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Monday, September 4, 2017

Another Plan for a Seaborne Move in 1864

Grant's plan for a seaborne move in the East that may have obviated the Overland Campaign is at OR, Series 1, Vol. 33, 394-395.

A modified version of the plan is at OR, Series 1, Vol. 33, 602-604:

BALTIMORE, MD., February 26, 1864.
Maj. Ge. H. W. HALLECK,
General-in-Chief U. S. Army, Washington, D. C.:
 GENERAL: In a conversation with Grant at Nashville, Teun., on
the 12th instant, reference was made to a project of an operation
from the Eastern sea-board, to aid, by co-operation, the contem-
plated movements in Alabama and Georgia. He desired, as I under-
stood him, to have a column of 60,000 men move on Raleigh, by the
way of Weldon, and thence to co-operate with the Armies of the
Ohio and of the Cumberland. I have thought of th~ project since,
as I had, in fact, often before, while in command in North Carolina
and Virginia, and beg leave, respectfully, to present the following
plan, which will, I think, meet General Grants wishes, and also
attain some other important objects:
 I would respectfully propose that the force be collected in the
vicinity of Hampton Roads, in such a way as to excite the least sus-
picion of its real object; that the artillery and infantry be moved
by transports to Fort Powhatan, on the James River, landed at that
point and the one opposite, on the north bank of the river, and a
portion of the force put to work to intrench those points, so as to b

Page 603


held against any attacking force, while the remainder be rapidly
prepared for marching, the whole cavalry force to move at the
same time qnickly from Williamsbnrg to Bottoms Bridge, and make
a dash on Richmond. Failing in this, to attack the enemy in rear
at Malvern Hill or at Charles City Conrt-Honse, whichever place
may be their point of concentration to meet onr threatened advance
in force; and then to cross the James River at Fort Powhatan by
means of the steam ferry-boats, to be prepared at that point, and
make a dash on Peterbnrg, the Petersbnrg and Weldon, and the
Petersbnrg and Lynchbnrg Railroads. Sncceeding or failing in
this, to fall back toward Weldon, by the connty roads, on the flanks
of the main colnmn, which, by this time, shonid be in fnll march
for Weldon, destroying all bridges in their rear. Arrived at Wel-
don, to assanlt the works at once, and failing in this, to settle down
into a determined attack, opening the Seaboard and Roanoke Rail-
road for snpplies from Norfolk, and calling np the North Carolina
force from Plymonth to act on the rear of the enemy at Weldon.
After taking Weldon, to destroy the bridges at that place and at
Gaston, and to sweep throngh the State threatening Goldsborongh
and Raleigh,. and really only occnpying Raleigh with the cavalry,
while the main column moves directly for Wilmington as rapidly as
possible, living on the conntry. All the railroad and other bridges
are to be destroyed on the march. Reaching Wilmington, to attack
that town in snch a way as to succeed, opening at the same time a
landing for a base of snpplies at Masonborough Inlet. Capturing
Wilmington, all the defenses on the river and at its month are snre
to fall in snccession. This line of advance on Wilmington is the
only one that offers decided chances for snccess, inasmnch as it en-
tirely cuts off all re-enforcements from Virginia, and, if the cavalry
succeeds in cntting the Wilmington and Manchester road, from
Charleston also. It avoids the delays in crossing the White Oak
and New Rivers of a column moving from Morehead City; at the
same time it shuts off the troops that might, in the mean time, be
poured into Wilmington by the two railroads mentioned above.
 The reasons that I prefer the route by the way of the James River
to that by the line of the Seaboard and Roanoke Railroad to Wel-
don are that it avoids the delays consequent npon forcing the pas-
sage of the Blackwater, the Nottoway, and the Meherrin Rivers, and
of rebuilding the bridges over those streams, which the enemy will
be sure to bnrn to retard the march of our forces, and that the ronte
by Fort Powhatan and Prince George Court-House to Weldon turns
those rivers is likely to insnre the capture of the troops stationed
along them to defend their crossings and the salvation of the bridges;
also, that this way of coming down on Weldon cnts off the re-en-
forcements from Virginia, which might otherwise be thrown into
Weldon by rail.
 The reason that the main colnmn shonld be hnrried directly
through North Carolina without waiting to occnpy Raleigh in force
is that it saves precions time in getting at Wilmington. At the same
time the direct route lies nearer the bases of supply in North Caro-
lina, viz, Plymouth, Washington, and New Berne.
 The strength of the expedition should be fully equal to that esti-
mated by General Grant, viz, 60,000 men, to insure the snccess of
the movement, which covers a very long march, and must of neces-
sity involve some severe fighting, entailing considerable losses from
deaths, wounds, sickness, and straggling

Page 604


 I am confident that such au expedition of the above strength can
succeed in all the points that I have described above, provided it be
conducted with proper skill and determination.
 A lesser force could not make sure of Weldon, upon the attain-
ment of which everything depends. It could, howeVer, operate up
the James River, as a large water boyau, fortifying point after
point in succession, and at last lay siege to Petersburg with good
chances of success. Such a move would be important in view of
the effect it would produce on the enemy at Richmond and on the
Rapidan, but otherwise of very little value.
 The above is respectfully submitted with the hope that it may
meet the approval of the General-in-Chief.
 I have the honor to be, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Major- General of Volunteers.

Little Mac's idea is at OR, Series 1, Vol. 11, 3:337.

Plans by Generals Barnard and Gibbon are at OR, Series 1, Vol. 21, 807-808, 812-813.

A plan by Generals Franklin and Smith is at OR, Series 1, Vol. 21, 868-870.

William Glenn Robertson has a fine summary of all these plans in "Back Door to Richmond" at pp. 13-16.