The blockade, was absolutely devastating to the Confederates. The retention of the US Navy was an advantage that could only be overcome if the Northern will to accept the kinds of losses that the Confederate Army inflicted failed. The political effect of those losses was visible in the mid-term election in Lincoln's first term.
- "The Killer Angels" Shaara was a Longstreet man through and through His book is great literature but it is not history any more than my version of Gettysburg in TBC is history. In the great Confederate feud that erupted after Lee's death in 1870, Longstreet claimed that Ewell and Early caused Lee not to continue the 2nd Corps attack on Cemetery and Culp's hills on the evening of the first day. This is untrue. Early had been urging Ewell the corps commander to attack immediately when Lee arrived on the scene. Shaara implies that Early had done the opposite. This is not so. Ewell did it all by himself.
- I don't think Longstreet ever said anything about Fremantle. Shaara invented that.
-In the Overland Campaign Grant intended to destroy the AoNV by advancing through the Wilderness focused on Richmond thus forcing Lee to commit his much smaller forces repeatedly to decisive engagement. What he had missed about the probabilities in this was how well Lee had predicted his avenues of advance and had done such things as build "corduroyed" roads through the forest paralleling Grant's western line of advance SE along the Brock Road. Lee very nearly broke Grant's column of advance along that axis where the Orange Plank road meets the Brock Road and then a day or so later nearly turned Grant back in the big attack south of there in which Longstreet was severely wounded and the attack fell apart. Grant retreated into his tent the night of the first day and sobbed himself to sleep. I don't blame him a bit. Meade's staff officers had tried to tell him that "you don't know war until you have met Bobby Lee and his boys." To the surprise of his men Grant continued down the Brock Road. Lee figured that out and beat him to Spotsylvania down the forest track that he had built in the winter.
-At the North Anna, the marble man worked out a plan that would have allowed him to destroy US II Corps but he came down with heart trouble and Grant was able to draw back from the trap.
-By the time they reached Cold Harbor just north of Richmond Grant had lost more men than Lee had in his whole army when Grant crossed the Rapidan and Grant still had the same numbers that he had when he crossed the river. "Those people" as the Confederate Lee always referred to the US Army kept bringing more and more men forward in poorer and poorer units. Lee's men butchered those heavy artillery units and new USCT regiments like they were sheep but there were just too many.
-Part of Grant's overall plan had been for Ben Butler to land from the sea and do exactly what you say with regard to railroad lines leading west and south from Richmond. Smith, Kautz, Butler et all were defeated in all their efforts to do that in May and June. The Battle of Drewry's Bluff just south of Richmond finished off that possibility. pl