Grant & forsyth - country love songs


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In May, the Army of the Potomac embarked on what is known as Grant’s Overland Campaign, a murderous slugfest of battles that took the federals from Northern Virginia to the gates of Richmond. The first clash came in the tangle of The Wilderness. After three days of intense fighting, May 5–7, with no gain in ground, Grant put the army in motion. He’d lost over 17,000 men, and his soldiers wondered if this was yet another commander who spilled their blood, then retreated north when he failed to whip Bobby Lee. At a road junction, they realized Grant was leading them south, not north. Morale soared in the Army of the Potomac; the men began to sing.
 
Their commander was trying to maneuver past Lee’s right, get to Spotsylvania Courthouse and flank Lee out of his entrenchments in the Wilderness. Lee anticipated him, however, got there first and erected strong works. For two weeks the armies battered each other in a series of fights along the front. On May 12, Grant’s men assaulted a semi-circular part of the defenses known as the Muleshoe. They broke through, capturing a division and nearly cutting Lee’s army in half, but the Confederates responded with a counterattack and the fighting raged for nearly 20 hours.
 
The next day, Grant again disengaged and tried to move past Lee’s right. Another 16,000 Federals would not fight again, but Lee had lost 12,000, in addition to 11,000 in the Wilderness. Grant’s meatgrinder was costly—Lincoln’s wife, Mary, called him a butcher—but it was achieving his goal. Lee’s army was being destroyed.
 
The man who had gotten Grant his first Civil War commission, Elihu Washburne, traveled with the army during the overland campaign, and as he prepared to return to Washington on May 11 he asked if Grant had any message for the president and the secretary of war. Grant said to tell them, "I propose to fight it out on this line if it takes all summer."
 
Near Cold Harbor on June 3, Grant’s impatience led to a battle he later said he regretted badly. An uncoordinated series of attacks on Confederate works cost him 7,000 men—virtually all of whom died because the Union wounded lay between the lines for days while Grant engaged in a war of words with Lee, trying to avoid admitting a defeat. Navy Secretary Gideon Welles wrote in his diary the day before this battle, "Grant has not regard for human life."
 
In reality, Grant did have regard for human life, but he used what he had—numerical superiority—to wear down his famous opponent. He continued moving around Lee’s right, crossed the James River, and got south of Richmond, where another Union force, the Army of the James under Maj. Gen. Benjamin Butler was already operating. The two armies began a 10-month siege of the Confederate capital and the city of Petersburg, the main Confederate supply base for the region because of the railroads there. This denied Lee the mobility he needed for maneuver. The campaign became one of trench warfare presaging that of World War I, fought in a series of costly battles.
 
On April 2, 1865, Federal troops broke through the Confederate lines at Petersburg; by the evening of April 3, that city and Richmond were both in Union hands. Lee escaped with his badly diminished force, but at Appomattox Courthouse on April 9 he met with Grant and surrendered his army. Grant, the "butcher" who had been unrelenting and uncompromising in pursuit of victory, extended very generous terms to the defeated Confederates.
 
On the night of April 14, when Abraham Lincoln was assassinated at Ford’s Theater, Grant and Julia might have been in the Presidential Box with the Lincolns. Newspapers that day said they would be present, but instead they left for New Jersey to visit their children.
 
Post-war, Grant, promoted to full general in 1866, oversaw the military aspects of Southern Reconstruction. He knew of Lincoln’s plans to "Let ’em up easy" and tried to follow that path until violent reprisals against the newly freed African Americans forced a crackdown.


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