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General James Longstreet

Civil War

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#1 Cinaruco



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Posted 26 November 2012 - 0719 AM


I have been reading up (or for the first time) on the ACW, for the past two years, and one of the most fascinating characters to me has been Longstreet. He is regarded as both a traitor and patriot, as this was the civil war, but what tickles my attention is this man, controversial mainly for his battlefield decisions, and his postwar activities (joining the bluebellies). As much of this history is already written I can come up with my own conclusions and that is that Longstreet was perhaps the best General in the south, Corps commander at least (yes, better than Stonewall IMHO), so as not to get called apostate by criticizing RE Lee. My focus is, of course, Gettysburg, the center of the controversy, and the Wilderness and Chickamauga, where he preformed excellent.

What went FUBAR for the Confederates on day two of Gettysburg on their right is still a mystery for me, perhaps Sickels spooked them somehow, and perhaps it was just an impossible force to coordinate in bad ground, "perhaps the Federals had something to do about it". And of course the Charge, it was Pickett division going, but he was leading, and his management of this has been the source of controversy, despite the fact that he was right when he predicted it catastrophic move.

And he had this idea of going to Vicksburg with is Corps, leaving Lee and the ANV to pounce on the Army of the Potomac if they ever got south of said river (mostly, and before Grant, I know), which had strategic implications far more important than some town in Pennsylvania or Maryland. So what I see is a good man, a good General, on the loosing side and in a, for the lack of a better term, gray area politically, by the time of the reconstruction.

So, I'm here to learn as always. What am I wrong or missing here (quite a bit, I know it was war too large to understand, so I go by parts). What would you like to add.
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#2 Simon Tan

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Posted 26 November 2012 - 1127 AM

Longstreet is Shelby Foote's whipping boy.
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#3 Richard Lindquist

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Posted 26 November 2012 - 1213 PM

Longstreet was also Jubal Early's whipping boy. Early hated Longstreet and Early was the director of the Southern historical Society for most of the 1880s when the basic history of the war was written and the various generals wrote their memoirs.

Longstreet was obviously a good general as he functioned as a corps commander from the Seven Days right through Appomattox. None of the other southern corps commanders had that record.

That being said, Longstreet's two opportunities for independent command (Suffolk and Knoxville) were barren of results and did little for his reputation.

As far as Gettysburg, it seemed like the entire hierarchy of the ANV at army, corps, and division level took a collective day off.

On day 2, the best division commander (Hood) was wounded early on. His senior brigadier (Law) never really took command and the division ended up dispersing its effort while attacking in two different directions (against Sickles' salient and against Little Round Top). At the same time, Law did not pass command to his senior colonel very well and his brigade ended up conducting disjointed attacks.

On day 2, Lee's plan for an "en echelon attack" from right to left died in Anderson's division where two of his brigades never even moved.

On day 2, Early did not employ his full division in the evening attack and Rodes (who may have been severely ill) never attacked at all.

On day 3, Lee and his staff never investigated the degree to which Heth's Division and Pender's Division had been shattered on the first day (AP HIll and his staff never even got involved) . Neither division had recovered and their command arrangements were makeshift at best (Trimble took command of Pender's troops at the last minute before the attack with no role except to go forward with the division). Anderson's Division would have been a much better choice to accompany Pickett.
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