Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 06.djvu/154

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been validated.
Southern Historical Society Papers.

Mr. Stanton states in his report (page 5) that the aggregate national military force of all arms the 1st May, 1864, was 970,710, of whom 662,345 were "present for duty"—so that when the campaign of 1864 opened, General Grant (as commander-in-chief) had under his orders more men than the Confederacy mustered all put together during the whole war, and more than four times as many as we had then under arms. As for the army with which General Grant opposed General Lee, Secretary Stanton (page 5) puts the "aggregate available force present for duty May 1st, 1864," as follows:

Department of Washington 42,124
Army of the Potomac 120,380
Department of Virginia and North Carolina 59,139
Department of West Virginia 30,782
Middle Department 5,627
Ninth army corps 20,780

So that General Grant crossed the Rapidan with 141,160 men, and had as a reserve upon which he could draw an available force of 137,672—making a grand total of 278,832. His own official report shows that nearly the whole of this force was actually engaged in his and Butler's operations, or in Hunter's expedition, which latter General Lee was compelled to meet by heavy detachments from his own army.

To meet this mighty host, General Lee had on the Rapidan less than 50,000 men, and in his whole "Department of Northern Virginia" (which included the garrison around Richmond and the troops in the Valley), his field return for the last of April, 1864, shows only 52,626 "present for duty." Add all of the troops which Beauregard had in front of Butler, or which joined Lee at any time during the campaign, and there remains (against General Grant's "table talk," or the ingenious manipulation of his Military Secretary and facile interviewer) the stubborn official fact that General Grant had on that campaign four times as many men as Lee could command.

General Grant says that "Lee was of a slow, cautious, conservative nature." But when military critics come to study this campaign in the light of all of the facts—when they see that so soon as Grant crossed the Rapidan with his mighty host, Lee, instead of retreating, advanced at once upon him and forced the death grapple of the Wilderness—that he boldly withstood him at Spotsylvania Courthouse, at Hanover Junction, and at Bethesda Church, and that after dealing him the crushing defeat at Cold Harbor, Lee was just about to attack Grant when he crossed the James and sat down to the siege of Petersburg—we think that they will hardly accept this "table-talk" as true, but will rather conclude that Lee was one of the boldest soldiers of all history. The simple truth is that on that great campaign Lee foiled Grant in every move he made, defeated him in every battle they fought, and so completely crushed him in that last trial of strength at Cold Harbor, that his men refused to attack again, and his brave army "shaken in its structure, its valor quenched in blood and thousands of its ablest officers killed or wounded, was the Army of the Potomac no more" (Swinton), and the government at Washington would have been ready to give up the struggle if its further prosecution had depended alone on "the great butcher." Grant says he lost in this campaign, from the Wilderness to Cold Harbor, 39,000 men; but Swinton puts his loss at over 60,000, and a careful examination of the figures of the Surgeon-General will show that his real loss was nearer 100,000. In other words, he lost about twice as many men as Lee had in order to take a position which he could have taken at first without firing a gun or losing a man. It will take a large amount of "table-talk" to get over the logic of these facts and figures.