The Importance of Richmond 1864-65


     In Washington City late 1863, it was not a question of whether Congress would reinstate the rank of Lieutenant General it was simply who would be so honored to rise to it. A general wearing three stars has not enjoyed such rank since George Washington in the American Revolution. Although Lincoln had not announced a choice, one man among the political hierarchy had a suspicion who it may be.

     On February 17, 1864, The General In Chief, Major General Henry Wager Halleck, thrilled on knowing that quite soon he'll be relieved of duty from this political hell hole, delivered his thoughts in writing to Major General Ulysses S. Grant on what he felt the upcoming spring campaign should provide.

     He informed Grant first off that Richmond, Virginia was not the objective of the Army of the Potomac. He watched from his desk in Washington as General McClellan failed to reach it, then Burnside, Hooker, and now Meade. He expressed one of Napoleon's Maxims that an army covering a capitol city must be destroyed before attempting to capture its capitol. Halleck wanted General Meade's objective to be Robert E. Lee's Army.
     The General In Chief was fed up with federal armies marching about on isolated military operations. He suggested that a new commander should make a coordinated effort to get all armies in the field moving in unison towards one final military end. One part of this coordinated effort, Halleck insisted that if the Army of the Potomac pursue and destroy Lee, another should concentrate on doing the same to General Joseph Johnston.

     In closing Lincoln's military advisor informed Grant that he felt the President's final decision was going to fall upon him. He felt it was his duty to share his opinion on the future of military operations against the Confederacy and his intent was to assist the new commander of the armies in any way possible.
     History often times awards the general in the field with the idea of grand strategy. Success or failure fell upon the shoulders of the officer in charge. It is why most remember that it was General Grant who had crushed Robert E. Lee and not Major General George Meade. That it was solely General Grant's ingenuous that provided the success of General Sherman's march through Georgia.
     History has overlooked one aspect to the grand strategy however. In the midst of preparing to turn over the responsibilities of General In Chief to the future Lieutenant General Ulysses S. Grant, Halleck placed in writing his suggestions as to what he felt was going to work in strangling the Confederacy. There was no ingenuous involved with Grant's 1864 game plan, merely that upon reading General Halleck's comments, he took them to heart and practically applied them.

Daniel Moran
© 2001

Editors Note: Mr.Moran is a new feature writer on the writers staff.
He may be contacted with your questions, ideas and requests at