William G. LaVoie

Command and Control of the Union Army in the East, Spring 1864: Ulysses S. Grant, George G. Meade, the Army of the Potomac, and the 5 May Encounter Battle in the Virginia Wilderness.

(Under the direction of Michael A. Palmer) Department of History, November 1995.

The purpose of this thesis is to analyze the command and control of Union forces in Virginia at the outset of the 1864 campaign. Lieutenant General Ulysses S. Grant's decision to establish his headquarters in the field with Major General George G. Meade and the Army of the Potomac, created an unusual command structure. As an independent army commander, Meade was responsible for planning and conducting the operations of his army, yet the proximity of his superior officer - Grant - reduced Meade to a subordinate position inconsistent with the typical functions of an army commander.

The methodology for this analysis is the command and control (C2) study. Command and control refers to a wide range of quantitative and qualitative matters that influence military leadership. Some issues are as individualistic as a commander's personality; others consider impersonal factors such as the creation and management of organizations. To understand Grant and Meade as military leaders and as members of a complex organization, this study focuses on their personalities, training, experience, and strategic thinking as well as the political, logistical, and practical constraints imposed on their operations. The first test of this command structure, and of the Army of the Potomac under Grant's personal supervision, was the 5-6 May 1864 battle of the Wilderness. Paying particular attention to planning, objectives, and the decision to attack on the morning of 5 May, this analysis argues that Federal participation in a general engagement within the confines of the Virginia Wilderness satisfied Grant's primary objective for the Army of the Potomac.