James Ford Rhodes (18481927). History of the Civil War, 18611865 1917.
against Lee in chosen and fortified positions was unnecessary as the roads in number and direction lent themselves to the operation of turning either flank of the Confederate Army. To assault all along the line, wrote General Walker, as was so often done in the summer of 1864, is the very abdication of leadership.1 But Grant was essentially an aggressive soldier, and an important feature of his plan of operations was, as he himself has stated it, to hammer continuously against the armed force of the enemy and his resources until by mere attrition, if in no other way, the South should be subdued.2
Before Spottsylvania an incident of the Wilderness fighting was repeated. Twice, when the Confederates were on the verge of disaster, Lee rode to the head of a column, intending to lead a charge which he thought might be necessary to save the day. On both occasions the soldiers refused to advance unless their general should go to the rear. Lee did not court danger and was bent on exposing himself in the one case only after his lines had been broken, and in the other when the struggle for the Salient demanded the utmost from general and men. Such incidents in Lees career did not happen until Grant came to direct the movements of the Army of the Potomac.3
On May 19, Meade wrote to his wife, We did not have the big battle which I expected yesterday, as, on advancing, we found the enemy so strongly intrenched that even Grant thought it useless to knock our heads against a brick wall, and directed a suspension of the attack.4
Note 3. On May 15, Meade wrote to his wife, I think we have gained decided advantages over the enemy; nevertheless, he confronts us still and, owing to the strong position he occupies, and the works he is all the time throwing up, the task of overcoming him is a very difficult one, taxing all our energies. General Meade, II, 195. [back]