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The Longstreet-Gettysburg Controversy

Discussion in 'Civil War History - General Discussion' started by Rebforever, Jan 6, 2017.

  1. leftyhunter

    leftyhunter Captain

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    Well thats the problem. Where Lee's Corps commanders guilty of malfeasance of duty if they did not receive detailed written orders? On the other hand are rigid orders a detriment to the fast moving and changing conditions of the battle field? For example Soviet and later Arab commanders were said to be to strung up bu bpund and written orders vs German later Israeli commanders not bound by tightly written instructions could be more flexible to changing firld conditions.
    Leftyhunter
     
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  3. lelliott19

    lelliott19 Sergeant Major Forum Host Trivia Game Winner

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    While most probably held Longstreet in "high esteem," they didn't necessarily think he was always right. Not all of them, anyway.

    So much has been written about these two great heroes and the campaign in Pennsylvania that I am constrained to have a word, and I write from the standpoint of an humble private who wore the gray and carried a rifle.....And while I would not cast any reflections on the characters of Generals Lee and Longstreet as officers or patriots, I do think that the friends of both should be willing in all cases, when the evidence preponderates, to acknowledge each other's mistakes and assume or shoulder their responsibilities or shortcomings. I was in Longstreet's corps - was proud of him and revere his memory even today, and fought under him in all his great battles, some of which were the bloodiest and ghastliest that the world has ever witnessed. Followed him in all his campaigns in Virginia, Georgia, Tennessee, Maryland, and Pennsylvania. And while his career as a separate commander was not so brilliant and fruitful of results, yet as Lee's right arm, as a corps commander, he was not excelled on either side. .....

    Longstreet's friends who attempt to vindicate him do not analyze the movements of the troops on the second day at Gettysburg, but confine their defense mainly to the third day's fighting, criticizing Lee for his assault against the advice and counsel of Longstreet, ignoring the palpable fact that if Lee's orders had been faithfully carried out on the second day there would likely have been no necessity for any fighting on the third day. .....Longstreet was ordered to advance and attack early in the morning, at sunrise, on the second day. Could he have done so? We verily believe he could. McLaws' division lay encamped only four miles from the battlefield of the first day. Some other divisions about the same distance...

    McLaws' division could have gone into position that night....and even when the march commenced that morning it was an awful slow one. Well do we remember how long we were halted time and again in some of those long, hot lanes through the plantations, how we had ample time to gather from the cherry trees....fences could have been let down and the short distance could have been made through the fields and woods in a very short space of time. One standing upon the towers now built upon the battlefield thinks he can almost see where Longstreet lay encamped that night and the winding highway leading therefrom to the battlefield. ....The route was not very circuitous, and if the movement had been made at the proper time (before sunrise) there would have been no necessity for it.


    From the Atlanta newspaper Sunny South, Mar. 26, 1898, page 10.
     
    Last edited: Jan 7, 2017
  4. lelliott19

    lelliott19 Sergeant Major Forum Host Trivia Game Winner

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    Seems like I recall that some of E P Alexander's artillery showed Longstreet the "out of view alternate route" they had used to get the cannon to the field? Anyone know why they didnt use that route? And why did Longstreet allow them to refile on their own lines? Why not just turn around instead passing back along your own line?
     
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  5. rpkennedy

    rpkennedy Major

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    By the evening of July 2nd, the whole of the Army of the Potomac was on the field with the exception of a few cavalry brigades. There were other forces not too far away that could've played a role though. William French was commanding elements of the Eighth Corps and would join the Army a week after the battle. Additionally, Darius Couch was commanding all of the New York and Pennsylvania militia gathering in Harrisburg. While these men didn't pose much of a threat to Lee's veterans, they could stall any move long enough to allow Meade to fall on Lee's rear.

    Ryan
     
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  6. rpkennedy

    rpkennedy Major

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    He was following Lee's orders to the letter. Lee wanted McLaws on the left and Hood on the right so that's what Longstreet was going to give him, even if it took extra time. Like I said, he was being pouty like my teenage daughter.

    Ryan
     
  7. Mike Griffith

    Mike Griffith Corporal

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    I don't think Longstreet lied about Gettysburg, and I think he was fair in his other comments about Lee.

    The fact is that Lee blundered terribly in ordering the frontal assault on the third day.
     
  8. rpkennedy

    rpkennedy Major

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    Lee took the responsibility for Gettysburg and never played the blame game after the war.

    Ryan
     
  9. RebelHeart

    RebelHeart Corporal

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    I get what you're saying here, but let's look at the entirety of Lee's approach instead of micro-managing it. Indeed Lee would need a lot of water and food for his 70K+ soldiers but let's keep in mind that he didn't plan on stopping at Gettysburg - he was aiming for Harrisburg. That meant that he had already planned to be in the area for a time and that pretty-much nullifies the explanation that resources were or would be scarce or he shouldn't have been there in the first place.

    A nearby "unused Army Corps" that couldn't make it to Gettysburg in time for the three days of battle wasn't much of a threat and certainly not a consideration. Lee never said that he felt that he needed to act quickly because of the impending arrival of more Union forces. He had the Union forces whipped on the first day and tried to finish them off on the second day. That strategy failed and it escapes an scholarly or logical reasoning as to why he believed it would work better on the third day.

    In my estimation Lee just made some bad choices at Gettysburg. I'll concede that it was uncharacteristic of him, but it happened. He had other options that had better chances of success than the third-day frontal assault. He could've pulled back from the hills and drawn Meade's forces into a situation that was more advantageous to the ANV or at least more equal. He could've secured the city proper and prepared to repel the nearby Union Corps (if he even knew of them) while he waited-out the starving Union soldiers in the hills. He could've surrounded the hills with artillery and shelled the hell out of them until he basically flattened the hills.

    I have a lot of respect for Lee the general and Lee the man of honor. The failures at Gettysburg were ultimately his failures and he owned them, which I respect even more. The idolization of Lee in customary remembrance doesn't much tolerate slights to his legacy, but I believe that his assumption of responsibility for his missteps is part of what makes his legacy so grand.
     
  10. rpkennedy

    rpkennedy Major

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    Where could Lee go to draw Meade in? He would have to disengage without a cavalry screen in the face of an unknown number of opponents.

    Gettysburg had zero strategic value and it makes no difference if Lee secures the town (which he historically did). The Union troops are not starving since their supply lines are open via the Taneytown Road so that's not going to force them to move.

    Lee's position is not adequate to flatten the hills that Meade has occupied. Look what happened at Benner's Hill. Not to mention that that kind of artillery bombardment would use up the army's supply which leaves him extremely vulnerable in enemy country.

    Lee's plans were rational and based on what he knew at the time. He was aggressive (like he always was) and rolled the dice. Unfortunately for him, this time, he rolled snake-eyes.

    Ryan
     
  11. leftyhunter

    leftyhunter Captain

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    Some good points.
    On the other hand was the AoP really whipped after the first day? Yes they lost control of a small town but they are still intact and has pointed out they still have an open supply line. All the AnV has is the ammo in their wagons and what ever they can forage. 70k plus men can't stay in one spot for to long no area can sustain that many men plus their beasts of burden for to long. The AnV either moves or it dies. Did Lee really have enough men to encircle the AnV and enough ammo for it's artillery to blast the hills that contained the AoP? Interesting points . I would like if possible others to weigh in on that.
    Thanks
    Leftyhunter
     
  12. War Horse

    War Horse 1st Lieutenant Forum Host Silver Patron Trivia Game Winner Regtl. Quartermaster Gettysburg 2016 Member of the Year

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    The AOP withdrew from the town to an even more advantageous position. The fish hook proved to be a superior position allowing for interior lines affording them fast mobilization of troops. If Meade withdrew it would have been to his preferred Pipe Creek line. He was prepared to do just that depending on the results of his day two counsel of war. His Generals convinced him to stay put and fight it out! Some people accuse him of weakness for calling the counsel. The fact is he was new in command and witnessed firsthand how Hooker called a counsel of war at Chanslorsville and ignored the opinions of those same officers. Meade knew where he would withdraw to. A very topographicly advantageous position. Even more so than Gettysburg!
     
  13. leftyhunter

    leftyhunter Captain

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    Did the AnV at anytime be it at Gburg or Pipe Creek have enough manpower and supplies to encircle and starve out the AoP?
    Leftyhunter
     
  14. War Horse

    War Horse 1st Lieutenant Forum Host Silver Patron Trivia Game Winner Regtl. Quartermaster Gettysburg 2016 Member of the Year

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    Of course not.
     
  15. leftyhunter

    leftyhunter Captain

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    That's what I was thinking. Hindsight being 20/20 with the caveat that Lee did't have the luxury of time or hindsight what could or should he of done vs what he did do? I know that is a loaded question. I think we both agree that by Mid-June of 1863 their where not a whole lot of good options on the table for Lee. Lee just can't stay in Va and hope for the best on the other hand an offense is risky by the same token wars are won on the offense. What to do what to do?
    Leftyhunter
     
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  16. War Horse

    War Horse 1st Lieutenant Forum Host Silver Patron Trivia Game Winner Regtl. Quartermaster Gettysburg 2016 Member of the Year

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    An interesting perspective from a privates point of view. We know today that there was no dawn order. Lee never intended it nor requested it. 1898? perhaps old Jubal's rants affected the mans memory.
     
  17. dlofting

    dlofting Sergeant

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    Thought I'd post a couple more excerpts from Lee's Gettysburg report before I put the book back on the shelf.

    From the part of the report covering July 1

    General Ewell was therefore instructed to carry the hill occupied by the enemy if he found it practicable, but to avoid a general engagement until the arrival of the other divisions of the army which were ordered to hasten forward. He decided to await Johnson's division, which had marched from Carlisle by the road west of the mountains to guard the trains of his corps, and consequently did not reach Gettysburg until a late hour. In the meantime the enemy occupied the point which General Ewell designed to seize, but in what force could not be ascertained owing to the darkness.

    So Lee's order to Ewell to seize "that hill" was discretionary and contingent on Ewell deeming the attack practicable. I was a bit surprised to read that Lee was still trying to avoid a general engagement at this point, pending the arrival of the rest of the army. I had always thought that he was committed to a battle at Gettysburg by the evening of July 1. Maybe I should avoid watching the movie in future and read more of what Lee wrote.

    From the part of the report covering July 3.

    The general plan was unchanged. Longstreet, reinforced by Pickett's three brigades, which arrived near the battle field during the afternoon of the 2d, was ordered to attack the next morning, and General Ewell was directed to assail the enemy's right at the same time. The latter, during the night, reinforced General Johnson with two brigades from Rodes' and one from Early's division.

    General Longstreet's dispositions were not completed as early as was expected, but before notice could be sent to General Ewell, General Johnson had already become engaged, and it was too late to recall him.

    Lee is writing about July 3 here, not July 2, but is this a criticism of Longstreet, or just Lee stating facts.....given Lee's reluctance to criticize subordinates in writing, it's hard to decide.

    Lee continues with his report and describes the final attack.

    The troops moved steadily on under heavy fire of musketry and artillery, the main attack being directed against the enemy's left center. His batteries reopened as soon as they appeared. Our own having nearly exhausted their ammunition in the protracted cannonade that preceded the advance of the infantry were unable to reply or render the necessary support to the attacking party. Owing, to this fact, which was unknown to me when the assault took place, the enemy was enabled to throw a strong force of infantry against our left, already wavering under a concentrated fire of artillery from the ridge in front, and from Cemetery Hill on the left. It finally gave way, and the right, after penetrating the enemy's lines, entering his advance works, and capturing some of his artillery, was attacked simultaneously in front and on both flanks, and driven back with heavy loss.

    Is Lee offering an uncharacteristic excuse for the failure of the attack or is this as close as he comes to a criticism of Pendleton for ordering the reserve artillery ammunition train to move beyond the range of the Union guns, but also out of easy reach of his own batteries.

    Lee's writings are very interesting......sometimes for what he says, but often for what he doesn't say.
     
  18. War Horse

    War Horse 1st Lieutenant Forum Host Silver Patron Trivia Game Winner Regtl. Quartermaster Gettysburg 2016 Member of the Year

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    Lee made the statement when he learned that Meade was now in charge of the AoP that Meade will make no mistake in my front and will take advantage of any mistake I make. Lee was correct. As military men both Lee and Meade were well trained. After Meade's counsel of war he told Gibbon if Lee attacks it will be on your front! That was not a lucky guess. Meade knew Lee had tried both flanks and failed. He knew an incompetent opponent would move troops reinforcing both flanks resulting in a weak center. Lee's decision to attacks Meade's center was Militarily an excellent move. However Meade saw it coming and didn't make the mistake Lee most counted on. JMO I think Lee's decision for the assault on day three was a sound military decision. I don't want to crush the opinions of those who feel Pickett's charge was ordered by an old man that lost his mind. It was not! Tactically it made sense.
     
  19. Drew

    Drew Captain

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    It wasn't a terrible blunder. It was in fact dang close. They blew the artillery barrage, but still breached the Union line on the ridge. A few more minutes, a few more men and history may well have played out differently.

    It was a daring plan that didn't work out, but it was freaking close. This isn't a blunder at all.
     
  20. War Horse

    War Horse 1st Lieutenant Forum Host Silver Patron Trivia Game Winner Regtl. Quartermaster Gettysburg 2016 Member of the Year

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    If he (Lee) chose to fight on day three it was the correct plan. The only thing that I wonder about was the distance the men had to close. That's an awful long way in open terrain. However as I've learned this past September, a large portion of the attacking force was concealed for much of the advance. Thank you @E_just_E
     
  21. Drew

    Drew Captain

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    Yes, Picket's charge was concealed in the 'dip' of the terrain. It's really important to go and see the field before casting judgement. We know what happened and that hindsight doesn't mean the people who planned it were dummies.

    Almost in love and war doesn't count, but Picket's charge should raise the hair on the back of any thinking person's neck. It was very, very close to succeeding.
     
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