“Richmond Redeemed” by Dr. Richard Sommers

Here’s a terrific lecture from Dr. Sommers based on the publication of the updated and expanded edition of his book, Richmond Redeemed.  This is the standard history of one part of the Petersburg Siege.  The lecture was delivered at the US Army Heritage and Education Center in Carlisle, PA in October of 2014 [Yes, that’s yours truly over there on the right].  It’s part of their “Perspectives in Military History” lecture series.

You can see C-SPAN’s coverage, with some different camera angles, here.

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13 comments

  1. Very good! I like his explanations of the somewhat fluid nature of the siege. And, never heard the term “Army Group Grant” before; it does kind of fit.

    Something interesting in the Q&A: if I ever read this I had forgotten that Grant had considered Meade and Franklin ahead of Sheridan to fight Early in the Valley. Now that I think about it, Franklin did show a little initiative at times. How do you think that might have worked out?

    I agree with his comments on Beauregard.

    1. Yes, you may have read it here, Bert. 🙂

      At this point, I don’t personally believe Franklin would have done as well as Sheridan did. But with more information I could be persuaded.

  2. Ah, that page may have indeed been what was kicking around in the back of my head. 🙂 Thanks for refreshing my memory on that one.

    Well, we did have Horatio Wright as a decent Corps Commander on the scene who performed well but unexceptionally. I suspect Franklin would have executed Grant’s orders well enough, but it’s hard to imagine anyone doing better than Sheridan. And besides, we’d have no Ride with Rienzi. 😉

    1. Wright seems to have grown into the role of corps commander. When he first took over he made a number of mistakes, but the mistakes got fewer and fewer. Eventually he did quite well.

  3. Bob Nelson · · Reply

    And if Meade had gone to the Middle Military Division, Winfield Scott Hancock was to command the AoP. Franklin later served as president of Colt Firearms during the time they introduced their .45 SAA, “The Peacemaker.” Another great presentation, Al. I am somewhat confused at Dr. Sommers’ assertion that while Grant and Meade held Lee at Petersburg that Sherman, Sheidan and Thomas “devoured the rest of the Confederacy.” I obviously understand the reference to Sherman and Sheridan but am unsure just what Thomas did to “devour” the rest of the Confederacy other than to wreck Hood’s army at Nashville. And Joe Johnston finds his way in there as the “great retreater.” Also appreciate Dr. Sommers’ remarks that the Confederates held on to Petersburg “too long.” Surprised that he thought P.G.T. Beauregard was the second best army commander in the Confederacy after Lee. And I do recognize that good looking young fellow on the right.

    1. Was he? His performance had fallen off due to his Gettysburg wound. He had unquestioned ability, but he was greatly hobbled by the wound that simply wouldn’t heal. Thomas certainly “devoured” the Army of Tennessee, or at least much of it.

      “I do recognize that good looking young fellow on the right.” — Yeah, I’m sitting near him. 🙂

      1. Bob Nelson · · Reply

        I’m pretty sure Grant wrote that in a message to somebody in Washington, perhaps Halleck — that Hancock would get the AoP. I’ll have to look it up.

  4. Bob Nelson · · Reply

    Found it. It’s in Grant’s message to Lincoln on July 25, 1864. Grant had earlier suggested Wm. Franklin for the Middle Military Division, now he suggested Meade and went on to write, “In this case I would suggest General Hancock for command of the Army of the Potomac and General Gibbon for command of the Second Corps.” According to Jeffrey Wert, this did not meat with Lincoln’s approval, the reason being that for months the President had been opposing efforts to have Meade removed and he did not want it to appear that he was bowing to the pressure. Wert also mentions that McClellan was considered for MMD.

    1. Again, I have to ask, “would he?” Hancock had to have special permission to travel in an ambulance while he wasn’t personally leading his troops in battle due to his wound. I suspect Grant would probably have to rethink that part just as he rethought the idea of replacing Meade with Warren if Meade had been killed.

      1. Bob Nelson · · Reply

        Would he? Not certain. This was still July and his health really only took a nosedive later in the fall. IIRC he was relieved of his corps in November. Jordan points out that if Meade had gone to the MMD it would have been a lateral move and not a demotion. Of the potential change, Meade wrote that he would “wish him joy of his promotion.” Hancock was involved at Reams’ station in August and at Dabney’s Mills and Hatcher’s Run in October. As late as October 11, Grant wrote to Stanton about the possibility of Hancock taking over the AoP.

        1. Hancock requested permission to ride in the ambulance due to his wounds prior to the move to Spotsylvania. See here.

  5. Bob Nelson · · Reply

    Lee and A.P. Hill also rode in an ambulance for some periods of time during the Overland Campaign. To be sure, Hancock’s Gettysburg wound would have limited the amount of time he could be in the saddle. But he was far from incapacitated. He was still quite active in the 1880 Presidential campaign and didn’t die until 1886. And when he died he was still in command of the Military Division of the Atlantic. Finally, Grant was the defacto commander of the AoP. I don’t think it would have mattered who was the titular head —Meade, Hancock, Warren, you pick. I have always thought that Meade acted more as a chief of staff to Grant than as general of the AoP.

    1. Lee and Hill were different cases. Hancock’s was a wound that wasn’t healing. He was still an aggressive commander, to be sure, but it’s different to consider an option in the abstract than it is when you’re thinking about implementing it for real.

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