again, a Reading Update

The Vicksburg Campaign II

The book began in April 1863, and so far only a few weeks of historical time have passed. but the pace is picking up. Grant is moving troops south, to cross below the city. The Navy has run the batteries with success.

At the same time, Grant ordered his commander in Memphis, General Hurlbut, to launch a series of cavalry raids to distract. One, under Dodge, was halting and achieved little. The second, under Abel Streight, rode mules east across Alabama trying to cut the railroad north from Atlanta. This was run down by Forrest after a long chase and was forced to surrender. A third expedition was mounted to try to crush the Rebel cavalry in North Mississippi. It failed, but distracted them enough that the fourth expedition, under Grierson, was able to break out and successfully reach the center of the state, along the railroad from Vicksburg and Jackson to Meridian.

This explosion in Vicksburg’s rear led to complete chaos, far beyond the amount of damage 1500 horsemen could possibly do  General Pemberton, the commander in the district, was totally distracted by this raid, apparently losing track of what Grant was doing across the river in his front.  This was to lead to disaster…but I haven’t read that far yet.

Neptune’s Inferno – the us Navy in Guadalcanal

The disaster of Savo Island is in the past, but seems to dominate the minds of the commanders. The carrier admirals keep their ships well back from the island, exposing the Marines to the Japanese. Ironically, this isn’t keeping the ships safe, as several ships are torpedoed while in the rear area, including the aircraft carrier Wasp.  This loss was so serious that the news was suppressed to keep the Japanese (and perhaps the voters) from finding out about it.

Behind the scenes, the power of the Navy is growing as the nation gets organized for the war. What remains to be seen is if the captains can learn to fight before the Japanese sink their ships.

And watching the funk of the supreme commander in the area, Admiral Gormley, Nimitz is about to make a change.

Barbarossa Derailed  – the battle of Smolensk

Glantz’ newest East Front masterpiece delivers. If you wanted day by day orders of the Soviet officers, it has it. If you like scores of situation maps of the battle, it has it.

I can see already how the history confirms his thesis that even at this point, less than one month into the campaign, the German invasion is already in trouble. Even a general view of the course of the war shows that the Germans lacked the force to win in the end – in the second year, they could only mount an offensive on a third of the frontage, and in the next year their one major offensive was crushed. After that it was all a bloody recoiling back towards the starting point.

Here, Glantz is showing that even three weeks into the campaign, in the middle of some tremendous victories, the warts are starting to show. The central group of armies, after crushing the border armies, bounds forward to Smolensk.  This is more than halfway to Moscow. But here, they run into trouble – the armor is pinned against a second group of armies until the infantry can come up. While they are not defeated, they aren’t advancing either. Meanwhile, calls for support on the flanks and from the other army groups are growing. Already, the three army groups cannot all advance in unison. One of the groups’ power will have to be tapped to allow the others to advance. If Center is stripped, the Drive on Moscow is stopped.

It’s ironic that the image of the meticulous planning of the German Army almost always turns out to be a myth. They really don’t seem to have a plan already set up for what they want to do if the USSR did not collapse in a matter of a month. They are trying to figure out a plan on the fly, which is a pretty bad idea when you are talking about movements of tens of thousands of troops and vehicles..

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