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Subject: The Overland Campaign begins 150 years ago today rss

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Brian Morris
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Here's a great website I just found featuring some fantastic images of the Overland Campaign which began 150 years ago today. Meade's army of the Potomac began it's crossing of the Rapidan River resulting in the Battle of the Wilderness (the first battle of the campaign) which lasted from May 5th through the 7th.

http://irishamericancivilwar.com/2014/05/02/150-years-ago-an...

I like these pictures. These are Army of the Potomac troops crossing Germanna Ford on May 4th 1864. Exactly 150 years ago today.





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Bill Lawson
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I should put Bloody Roads South on my table.
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Brian Morris
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I actually played Bobby Lee last night. Not exactly my favorite civil war game but my friend was high on playing it and it seemed appropriate.
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In an odd coincidence I was watching an episode of House of Cards today which was set against a backdrop of the opening of a historic site dedicated to the Overland Campaign, including a reenactment of the Wilderness.

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Michael Sommers
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When did people start calling it "The Overland Campaign"? I never heard it called that until very recently. It used to be the "Wilderness Campaign".
 
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Bill Lawson
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tms2 wrote:
When did people start calling it "The Overland Campaign"? I never heard it called that until very recently. It used to be the "Wilderness Campaign".


The Overland Campaign was Grants march south in 1864 that ended at Cold Harbor and than continued over the James river to Petersburg. The Wilderness is the first battle that occurred.
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Michael Sommers
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mrbeankc wrote:
Here's a great website I just found featuring some fantastic images of the Overland Campaign which began 150 years ago today. Meade's army of the Potomac began it's crossing of the Rapidan River resulting in the Battle of the Wilderness (the first battle of the campaign) which lasted from May 5th through the 7th.

http://irishamericancivilwar.com/2014/05/02/150-years-ago-an...

I like these pictures. These are Army of the Potomac troops crossing Germanna Ford on May 4th 1864. Exactly 150 years ago today.




Frassanito's Grant and Lee, pp. 42-44, has these two pictures, plus a third, taken from the same position as the second above, but with a view to the left. This other photo shows a ruined bridge, which was still there when Frassanito took his modern views.

In the first view above, which was taken later than the other, you can see what are probably engineers starting to dismantle the further pontoon bridge.

The photos were taken by Timothy O'Sullivan, probably a bit before 6 p.m.
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Brian Morris
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tms2 wrote:

Frassanito's Grant and Lee, pp. 42-44, has these two pictures, plus a third, taken from the same position as the second above, but with a view to the left. This other photo shows a ruined bridge, which was still there when Frassanito took his modern views.


Here's the third picture you mention.


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billyboy wrote:
tms2 wrote:
When did people start calling it "The Overland Campaign"? I never heard it called that until very recently. It used to be the "Wilderness Campaign".


The Overland Campaign was Grants march south in 1864 that ended at Cold Harbor and then continued over the James river to Petersburg. The Wilderness is the first battle that occurred.


Essentially the Overland Campaign lasted from May 4th starting with The Wilderness and ended with Cold Harbor on June 12th although some say it's official end is June 24th at Saint Mary's Church. Other major battles of the campaign were Spotsylvania, Yellow Tavern and North Anna although you could almost say it was one continuous battle.

It was 6 weeks of carnage. By the end of it both armies lost about half their strength. The hardest hit was the Union as they lost 55,000 (some say 65,000) men out of 118,000 (according to Wikipedia). Washington DC was awash with the casualties and Grant was given the nickname "Grant the Butcher" and accused of launching simply ham fisted attacks with no caring of the lives lost. This despite the fact that the entire campaign was an amazing chess game of both strategic and tactical maneuvering.

By the end the Army of the Potomac was spent with it's best and bravest either dead, wounded or captured due to it's constantly attacking against Confederates who by this time in the war had learned the art of entrenching very well. The end result was Lee pinned in at Petersburg in what would become the beginning of WWI style trench warfare.

Both armies also lost an incredible number of commanders as well as men in the campaign. The Union lost "Uncle" John Sedgewick who commanded VI Corps at Spotsylvania to a sniper. The Confederates meanwhile had JEB Stuart killed at Yellow Taven and James Longstreet wounded by his own men at The Wilderness leaving Lee with his two most important commanders now gone. The loss of officers was all through both armies down to the regimental level with some regiments having their officers almost wiped out.
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One of my favorite Wilderness Campaign anecdotes:

"Ain't I Glad I've Got Out the Wilderness!" was a gospel tune popular during the Civil War era. When the Union army moved south after the indecisive battle the Yankee soldiers were jubilant... many had expected Grant to retreat as other Federal commanders had done after suffering such casualties. A military band decided to serenade Grant with this quite appropriate song but the effort was wasted -- the general was tone deaf and had to ask a staff member for the title of that musical selection.
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Michael Sommers
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billyboy wrote:
tms2 wrote:
When did people start calling it "The Overland Campaign"? I never heard it called that until very recently. It used to be the "Wilderness Campaign".

The Overland Campaign was Grants march south in 1864 that ended at Cold Harbor and than continued over the James river to Petersburg. The Wilderness is the first battle that occurred.

Yes, I know, but in the Olden Days I remember the entire campaign being called the "Wilderness Campaign". I never heard the expression "Overland Campaign" (which, you have to admit, is a pretty vague name, since most armies fight their campaigns over land) until very recently (although the usage is obviously older than that). I'd just like to know when the term originated, and when it became the default name for the campaign.
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SPI referred to it as The Wilderness Campaign: Lee vs. Grant, 1864 back in 1972, fwiw.
 
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tms2 wrote:
I'd just like to know when the term originated, and when it became the default name for the campaign.

Both terms seem to have popped up early on.

A search of the NY Times database show editorials in early '64 analyzing the "overland route" for Grant's upcoming "Spring Campaign". In mid-1865, the articles reporting on units making "The Homeward March" credit some with participation in "Grant's grand overland campaign." William Swinton, a NY Times reporter, published a history, "Campaigns of the Army of the Potomac" in 1866 referring to "Grant's Overland Campaign."

Figuring U.S. Grant would know better than anyone, I flipped through his memoirs. He relates "a certain incident from the Wilderness Campaign" in which he kicked a reporter out of camp at Cold Harbor for misrepresenting himself. The reporter's name? William Swinton.

My considered opinion: Who the hell knows.
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Michael Sommers
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LaggingEdge wrote:
tms2 wrote:
I'd just like to know when the term originated, and when it became the default name for the campaign.

Both terms seem to have popped up early on.

A search of the NY Times database show editorials in early '64 analyzing the "overland route" for Grant's upcoming "Spring Campaign". In mid-1865, the articles reporting on units making "The Homeward March" credit some with participation in "Grant's grand overland campaign." William Swinton, a NY Times reporter, published a history, "Campaigns of the Army of the Potomac" in 1866 referring to "Grant's Overland Campaign."

Figuring U.S. Grant would know better than anyone, I flipped through his memoirs. He relates "a certain incident from the Wilderness Campaign" in which he kicked a reporter out of camp at Cold Harbor for misrepresenting himself. The reporter's name? William Swinton.

My considered opinion: Who the hell knows.

Thanks. That would seem to answer the main question.
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tms2 wrote:
LaggingEdge wrote:
tms2 wrote:
I'd just like to know when the term originated, and when it became the default name for the campaign.

Both terms seem to have popped up early on.

A search of the NY Times database show editorials in early '64 analyzing the "overland route" for Grant's upcoming "Spring Campaign". In mid-1865, the articles reporting on units making "The Homeward March" credit some with participation in "Grant's grand overland campaign." William Swinton, a NY Times reporter, published a history, "Campaigns of the Army of the Potomac" in 1866 referring to "Grant's Overland Campaign."

Figuring U.S. Grant would know better than anyone, I flipped through his memoirs. He relates "a certain incident from the Wilderness Campaign" in which he kicked a reporter out of camp at Cold Harbor for misrepresenting himself. The reporter's name? William Swinton.

My considered opinion: Who the hell knows.

Thanks. That would seem to answer the main question.


I can't get google ngrams to work from my work computer, but I searched "Overland Campaign" and "Wilderness Campaign" from my phone and "Wilderness Campaign seems to have been used predominately until the early 2000's. There are several large spikes for Wilderness Campaign, probably due to anniversaries, death of Grant, etc. But generally, it has always been greater than Overland Campaign.

It looks like between 1875 - 1882 (or so) Wilderness Campaign completely dropped off, and for a short time, Overland Campaign took over. But then there was a spike in the mid-1880's for Wilderness Campaign and it took over again. Around 1900, Overland Campaign had a resurgence, but did not overtake Wilderness Campaign. Then in around 1920 Overland Campaign becomes almost nonexistent. That lasted until 1980 when use of Overland Campaign started a big resurgence, culminating with overtaking Wilderness Campaigh around 2003 or 2004. Wilderness Campaign was also on the increase in usage starting around 1980, but started to dropp off in 2000, while Overland Campaign continued to increase.

I would post the graph, but, as I said, I can't get it to work right now. If someone else wanted to use Ngram to create the plot and then post it, it is kind of interesting to see the fluctuations.
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rstites25 wrote:
I can't get google ngrams to work from my work computer, but I searched "Overland Campaign" and "Wilderness Campaign" from my phone and "Wilderness Campaign seems to have been used predominately until the early 2000's. There are several large spikes for Wilderness Campaign, probably due to anniversaries, death of Grant, etc. But generally, it has always been greater than Overland Campaign. ...

Excellent. Thanks very much. That's exactly what I was looking for. I had never heard of Google Ngram before. Here's the graph for a case-insensitive search (I couldn't get it to embed):
https://books.google.com/ngrams/interactive_chart?content=wi...
And here is the case-sensitive search with each word capitalized:
https://books.google.com/ngrams/interactive_chart?content=Wi...
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tms2 wrote:
rstites25 wrote:
I can't get google ngrams to work from my work computer, but I searched "Overland Campaign" and "Wilderness Campaign" from my phone and "Wilderness Campaign seems to have been used predominately until the early 2000's. There are several large spikes for Wilderness Campaign, probably due to anniversaries, death of Grant, etc. But generally, it has always been greater than Overland Campaign. ...

Excellent. Thanks very much. That's exactly what I was looking for. I had never heard of Google Ngram before. Here's the graph (I couldn't get it to embed):
https://books.google.com/ngrams/interactive_chart?content=wi...


It is a pretty cool tool to get some insight into questions like this. Glad I could help.
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Michael Sommers
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rstites25 wrote:
tms2 wrote:
rstites25 wrote:
I can't get google ngrams to work from my work computer, but I searched "Overland Campaign" and "Wilderness Campaign" from my phone and "Wilderness Campaign seems to have been used predominately until the early 2000's. There are several large spikes for Wilderness Campaign, probably due to anniversaries, death of Grant, etc. But generally, it has always been greater than Overland Campaign. ...

Excellent. Thanks very much. That's exactly what I was looking for. I had never heard of Google Ngram before. Here's the graph (I couldn't get it to embed):
https://books.google.com/ngrams/interactive_chart?content=wi...

It is a pretty cool tool to get some insight into questions like this. Glad I could help.

Yes, it's amazing. And fast, too. Thanks again.
 
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