It's May 1864, and the Union enters its fourth year of war against the Confederacy succession. Ulysses S. Grant -- Hero of Vicksburg -- has been promoted to General-in-Chief of the Union Army by President Lincoln in a last-ditch effort to win the war. Grant, placing his command in the field with the Army of the Potomac, will now execute his own aggressive strategy against the rebels on all fronts. But first, he must spend the next 47 days fighting across the enemy-held Commonwealth of Virginia.
Join amateur historian and US Navy veteran Kyle M. Bondo, as he follows the history of Grant's Overland Campaign from Washington, DC, to Petersburg, Virginia, in War Yankee, an American Civil War history podcast presented by Oncetold.
Overland.15: Yelling Like So Many Demons
In This Episode
It’s 1:00 PM May 5th, 1864 — General Warren has ordered his division commanders Griffin and Wadsworth forward to pitch into the enemy now lurking on the opposite side of Saunders Field. While General Ayers’s 140th New York Zouaves are the first to be bloodied, another of Griffin’s brigade commanders — General Joseph J. Bartlett — moves across the field with enough momentum to smash a hole into the teeth of the rebel defenses. Will it be enough to carry the day?
“When the order was given to advance all three brigades started on the double-quick with a yell, driving the enemy in confusion back upon his reserves.” — Samuel L. Miller, a veteran historian of the 20th Maine
“They were splendidly in line. Moved rapidly, their colors all unfurled, and formed as they advanced one of the finest battle pictures that I can remember.” — Soldier from the 1st Michigan
“A red volcano yawned before us and vomited forth fire, and lead, and death” — Soldier from the 20th Maine
“What a medley of sounds. The incessant roar of the rifle; the screaming bullets; the forest on fire; men cheering, groaning, yelling, swearing, and praying! All this created an experience in the minds of the survivors that we can never forget.” — Veteran Union Soldier
“On we went, o’er briar, o’er brake, o’er logs and o’er bogs, through the underbrush and overhanging limbs, for about three-quarters of a mile, yelling like so many demons.” — Veteran Union Captain
“Orders were given for regimental commanders to move up rapidly to the crest of the hill and hold it at all hazards in case Jones gave way. The woods in front were so thick that it was impossible to see more than 20 steps from our line, and all thought that General Jones held the crest of the hill. Our enemy soon hurled a heavy column against General Jones, sweeping down on his flanks and it became evident that he was pressing our men back. At this juncture, Battle’s brigade moved up at a double-quick.” — Soldier from the 3rd Alabama
“Soon the troops on our left gave way and retired in confusion. We then found ourselves isolated, the enemy upon both flanks and reported to be in rear also.” — Colonel Joseph Hayes, Commander of the 1st Brigade, 1st Division, 5th Corps
“[As we broke for the rear] on the double quick, we ran almost every step of the way back and when we got there we laid down on our backs and panted like so many hounds which had just come back in from a ten hours’ chase after a gang of foxes.” — Veteran of the 83rd Pennsylvania
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Overland.14: The Wild, Wicked Roar
In This Episode
It’s 1:00 PM on May 5th, 1864 — Grant had given the order, Warren has given the signal, and now Griffin and Wadsworth’s divisions are emerging from the eastern edge of Saunders Field to pitch into the enemy. However, as the bugles sound and the men rise to their feet, a “wild and wicked roar” erupts from the Confederate defenses just as Col. Paddy Ryan and his 140th New York Zouaves charge forward and race across 400 yards of open ground.
“stand up…forward, double-quick, CHARGE!”— Col. George “Paddy” Ryan, 140th New York “Zouaves” Regiment
“[The] wild, wicked roar of musketry”— Wilderness Veteran
“Down the slope we rushed…killed and wounded men plunging to the ground.”— Zouave Veteran
“It might be better if we bring up artillery and fire back!”— General Ulysses S. Grant
Overland 13: Hat in Hand
In This Episode
It’s 1:00 PM on May 5th, 1864 — Grant has had enough of both General Meade’s and General Warren’s excuses and has now directed them to send Griffin and Wadsworth’s divisions forward and pitch into the enemy at once. Unfortunately, Grant does not yet know that General Sedgwick’s 6th Corps, overcome by the tangles of The Wilderness, will not arrive on Griffin’s RIGHT flank for hours. Worse yet, Wadsworth’s men are also stuck trying to push through the dense Wilderness. When the order comes to march, Griffin’s men will be stepping out into an open cornfield to confront the enemy… alone.
“[moments before the fighting began, the men], for those few minutes lay there and faced the possibilities of tragedy then inevitable.”— Wrote a Zouave Soldier, after the Battle of Saunders Field
“Suspense and dread and hope which possess men during such minutes cannot be adequately told in words.”— Zouave Veteran
“stand up…forward, double-quick, CHARGE!”
— Col. George “Paddy” Ryan, 140th New York “Zouaves” Regiment
Overland.12: Running in Circles
In This Episode
It's noon on May 5th, 1864 -- The Army of the Potomac has captured the Brock Road Intersection with Orange Plank Road, has discovered Confederate cavalry probing their left flank along the Catharpin Road, and now must deal with the growing threat of Rebels digging in along the Orange Turnpike. After waiting for hours for Meade to stop talking about attacking, and actually attack, Grant has had enough. But will he intervene in time to win his first battle against Lee?
"If [this] is what Meade meant by attacking 'at once', as he said he would at 7:30 AM (it's now after 10:00 AM) no wonder Lee was running circles around him."-- Gordon Rhea, Battle of the Wilderness
"The only time I ever feel impatient is when I give an order for an important movement of troops in the presence of the enemy and am waiting for them to reach their destination. Then the minutes seem like hours."-- Grant's comment to Porter, from Hell Itself by Chris Mackowski
Overland.11: Proper Yankee Welcome
In This Episode
It's afternoon on May 5th, 1864 -- Greenhorn cavalry officer Brig. Gen. Harry Wilson has stumbled onto a third Confederate cavalry force coming down the Catharpin Road. While he prepares his troopers to repeal a rebel counter-attack from his former West Point classmate Gen. Thomas "Tex" Rosser of Virginia, he is desperate to get this new information to Meade before it is too late. The only problem is that Wilson's entire cavalry division -- over 3,000 men and horses -- is completely cut off from the rest of the Union Army. No one is coming to save him or his men.
"I had had no word from Sheridan that day and knew absolutely nothing as to his whereabouts or even as to the position of any part of the army except my own."-- Brig. Gen. Harry Wilson
"Pistol and sabre were busy in slaughter while the shrieks of the stricken and the shouts of the victors mingled with the roar of battle."-- Confederate Cavalryman
"General Wilson is falling back to this point, followed by the enemy. Col. Chapman reports the enemy that attacked very superior to his [force] and compelled him to retire. Wilson himself had not yet arrived and I can't say what I will do. I have my command here and will receive the enemy."-- Brig.Gen. Gregg
"Artilleryyy-ist... Artilllllery-ist? Artiller-ist? No. Can't say it. How's about, 'good shot with a cannon!'"-- Kyle M. Bondo, Amateur Cannoneer
Overland.10: Bad Intelligence
In This Episode
It's noon on May 5th, 1864 -- Greenhorn cavalry officer Brigadier General James Harrison "Harry" Wilson started the Overland Campaign with high expectations. Now, after a series of tactical shortcomings and conflicting orders, his actions allowed rebel forces to approach the Union army almost undetected. To make matters worse, Wilson's entire cavalry division -- over 3,000 men and horses -- is missing. No one has seen or heard from Wilson since 5:00 AM. With the Orange Plank Road now engulfed by an endless column of Confederate infantry, Grant and Meade are desperate to know: Where the hell is Harry Wilson's Cavalry Division?
"My pickets report nothing new from the enemy this morning."-- Brig.Gen. James Harrison Wilson's last message to Maj.Gen Meade, 5:00 AM, May 5th, 1864
Both thoughtfully researched and engagingly presented
Enjoying the deep dive
Presented with engaging style and a substantial depth of knowledge, really enjoying the excursions to the present to see how this landscape has transformed and how it can still be visited. Narrative scope “zooms” in and out to take you from the shoulder of an infantryman or an ambushed cavalryman to officers trying to shuffle their formations thru the strange landscape of the Wilderness to the command posts where “the big decisions” are made, often without the crucial detail that could have changed the battle. Well worth the listen.
War Yankee —good stuff!
Enjoying the story and analysis. Only quibble: CAV-AL-RY, not Calvary!!!