After two bloody days of inconclusive fighting in the Wilderness (5-6 May 1864), in which Lee held Grant to a stalemate despite being outnumbered 2:1, everyone from Private to Major General wondered what Grant would do next. In the past (McClellan, Pope, Burnside, Hooker) the Union army had always retreated to lick its wounds and no one had much confidence that Meade would do differently. On the 7th, as Warren's V Corps withdrew along Orange Turnpike from the Federal right flank and approached the Brock Road intersection, every soldier wondered which way they would go. East toward Fredericksburg and retreat, or south toward Richmond? When the column turned south (according to historical accounts) a great cheer went up from the rank and file, such that Grant was afraid it would give away his withdrawal to the Confederates.
Yes, Grant had more men and would need them to sustain the 5:3 casualty rate of the Overland Campaign. More importantly, as GraniteStater
has pointed out, he had a clear idea of what was needed to win the war. And balls.
My apology to the women on the forum, if there are any.
PS. Some further thoughts if I may Kensai
. I'm a Southerner born and bred and grew up with this "Grant the butcher" nonsense. Grant was a master of maneuver warfare and that's what he tried to do continuously through the Overland Campaign and the siege of Richmond and Petersburg. He let Meade run the show at the Wilderness but then pretty much took over operational control of the Army of the Potomac. He got his fill of frontal assaults at Spotsylvania and found out the limitations of trying to move large bodies of troops, over nonexistent roads, in the middle of the night, with no rest, to attack at dawn etc etc. Yes, Cold Harbor was a disaster but not nearly the mindless bloodbath that some historians have claimed. Read Gordon C. Rhea's multi-volume account of the campaign if you're interested.
Here's a what if: Lee had been commanding the Army of Tennessee and Johnston the Army of Northern Virginia at the start of 1864. My prediction? Lee would have eaten Sherman for lunch, Johnston would have fallen back to Richmond with not much difference in outcome but probably fewer casualties. Atlanta doesn't fall, Lincoln loses the election and we all get to speak with a Southern accent.
PPS. I just can't quit. How about Lee and Grant squaring off in June 1863? The Army of the Potomac and the Army of Northern Virginia as equal as they would ever be in strength, almost all hard-core veterans, with two chess masters in command during the Gettysburg campaign. I remember Lincoln's telegram to Hooker (GS
will correct me if I'm wrong): "If the head of Lee's army is at Martinsburg and the tail of it on the Plank Road between Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville, the animal must be very slim somewhere. Could you not break him?". I'll bet USG would have tried.