Another question for Brooks...

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slippymi...@yahoo.com

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Jun 27, 2005, 2:12:26 PM6/27/05
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I have been mulling the Bearss-Winschel-Smith (BWS) spin on McPherson's
and McClernand's roles in the Vicksburg Campaign. To rehash, the BWS
school of thought believes that Grant put McClernand across the
Mississippi River first and then used McClernand to screen the Big
Black River because he knew that McClernand was his best fighter.

There are several and numerous minor objections to this theory such as
the assertion that McClernand served as the "vanguard" for "the most
important move of the campaign (the move through Louisiana to Hard
Times)" being belied by the fact that McPherson's engineering talents
were more valuable to Grant at Lake Providence than Milliken's Bend and
McClernand's move through Louisiana was protected on both flanks by
unfordable water barriers. However, all of these arguments devolve
into a matter of opinion... did McPherson outshine McClernand at Port
Gibson (maybe, maybe not)? Wasn't McPherson's push to the Big Black
and reconaissance to the Warrenton defenses just as important as the
move across to Bruinsburg (maybe, maybe not)? Did McPherson shine at
Raymond and Champion Hill (maybe, maybe not)?

One question that BWS do not seem to give much thought to, however, is
what role was McPherson playing in the move inland. BWS seem to
believe that McClernand, by nature of his proximity to the enemy,
played the critical role: although his left flank was protected by the
Big Black, his march would bring him very close to the eastern anchor
of the enemy's defenses at Bovina. McClernand would then serve as the
vanguard as Grant planned a frontal assault on Pemberton's forces.
Sherman, of course, served as the reserve, and rapidly could move to
support either McClernand or McPherson. McPherson, moving on the
interior in order to "protect" Grant's beloved protege, was merely
being used to interdict the railroad.

But suppose for a second that Pemberton had followed his gut instincts
and remained behind the Big Black River. What do you feel Grant would
have attempted to do? Where do you think he would have aimed?

Will

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Jun 27, 2005, 3:24:29 PM6/27/05
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slippymi...@yahoo.com wrote:
> I have been mulling the Bearss-Winschel-Smith (BWS) spin on McPherson's
> and McClernand's roles in the Vicksburg Campaign. To rehash, the BWS
> school of thought believes that Grant put McClernand across the
> Mississippi River first and then used McClernand to screen the Big
> Black River because he knew that McClernand was his best fighter.
>
> There are several and numerous minor objections ....

Two objections that you do not mention:
1) The theory contradicts Grant's stated opinion of the two men.
2) The theory contradicts Dana's reporting of the Grant's decision
making.


> ... did McPherson outshine McClernand at Port
> Gibson (maybe, maybe not)?

Tim Smith takes this a step further: in his book McPherson does not
even show up at Port Gibson.

> ... Wasn't McPherson's push to the Big Black


> and reconaissance to the Warrenton defenses just as important as the
> move across to Bruinsburg (maybe, maybe not)?

They tend to play down or ignore the events of the days right after
Port Gibson.


> ...


> One question that BWS do not seem to give much thought to, however, is
> what role was McPherson playing in the move inland. BWS seem to
> believe that McClernand, by nature of his proximity to the enemy,
> played the critical role: although his left flank was protected by the
> Big Black, his march would bring him very close to the eastern anchor
> of the enemy's defenses at Bovina. McClernand would then serve as the
> vanguard as Grant planned a frontal assault on Pemberton's forces.
> Sherman, of course, served as the reserve, and rapidly could move to
> support either McClernand or McPherson. McPherson, moving on the
> interior in order to "protect" Grant's beloved protege, was merely
> being used to interdict the railroad.

I don't see the support for a theory that McClernand would act as the
vanguard of an attack or that Sherman would be the reserve (why did
write "of course"?). While moving along the Big Black to 14 Mile
Creek, McClernand was acting as the pivot point with Sherman and
McPherson swinging eastward then north. The eastern anchor of the
enemy's defenses was at Edward's. By the time McClernand reached 14
mile creek, Sherman (at Auburn) was level with him and about
equidistant from Edward's. On the afternoon of the 12th, before he had
a report from McPherson about Raymond, Grant wrote to McClernand about
the operations for the next day. Sherman was to strike the railroad
between Edwards and Bolton, which would put him right in front of the
enemy. McClernand was just to keep up appearances of moving on
Edwards.

slippymi...@yahoo.com

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Jun 27, 2005, 3:35:39 PM6/27/05
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> Sherman was to strike the railroad between Edwards and Bolton,
> which would put him right in front of the enemy.

But Pemberton's instinct told him to withdraw from Edwards and offer
battle from behind the protection of the Big Black River. What Grant
knew of Pemberton, he had to suspect that this is what Pemberton would
do... so what was Grant's plan once he destroyed the railroad? What
part would McClernand play? And what part would McPherson play?

If the plan were a massive wheeling movement aimed at the Bush/Birdsong
area, wouldn't McPherson, already sitting on the most expedient path to
Brownsville, have actually been in the vanguard?

Will

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Jun 27, 2005, 3:55:44 PM6/27/05
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Well, on the 12th Grant was writing that the enemy appeared to have
chosen Edwards as the place to fight. What part each Corps would
play is speculative, but it seems logical, based on what he had been
doing and his stated opinions of them, that Grant would use McClernand
only as a demonstrating force while Sherman would be the main force
against Edward's and McPherson would turn the enemy's left. I don't
even think one need consider as far north as Birdsong. Once McP
reached Bolton he could move north of the railroad directly on
Bridgeport.

Brooks Simpson

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Jun 27, 2005, 4:22:20 PM6/27/05
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slippymi...@yahoo.com wrote:
> I have been mulling the Bearss-Winschel-Smith (BWS) spin on McPherson's
> and McClernand's roles in the Vicksburg Campaign. To rehash, the BWS
> school of thought believes that Grant put McClernand across the
> Mississippi River first and then used McClernand to screen the Big
> Black River because he knew that McClernand was his best fighter.

I don't agree with that. Here's what I'd say:

1. He wanted to keep an eye on McClernand. he could trust Sherman to
do what he was told to do, thus Sherman remained behind to distract
Pemberton. All this talk about McPherson aside, there was no track
record either way at the beginning of the campaign about McPherson's
abilities as a corps commander.

The second reason, I think, is because Grant liked McClernand's
subordinates. After all, it was Grant, not McClernand, who created the
corps in January 1863. Believing that the 13th Corps is a good corps
is not the same thing as believing McClernand's a good corps commander.
It wasn't as if the 13th Corps bore McClernand's stamp.

> However, all of these arguments devolve
> into a matter of opinion... did McPherson outshine McClernand at Port
> Gibson (maybe, maybe not)?

Yes. McClernand wasn't good there.

> Wasn't McPherson's push to the Big Black
> and reconaissance to the Warrenton defenses just as important as the
> move across to Bruinsburg (maybe, maybe not)?

Yup.

> Did McPherson shine at
> Raymond and Champion Hill (maybe, maybe not)?

Maybe at Champion Hill, maybe not at Raymond. :)

> One question that BWS do not seem to give much thought to, however, is
> what role was McPherson playing in the move inland. BWS seem to
> believe that McClernand, by nature of his proximity to the enemy,
> played the critical role: although his left flank was protected by the
> Big Black, his march would bring him very close to the eastern anchor
> of the enemy's defenses at Bovina. McClernand would then serve as the
> vanguard as Grant planned a frontal assault on Pemberton's forces.
> Sherman, of course, served as the reserve, and rapidly could move to
> support either McClernand or McPherson. McPherson, moving on the
> interior in order to "protect" Grant's beloved protege, was merely
> being used to interdict the railroad.

And there's no evidence of that.

> But suppose for a second that Pemberton had followed his gut instincts
> and remained behind the Big Black River. What do you feel Grant would
> have attempted to do? Where do you think he would have aimed?

Still move to Jackson, then force a crossing. He couldn't stay in the
interior that long. Foraging requires moving.

slippymi...@yahoo.com

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Jun 27, 2005, 5:03:55 PM6/27/05
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> Well, on the 12th Grant was writing that the enemy appeared to have
> chosen Edwards as the place to fight.

Edwards was a staging area for Pemberton's mobile wing. Grant may have
interpreted Pemberton's vascillation as an intention to stand and fight
at Edwards, but there's no way Pemberton would have made that call
intentionally. With McClernand approaching in the direction of his
only viable avenue of escape, and Pemberton's forces situated on ground
not favorable to defense, defending Edwards was just never a
possibility.

slippymi...@yahoo.com

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Jun 27, 2005, 5:07:13 PM6/27/05
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> Still move to Jackson, then force a crossing. He couldn't stay in the
> interior that long. Foraging requires moving.

That's an interesting tangent that I haven't considered. Say Pemberton
orders Gregg to join him in Edwards by way of rail. Would Grant have
move on Jackson simply to prevent Johnston from taking command?

Brooks Simpson

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Jun 27, 2005, 5:25:06 PM6/27/05
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More to forestall the gathering of a large relief force by damaging
railhead facilities.

Will

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Jun 28, 2005, 2:01:09 AM6/28/05
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Brooks Simpson wrote:
> ...

> 1. He wanted to keep an eye on McClernand. he could trust Sherman to
> do what he was told to do, thus Sherman remained behind to distract
> Pemberton. All this talk about McPherson aside, there was no track
> record either way at the beginning of the campaign about McPherson's
> abilities as a corps commander.

During 1862 Grant had been favorably impressed by McPherson's abilities
and had made effusive comments about how effective he was. Grant was
not alone in this -- Rosecrans made a similar comment after Corinth.
During November and December, before Corps had been officially created,
Grant had established a command structure in which McPherson (and
Sherman as well) acted as a de-facto Corps commander. Thus there was a
small track record for Grant to consider.

An indication of Grant's opinion of McPherson during the early part of
the campaign is revealed in the plan he was formulating for the Yazoo
pass operation. In early March he thought the route might work and so
he considered sending a large force through to come down the Yazoo from
the north. For this operation he was going to send McPherson and was
going to assign him additional troops on top of his own Corps to a
total of 5 divisions, which would make McPherson's command larger than
the strenght at that time of Sherman and McClernand combined.
See Grant to Halleck, March 7 and Grant to McPherson, March 5.

Another revealing tidbit is found in a message from Dana to Stanton on
April 12th. Dana is commenting on the selection of McClernand to lead
the way against Grand Gulf. He attributes the following reasons to
Grant -- Mcclernand is desirous of it; he is senior; he is a favorite
of the President; and the position occupied by his Corps made it a
natural choice. Dana adds that Sherman "doubted and criticized", which
could be another reason to have him bring up the rear. In regard to
McPherson, Dana states that he was the one "whom General Grant would
really much prefer" however at the time he was situated up the river at
Lake Providence.

Brooks Simpson

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Jun 28, 2005, 2:27:48 AM6/28/05
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Will wrote:
> Brooks Simpson wrote:
> > ...
> > 1. He wanted to keep an eye on McClernand. he could trust Sherman to
> > do what he was told to do, thus Sherman remained behind to distract
> > Pemberton. All this talk about McPherson aside, there was no track
> > record either way at the beginning of the campaign about McPherson's
> > abilities as a corps commander.
>
> During 1862 Grant had been favorably impressed by McPherson's abilities
> and had made effusive comments about how effective he was. Grant was
> not alone in this -- Rosecrans made a similar comment after Corinth.
> During November and December, before Corps had been officially created,
> Grant had established a command structure in which McPherson (and
> Sherman as well) acted as a de-facto Corps commander. Thus there was a
> small track record for Grant to consider.

Very, very small.

> An indication of Grant's opinion of McPherson during the early part of
> the campaign is revealed in the plan he was formulating for the Yazoo
> pass operation. In early March he thought the route might work and so
> he considered sending a large force through to come down the Yazoo from
> the north. For this operation he was going to send McPherson and was
> going to assign him additional troops on top of his own Corps to a
> total of 5 divisions, which would make McPherson's command larger than
> the strenght at that time of Sherman and McClernand combined.
> See Grant to Halleck, March 7 and Grant to McPherson, March 5.
>
> Another revealing tidbit is found in a message from Dana to Stanton on
> April 12th. Dana is commenting on the selection of McClernand to lead
> the way against Grand Gulf. He attributes the following reasons to
> Grant -- Mcclernand is desirous of it; he is senior; he is a favorite
> of the President; and the position occupied by his Corps made it a
> natural choice. Dana adds that Sherman "doubted and criticized", which
> could be another reason to have him bring up the rear. In regard to
> McPherson, Dana states that he was the one "whom General Grant would
> really much prefer" however at the time he was situated up the river at
> Lake Providence.

All of which is testimony to what Grant thought of McPherson, but not
much of an answer to the issue of track record. That said, I think the
dump on McPherson/praise McClernand stuff goes too far in presumably
correcting a McClernand as idiot/McPherson as great fellow argument.

Will

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Jun 28, 2005, 2:33:15 AM6/28/05
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slippymi...@yahoo.com wrote:
> ...

> Edwards was a staging area for Pemberton's mobile wing. Grant may have
> interpreted Pemberton's vascillation as an intention to stand and fight
> at Edwards, but there's no way Pemberton would have made that call
> intentionally. With McClernand approaching in the direction of his
> only viable avenue of escape, and Pemberton's forces situated on ground
> not favorable to defense, defending Edwards was just never a
> possibility.

I disagree. On May 12th Pemberton wrote to Davis and Johnston from
Vicksburg that "The enemy is apparently moving in heavy force toward
Edwards Depot, Southern Railroad. With my limited force, I will do all
I can to meet him. That will be the field of battle if I can carry
forward
sufficient force, leaving troops enough to secure the safety of this
place." So it seems to me that Pemberton was expecting to make a
stand at Edwards. Regarding Mcclernand's approach, the roads McClernand
was approaching on were the Cayuga to Edwards Road and the Auburn to
Edwards road.

Will

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Jun 28, 2005, 2:36:43 AM6/28/05
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Brooks Simpson wrote:
> ...
> All of which is testimony to what Grant thought of McPherson ...

Which is part of what I understood the issue at hand to be.

Brooks Simpson

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Jun 28, 2005, 2:50:40 AM6/28/05
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More part of Tony's concern: I think Grant thought highly of McPherson,
period, just like he thought highly of some of the people in
McClernand's corps (Lawler comes to mind).

Will

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Jun 28, 2005, 1:07:46 PM6/28/05
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My big issue with the Winschel-Smith intepretation is that they claim
to have divined Grant's true feelings of McClernand and McPherson.
Their contention is that Grant actually considered McClernand the
better commander and that he did not have a high opinion of McPherson.
This is based on a strained, speculative hypothesis that dismisses
the actual historic record about Grant's attitude towards the two
commanders.

Dave Smith

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Jun 28, 2005, 1:19:18 PM6/28/05
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I would agree. The eventual engagement at Champion Hill was a chance
meeting; Pemberton never intended to settle into a defensive position
there.

This is, I think, more evident with the much stronger position at Big
Black River Bridge / Bovina lurking immediately in Pemberton's Edwards
position.

Dave

Dave Smith
Villa Hills, KY

Brooks Simpson

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Jun 28, 2005, 1:30:54 PM6/28/05
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Absolutely. It was a matter of record at the time, so it's not an
after-the-fact development. Surely Grant was unhappy with McClernand
at Port Gibson and Champion Hill. The fact of the matter is that in
both cases, if McClernand was as capable as he is sometimes made out to
be, the Confederates are crushed.

ray o'hara

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Jun 28, 2005, 2:33:35 PM6/28/05
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"Brooks Simpson" > > My big issue with the Winschel-Smith intepretation is

that they claim
> > to have divined Grant's true feelings of McClernand and McPherson.
> > Their contention is that Grant actually considered McClernand the
> > better commander and that he did not have a high opinion of McPherson.
> > This is based on a strained, speculative hypothesis that dismisses
> > the actual historic record about Grant's attitude towards the two
> > commanders.
>
> Absolutely. It was a matter of record at the time, so it's not an
> after-the-fact development. Surely Grant was unhappy with McClernand
> at Port Gibson and Champion Hill. The fact of the matter is that in
> both cases, if McClernand was as capable as he is sometimes made out to
> be, the Confederates are crushed.
>


the ground the vicksburg campaign was fought on was the worst i've seen,
gullies choked with impassable cane crisscrossing what appears to be open
ground constricted movements to the roads and channeled attacks, allowing a
much smaller force to delay a larger one.
the loess is a unique feature. and the terrain is not adequately taken into
account in anything i've read on the campaign. vicksburg and manassas are
the two place that most need visiting
to understand what happened there.


slippymi...@yahoo.com

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Jun 29, 2005, 7:23:11 AM6/29/05
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> I disagree. On May 12th Pemberton wrote to Davis and Johnston from
> Vicksburg that "The enemy is apparently moving in heavy force toward
> Edwards Depot, Southern Railroad. With my limited force, I will do all
> I can to meet him. That will be the field of battle if I can carry
> forward sufficient force, leaving troops enough to secure the safety of this
> place." So it seems to me that Pemberton was expecting to make a
> stand at Edwards. Regarding Mcclernand's approach, the roads McClernand
> was approaching on were the Cayuga to Edwards Road and the Auburn to
> Edwards road.

AJ Smith's division was actually closer to Smith Station than to
Edwards by a couple of miles, and, unopposed, could have moved across
Pemberton's only viable line of retreat in under half a day's march.
That's why I have a hard time believing that Pemberton would have
risked facing down the federals if they had wheeled and encircled him.
I think he had in mind that he might defeat Grant in detail, starting
with McClernand's corps. But once Sherman and McPherson wheel around
onto the Raymond and Jackson roads, respectively, he doesn't have that
luxury.

But this brings up another question: 14 Mile Creek on the Mt. Moriah
road is basically a small river. Why would Pemberton allow McClernand
to cross 14 Mile Creek unopposed in the first place? It seems like the
natural response would be to bring up the forces at Bovina to contest
the crossing of 14 Mile Creek.

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