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Saturday, November 3, 2018

General Meade in June and August, 1864

In The Battles for the Weldon Railroad, August 1864, I pointed out General Meade's deficiency in personnel management.  He tended to overuse II Corps.  During the Fourth Offensive, he used II Corps twice; V, IX and X Corps once each; and XVIII Corps not at all.  We'll never know if XVIII Corps would have performed better at Second Reams Station than the exhausted soldiers of II Corps, but employing a fresh corps would have made more sense.

I'm only up to June 22, 1864 in my draft of a history of the Second Offensive, but Meade's over-reliance on II Corps appeared there as well.  He and Grant initially planned to use II, VI and XI Corps to invest Petersburg from the Appomattox River above the city to the Appomattox below.  Meade chose II Corps to lead the way and employed VI and XI Corps to relieve II Corps on June 20 and put it in reserve.  II Corps was the biggest corps in Grant's army, but VI Corps already had a division in reserve and it would have been just as easy to put into reserve the corps' other two divisions instead of using them to relieve II Corps.  More importantly, VI Corps had lost fewer than one-tenth as many men as II Corps in the First Offensive at Petersburg, June 15-18.  VI Corps' ambulances were employed hauling II Corps' wounded to the City Point hospital.  VI Corps was far fresher. 

Whether employment of VI Corps to lead the way on June 21 would have made any difference is doubtful given the performance of its commander, Maj. Gen. Horatio Wright, on June 22 and 23.  I also doubt that VI Corps would have behaved any better than II Corps on June 22 when flanked.  I think entire regiments surrendered that day because they were surrounded, not because their best officers had been killed or wounded in the Overland Campaign and the First Offensive.  Those officers were present in the Wilderness on May 6, 1864 and ran just as fast as II Corps did on June 22.  The difference was that the Confederates did not envelop any of II Corps' regiments on that occasion.