Longstreet was a "defensive" General

Pete Longstreet

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This seems to come up often in discussions. Many say Longstreet was only effective while entrenched and on the defensive. I'll read certain articles and see "Longstreet" followed by the word "defense". When I think about Longstreet's performance in the CW... I believe he performed just as well on the offensive as General Jackson and other commanders.

Was Longstreet a "defensive" General?

I often wondered if the "defensive" title came from the aftermath of the Gettysburg campaign and his reputation years after that battle...
 

Irishtom29

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@Pete Longstreet

As we well know Longstreet was one of the most aggressive generals of the war and did more fighting on the offense than on the defense. He commanded 4 of the great assaults of the war and was the only general to drive a major force of veteran Western Yankees from the field.

I think this defensive canard comes from a certain overrated but influential work of fiction, that Killer Angels thing.
 

Scott1967

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@Pete Longstreet

As we well know Longstreet was one of the most aggressive generals of the war and did more fighting on the offense than on the defense. He commanded 4 of the great assaults of the war and was the only general to drive a major force of veteran Western Yankees from the field.

I think this defensive canard comes from a certain overrated but influential work of fiction, that Killer Angels thing.
Yea I agree with Tom 100% , Longstreet was ruthless on the offence 2nd Manassas and the Wilderness not to mention that great punching drive at Chickamauga which gave Bragg the slight if expensive victory he craved.

While Jackson was always thought of as Lee's most aggressive commander I consider Longstreet his best allrounder.
 

Nytram01

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Longstreet's reputation as a defensive General is largely to make him a counter-point to Stonewall Jackson, who is regarded as an audacious offensive minded general. It's a simplification of the role both men plays as Lee's principle subordinates and partially reflective of their differening levels of success in more independent role - Jackson's Valley Campaign being a triumphant master-piece of aggressive warfare while Longstreet's Suffolk and Knoxville Campaigns being more passive pedestrian dissapointments.
 

Viper21

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Longstreet's reputation as a defensive General is largely to make him a counter-point to Stonewall Jackson, who is regarded as an audacious offensive minded general. It's a simplification of the role both men plays as Lee's principle subordinates and partially reflective of their differening levels of success in more independent role - Jackson's Valley Campaign being a triumphant master-piece of aggressive warfare while Longstreet's Suffolk and Knoxville Campaigns being more passive pedestrian dissapointments.
^this.

It's also driven by ignorance. Think about it, the average person doesn't dive far enough in to the war, to get to minute details about every General, or Commander. It would take a person a lifetime to study every notable figure of the war in depth, if it's even possible. This is true even for some folks who fancy themselves Civil War Buffs.

Once most folks settle on their favorite person, or facet of the War, it's difficult to devote much time, or even interest, to other figures, or events. Most folks seem to have their "area of expertise" so to speak. It then becomes easy to defend your favorites, without full knowledge of others, so to speak.

We (followers of CWT) often forget, we're not the normal, or average CW enthusiasts. Even among those interested in the period, the members here have an interest that far exceeds average.
 

Belfoured

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@Pete Longstreet

As we well know Longstreet was one of the most aggressive generals of the war and did more fighting on the offense than on the defense. He commanded 4 of the great assaults of the war and was the only general to drive a major force of veteran Western Yankees from the field.

I think this defensive canard comes from a certain overrated but influential work of fiction, that Killer Angels thing.
Couldn't agree more. In other threads I've posted repeatedly about his four very well-prepared and -executed assaults. Two decided battles, another came close to busting through, and the fourth was rolling when Longstreet was taken out of action. Shaara, Maxwell/Turner etc have created a simple-minded fiction that has misled the public, IMHO. And - again, to repeat what I've said elsewhere - I see Longstreet as a fundamentally better tactician than Jackson, a guy who has benefitted from public image-making contrary to objective analysis.
 

Belfoured

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This seems to come up often in discussions. Many say Longstreet was only effective while entrenched and on the defensive. I'll read certain articles and see "Longstreet" followed by the word "defense". When I think about Longstreet's performance in the CW... I believe he performed just as well on the offensive as General Jackson and other commanders.

Was Longstreet a "defensive" General?

I often wondered if the "defensive" title came from the aftermath of the Gettysburg campaign and his reputation years after that battle...
I've said it many times and I'll say it again - he was consistently a better tactician than Jackson, whether we're talking about the attack or the defensive. Jackson may have done better at the independent operational level, based on a limited sample size - IMHO Knoxville is the only blot at that level for Longstreet (I fail to see how he didn't execute what he was supposed to execute at Suffolk). Nobody's perfect, so we have Seven Pines but that was in the context of poorly-articulated verbal orders by Johnston.
 

wausaubob

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@Pete Longstreet

As we well know Longstreet was one of the most aggressive generals of the war and did more fighting on the offense than on the defense. He commanded 4 of the great assaults of the war and was the only general to drive a major force of veteran Western Yankees from the field.

I think this defensive canard comes from a certain overrated but influential work of fiction, that Killer Angels thing.
The smaller army has to fight on the defensive. And watch for mistakes by the enemy.
 
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Maj. Hampton Hite wrote "A LEADERSHIP ANALYSIS : LTG JAMES LONGSTREET & THE AMERICAN CIVIL WAR", a thesis presented in 1982. While being ancient, this relatively small document (130 pages) is amazingly fascinating, proposing a modern military study of Gnl. James Longstreet. If anyone wishes to read it, it's available online and it can be downloaded (PDF).

And yes, the author shows that Longstreet had favored offensive in most of the battles he fought, as early as 1st Manassas, and that his tactical meticulousness developed slowly during the Seven Days and the Northern Virginia campaign.
 
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Rebforever

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Maj. Hampton Hite wrote "A LEADERSHIP ANALYSIS : LTG JAMES LONGSTREET & THE AMERICAN CIVIL WAR", a thesis presented in 1982. While being ancient, this relatively small document (150 pages) is amazingly fascinating, proposing a modern military study of Gnl. James Longstreet. If anyone wishes to read it, it's available online and it can be downloaded (PDF).

And yes, the author shows that Longstreet had favored offensive in most of the battles he fought, as early as 1st Manassas, and that his tactical meticulousness developed slowly during the Seven Days and the Northern Virginia campaign.
How did Seven Pines work out for him?
 
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How did Seven Pines work out for him?
In his thesis (pp.23-27), Maj. Hite reports that Longstreet advocated the attack against McClellan as early as May 29, instead of May 31.

Considering Williamsburg and Seven Pines, Hite criticizes "Old Pete" who, despite demonstrating several leadership qualities, failed in communications, planning (requesting immediate action without further preparation) and ethics (blaming other officers).

His tactical actions are judged by the author as "impulsive and reckless". But Maj. Hite brings also more good points and explains that Longstreet was handling huge numbers of men for the first time during the war and therefore his mistakes (except ethics) are considered to be "reasonable".
 

Scott1967

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He did his best when Lee was by his side. By himself, not so great.
Hmm not quite true , At Fredericksburg Lee wanted to retreat it was Longstreet who persuaded him to stay and fight.

I have often said Lee was made to look good by two of the finest if not the best Corps commanders in the war , Its no coincidence Lee's greatest Victories came about when both Jackson and Longstreet were with him excluding Chancellorsville.

After Jackson was killed Lee was never the same appointing Hill and Ewell two yes men thus virtually assuming a more direct command style and alienating Longstreet who by now would be outvoted in a council of war and we all know how that went imho.
 

Belfoured

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Hmm not quite true , At Fredericksburg Lee wanted to retreat it was Longstreet who persuaded him to stay and fight.

I have often said Lee was made to look good by two of the finest if not the best Corps commanders in the war , Its no coincidence Lee's greatest Victories came about when both Jackson and Longstreet were with him excluding Chancellorsville.

After Jackson was killed Lee was never the same appointing Hill and Ewell two yes men thus virtually assuming a more direct command style and alienating Longstreet who by now would be outvoted in a council of war and we all know how that went imho.
Fredericksburg was also the fight in which Jackson left an inexplicable gap in his front on the Confederate right [corrected], creating a significant problem.
 
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