief of staff in the army at the potomac. i like the idea that would help would have been better, there would've been problems with it, but for grant to bring his friend james b mcpherson out from the west. i think mcpherson and grant would work well together, with mcpherson being the army of the potomac commander, and a glorified chief of staff. and just run the army while grant tells him what to do. as it was, meade was constantly feeling resentful of grant, he was always telling him what to do. it reminds me of a parent teaching your child to ride a bicycle. all right, now you get on the bicycle and you've got your hands on them. all right, meade is on the bicycle and grant is the dad. okay, you take your hands away. and they start wobbling, grab them
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again. it was kind of like that, grant keeps trying to take his hands away from meade. meade keeps making mistakes which grant then has to intervene. you've got the problem that meade upset because grant has intervened. meanwhile, meade has made several mistakes which cost the army a lot. that's a problem they have throughout this campaign. anyway, grant is going to command the army at the potomac. we've already been several times over the idea that there are a limited number of ways that you can take an army to richmond and supply it. so there is the orange and alexandria railroad from alexandria, virginia, down to gordon's ville. you catch the virginia central and ride that down to richmond. it's the longest way, and another problem with it is that these upper regions of the orange and alexandria, it's vulnerable to confederate guerrillas. confederates can raid and potentially disrupt your supplies. that's at least
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one way. another way is the richmond and fredericksburg railroad, from the mouth of a quiet creek on the potomac there, straight down to richmond. it is short, it is direct, it's got problems, too. in late 1862, december 62, ambrose burnside to try this with the army of the potomac and found that although you can force your way across at fredericksburg, it is almost impossible to force your way up out of the bottom lands of the rappahannock river onto the land beyond it. he lost a battle that way. and in the spring of 63, joseph hooker with the army of the potomac tried going around fredericksburg that way. that didn't work all that well either. it maybe could have, but it failed. so there are real problems getting past the
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rappahannock river on the orange and alexandria railroad. another problem, by the way, back here with richmond and fredericksburg. on the orange and alexandria, there is a problem that robert e. lee has his army deployed and heavily dug in just south of the rapid and around orange courthouse. that is a problem. you are going to have to do something about that if you are grant. we are going to follow the line of the orange and alexandria. what you are going to have to do is turn loose of the railroad, cut your supply away from your supply line for a while. that is very dangerous. usually, grant would do that. in fact, if grant had had the army that he'd had with him in mississippi, he would have done that. he knew them, near the officers and how they worked. not being familiar with the army at the potomac, he didn't wants to do something that risky. so, that's not an option. of course, you could go up the peninsula, the way mcclellan
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did following these estuaries. and we have seen that grant is sending a minor expedition to futility here. he didn't want to go to futility, but they did. there are problems with this, and in fact, lincoln almost would not tolerate the main union force in virginia, the army of the potomac, going down there again. the thing with mcclellan, it worked out so badly that it left northern virginia wide open. lincoln doesn't like that and really is just not going to let that happen. so that is a nonstarter for grant. now, what grant is going to do, he is going to use a combination of all three plans. his army is on the orange and alexandria railroad. when he starts out, lee is south of him. so grant is going to angle -- i will get oriented
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here, there we go. he is going to angle across the river there, angling to the southeast like that towards the little courthouse spot. if he if he can get spa sauvignon before lee does, lee is blocking his route over here. grant is going to go that way. if grand can get down they are before lee does, the grant will actually be in the enviable situation of being closer to richmond than lee is. lee will be in a lot of trouble at that point. lee is almost checkmated if grant can do that. grant would be willing to accept a quick victory. all of those expectations for victory in two weeks left the army destroyed in a month, or whatever. grant wouldn't mind, he will give it a shot if he can. but he is also realistic enough to know, probably, he is going to have to play out the whole campaign. what he plans to do is basically, and he has
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got this in mind. not the details of it, of course. but in broad terms, he will keep moving to the southeast and circle around richmond to the east. if you can get straight into richmond, sure. but on the other hand, he thinks probably, and he tells a staff officer before the campaign starts. they're still up here before the army has left their camps. he tells a staff officer, when we get here, and he points to petersburg, when we get here, the war will be over. that was pretty close to being true. so anyway, the campaign begins in may of 64. so you can see there, grant starts out north of the rapid and, crosses the rapid and early in the way, and lee meets him. i don't think grant
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really thought lee was going to let him steal a march all the way to spot sauvignon, which is their. lee meets him over here, and this is an area that is favorable to lee. it is unfortunate that grant has to go through it, but there is no other way to get there. it is called the wilderness. it is an area of 30 or 40 square miles, an area where during colonial times, the 1700s, there were large iron ore deposits. small iron ore deposits were found there, but they were large for the standards of colonial virginia. the iron or played out by the mid 1700s. but by that time, they had cut down close to the forest around there to burn them to smell the iron or. when the forest cut
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down, we came back with a second growth. not a climax for us but a second growth, and you've got, los grubby woods with a lot of thick forests. today, the force tend to go into a lot of thick, it's anyway for various reasons. one thing is we don't graze cattle and hogs in the woods like they tended to do -- which kept the understory of the woods grazed out. especially because the woods had been cleared out, the soil, apparently wasn't that great, what you have is an area of maybe 30 to 40 square miles of thick it's mostly. very thick, very dense. artillery is useless in that terrain. advantages in number are almost useless. lee really wants to fight there if he can. fans they do fight a battle there. it's not the greatest place for grant to fight but grant is eager to fight lee any place he can't get to him. and so, they fight a battle
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here on the sixth and seventh, they say fit zero seventh, yes, fifth through 7th of may, 1864. it's the first battle between lee aunt grants. it is very intense at times. very unpleasant. a lot of it fought at close range because visibility is shortened through those trees. there is a lot of confusion again, because of the thickets and the terrain! grant is not able to make that free that too spotsylvania. he fights lee first. but grant almost wins it all right here in the wilderness. grant had fought, if he could get a shot at lee if he could bring him into battle, he might be able to beat him and he almost did. there is a famous episode on the second day of the battle, one of the few large clearings there amongst the wilderness, grant had launched a big attack and it broke through! it had broken
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through lee lines and we're about to get to lee supply wagons. it's was pretty much going to tear lee army in half, take out his supply wagons. how close this was to the absolute other doom and end of the army of northern virginia can be seen by the reaction of robert e. lee, if anyone knows that the army of north virginia is in big trouble, lee would be the man, and he was. he knew what it was, and what does is he react in other desperation. the only reinforcement he can find, it happens to be the texas brigade. lee actually places himself at the front of this brigade and starts to lead them in an infantry attack. lee is going to lead, on horseback, the infantry. haven't we seen a high-ranking confederate general do that before? yes, we have! that was the end of
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albert sidney johnston. now lee is going to do that. i think what that tells me is that lee recognized that this is it. he is practically doomed at this point. so this is an act of utter desperation. what happens is the texans, the soldiers of the texas brigade, forced lee to turn back. they are shouting lee, to the rear lee to the rear. it's the first of a lee to the rear instance that occurred during this campaign. they actually grabbed the reins of lee's horse and they turn travelers head, and they make lee go to the rear. they wouldn't let him go forward until he turned back to the rear. he reluctantly did. the counterattack of the texas brigade and other troops of fields division were able to plug that hole, hold the line, and the day was saved for the
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army of northern virginia. it almost wasn't! it was very close. after two really hard days of fighting in the wilderness and then a standoff, grant was able to go around the flank of lee army. he was able to move off in that direction. i have some pictures and wanted to show you. these are actually done by artists that went along with the army of the potomac and were sketching. this is the closest thing will get to an action picture. this is them crossing the river. here is a scene, the sketch artist made from position behind the union line of battle as they are engage with the confederates. you can almost nazi over there. it's very hard to see. there another shot of the union line of battle engaged. again a guy sketching with a pen and paper from his position behind the lines. this is a sketch from an
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artist who was on the scene. the reaction when grant and his staff meet and his staff as they rode along the road leading to the south. they passed by the position of some of the troops of the army of the potomac. this is the first time the troops of the army of the potomac realized, we won a battle against lee. we advanced into virginia. we fought a battle, and we are advancing! it's a first time that has happened. that has never happened before. not under mcclellan, pope, burnside. hooker, every time the army of the potomac advances in virginia, they fight a battle and they go back! this time, they fought a battle against the army of northern virginia and they are advancing. it was a hard battle! casualties were high. very, very, unpleasant experience. but we won this battle, we are advancing! how do you decide who wins a battle? the soldiers are cheering, they're waving
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their hats and hearing. grant was eager to get them to be quiet because we don't want lee we are moving any place. now how do you know who won a battle? is the side that won the side that suffered fewer casualties? we haven't gotten to world war ii yet but if the side who takes the fewest casualties is the winner than, erwin rumble won the day. and the united states lost, and bradley was thrown back into the, sea and we would all be speaking german today. well not exactly but no that is not how you figure out who won the battle. it's who gets more of what he wants of the situation that he wants afterwards. the person who gets what he wants after the battle is grant. he has collided with lee and then he just splits off. do you want to use a sporting analogy it's like a running back who hits a linebacker and bounces off and goes around him, he is tearing down the field. that is
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exactly what happens. grant hits lee here, and he moves down here. again, if grant can get to to spotsylvania before lee the, does he is virtually checkmated. he almost does! it is very close. perhaps a matter of less than an hour, confederate troops getting into position. the circumstances that led to that were complicated. the woods were on fire which was one of the things that made the battle of the wilderness so unpleasant. but because the woods were on fire, the confederates did not stop or rest along that march. they just kept marching, which worked out for them, although it was very them tiring. they marked all through the night. in very dense smoky woods. very unpleasant circumstances. they got there with maybe 30 minutes to spare. also, there was a controversy around the union cavalry. the commander of the cavalry of the army of the
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potomac is one of the few officers at the grant brought with from the western theater to command something in the east. this is general philip sheridan. sheridan has not commanded cavalry in the western theater, he commanded infantry divisions. there was a saying in the civil war, whoever saw a dead cavalryman? there was a belief that cavalry didn't really fight. he said sheridan, i want you to make the cavalry fight like infantry. sheridan he doesn't invent this idea, but he just advances this idea. we are going to use cavalry like mounted infantry. sort of a mobile, in a modern battlefield, a motorized infantry unit. but maybe, because sheridan was not familiar with cavalry
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operations, maybe he didn't do a good job of getting his cavalry out in front, where they are supposed to be. getting them to spotsylvania first. this is controversial! some people defend sheridan, some people agree with me that sheridan did a bad job. in fact, there was a huge row between sheridan the cavalry commander of the army off the potomac, and george meade, the overall general of the army of the potomac, under grant. both men were known to have terrible tempers. their tempers were in true form this day. they had a shouting match. i didn't get recorded, word for word, which is probably just as well but it was probably pretty pointed. meade was furious. he went to grant and said, rant! sheridan says if i turn him loose, he could go in and whip the
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confederate cavalry under jeb stewart. did sheridan say that, and grant said yes, he did? well sheridan usually knows when he's talking about, so go ahead and let him. they let sheridan lewis. and the raid, there's jeb stewart, the confederate cavalry man, we have met him before. he is a legend now. so while grant and lee face off at spotsylvania, their respective cavalry corps go galloping across the country and collide all the way down here just outside of richmond yellow tavern. the fight was inconclusive. sheridan got back to union lines. join butler and eventually rejoin grant. the significance of yellow tavern was jeb stewart was mortally wounded, he died the next day. turns out the confederates had a decent bench in the area of cavalry leader. they had a very good cavalry leader after that.
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but least stewart was out of the fight. back, though, to this situation. so, grant almost got to spotsylvania before lee, but not quite. lee takes it. there is a standoff for several days. grant sees an opportunity to launch a major assault. by this time, here is another sketch by someone who was there. i don't know if you can tell what is going on, but there is a trench along that line. they are starting to dig trenches, they are starting to build log breast works. they are starting to have a lot more field fortifications and intrenchments. troops have tended to do that in this war, consistently, after they have had a heavy fight. what's happening in this campaign is they have a heavy fight and then they stay in contact a keep fighting. yeah spotsylvania, both sides bill strong log in treatment. long
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brass works and intrenchments. you can go to spotsylvania, to the battlefield. the trenches have slumped in a lot, there is grass growing in. but you can still distinctly follow the lines. walk the lines because of the ditches that they had. sometimes it's a trench, sometimes it's a ditch in front of the long breast works. grant saw a vulnerability in the confederate line and he launched an assault. it almost succeeded! this led to the second lee to the rear deck incident, just as we saw at the battle of the wilderness. at spotsylvania, lee is apparently desperate enough to try to lead and infantry counterattack to plug this gap in his line! several thousand of his line groups have been captured. the division commander had been captured, the confederates commander has been captured. many confederate guns and battle flags have been captured. lee, in desperation, is about to lead an infantry assault! the man forced him to go to the greer.
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not the texas brigade this time, but for another unit force him to go to the rear. in the end, confederates were just barely able, after 24 hours of full close range fighting by various units, the confederates were able to hold their line there. avoiding disaster, but if you are keeping score at home i think this is maybe the third time at least that it came very close to being an early grant victory! it would pretty much fulfill those unrealistic expectations. but, it did not happen. after the unsuccessful attack, the almost but not quite attack of spotsylvania, grant pose again around lee's flank, hits him, and slides
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off. again, the result of the battle -- we don't do it by counting bodies on the battlefield. famously the united states in the early years of the vietnam war tried to gauge how well it was doing, u.s. forces tried to gauge how well they were doing by counting bodies. the body count was not the way to do it! we are not getting in the body count here. casualties were about proportional to the troop forces engaged. grant goes down here, he's shooting for handover junction when the virginia central railroad crosses over richmond the fredericksburg. he started with the virginia central railroad. he has picked up the richmond in fredericksburg. lee blocks him at handover junction. he takes a very good position. lee is a very good general. i don't know if you can see that little upside down red v right there. that's the position that lee takes. in order to get at that position, grants troops will have to cross on either side -- cross the north and a river on either side of the apex of
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lee's v. by doing, that they will be much separated from each other. by doing, that lee has potentially put a wedge into the union army. lee cannot fault on the, because his army is falling. out lee it's getting worn out. he is suffering from heart disease and he may have had a heart attack in late 63. he's not in the greatest of health. by this time, he is on his back in a caught in a tent. he is trying to command the army from there. his top subordinate have been winnowed out, to. his best subordinate, his first core commander is badly wounded in a friendly fire. his second core commander becomes basically a psychological casualty after spotsylvania. by the time they get to north anna, his third core commander, ambrose p hill, has succumbed to bad health. stress probably added to it.
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so all of lee's, three quarters of his army are being commanded by division commanders who have moved up to that position within the last few weeks. they don't have a lot of experience. lee can't go out and provide that experience for them personally by writing around on horseback as he did in the seven days battles. he is on his back, he can't make anything happen out of this. he -- grant pulls back, and here is a shot of the north and a river and the union pontoon bridge across it. that was a photograph taken at the time. that is a more zoomed in picture. there is the confederate field in north and the. as lee leah in his tenth on his caught, he said we cannot let those people go around us again. we cannot let those people pass us again. but they did. he can't stop them.
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grant is going around again and again, like a running back. i used to love walter peyton, he was a hall-of-famer. he would get a defensive back, he would flight off and go, and hit another defensive back, slide off and go on. grant is having things his way. the wilderness was 65 miles, spotsylvania about 65 miles. the north and that was 25 miles from richmond. when grant gets down here where they will face off against each other again at a place called cold harbor, not because it was cold for a harbor, but because there was an in where you can only get cold meals. they will be ten miles from richmond. so grant is making progress here, as they advance in a side long way. they get down here, cold harbor is best known for an unsuccessful attack on may 3rd. the attack did not result in
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7000 union casualties in 45 minutes, more like 1500. grant, again, struggles with getting media meade and meade subordinates to attack in the ways he wants, win when he wants, in a coordinated manner. and then another thing that grant tries to communicate in his orders, and you read this again and again is, if you see that the confederates have a strong position, and if you see we are not going to breakthrough right away, stop the attack. do not keep doubling down on a failed attack. unfortunately, the generals of the army don't -- intend to double down on failed attacks. they're not as fast as getting going on their attacks as grants. once but when they do get going, they don't want to stop even though they are failing. so that brought the casualty list up. the two armies remained in contact a cold harbor. beyond june 3rd, when the unfortunate attack happened, all the way up to the 12th. in some of the
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movements and attacks it happened afterwards, grant did better than lee. and the final move of this overland campaign was maybe the most brilliant of the side moves that grant makes. he really fakes lee out, and he takes his army down and across the james river. he moves on petersburg. and that was another one of those moves that should have, by rights, given grant what he was seeking. unfortunately, fatigue, bad decisions by generals, various factors lead -- they had a heroic confederate defenses in petersburg, which is just off the map there. that led to the failure to take petersburg. but at that point, it becomes really a quasi-siege around richmond and petersburg, with grant on the outside of
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that line. he is constantly driving to cut additional railroads, and as robert e. lee had said, when the armies were up here, he said we have got to stop grant before he gets to the james river. there is the james river. grant said, if he gets to the james river, it is going to be a siege and then it will only be a matter of time. from the time grant got to the james river in mid june of 1864, it was a matter of time for the confederacy. although a lot more time than union voters would have wished. okay, we are out of time. so thank you for your attention and i will see you all on wednesday.
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good morning. today we gather with joy


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