campaign, when he might have secured the same position, by moving by water, without the loss of a man. The only claim that he could make for recognition as a capable military leader, based on what he did in these campaigns, is that he had thinned Lee
's ranks some 20,000 veterans, by his bulldog method of conducting war, which Lee
could not replace, and to that extent had weakened the resisting power of the Confederacy
The condition of Grant
's entire army, after this remarkable campaign, may be inferred from what Gen. F. A. Walker
, the historian of Hancock
's corps, acknowledged to be the best in Grant
's army, writes concerning that body of famous veterans:
As the corps turned southward from Cold Harbor to take its part in the second act of the great campaign of 1864, the historian is bound to confess that something of its pristine virtue had departed under the terrific blows that had been showered upon it in the series of fierce encounters which have been recited.
Its casualties had averaged more than 400 a day for the whole period since it crossed the Rapidan. . . . . Moreover, the confidence of the troops in their leaders had been severely shaken.
They had again and again been ordered to attacks which the very privates in the ranks knew to be hopeless from the start; they had seen the fatal policy of ‘assaults all along the line’ persisted in, even after the most ghastly failures; and they had almost ceased to expect victory when they went into battle.
The lamentable story of Petersburg cannot be understood without reference to facts like these.
, in his report, written July 22, 1865, thus summarizes this campaign:
During three long years the armies of the Potomac and Northern Virginia had been confronting each other.
In that time they had fought more desperate battles than it probably ever before fell to the lot of two armies to fight without materially changing the vantage ground of either.
The Southern press and people, with more shrewdness than was displayed in the North, finding that they had failed to capture Washington and march on New York, as they had boasted they would do, assumed that they had only defended their capital and Southern territory.
Hence, Antietam, Gettysburg, and all other battles that had been fought, were by them set down as failures on our part and victories for them.
And their army believed this.
It produced a morale which could only be overcome by desperate and continuous hard fighting.
The battles of the Wilderness, Spottsylvania, North Anna and Cold Harbor, bloody and terrible as they were on our side, were even more damaging to the enemy, and so crippled him as to make him wary ever after of taking the offensive.
His losses in men were probably not so great, owing to the fact that we were, save in the Wilderness, almost invariably the attacking party, and when he did attack, it was in the open field.
The details of these battles, which for endurance and bravery on the part of the soldiery had rarely been surpassed, are given in the reports of Major-General Meade, and the subordinate reports accompanying it.