Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Today In History: American Somme.

On this date in 1864, General U.S. Grant again tried to turn Lee's flank on the northern approaches to Richmond. It was the fourth day of fighting around Cold Harbor and Grant attempted to fix Lee's left with probing attacks while making a major thrust against his right with three corps of infantry.

The attacks were poorly coordinated and little had been done to scout the Confederate positions; if they had scouted, they would have discovered that Lee's troops were well dug-in and waiting. In the early morning of June 3rd, men who had already survived the bloodbaths at the Wilderness and Spotsylvania marched into the teeth of withering musketry and point-blank canister shot from emplaced cannon. Some Union troops expressed their view of the likelihood of success by writing their names on pieces of paper pinned to their uniforms, in order to assist with the recognition of their remains in those pre-dog-tag days.

The Union army took as many as 6,000 casualties (perhaps as many as 2,000 KIA) on that day. General Grant later wrote that he had "...always regretted that the last assault at Cold Harbor was ever made. ... At Cold Harbor no advantage whatever was gained to compensate for the heavy loss we sustained."

14 comments:

Anonymous said...

Should have taken the high ground the first day at Gettysburg and had the matter settled before Cold Harbor.
Or vacated the low ground on day three and raced for Washington, leaving Stuart and half the cavalry to delay the Union forces from following. Or launch Picketts advance at 4:30am and cross the ground in the darkness arriving at the union positions an hour before sunup.

Just dammit.

Ben said...

Meanwhile, seventy-eight years and half a world away, carriers, their escorts and support vessels, and aircraft of all types from two great powers headed toward a decisive showdown that would mark the turning point in the Pacific war. Bravery, skill, gut instinct, and just plain luck would eventually carry the day.

rickn8or said...

Yes.

Thank you to those Japanese fighter pilots, who where down low finishing off the survivors of the torpedo squadron, rather than their assigned HICAP station.

Left the carrier group with no protection when the bomber squadrons rolled in.

Pure blind luck it happened in that order.

Anonymous said...

The way some people act, it's almost like they wanted the Confederates to win.

Word verification: "spyian"

Tam said...

The way some people act, you'd think they forgot that every battle in that war was lost by Americans.

staghounds said...

"For every Southern boy fourteen years old, not once but whenever he wants it, there is the instant when it’s still not yet two o'clock on the July afternoon in 1863, the brigades are in position behind the rail fence, the guns are laid and ready in the woods and the furled flags are already loosened to break out and Pickett himself with his long oiled ringlets and his hat in one hand probably and his sword in the other looking up the hill waiting for Longstreet to give the word and it’s all in the balance, it hasn’t happened yet…"

Having grown up in an unreconstructed household, with 5 CSA ancestors killed:

Secession was stupid.

Fighting the Yankees the way the CSA did was stupider.

I'm glad we lost.

No, I'm glad they lost. I'm an American.

And in your Midway list, luck and instinct are fine things, but "being able to read the Japanese secret communications" might go above them in this case.

OA said...

Yeah, the government we got out of that war is just so peachy. Hoorah!

alath said...

"At Cold Harbor no advantage whatever was gained to compensate for the heavy loss we sustained"

I find something to admire in Grant here. He screwed up, freely admitted he was wrong, and apparently learned from his mistake.

Not much evidence of that kind of behavior on the part of folks in major leadership positions these days. If the same thing happened today, Grant's PR staff would immediately start spinning the attack as a successful exercise in force reduction and draw up a list of talking points.

Nathan Brindle said...

As Shelby Foote once neatly paraphrased: "The stars in their courses fought against Lee at Gettysburg." (cf. Judges 5:20)

Probably a good thing.

And indeed, Midway would have been lost but for Joe Rochefort, Ed Layton, and their band of "code monkeys" -- and we have to recall Adm. Nimitz as well, for taking a big, big chance on their assumptions.

Heartless Libertarian said...

Tam, I'd have to beg to differ that the Union lost most of the battles.

The eastern Union armies did, true enough.

The western Union armies, and their supporting brown water navy, had a much better record. As did Admiral Farragut's fleet.

As for who was to blame for Lee's defeat at Gettysburg, I think one CSA general who was there (I think it was Early, but I'm not sure) said it best: "I always figured the Union army had something to do with it."

staghounds said...

Sheesh, I thought I was the Marquess of Obvious.

There's a great bit in Ted Turner's movie about the Rough Riders, where the 1st. USVC is training through the south. All the people in town are down at the depot , and a boy turns to an older man and says, "Grandfather, why are we cheering? They are YANKEES".

He replies, "No, they aren't. They are Americans".

Americans lost at Chancellorsville and Appomattox both, because everybody on both sides, all the dead and crippled and impoverished, all the widows and orphans were Americans. The war was a tragedy for everyone but the Slaves, and maybe for them too.

What we won and lost, we won and lost together.

And we had the same Constitution in 1865 as we did in 1860. The government, we've chosen ourselves.

OA said...

North America
Central America
South America
Confederate States of America
United States of America

They're all bloody damn Americans, if you want to get cute about it.

It's a silly, emotional point. Being born in the same country doesn't make philosophical differences any more tragic than being born in separate countries, and lord knows the two regions might as well be separate countries. That was observed from Day 1.

Anonymous said...

I was actually referring to the "10:21 PM, June 03, 2008" comment about the CSA winning at Gettysburg, not to main post.

Anonymous said...

It's always interesting to read "The Official Records of the War of the Rebellion" as most of the after-action reports written by most American Civil War officers were an exercise in finger-pointing and blaming others for their own failures. CYA all the way!

-- chicopanther