previous next

[80] were needed, for history is full of it—that brains, education and pluck are of more avail in war than mere numbers.

Studying the subject only in his closet, necessarily without practical experience in war—for England has had none of any consequence since the Crimean—it is but natural that the author should have fallen into some errors. His opinion that Grant was great in strategy, but not strong in tactics, is exactly the reverse of the view taken in America. I think Swinton, the historian of the Army of the Potomac, characterizes Grant's repeated frontal attacks during the ‘Overland campaign’—notably at Cold Harbor—as ‘a reductio ad absurdum in hammering.’ The recoil of the hammer was vastly more destructive than the blow.

In estimating the numerical strength of the opposed armies, and their losses in battle, Captain Battine certainly often errs, making the odds against the Confederates less than they in fact were, and their losses greater. For instance, at Cold Harbor in June, 1864, he puts down the Federal losses at seven thousand and the Confederate at four to five thousand, but in point of fact Grant's casualties reached to about fourteen thousand and Lee's did not exceed fourteen hundred. Thus ended in bloody defeat for the Federals the thirty days ‘Overland campaign,’ the total losses of the Army of the Potomac being about sixty-four thousand—about equal to or greater than Lee's entire army at the commencement of the campaign—and those of the Confederates not over one-third of this number.

It may seem an easy matter to the theorist to approximate to numbers engaged and losses sustained, and it is easy to do so theoretically, but not practically. The official figures cannot in this respect be relied upon, not necessarily because they are intentionally doctored, but because the data from which they are derived are necessarily unreliable. The only way by which it can be known how many men are present for duty each day is by the morning reports, but in an active campaign, such as that of 1864, morning reports may not he, and very often are not, made out for days together—for there are far more urgent matters to attend to—and, when made out, are frequently lost or captured. When Federal recruits were being daily poured in by thousands to strengthen depleted regiments, these accounts, too, necessarily become very mixed up, or altogether lost. There is no time for book-keeping. In examing monthly and tri-monthly reports of the Army of the

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide Places (automatically extracted)

View a map of the most frequently mentioned places in this document.

Download Pleiades ancient places geospacial dataset for this text.

hide People (automatically extracted)
Sort people alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a person to search for him/her in this document.
Ulysses Grant (3)
Robert E. Lee (2)
Swinton (1)
Cecil Battine (1)
hide Dates (automatically extracted)
Sort dates alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a date to search for it in this document.
June, 1864 AD (1)
1864 AD (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: