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[409] urged, it needs not here to inquire. But when he established himself in Virginia, and prepared to begin operations, he changed his views and adopted a kind of mixed plan of campaign, by which it was proposed to act with the main column on the overland route from the Rapidan to the James, but, at the same time, secure, by an independent force, some of the recognized advantages of a flank menace on the communications of Richmond. The latter operation was intrusted to General B. F. Butler, who, with an army of about thirty thousand men, was to ascend the James River from Fortress Monroe; establish himself in an intrenched position near City Point, whence he was to operate against Richmond, or its communications, or invest that city from the south side, or be in position to effect a junction with the Army of the Potomac coming down from the north. Butler's force consisted of two corps, respectively under Generals Gillmore and W. F. Smith. In addition to this co-operative column, General Grant organized an auxiliary force to threaten the westward communications of Richmond. General Sigel, who held a considerable army for the protection of West Virginia and the frontiers of Maryland and Pennsylvania, was instructed to form his forces into two columns—the one, of ten thousand strong, under General Crook, to move for the Kanawha and operate against the Virginia and East Tennessee Railroad; the other, seven thousand strong, under Sigel in person, to advance as far as possible up the Shenandoah Valley, with the view to compel Lee to make detachments from his main force to meet this menace against his westward lines of supply.

This was one of those combinations that are more specious in theory than successful in practice; for such outlying columns, moving against an enemy holding interior lines, are very liable to be beaten in detail, or, at least, to have their efforts neutralized, and made of no avail.1

1 The combination of action of these three columns formed a concentric operation which may be either good or most pernicious according to circumstances. Touching this point, General Grant makes an absolute statement of principle which can only be true under certain circumstances. ‘Generally speaking,’ says he, ‘concentration can be practically effected by armies moving to the interior of the enemy's country from the territory they have to guard.’—Instructions to General Butler: Report of Operations, page four. Now while this principle is true under certain conditions, it is very wide of the mark as above formulated. Concentric operations are good in two cases: 1. When they tend to concentrate a scattered army upon a point where it will be sure to arrive before the enemy: 2. When they direct to the same end the efforts of columns which are in no danger of being beaten separately by a stronger enemy. Jomini justly observes: ‘Une line d'operations double, contre les parties d'une armee ennemie plus rapprochees, sera toujours funeste, á forces égales, si l'ennemi profite des avantages de sa position, et manoeuvre avee rapidite dans l'interieur de la sienne.’—Jomini: Histoire des Guerres de Frederic II., vol. i., p. 293.

Now the point of concentration of the three columns, respectively under Meade, Butler, and Sigel, was Richmond; and from the interior lines held by the Confederates, the latter could unite much more rapidly on this point than could the Union forces. In this regard, therefore, this combination lacked the first condition under which a concentric operation is judicious; and, as there was danger that the outlying forces might be overwhelmed by superior numbers, it violated also the second condition.

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