Professional Readings

Reading #139

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  • Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Grant’s Disengagement from Cold Harbor (pages 176-209 found in the book Cold Harbor to the Crater)

Acting Director Major General Robert “Bo” Dyess’ Comments:


In the future operating environment, state and non-state threats, enemies, and adversaries will attempt to disrupt what they perceive as U.S. advantages across all domains (i.e. land, maritime, aerospace, cyberspace, and the electromagnetic spectrum). While long-range strike and offshore capabilities remain important to joint force operations, the integration and application of combined arms is integral to the execution of Joint Combined Arms Maneuver. Joint Combined Arms Maneuver is the synchronized, simultaneous, or sequential application of two or more arms or elements of one service, along with joint, interorganizational, and multinational capabilities to create multiple dilemmas for the enemy and allow the Joint Force Commander to seize, retain, and exploit the initiative. Only by leveraging different capabilities from across the range of forces, can a commander truly present an enemy with multiple dilemmas while gaining and maintaining freedom of action.

In “Grant’s Disengagement from Cold Harbor,” Gordon Rhea briefly outlines the nature of the fighting at Cold Harbor that left the contesting armies at less than 100 yards apart. Torrential rivers and boggy marshes precluded rapid movement of formations across parts of the battlefield. The ability of Union Commander General Ulysses S. Grant’s to maneuver against Confederate General Robert E. Lee was restricted on June 3, 1864 as Grant’s multi-corps assault failed to penetrate Lee’s entrenched defenses resulting in over 5,500 casualties. Restrictive maneuver presented Grant with an operational dilemma of how to unhinge Lee’s firmly ensconced forces. In his memoirs, Grant noted that because “Lee’s position was so near Richmond…and the intervening swamps of the Chickahominy so great an obstacle to the movement of troops in the face of an enemy that I determined to make my next left flank move carry the Army of the Potomac south of the James River.”

Unable to force the Union Army through Lee’s position, Grant sought to reposition his force between the Confederates and Richmond and apply the full range of combined arms to his operational problem. Union cavalry executed reconnaissance and security operations to screen maneuver and provide guard operations against potential enemy counterattack. Union engineers employed all available bridging and pontoon assets in theater to cross the Chickahominy and James Rivers. The crossing of the James was successful only through the integration of Union Naval transportation, firepower and logistics. Synchronized Union artillery fires and smoke provided the cover and concealment against Confederate forces, allowing Union ground forces to maneuver successfully to secured positions. Under Grant’s leadership, the Union Army achieved integrated joint effects enabling Union forces to attain secured positions while presenting Lee and the Confederate Army with new dilemmas.

This week’s professional reading reminds us that the Army’s ability to close with and destroy enemy forces through fire and maneuver is essential to ensure joint force freedom of action. In the coming days, the Capabilities Development and Integration Directorates (CDIDs) from the Army’s Centers of Excellence will consider the same operational problem that Grant faced after Cold Harbor: how to regain freedom of action and maneuver facing an adversary that limits your offensive capabilities. Much as Grant, our Army will have to rely on a multi-domain approach to confront the challenges in the operating environment of the future. This will require the full spectrum of combined arms, integrating reconnaissance and security formations, offensive and defensive fires, and maneuver support capabilities to counter adversaries that increasingly exhibit parity within their capabilities and whose anti-access/area-denial (A2/AD) systems will limit the full application of joint enablers.

While some of our discussions will focus on familiar capabilities—obscuration, fires, and vertical lift—we will also examine how best to integrate 21st Century logistics technologies into our formations to ensure unimpeded sustainment flows across the land, air, and maritime domains. We require 21st Century technologies to enable increased efficiency and reduced demand through lower fuel consumption, decreased waste generation, efficient storage, power and energy generation, and timely and agile logistics and precision resupply. The Army is also developing technologies to enable automated and autonomous ground and air resupply. These technologies seek to minimize the logistical footprint, reduce risk to Soldiers, and preserve freedom of maneuver and action.

As you read the article, consider the impacts on the following Army Warfighting Challenges:
#11 Conduct Air-Ground Reconnaissance and Security Operations:

How Army formations conduct continuous integrated reconnaissance and security operations across multiple domains (air/land/cyberspace/space/maritime) to rapidly develop the situation while in contact with the enemy and civilian populations.

#15 Conduct Cross-Domain Maneuver:

How Army forces, operating as part of a joint, interorganizational, and multinational force, train, organize, equip, and posture sufficiently to deter or defeat highly capable peer threats in the degraded, contested, lethal, and complex future operational environment.

#17/18 Employ Cross-Domain Fires:

How to employ cross-domain fires to defeat the enemy and preserve freedom of action across the range of military operations (ROMO).

#20 Develop Capable Formations:

How to design Army formations capable of rapidly deploying and conducting operations for ample duration and in sufficient scale to accomplish the mission.

Continuous feedback, collaboration, and teamwork are keys to the success of the Campaign of Learning and driving innovation in the Army. Please use the Army Warfighting Challenges as the framework to contribute your ideas and recommendations with respect to this topic to improve our ability to innovate as we develop the current and future force.

The Army Warfighting Challenges (AWFC) framework may be accessed here:

For previous weekly readings go to: ARCIC Professional Readings

  1. Army Operating Concept, TRADOC Pam 525-3-1, 30 October 2014
  2. Multi-Domain Battle

All the best,