Interview: Longstreet says Lee's pugnacity got the better of strategy at Gettysburg

Eleanor Rose

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"That any subject involving the possession and exercise of intellect should be clear to Longstreet and concealed from Lee, is a startling proposition to those having knowledge of the two men." [Richard Taylor, Destruction and Reconstruction: Personal Experiences of the Civil War, p. 231]
I'm not trying to start an argument :angel:, but it should be noted that the author of this quote had no personal knowledge of either man. As William Piston pointed out in his book, Lee's Tarnished Lieutenant: James Longstreet and His Place in Southern History, Richard Taylor had served under Jackson before transferring out west in 1862. That was the extent of his knowledge of General Lee. Taylor wasn't present at Gettysburg and only knew what he had read about it. This quote "sharply illustrates the success of Early and his supporters in enshrining Lee's memory." Like many "Lost Causers," Richard Taylor was angry at General Longstreet.
 

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AlexPensFan86

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I’m not disagreeing, just thinking out loud. If Pickett’s Charge wasn’t arrogant what was it? I’ve pondered this over and over for years now. No military manual in existence would have agreed with a frontal assault of so few men against so many entrenched combatants. The only answer I can come up with is. The man thought he couldn’t lose. Is that arrogant? I don’t know what else to call it.
Last time I was at Gettysburg, we hired one of the licensed battlefield guides and his explanation of Lee's thinking for Pickett's Charge had more to do with Ambrose Wright's success on the 2nd day than anything. He argued that Lee's thinking was that if a brigade could successfully get up there, then so could 3 divisions. Now I am sure that is assuming Ewell's diversionary attack occurs at the right time. According to Ewell biographer Donald Pfanz, Ewell was supposed to attack at the same time as Longstreet, but Longstreet's attack kept getting delayed and by the time Ewell was notified Johnson's division had already began their attack and it was too late to disengage.
 

UKMarkw

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Is it true that when giving the order to advance, Longstreet couldn't bring himself to say the word but simply nodded his head? If it is true it is a remarkable insight to how he may have felt about the choice that had been made and his likely disagreement with Lee about the folly of sending 12000 men against an entrenched enemy on high ground covered by cannon providing enfilade.
 

War Horse

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Almost every book I’ve ever read agrees
Is it true that when giving the order to advance, Longstreet couldn't bring himself to say the word but simply nodded his head? If it is true it is a remarkable insight to how he may have felt about the choice that had been made and his likely disagreement with Lee about the folly of sending 12000 men against an entrenched enemy on high ground covered by cannon providing enfilade.
Yes it’s true. Longstreet could not bring himself to wholeheartedly send his men into disaster with enthusiasm. He simply gave a nod and a raise of his hand.
 

War Horse

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Last time I was at Gettysburg, we hired one of the licensed battlefield guides and his explanation of Lee's thinking for Pickett's Charge had more to do with Ambrose Wright's success on the 2nd day than anything. He argued that Lee's thinking was that if a brigade could successfully get up there, then so could 3 divisions. Now I am sure that is assuming Ewell's diversionary attack occurs at the right time. According to Ewell biographer Donald Pfanz, Ewell was supposed to attack at the same time as Longstreet, but Longstreet's attack kept getting delayed and by the time Ewell was notified Johnson's division had already began their attack and it was too late to disengage.
I believe Lee’s thinking was sound. He simply didn’t have enough people. Think about it. Drive a wedge in the center of the Union line automatically flanking the two haves. Ewell pounding the other flank, Lee could have successfully divided the Union army. The plan was sound but executed poorly and for the first time in the war the Union failed to make the critical mistake at the critical hour. Meade intended to fight and had no intention of braking lines and retreating as his predecessors had done so many times before him. That would have been a mistake Lee would have capitalized on. Had that have happened history would be singing the praises of Robert E. Lee and not questioning what in the world was he thinking. JMO.
 

Henry Hunt

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I believe Lee’s thinking was sound. He simply didn’t have enough people.
I recall that Jeff Davis stripped Pickett's Division of Jenkins and Corse Brigades, for the defense of Virginia, prior to the campaign. Thus Pickett was missing a good portion of his strength for the attack. Would these two brigades have made any difference?
 

lelliott19

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I recall that Jeff Davis stripped Pickett's Division of Jenkins and Corse Brigades, for the defense of Virginia, prior to the campaign. Thus Pickett was missing a good portion of his strength for the attack. Would these two brigades have made any difference?
@Henry Hunt Im sorry. I dont know how I missed your comment above. Jenkins and Corse's brigades were covering Richmond in case of an attack there. Im not sure how much good they could have done at Richmond if that had happened. IMHO Micah Jenkins and Montgomery Corse were good brigade commanders. I think they were as good as Armistead and better than Kemper and Garnett but that's just my opinion. I doubt their participation would have changed the outcome though. Ewell was holding the Union right in place and could play no role; Longstreet's other two divisions (Hood & McLaws) couldnt move to assist either or else the Union left in their front could have moved to reinforce the center. Not good odds whether Jenkins and Corse are participating or not. <edited to correct spell-check spelling of "Corse">
 
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