U.S. Grant and Operations
The Civil War has been alternatively described as the last of the Napoleonic Wars or the first of the modern wars.1 Effectively, it was a transitional war, and it can be argued that one man, more than any other, can be credited with making the transition, the Union General-in-Chief, U.S. Grant. The General was innovative on both a strategic and operational level and he introduced changes that altered future warfare and accelerated the defeat of the South. While Grant’s strategic vision was vitally important to victory, this article concentrates on his operational, as opposed to tactical or strategic, innovation. In earnest, there is a wealth of scholarship written about the North’s successful strategy, and many other books describe the tactical changes that occurred during the war, but few authors highlight the operational change introduced by Grant. 2
The levels of decision-making and actions in war can be broken down into these three distinct categories: strategy, operations, and tactics. According to New Webster’s Dictionary, tactics are defined as the science and art of using a fighting force to the best advantage regarding the immediate combat situation.
The levels of decision-making and actions in war can be broken down into these three distinct categories: strategy, operations, and tactics. According to New Webster’s Dictionary, tactics are defined as the science and art of using a fighting force to the best advantage regarding the immediate combat situation. 4 Alternatively, the United States Marine Corps equates the tactical level with winning battles and combat engagements, using firepower and maneuver, in a particular time and place. In the U.S. Marine Corps, tactics are considered the lowest level of war, beneath the strategic and the operational levels. The activities done at the strategic level reflect national policy objectives, and military strategy reflects the application of military power to meet national policy objectives. The Operations category works to bridge together the strategic level with the tactical level; operations are the use of tactics to achieve strategic objectives. The operational level includes decisions regarding when, where and under what conditions to engage the enemy in battle – or when to refuse to engage the enemy. 5
During the American Civil War, tactics changed as new equipment, especially the grooved rifle and the entrenching tool, gained prominence. The strength of the defensive was widely recognized as early as the third year of the war with the use of infantry, artillery, and cavalry tactics by generals like Union Major General Philip Sheridan and Confederate Major General Patrick Cleburne proved effective. The new formations like those employed by Union Colonel Emory Upton at Spotsylvania and Confederate Lt. General James Longstreet at Chickamauga and The Wilderness demonstrated the power of attacks by formations with depth instead of breadth. Although, none of the tactical innovations had the effect on future wars as two of Grant’s innovations – innovations as surely credited to Grant as greatness is to Robert E. Lee.
The primary innovation that Grant understood is that war cannot be solely a seasonal engagement. Previously, wars were conducted when the seasons best permitted, or when men could be away from their farms, but this changed in 1864. General Grant waged war year-round, recognizing that "total'' war would cause, among other things, civilian discomfort and reduce the political will of the enemy. Under Grant, Union armies did not retire to winter quarters to refit and reorganize, which would require their enemies to remain in the field against them. Imperatively, total warfare was more a strategic than operational change. The second innovation that Grant recognized was that a high tempo of operations reduced or eliminated the enemy’s ability to use advantages such as interior lines of communications. In short, this innovation is effectively that speed over time is tempo.6 Prior to Grant taking command, the South could count on reprieves during periods of Union inactivity to refit and restore their logistic and supply bases. Furthermore, if the Confederate troops needed men in one location, they could use interior lines to move men to meet the current threat. However, Grant’s operational tempo bankrupt Lee and other Southern generals of their supplies, their morale, and their ability to concentrate against one army while delaying or holding against another. General Grant used maneuver to increase tempo and place his forces. Effectively, Grant’s use of maneuver was every bit as important to his generalship as it was to those given more credit for using maneuver – Confederate General Robert E. Lee, Union Major General William T. Sherman and especially Confederate Lieutenant General Thomas J. Jackson.
By the end of the war, Confederate troops were typically hungry, shoeless, poorly mounted, and forlorn partly because of Grant’s innovations. Although Union counterparts were unhappy with the war continuing, they were generally sure of ultimate victory, well fed, well supplied, and increasingly well led. Grant cannot be given credit for the Union supply lines or food preparation, but his activity, his understanding of war and, most of all, his understanding of operations in the field forever changed the nature of war.
In earnest, Grant’s strategic view was put into action and led to the end of the war in just over one year from the time he assumed overall command of Union armies. Furthermore, in terms of operations he was just as effective. During the four years of the war, troops under Grant’s immediate command received the surrender of three Confederate armies and two were put to flight in total disarray.7 Although, tactically speaking, after Ft. Donelson, in February 1862, Grant seldom had a direct effect on tactics. In short, as a field army commander and then as General-in-Chief of all Union armies, Grant’s domain existed in strategy and operations. While many view Grant as a butcher,8especially after the Battles of the Wilderness, Spotsylvania and Cold Harbor, Grant used maneuver to place his forces in optimum positions to attack his Confederate opponents. The attacks by the Army of the Potomac were usually the result of that Army’s well-known characteristic of being late, as opposed to lack of maneuver by Grant.9
The South’s foremost general and perhaps the best known military figure of the war, Robert E. Lee, described his responsibility in operational terms, "I plan and work…to bring the troops to the right place at the right time." In short, Lee thought that interfering with his brigade and division commanders would do more harm than good.10
In terms of operations, Grant sought Lee’s goal – to place his men where they could be successful tactically. According to surviving records, Grant did precisely that, though his subordinates often failed to capitalize on his work. Grant utilized maneuver extensively, and, until late in the war, sought to win the battle outright by capturing the enemy force intact. Although this appears to have been innately learned, since Grant denies having read the standard books on tactics11 or the military pronouncements of the French general, Henri Jomini, or the American Thomas Mahan, whose tactical doctrine dominated Civil War thinking.12
However, there is no evidence that Grant ever wanted to win the war by attrition as his mostly Southern critics claim, nor is there any indication that Grant believed frontal attacks alone were the answer. Although, there were many experiences that undoubtedly affected his decision-making as Grant grew into his assignment as General-in-Chief.
At the beginning of the conflict, veterans of the Mexican War, whose number included Grant, assumed conspicuous roles on both sides. Effectively, there were military lessons learned in Mexico more than a decade before had a considerable influence on Civil War operations and tactics. In Mexico, the smaller American units routinely maneuvered aggressively, attacked, and routed defending units who were in strong, fortified positions. In Buena Vista and other places, Americans held off larger numbers of Mexicans, without resorting to entrenchment, by using artillery very aggressively, often placing the guns in advance of infantry positions. Thus, Civil War generals such as Grant, Lee, Longstreet, Bragg, McClellan, and a host of others observed that well-led, numerically inferior troops could attack and defeat larger numbers. In short, the primary lesson seemed to be that élan, vigor and attack won against any defense.
In one of his early Civil War assignments, then Colonel Grant’s regiment against Confederates in Missouri. While Grant failed to find his enemy who fled, which led him to learn the first of many battlefield lessons as a commander - he learned to control his fear. Furthermore, he realized that the opposing commander probably feared him as much as he feared the enemy. In essence, controlling fear and confidence go hand in hand, and after this non-battle Grant always exhibited confidence in battle. Confidence is a prerequisite to a commander’s use of maneuver and increased tempo, which Grant acquired early in the war. 13
In November of 1861 Grant experienced his first attack as a general officer during the Battle of Belmont, which was the next step in his career. In short, Belmont was a riverine operation; the Union forces disembarked and attacked directly without reconnaissance. However, Grant had no reserve force; as a result, when the Confederates counter-attacked, Grant’s men had to fight their way back to their boats. During the battle, the new General also displayed the personal bravery that marked his Mexican experiences, having one horse shot from under him and being the last to re-embark aboard the river transports that had carried his troops to the area.14 Although, the want of a reserve denied Grant tactical options; Belmont marked the last time he would enter a battle without one.
During February of 1862, the capture of Fort Henry first brought Grant to fame, but it was the Navy who won the battle before Grant’s army troops could get into action. However, many Confederates escaped since Union forces could not close the cordon around the fort quickly enough. However, in future endeavors Grant would ensure that escape would be more difficult. The rapidity that marked Grant’s advance to Fort Henry remained constant when, only eight days later, he attacked Fort Donelson.
Grant moved very quickly against the larger, better defended, and more substantial fort - faster than his commander, Major General Henry Halleck, would have liked. When the Union army took positions surrounding the fort, the Confederate commander had as many men as Grant – and the Confederates were probably better armed. However, assisted by the efforts of Brigadier General William T. Sherman, who aggressively pushed men and equipment forward, the Union forces were quickly bolstered and provided Grant with a numerically superior army.
During the operation, Grant conducted reconnaissance against the fort, directed placement of his divisions, selected artillery positions, and coordinated the attacks by the Navy. When the Confederates attacked his right flank, Grant alone sensed the Confederate troops were attempting to break out of the siege, ordered the immediate Federal counterattacks, pushed ammunition to his troops, and inspired them by his personal example.15 However, Grant did not set attack formations, lead attacks, or decide how to make the attacks at Donelson – which would have indicated further tactical involvement on his part. Rather, Grant ordered subordinates into action after learning the intentions of the Confederate forces. For example, General W.F. Smith, attacked Grant’s left using tactics based on the terrain. However, Grant had placed his army in a position to capture the entire opposing force with mild success.
At Fort Donelson, Grant was on the edge of the line between operations and tactics, and he made mistakes indicative of an officer whose responsibilities were in transition. For example, he left Union lines to visit Commodore Foote, several miles away, without leaving a designated second-in-command; and he did not ensure that his right flank was set firmly against the Cumberland River. In earnest, this error permitted the Confederate cavalry under Forrest to escape the Union encirclement. Furthermore, there is little evidence he supervised or ensured Union patrolling, because patrols would have detected the escape by Forrest and his cavalry. However, Grant provided clear, positive, and confident leadership. Ultimately, Grant’s aggressiveness in attacking Donelson without waiting to resupply, refit and reorganize surprised his own commander and Southern leadership. Grant positioned his army in front of his enemy when aggressiveness by the Southern commander could have endangered Grant’s numerically equal force. He seized the initiative and set the tempo for the campaign, which resulted in the Confederate loss of Nashville, and with it the important industry and commerce that the city provided for the Southern cause. The tempo of operations from Fort Henry through Fort Donelson set a tone for Grant’s later actions. Although Grant’s failure to closely supervise subordinates would cost him again in his next battle as an army commander – Shiloh.
If Fort Donelson showed Grant to be excellent at counter offensives, Shiloh further cemented this in his military career. In earnest, Grant needed to excel at counteroffensive measures because he had made a mistake and permitted subordinates, particularly Sherman, too much latitude. In 1862 during Shiloh, Grant clearly wanted to stay at the operational level as seen in this order to Sherman on April 4, two days before the Confederate attack:
"…Information just received would indicate that the enemy are sending in a force to Purdy, and it may be with a view to attack General Wallace at Crump's Landing. I have directed General W. H. L. Wallace, commanding Second Division temporarily, to re-enforce General L. Wallace in case of an attack with his entire division, although I look for nothing of the kind, but it is best to be prepared. I would direct, therefore, that you advise your advance guards to keep a sharp lookout for any movement in that direction, and should such a thing be attempted, give all the support of your division and General Hurlbut's, if necessary. I will return to Pittsburg at an early hour to-morrow, and will ride out to your camp…"16
In earnest, this order reflected a general in operational command, but his principal subordinates caused him to make a few tactical decisions after the battle was initiated.
Though Sherman was tasked to organize the Union defensive position around Pittsburg Landing, he failed to recognize the many signals that a Confederate attack was imminent. However, more importantly, Sherman failed to prepare a proper defensive position; five Union divisions were not even in tactical formations, nor had field fortifications been constructed. When the Southerners attacked, Sherman was completely surprised, though he and most others fought back with savage fury. Grant was not even on the ground when the enemy attacked, but he arrived soon after. On his way, he ordered reinforcements to aid Sherman. Ultimately it was Grant who recovered the day and won the battle, notwithstanding the bravery and courage of thousands of his officers and men. Grant steadfastly organized his surprise and almost routed the Union force into one that could fight off the Confederate onslaught by the close of the first day.
Despite a significant injury prior to the battle, Grant personally ensured the last line of defensive positions near the river was well formed and fully staffed by artillery, and he directed that essential coordination functions, especially movement of ammunition to the front, were performed. Although, at the end of the first day, his thoughts were only of victory. Grant knew fresh troops, including the Army of the Ohio, had arrived. At dawn, Grant attacked before the Confederates could renew their assaults. The tactical plan that Grant made was neither complex nor imaginative simply put it worked align the available Union forces and move straight forward.
Grant willed victory through persistence, based on confidence learned in Missouri, and the bravery of his men; but as importantly, Donelson had shown him the importance of acting faster than his opponent. At the close of day one, Sherman and other subordinates were ready to leave the field to the enemy, but Grant never considered that option.17 In the face of a dramatic setback on the first day Grant did not falter. However, Grant learned from Shiloh and his orders in the future were holistically more complete, though he was still not immune from the failures of subordinates.
By November 1862, Grant proved that he was more than a counterpuncher; he was the master of maneuver warfare. In assuming field command in the West when Halleck went to Washington as General-in-Chief, Grant maneuvered his subordinates in a way that should have resulted in the destruction of Earl van Dorn’s Confederate army. At the Battles of Iuka and Corinth, Mississippi, in September and October respectively, Grant consolidated the Union position in West Tennessee and Northern Mississippi, though he was not present on the field. The commander directed his generals into positions to earn victories and relied on them to decide the "tactics." In earnest, these battles reflected Grant acting like Lee, taking advantage of emerging operational opportunities.
Prior to Iuka, the Confederates were intent on attacking while Union forces were spread throughout northern Mississippi and Tennessee, protecting the railroads made by Halleck. In earnest, Grant saw a chance to destroy the Confederate army by maneuvering his forces quickly by using the telegraph to communicate his orders. Ultimately, Grant had his opponent in a vise, only to have then Brigadier General William Rosecrans’ lack of aggressiveness and failure to be on time combined with unusual weather conditions worked to save his opponent.18 Despite this setback, Grant proved that Union forces under his command would aggressively fight when presented openings. In late 1862, however, Grant was not able to implement a faster operational tempo since his superior, Halleck, seemed incapable of thinking in terms of speed and movement.
The engagements at Iuka and Corinth proved to Grant that conducting operations from afar was exceedingly difficult, especially with a strong-willed subordinate such as Rosecrans. At times he had to seek the help of Halleck just to get Rosecrans to obey orders. Nevertheless, the Iuka and Corinth campaign was another learning experience for Grant. Thereafter, he would try to be nearer the units over which he was maintaining operational control. But for these experiences, it is problematic if Grant would have seen the necessity for being in the field with the army during the Vicksburg campaign, or more importantly, during the Army of the Potomac’s epic struggle against Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia. The period from April to November 1862 probably convinced Grant that, unlike Halleck, he could not effectively command from the rear; the same period also taught him the value of tempo, since the battles at Donelson, Shiloh and Iuka were won by moving quickly and decisively.
The campaign for Vicksburg was the war’s foremost example of maneuver warfare, and the tempo of operations maintained by Grant’s forces from May until July 1863, was never again matched during the Civil War. After spending nearly six months trying various schemes to place his men in a position to surround Vicksburg, Grant decided on a fast tempo campaign of maneuver. The ensuing operations were even more commendable when it is considered that Grant’s plan did not have the support of his primary lieutenant and confidant, William T. Sherman.
At Vicksburg, Grant’s operational genius and use of maneuver led to the surrender of a Confederate army and the opening of the Mississippi River, thereby cutting the Confederacy in half. However, it was only occasionally during the Vicksburg campaign that Grant was involved with tactics; he told his three subordinate commanders where to go and what to do, and generally stayed out of their way, though he did place himself close to near his weakest general whenever possible for non-operational reasons. His use of maneuver surprised everyone, including Sherman and President Lincoln, and the tempo of operations completely dazzled his Confederate opponents. After crossing the continent’s largest river, defeating two separate forces within two weeks, and then besieging the town, his concurrent defense against the danger of attack from General Joe Johnston provided no opening for the Confederates. Only in authorizing frontal attacks against the city did he show impatience and, perhaps, too much optimism. But remembering that Lieutenant General John Pemberton’s forces had been badly beaten twice in prior days, and knowing that Union forces were brimming with confidence, Grant probably succumbed to the attacks just like other generals would have.19 While events at Vicksburg remain little known outside the community of Civil War scholars, they bear comparison with another campaign that is much better known to Americans generally.
Although, a major difference between Grant during the Vicksburg campaign and then Major General Thomas J. Jackson’s famous "Valley Campaign" was the level at which the two commanders operated. General Jackson generally had fewer than 20,000 troops and faced a single, poorly led opponent of about equal strength. Although Jackson himself usually dictated both the operations and the tactics used. From conducting personal reconnaissance to placing artillery, Jackson did everything.20 On the other hand, Grant, commanded more than 30,000 troops, had to work with a friendly force not under his command (the U.S. Navy,) and had (the Mississippi River to cross before he could reach his enemy. In earnest, Grant fully utilized his senior subordinates to implement tactics while preserving for himself an operational role. Additionally, he also faced the challenge of having two rebel armies, separated by less than 50 miles, with which to contend. In all facets, Vicksburg was as stunning a victory as any of the entire war, and it was gained by the dramatic use of increased tempo and maneuver.
In 1863, Grant changed his area of operations and assumed personal control of the Union effort at East Tennessee. The Confederate Army of Tennessee had defeated Major General William Rosecrans’ army at Chickamauga in September, and by October conditions for Union forces in Chattanooga were desperate. Rosecrans proved incapable of reorganizing following his major reversal, and Grant replaced him with Major General George Thomas. However, President Lincoln and General-in-Chief Halleck both wanted Grant, in person, to take control of the situation in the city. Grant arrived although still severely injured from a fall, Grant again proved that keeping out of the way of his army, division and brigade commanders was the best course. Quickly, Grant approved Brigadier General William Smith’s plan to leave the siege on the city, and he adopted a battle plan largely drawn by Smith and Thomas for the attack against the Confederates on Missionary Ridge, the dominate feature of the local terrain.
The conduct at Missionary Ridge was remarkably similar to Lee’s at the site of his greatest victory, Chancellorsville. In earnest, both benefited from the initiative and daring of subordinates. 21Futhermore, Grant and Lee placed their men in a way that permitted victory; then, neither stuck to a preconceived operational plan. When opportunities became apparent, and subordinate leaders took aggressive action, both Grant and Lee changed their plans to reflect the tactical situation. The two generals accepted the public accolades of their Presidents, but each benefited usually from poor leadership by their opponents and outstanding initiative by their subordinates. However, Generals acting the operational level of war, must often rely on such occurrences. For example, Bragg and Hooker, the vanquished commanders at Missionary Ridge and Chancellorsville respectively, were both poorly served even though operationally each, particularly Hooker, had a good plan.
The last battle before Grant became a General-in-Chief was Missionary Ridge, replacing the indecisive Halleck. Grant realized that his place was in the field with the principal Union army in the East, the Army of the Potomac. While politics played a significant role in Grant’s decision to remain in the East, his previous experience in getting subordinates to follow his instructions surely was a factor. Grant and the entire North realized Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia was the primary enemy and defeat of that army was a major goal. However, the pressing operational issue for the Union was how to defeat General Lee. In deciding, Grant made two of the key judgments of the war - he retained Major General George G. Meade as commander of the Union Army of the Potomac and he kept Halleck as Chief of Staff in Washington, leaving for Halleck the daily supervision of the Army headquarters.
Ultimately, these decisions freed Grant of two momentous problems – naming a new commander for one of his important field armies and assuming daily responsibility for the entire army himself. However, both were fraught with potential issues. In maintaining Meade that meant that Grant did not have to think tactically, or directly control corps commanders; his position in the field did mean, however, that he could not impose his tremendous will on those subordinates but through Meade. The clear orders that Grant gave to Meade showed that his mistakes of Donelson, Shiloh, and Iuka/Corinth were not going to be repeated. While there could be little doubt of Grant’s intentions and objectives, Meade had the responsibility for tactical details.22
The recent success at Missionary Ridge combined with intense political pressure to gain a victory over Lee affected Grant’s operational decisions. In earnest, by being promoted to Lieutenant General in March 1864, Grant became the champion of the North. The press and the populace did not only desire a decisive victory over Lee, but they were expected it.23
At the miracle of Missionary Ridge, November 25, 1863, the Union army pierced the middle of Bragg’s defenses, a position considered impregnable by the Confederates. However, the frontal attack occurred only after Grant had stretched Bragg’s defenses on both flanks, thereby weakening the Confederate middle. Grant had watched in "intense interest" as the Confederate center was broken.24 As a probable result of that victory and the tactics used, not until after Cold Harbor in the July, three months into the campaign, did Grant give up the idea of attacking frontally after the Confederate defense had been stretched. In each instance where frontal attacks failed, they occurred following maneuvers that should have provided a tactical advantage.
On three occasions during the campaign from The Wilderness to Petersburg, Grant had out-maneuvered Lee, and in one of those cases he had completely fooled the Southern leader. Grant had stolen the march from The Wilderness to Spotsylvania Courthouse, only to have the Army of the Potomac renew its claim to always arriving an hour late, though in this case Phil Sheridan cavalry did not prove its mettle. Furthermore, the Union 9th Corps commander, operating directly under Grant’s orders, showed himself incapable of aggressive action. Thus, Lee was able to stalemate Grant’s move. The Army moved then from Spotsylvania to Cold Harbor, Grant again gained a head start, only to have the Confederates seize the better position through the initiative and skill of Lee’s subordinates as compared to Grant’s. However, the final move that Grant made, crossing the James River from Cold Harbor to Petersburg, was operationally brilliant and should have resulted in the capture of both Petersburg, with its important railroad communications center, and Richmond. Although daring and initiative by a Southerner deadlocked Grant. Unfortunately, two subordinates under Grant, William "Baldy" Smith and Winfield Scott Hancock, utterly lost their nerve in the face of a strong defensive position, even though very few Southern infantry occupied it. Although responsibility for the Union failures was Grant’s, the primary reason for the failures was weak subordinate leadership. In earnest, Grant’s plans featured outstanding use of maneuver and a high tempo of operations.25
From the Wilderness through Cold Harbor, the high tempo of operations, use of maneuver and Grant’s perception that just a little more pressure might lead to Lee’s collapse combined to cause the loss of many men on both sides. In having seen that the Army of Northern Virginia was not likely to break and having arrived outside the fortifications that surrounded Petersburg and Richmond, Grant returned to his tried-and-true operational plan. Grant maintained the tempo of operations and sought to stretch the defense, and draw out into the open his opponent, by using maneuver.
During the whole siege of the Petersburg/Richmond area from June 1864 until March 1865, Lee’s front was continuously weakened as the Southerner witnessed Grant’s repeated attacks on both flanks. The only Union frontal attack of the siege took place only after a great mine had exploded under a portion of the defenders’ lines was unsuccessful. Otherwise, Grant avoided direct attacks until March 1865, when success was assured. By the time Sheridan gained a significant victory on Lee’s right flank in March 1865 at Five Forks, Lee’s army was so badly thinned that it collapsed under the weight of a general Union offensive all along the line.
The final victory was achieved using maneuver, not traditional siege tactics. Moreover, Grant used his strength in numbers to maintain a constantly high tempo of operations which left Lee and his men no time to rest, and Lee had no troops free to support other Confederate armies.
After Fort Donelson in February 1862, Grant seldom got involved with tactical decisions. In earnest he did not have the responsibility for conducting reconnaissance against the enemy, selecting defensive positions, detecting weaknesses in the enemy defenses, maneuvering his forces to exploit the immediate situation, or personally directing the formation the attacking force would use. Ultimately, those were tactical decisions and many high-ranking officers made them during the Civil War. Grant’s old friend, Confederate Lieutenant General James Longstreet, for example, made such decisions repeatedly during battles such as Chickamauga and the Wilderness.26 During his career Grant’s realm was primarily at the operational level and above.
Grant’s strategic decision in the spring of 1864 to simultaneously engage all Confederate forces in the field prevented the Confederates from using their interior lines to move men from one threatened location to another.27 However, as important as that directive, Grant dramatically increased the tempo of operations in the East, and in doing so changed the face of war. After the opening of the Wilderness campaign in May 1864, Lee and his army had no rest. They faced incessant Union operations that had Lee scrambling, unable to seize the initiative. The utilization of increased tempo was so effective that after the Wilderness, Lee could not again mount an offensive until March 1865, when his desperate attempt to break out of the lines at Petersburg ended in failure and the surrender of Lee’s army one month later. Overall, Grant evolved as a leader as the war progressed, and he achieved a degree of strategic and operational competence unmatched by any other Civil War general.
1 Among numerous references, see, for example, the discussion presented in Archer Jones, Civil War Command and Strategy: The Process of Victory and Defeat (New York: The Free Press, 1992), 219-45.
2 Perhaps the best book about Northern strategy is Herman Hattaway and Archer Jones, How the North Won: A Military History of the Civil War (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1983).
3 See, for example, Grady McWhiney and Perry D. Jamieson, Attack and Die: Civil War Military Tactics and the Southern Heritage (Tuscaloosa: The University of Alabama Press, 1982) and Paddy Griffith, Battle Tactics of the Civil War (New: Yale University Press, 1987).
4 New Webster’s Dictionary and Thesaurus, (1992), s.v. "tactics."
5 United States Marine Corps, Warfighting (New York: Doubleday,1994), 27-30.
6 Ibid., 40.
7 Grant "captured" the Confederate armies at Ft. Donelson, Vicksburg, and Appomattox, and put to flight Van Dorn’s Army of Mississippi at Cornith and Bragg’s Army of Tennessee at Missionary Ridge.
8 Even Major General George Meade is quoted with disparaging remarks about Grant’s appetite for bloody, frontal attacks. See for example, Douglas Southall Freeman, Lee’s Lieutenants, Volume 3 (New York: Charles Schribner’s Sons, 1945), 439.
9 The best book about Grant and the Army of the Potomac remains Bruce Catton, Grant Takes Command (New York: Little, Brown and Company, 1968), 292.
10 Emory M. Thomas, Robert E. Lee: A Biography (New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 1995), 246.
11 U.S. Grant, Memoirs and Selected Letters (New York: The Library of America, 1990), 166-7.
12 If Grant did not believe in reading about military doctrine, his most trusted subordinate, Major General W.T. Sherman surely did when in 1862 he published as part of a General Order, "…All officers of this command must now study their books; ignorance of duty must no longer be pleaded. The commanding general has the power at any time to order a board to examine the acquirements and capacity of any officer, and he will not fail to exercise it. Should any officer, high or low, after the opportunity and experience we have had, be ignorant of his tactics, regulations, or even of the principles of the Art of War (Mahan and Jomini), it would be a lasting disgrace." OR, 17, pt. 2: 119.
13 Grant, 165.
14 Ibid., 184.
15 Ibid., 202-13.
16 OR, 10, pt 2: 91.
17 Grant, 234.
18 Noise of Rosecrans attack on the Union left was supposed to signal an assault by Ord, but though the battle raged only two or three miles away, Ord’s men never heard the sound of cannon, and thus the Confederate force was permitted to retreat relatively unmolested. Grant, 276.
19 Many authors have applauded Grant’s Vicksburg Campaign. For a complete account of that period in Grant’s generalship, see Earl S. Miers, The Web of Victory: Grant at Vicksburg (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1984).
20 For an excellent account of the generalship of Jackson, see G.F.R. Henderson, Stonewall Jackson and the American Civil War (New York: Grosset and Dunlap, 1943).
21 At Chancellorsville, Union failures were many but the most grievous errors belonged to Generals Howard and Sedgwick, while Confederate successes were mainly due to Jackson and the little known Brigadier General Cadmus Wilcox. At Missionary Ridge, the Union benefited from the initiative of Generals Sheridan, Wood and Hooker, while Bragg suffered the lack of support from Longstreet (before the battle) and Breckinridge during it. For an excellent account of Chancellorsville see Ernest B. Furgurson, Chancellorsville 1863: The Souls of the Brave (New York,: Random House, 1993). One of several accounts of the Battle at Missionary Ridge is provided by Freeman Cleaves, Rock of Chickamauga: The Life of George H. Thomas (Norman, OK; University of Oklahoma Press, 1948), 187-200. Compare Cleaves account with Grant, 433-51.
22 The command relationship with respect to the Army of the Potomac was complex after Grant arrived in the East. Catton, 234-5, describes it best, citing a quote attributed to Meade in a letter to his wife, "…says, ‘The Army of the Potomac, directed by Grant, commanded by Meade, and led by Hancock, Sedgwick and Warren…’ which is quite a good distinction and about hits the nail on the head." Grant’s orders to Meade were very precise and clear, though their execution remained often slow and without vigor.
23 For an excellent account of public sentiment, North and South, following Grant’s assumption of command and leading into his campaign against Lee, see Gary W. Gallagher, Editor, The Wilderness Campaign (Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 1997), 1-65.
24 Grant, 446.
25 Catton, 234.
26 For an in-depth view of the tactical responsibilities of Longstreet at Chickamauga and The Wilderness, see, for example, Jeffry D. Wert, General James Longstreet, The Confederacy’s Most Controversial Soldier (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1993), 306-22; 378-92.
27 Catton, 138. Hattaway, 532.
Catton, Bruce. Grant Takes Command. New York: Little, Brown and Company, 1968.
Cleaves, Freeman. Rock of Chickamauga: The Life of George H. Thomas. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1948.
Grant, U.S. Memoirs and Selected Letters. New York: The Library of America, 1990.
Griffith, Paddy. Battle Tactics of the Civil War. New: Yale University Press, 1987.
Hattaway, Herman, and Jones, Archer. How the North Won: A Military History of the Civil War. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1983.
Jones, Archer. Civil War Command and Strategy: The Process of Victory and Defeat. New York: The Free Press, 1992.
Henderson, G.F.R. Stonewall Jackson and the American Civil War. New York: Grosset and Dunlap, 1943.
Gallagher, Gary W., ed. The Wilderness Campaign. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 1997.
McWhiney, Grady and Jamieson, Perry D. Attack and Die: Civil War Military Tactics and the Southern Heritage. Tuscaloosa: The University of Alabama Press, 1982.
Miers, Earl S. The Web of Victory: Grant at Vicksburg. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1984.
Thomas, Emory M. Robert E. Lee: A Biography. New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 1995.
United States Marine Corps. Warfighting. New York: Doubleday, 1994.
War Department. The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies. 128 vols. Washington, D.C. Government Printing Office, 1880-1901.
Wert, Jeffry D. General James Longstreet, The Confederacy’s Most Controversial Soldier. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1993.
[Edited by Hannah Holbert, 2023]