Interview: Longstreet says Davis was a "menace" who impaired Johnston's efforts and effectiveness

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lelliott19

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Longstreet on Joe Johnston.JPG

On the occasion of Longstreet's visit to Antietam in 1893, a correspondent of the Washington Post recorded the General's opinions and criticisms on a number of topics. This part of the interview is Longstreet on Joe Johnston.

"I have great curiosity, general, to hear your military judgement on Generals Joe Johnston, Beauregard and Hood."

"I had a high regard for them all. General Johnston was one of the ablest generals the war produced. He could handle a large army with ease. But his usefulness to the South was greatly impaired by the personal opposition of the President. He dared take no risks on account of this 'fire in the rear,' fearing that he would not be sustained, perhaps discredited before the world. A menace like that will paralyze the best efforts of any commander in the field. General Johnston never had a fair trial."
Note: This post is Part 7 of a series on Longstreet's opinions of various Generals, expressed during an interview with a Washington Post corespondent in 1893. Longstreet's opinions on various generals are posted in separate threads so they can be easily located - Bragg, Jackson, A P Hill, Early, Ewell, Pickett, Sheridan, Joe Johnston, Beauregard, Hood, Jeff Davis, Lee, McClellan, and more. Here are the links to Parts 1-6, posted previously:
Part 1 - Intro to the article
Part 2 - Longstreet on Bragg
Part 3 - Longstreet on Jackson
Part 4 - Longstreet on AP Hill
Part 5 - Longstreet on Ewell & Early
Part 6 - Longstreet on Pickett, Sheridan, Five Forks & the Timing of the Surrender

Source: Reprinted from the Washington Post of June 1893, the article appeared in The Times Dispatch. (Richmond, VA.), November 12, 1911, page 3.

@Eleanor Rose @Union_Buff @FarawayFriend @War Horse @novushomus @GELongstreet @LeesWarhorse @Tom Elmore @Coonewah Creek @Yankeedave @Andy Cardinal @PeterT @Zella If you aren't tagged and would like to know when these are posted, let me know and Ill tag you in future ones. <Up next, Longstreet on Beauregard.>
 
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Coonewah Creek

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General Johnston never had a fair trial.
Now I never was sure if this story was apocryphal or not, but I've always associated Joe Johnston with a story told about him from earlier in his life. I'm sure most here have heard it. But apparently upon learning of Johnston’s reputation as a crack shot, a friend once invited him on a quail hunt. Most of the time when the covey flushed, Johnston failed to fire, explaining that the birds were too far away, or obscured by trees, or the sun was in his eyes. The conclusion the friend reached was that Johnston wouldn’t take a shot unless conditions were perfect. Does sound a bit analogous to his performance as an Army and Theater commander during the war.
 
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Finally a word of praise for someone, coming from Longstreet ! I did hold my breath when I read the headline, because I think Longstreet always had held Johnston in high esteem and was truly regretting that after his wounding Johnston had to leave the scene to recover. I guess it took Old Pete a while to warm up with Lee. Nice to see that he still held warm feelings for his first commander.
 
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Rebforever

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Finally a word of praise for someone, coming from Longstreet ! I did hold my breath when I read the headline, because I think Longstreet always had held Johnston in high esteem and was truly regretting that after his wounding Johnston had to leave the scene to recover. I guess it took Old Pete a while to warm up with Lee. Nice to see that he still held warm feelings for his first commander.
Longstreet was trying to get Lee's job.
 
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Longstreet was trying to get Lee's job.
Marshall, I seriously doubt that. Lee was the only general who gained significant victories for the Confederacy, and I think Longstreet observed that also. Sometimes he sure disagreed - but like Longstreet, occasionally I don't agree to the decisions of my boss - but never would I want to get his job! I think he was quite content to be second in command and "the staff in the hand" of the commanding general.
 

CSA Today

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Finally a word of praise for someone, coming from Longstreet ! I did hold my breath when I read the headline, because I think Longstreet always had held Johnston in high esteem and was truly regretting that after his wounding Johnston had to leave the scene to recover. I guess it took Old Pete a while to warm up with Lee. Nice to see that he still held warm feelings for his first commander.
I think Longstreet was a better than average general during the war, I actually have a “Bull of the Woods” t-shirt.
 
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Carronade

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Longstreet was trying to get Lee's job.
Marshall, I seriously doubt that. Lee was the only general who gained significant victories for the Confederacy, and I think Longstreet observed that also. Sometimes he sure disagreed - but like Longstreet, occasionally I don't agree to the decisions of my boss - but never would I want to get his job! I think he was quite content to be second in command and "the staff in the hand" of the commanding general.
I read @Rebforever's comment as referring to immediately after Johnston was wounded; perhaps he can confirm or correct me. At that point Lee was an unknown quantity. He was well respected in the prewar army, but his war record to date was uninspiring. It was not at all clear the he was "the man" or for that matter that Longstreet would not be a fine army commander.

Before long of course Lee established his reputation and Longstreet settled into place as his "War Horse".
 

Rebforever

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I read @Rebforever's comment as referring to immediately after Johnston was wounded; perhaps he can confirm or correct me. At that point Lee was an unknown quantity. He was well respected in the prewar army, but his war record to date was uninspiring. It was not at all clear the he was "the man" or for that matter that Longstreet would not be a fine army commander.

Before long of course Lee established his reputation and Longstreet settled into place as his "War Horse".
Not really. He had a problem following orders.
 
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lelliott19

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Longstreet was trying to get Lee's job.
For context, in 1893, at the time of this interview, Longstreet was 72 years old. Lee's job as General had ended 28 years prior and Lee had been dead for 23 years. So, at the time of the interview, I don't think Longstreet's views on the various generals had anything to do with wanting anyone's job.

Don't despair - Longstreet's "military judgement" of General Lee (from the interview; in his own words) will be forthcoming. And it will probably surprise you; not what I expected anyway. It will be posted in multiple parts over several days. I'll post the first one after I get back from the CWT Chickamauga trip (so on or after Oct 28.) There will also eventually be a whole lot more of Longstreet on Jeff Davis. Good stuff! The interview was an all day affair, so there is plenty of material to go around. :thumbsup:
 

Rebforever

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Marshall, I seriously doubt that. Lee was the only general who gained significant victories for the Confederacy, and I think Longstreet observed that also. Sometimes he sure disagreed - but like Longstreet, occasionally I don't agree to the decisions of my boss - but never would I want to get his job! I think he was quite content to be second in command and "the staff in the hand" of the commanding general.
He really wasn’t satisfied. If he had of been satisfied he would not have tried so often to change an order give by General Lee.
 
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Rebforever

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For context, in 1893, at the time of this interview, Longstreet was 72 years old. Lee's job as General had ended 28 years prior and Lee had been dead for 23 years. So, at the time of the interview, I don't think Longstreet's views on the various generals had anything to do with wanting anyone's job.

Don't despair - Longstreet's "military judgement" of General Lee (from the interview; in his own words) will be forthcoming. And it will probably surprise you; not what I expected anyway. It will be posted in multiple parts over several days. I'll post the first one after I get back from the CWT Chickamauga trip (so on or after Oct 28.) There will also eventually be a whole lot more of Longstreet on Jeff Davis. Good stuff! The interview was an all day affair, so there is plenty of material to go around. :thumbsup:
May be good stuff. If sources are not there, then it is nothing.
 

WJC

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[Johnston's] usefulness to the South was greatly impaired by the personal opposition of the President. He dared take no risks on account of this 'fire in the rear,' fearing that he would not be sustained, perhaps discredited before the world. A menace like that will paralyze the best efforts of any commander in the field. General Johnston never had a fair trial."
Longstreet certainly had both these points right! Thanks for sharing!
 

WJC

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Finally a word of praise for someone, coming from Longstreet !
From what I have read, including his memoirs, Longstreet was not stingy in handing out praise. He was, however, very candid. And I will allow that his opinions of certain rebel leaders may have soured as they openly mistreated him.
 
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WJC

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He maybe had a problem following orders he thought wrong, but he was soldier enough to execute these orders anyway.
I don't believe he ever failed to follow orders. He was too good a soldier for that and too loyal to Lee.
Some- notably Gary Gallagher- contend that at Gettysburg (the one example everyone relies on for this criticism) he actually followed too closely the letter of his orders.
 
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