"If Longstreet Says So, It Is Most Likely Not True"/ Robert K. Krick

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Henry Hunt

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"If Longstreet Says So, It Is Most Likely Not True"/ Robert K. Krick

Hello,

First thread here we go. I have always found Gen. Longstreet to be an interesting figure. Recently I was reading Gary Gallagher's work The Second Day of Gettysburg: Essays on Confederate and Union Leadership which features the above article by Robert Krick. The essay caught me a little off guard by the harsh tone. Krick paints Longstreet in a very negative light. Looking to the experts on this site I wanted to get any opinions of the essay. Here is a brief outlined of his main points below:

-He had a melancholy and disagreeable personality
-He was something of a dullard who finished 54 of 56 at West Point
-He favored incompetent men like Toombs, Pickett, Wigfall
-He shifted blame to others such as Huger and McLaws
-He was pro-Johnston and anti-Lee
-He performed poorly at Seven Pines, Suffolk and Knoxville
-He fabricated the famed offensive-defensive agreement with Lee
-He was slow on 2nd day of Gettysburg

The full essay is available on google books starting on page 57:
https://books.google.com/books?id=TMwNCOAXTHUC&printsec=frontcover&dq=Gary+W.+Gallagher+second+day&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjLgdnf6s3jAhXLhOAKHdEFD0IQ6AEIMjAC#v=onepage&q&f=false

Thanks in advance.
 
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thomas aagaard

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Welcome.

To me that sound like a writer who is pretty biased.

  • His children died. That is why he was in a bad mood for the last half of the war.

  • Position at west point had little to do with intelligence and a lot to do with following a lot of rules.
    Rules that in some cases made little sense.

  • Yes he did try to blame others..
    Decades after the war... after decades of being blamed for loosing it by the loot cause bunch.

  • Everyone did poorly at Seven pines. Especially Jackson.
    (you are correct about the two others. But then again, every general had good and bad operations)

  • Much of his slowness are based on made up claims from the lost cause bunch. And some of it was caused by the need to counter march.
    It is often forgotten how much of an advantage it was for Lee to be operation in friendly territory for most of the war.
    This show the difference.
    Longstreets attack on the 2nd was some of the best offensive fighting done during the war.
    Another was his attack at 2nd Bull run and the one at the battle of chickamauga.
    Longstreet clearly liked to to take his time to get everyone in the right position before attacking. Sometimes it worked great and sometimes more speed might have been better. We see the exact same with George Thomas.
I would suggest the book about Longstreet by Jeffry D. Wert.
He try to get to what actually happened during the war and dig true all the false claims made decades after the war. (both by Longstreet and by the people who was attacking him)

He is critical about some of the generals actions when it is based on what happened.
(on 3rd july 63 he did fail in hs responsibility in a number of ways and his politicizing out west did him no honor)
 
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jackt62

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All military commanders have their strengths and weaknesses, as did Longstreet. Some of the criticisms mentioned are downright ridiculous, (he was a "dullard") or may not even be a true criticism (he was "melancholy.") Others are plain false (he was "anti-Lee") or unfairly presented ("slow on day 2 of Gettysburg). Indeed, some are correct (he "performed poorly at Seven Pines, and he shifted blame to others"). Longstreet's reputation suffered as a result of being made a scapegoat for the southern defeat by the Lost Cause movement and his subsequent support of the Republican party. But overall, his performance throughout the war was pretty solid, particularly on the defensive, which he did favor and advocated for.
 

Irishtom29

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After reading many books on Gettysburg, including I think all the essentials, I still don't well understand the second day on the Federal left. It seems to me that Longstreet arrived in his position at just the right time, after Sickles had advanced to the peach orchard.

Others have told me I'm wrong, that it would've been better had he arrived earlier when Sickles was still farther east along Cemetery Ridge. I can't see that, especially if Lee intended to advance up the Emmitsburg Road. If that's what Lee intended. That's another thing that confuses me--just what in the Hell did Lee intend Longstreet to do?
 
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Andy Cardinal

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Welcome from the First Bull Run/Manassas Forum!

If you read enough stuff about Longstreet and/or the second day at Gettysburg you will see every argument imaginable. The truth, I've found, usually lies somewhere in the middle. If the topic interests you, I encourage you to keep an open mind and draw your own conclusions..
 

BillO

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Welcome.

To me that sound like a writer who is pretty biased.

  • His children died. That is why he was in a bad mood for the last half of the war.

  • Position at west point had little to do with intelligence and a lot to do with following a lot of rules.
    Rules that in some cases made little sense.

  • Yes he did try to blame others..
    Decades after the war... after decades of being blamed for loosing it by the loot cause bunch.

  • Everyone did poorly at Seven pines. Especially Jackson.
    (you are correct about the two others. But then again, every general had good and bad operations)

  • Much of his slowness are based on made up claims from the lost cause bunch. And some of it was caused by the need to counter march.
    It is often forgotten how much of an advantage it was for Lee to be operation in friendly territory for most of the war.
    This show the difference.
    Longstreets attack on the 2nd was some of the best offensive fighting done during the war.
    Another was his attack at 2nd Bull run and the one at the battle of chickamauga.
    Longstreet clearly liked to to take his time to get everyone in the right position before attacking. Sometimes it worked great and sometimes more speed might have been better. We see the exact same with George Thomas.
I would suggest the book about Longstreet by Jeffry D. Wert.
He try to get to what actually happened during the war and dig true all the false claims made decades after the war. (both by Longstreet and by the people who was attacking him)

He is critical about some of the generals actions when it is based on what happened.
(on 3rd july 63 he did fail in hs responsibility in a number of ways and his politicizing out west did him no honor)
A couple of comments on this
bullet point 1, yes, prior to his children's death he was a very outgoing jokey kind of fellow.
#2. Well yes it kind of does reflect on your intellect as well as your ability to follow orders.
#3 and 4, Jackson wasn't at Seven Pines and Longstreet and Johnston blamed Huger for Longstreet's' mistake
#5 Much of the claims of his slowness can be traced to the facts as found, he was kind of slow.
 

IcarusPhoenix

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-He was pro-Johnston and anti-Lee
My problem with this argument is the same with most other absolute dichotomies; it doesn’t generally apply to the real world, and one point is often extrapolated from the other and not from the real world. Case in point: Longstreet’s post-war/post-Lee’s death detractors paint his 1862 support of Johnston and his willingness to agree with Lee’s own assessment that Gettysburg’s loss was primarily Lee’s responsibility as being “anti-Lee”.
-He performed poorly at Seven Pines, Suffolk and Knoxville
Everyone did poorly at Seven pines. Especially Jackson.
(you are correct about the two others. But then again, every general had good and bad operations)
I’ve stated this before, but the also post-war positions that Longstreet did poorly at Suffolk and Knoxville are, respectively, pure revisionism and lacking in any context.

The argument goes that failure to capture fortified Suffolk qualifies as a failure of his mission, ignoring the fact that Suffolk’s capture wasn’t his primary mission at all. The mission was to keep the Union troops bottled up in Suffolk so that his corps could strip the surrounding countryside of supplies for Lee’s Chancellorsville campaign, and that mission was so successful that the army was supplied for months. Without Suffolk, the Gettysburg campaign wouldn’t have even been possible.

As for Knoxville, Longstreet didn’t “fail at Knoxville” so much as the ever-paranoid Braxton Bragg set him up to fail.
 
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Henry Hunt

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Thanks for the comments everyone.

After reading many books on Gettysburg, including I think all the essentials, I still don't well understand the second day on the Federal left. It seems to me that Longstreet arrived in his position at just the right time, after Sickles had advanced to the peach orchard.

Others have told me I'm wrong, that it would've been better had he arrived earlier when Sickles was still farther east along Cemetery Ridge. I can't see that, especially if Lee intended to advance up the Emmitsburg Road. If that's what Lee intended. That's another thing that confuses me--just what in the Hell did Lee intend Longstreet to do?
Welcome from the First Bull Run/Manassas Forum!

If you read enough stuff about Longstreet and/or the second day at Gettysburg you will see every argument imaginable. The truth, I've found, usually lies somewhere in the middle. If the topic interests you, I encourage you to keep an open mind and draw your own conclusions..
The best book I have read for Confederate perspective of Gettysburg is @Scott Bowden Last Chance for Victory. Drawing upon what I remember from it, Lee was attempting an echelon attack and wanted to draw as many Union troops as possible to his right wing. This would give A.P. Hill and Ewell a better chance to break through up the line. Keeping this in mind, I agree with @Irishtom29 Longstreet by waiting helped Lee's overall plan by engaging Sickles entire corps and getting Meade to pull men from other areas up the line. Bowden views Longstreet's Day 3 service as more problematic due to his lackluster efforts in performing the attack.
 

Henry Hunt

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Looking at some of Krick's primary source work, a few names stood out W.W. Blackford, Cadmus Wilcox, Lafayette McLaws, Porter Alexander. I am aware of McLaws and Alexander relations with Longstreet. Anyone know why Blackford or Wilcox would have a negative opinion?
 
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rhettbutler1865

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Thanks for the comments everyone.




The best book I have read for Confederate perspective of Gettysburg is @Scott Bowden Last Chance for Victory. Drawing upon what I remember from it, Lee was attempting an echelon attack and wanted to draw as many Union troops as possible to his right wing. This would give A.P. Hill and Ewell a better chance to break through up the line. Keeping this in mind, I agree with @Irishtom29 Longstreet by waiting helped Lee's overall plan by engaging Sickles entire corps and getting Meade to pull men from other areas up the line. Bowden views Longstreet's Day 3 service as more problematic due to his lackluster efforts in performing the attack.
I know; in war, you must make decisions and do what goes beyond your 'emotions, morals,etc.' We're all human here--would YOU,knowing the obvious outcome, want to send thousands to their death? I was so much a Lee, the "gentleman soldier" fan, until I studied enough--I sure wouldn't want to be in Longstreet's shoes.
 
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Henry Hunt

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I know; in war, you must make decisions and do what goes beyond your 'emotions, morals,etc.' We're all human here--would YOU,knowing the obvious outcome, want to send thousands to their death? I was so much a Lee, the "gentleman soldier" fan, until I studied enough--I sure wouldn't want to be in Longstreet's shoes.
I would agree you, wouldn't want to be in Longstreet's place that day having to order something you, rightly or wrongly, think has no chance of success.
 

O' Be Joyful

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I know; in war, you must make decisions and do what goes beyond your 'emotions, morals,etc.' We're all human here--would YOU,knowing the obvious outcome, want to send thousands to their death? I was so much a Lee, the "gentleman soldier" fan, until I studied enough--I sure wouldn't want to be in Longstreet's shoes.

It is a hard thing to make immediate and crucial decisions, but after reflection-- and then deflections--by critics...all, seems simple.

If only, there had been instant replay, at the time.
 

lelliott19

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McLaws: "will lay blame of failure... upon someone else"
I am aware of McLaws and Alexander relations with Longstreet.
Hello @Henry Hunt and welcome to Civil War Talk - the best place on the internet for Civil War discussion. You might enjoy reading McLaws post-war (1878) account, describing his impressions of the Battle of Gettysburg.

Those who expect McLaws to criticize Longstreet and/or Lee, may be surprised. McLaws states what happened - what he observed and what occurred out of his observation, as it was reported by his subordinates. I think its one of the most unbiased Confederate accounts out there.

I have transcribed and posted his impressions of Day 3 including his view of Pickett's Charge, but have not yet transcribed his account of Day 2. Here's a link to the July 3 excerpt. https://civilwartalk.com/threads/view-of-picketts-charge-maj-gen-lafayette-mclaws-on-july-3.159910/ Fair warning: It's pretty long, so you might want to wait until you have some time. :D
 
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ErnieMac

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A couple thoughts come to mind. With respect to his personality, Longstreet seems to have been a rather outgoing individual who enjoyed a good time. Until the death of three of his children from scarlet fever in early 1862. Thereafter he became more withdrawn and serious. He rarely drank afterwards and became a devout member of the Episcopal Church. Pickett was a long time friend (going back at least to the Mexican War) who took care of the funeral arrangements for Longstreet's children. Any wonder he may have had a soft spot for the man.

The West Point curriculum was heavily weighted toward science and engineering. A lower class rank more likely meant that you weren't a good engineer, not that you were a dullard. If you look at the list of cadets who graduated first in their class in the 30 or so years prior to the War you won't find many outstanding military commanders. The artist James McNeill Whistler flunked out of West Point in the early 1850s (1854 IIRC). The final straw came when he started an exam by stating silicon was a gas; later stating "If silicon were a gas, I would have been a general one day". That didn't prevent him from becoming an outstanding artist.
 
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OldReliable1862

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I'm still reading up on Old Pete, so I'm fully prepared to have to eat my words at some point. One of the only real things I hold against Longstreet is his blaming Huger and McLaws for mistakes he made. He didn't do it as much as some, but he did engage in it.
 
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For the academical ranking we could of course add that, during his last year, most of Longstreet`s marks were somewhat better than his overall rank, though still all in the last third (best was 40 for Infantry Tactics). However he also had some 102 demerits, pretty much half of those allowed in that year (like Grant), which again put him into the last third of the whole academy. While the number of his demerits fluctuated highly over the years his marks were never good. Still he graduated while many more didn´t; and he still had two stellar careers and is widely discussed while countless others are all but forgotten. Grades aren´t everything (says the one who graduated with mediocre to worse grades).
 
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