Longstreet was a "defensive" General

thomas aagaard

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One last thing, while interesting, Longstreet's memoirs were written long after the civil war, and much must be taken with a grain of salt.
memoirs must always... and I mean always be taken with a few pounds of salt.

Here in Denmark we got a number of cases where we have surviving diaries or letters from men who served in the 2nd Sleswig war in 1864. And they then later published memoirs... There are huge differences.

In one cases we even got a letter from the publisher to the veteran telling him to spice his tale up by including stories told by other men or simply invent a bit more action...
 

NH Civil War Gal

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I thought that E. Porter Alexander was very reliable on his memoirs. If not, please point me to where there is evidence of his memoirs being wrong.

Certainly for each person, they only see a facet of the truth or their part of the battle.

However, others, like Gordon, Early and (this breaks my heart to say it) Chamberlain embellished shall we say?

And that’s a hard one too. Gordon and Early meant to deceive for political purposes. I can’t remember if Pleasanton wrote memoirs or not but he was a known liar so if he wrote, nothing could be trusted without constantly checking. Chamberlain embellished more on the knightly glory aspect, which is still wrong.
 

Wizard of Cozz

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I thought that E. Porter Alexander was very reliable on his memoirs. If not, please point me to where there is evidence of his memoirs being wrong.

Certainly for each person, they only see a facet of the truth or their part of the battle.

However, others, like Gordon, Early and (this breaks my heart to say it) Chamberlain embellished shall we say?

And that’s a hard one too. Gordon and Early meant to deceive for political purposes. I can’t remember if Pleasanton wrote memoirs or not but he was a known liar so if he wrote, nothing could be trusted without constantly checking. Chamberlain embellished more on the knightly glory aspect, which is still wrong.
I don't think Alexander had an axe to grind as much as some of the others did. Early and Gordon were "Lost Causers" through and through and Longstreet was trying to use his to rehabilitate his tarnished image from Early and Gordon's savaging of his character. I don't know as much about Chamberlain's, but others have pointed out that it has much embellishment.
 

Belfoured

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Absolutely, and there are varying degrees of what they are worth, and it doesn't mean that they are worth nothing, but sometimes it's better if things they say can be verified by letters or orders closer to when they actually happened, is all i'm trying to say. Early, Gordon, Chamberlain, E. Porter Alexander, ect. were writing so far after things had happened, that they may even believed many of their half-truths.
True. I will credit Alexander as one whose credibility was probably more reliable than most. He didn't have much reason or opportunity to get into post-war contests, and what was published in 1989 as Fighting for the Confederacy was actually intended only for his family. Chamberlain, on the other hand, had some public disputes with other 20th Maine vets over exactly what happened at LRT and who was responsible. He and Gordon actually appear to have "collaborated" on some embellished fiction about the April 1865 surrender ceremony. I personally don't think Early believed much of his own material. He was embarked on a mission.
 

Belfoured

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I thought that E. Porter Alexander was very reliable on his memoirs. If not, please point me to where there is evidence of his memoirs being wrong.

Certainly for each person, they only see a facet of the truth or their part of the battle.

However, others, like Gordon, Early and (this breaks my heart to say it) Chamberlain embellished shall we say?

And that’s a hard one too. Gordon and Early meant to deceive for political purposes. I can’t remember if Pleasanton wrote memoirs or not but he was a known liar so if he wrote, nothing could be trusted without constantly checking. Chamberlain embellished more on the knightly glory aspect, which is still wrong.
Saw this after I posted mine. We are in complete agreement.
 

Scott1967

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It wasn't Lee's initiative. He was persuaded to agree to it because Longstreet made the request and because Bragg's circumstances had become dire and what was left of Tennessee in Confederate control was about to be lost. That's why Lee "sent" Longstreet to Bragg.
Regardless if Longstreet made the request Lee should not be sending his best corps commander that's just plain common sense , Lee was Davis adviser for nearly a year your telling me that Davis ignored Lee's advice not to send Longstreet? I find that far fetched imho.

From mid 1862 to mid 1863 Lee lost some 95k men according to Bonekemper and Gettysburg was just the icing on the cake , I have no doubt reading Longstreet's accounts he wanted to conduct a defensive war and grind the Union down bit by bit by having the Union throw themselves upon confederate fortifications or getting the Union to attack on ground favourable to AoNV.

Longstreet is not a machine he is a human being many of the high ranking officers who died over that year were his friends and unlike Lee who I find cold and detached I think Longstreet really cared for the troops under his command and realized the Confederacy was never going to win with Lee's reckless demeanour.

Maybe Longstreet hoped by going west he could ether replace Bragg or help Johnston into taking command of the AoT I know he had various plans that were thrown out by Davis who like Lee required more direct action even though the South did not have the resources to go on the offensive.

The cost of Chickamauga even with Longstreet's spirited punching attack was to great and only cost the South more heartache with the continuation of Bragg with Davis putting his personal friendship before his country.

BTW I really enjoy this thread I have learned a lot from yourself and others , I do read books but I have a very busy life so i do forget stuff you will have to forgive me for that. :confused:
 
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If you read Longstreets memoirs, which are exceedingly dry, and it’s been a few years for me, so forgive and correct me if I misremember here - Longstreet went to Bragg to try to save what was left of Tennessee. After an incredibly miserable winter, Longstreet knew he wasn’t going to save Tennessee from Bragg because Bragg couldn’t save himself from himself. The whole situation was dire in every direction. Longstreet just needed to salvage his command and his men from starvation and being frozen to death in the mud and snow and get back east. He knew TN was gone. Longstreet was highly realistic and pragmatic. Bragg was also not a well man physically, besides ALL the other social/emotional issues and his command was completely floundering. Bragg was not recalled and replaced and the best Longstreet could do for himself and his men was get out of there.
NH CW Gal,

Great post. Last year I plowed through Longstreet's Memoirs just to try to be fair and hear his side of the story. There is a lot of 19th Century purple prose there but that is how they put pen to paper in those days. Not unlike our "news" reporting today. To your point it was drier than a couple of pieces of nine months old hardtack without a sip of water to go with it. I do my best to read both sides of the story and I find it best to read all that I can to sift through the obvious bull and the possible truth. Longstreet was an honorable man who did not want to waste the lives of his men but that did not mean that he would not fight. Bragg was far less talented.
 
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Belfoured

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Regardless if Longstreet made the request Lee should not be sending his best corps commander that's just plain common sense , Lee was Davis adviser for nearly a year your telling me that Davis ignored Lee's advice not to send Longstreet? I find that far fetched imho.

From mid 1862 to mid 1863 Lee lost some 95k men according to Bonekemper and Gettysburg was just the icing on the cake , I have no doubt reading Longstreet's accounts he wanted to conduct a defensive war and grind the Union down bit by bit by having the Union throw themselves upon confederate fortifications or getting the Union to attack on ground favourable to AoNV.

Longstreet is not a machine he is a human being many of the high ranking officers who died over that year were his friends and unlike Lee who I find cold and detached I think Longstreet really cared for the troops under his command and realized the Confederacy was never going to win with Lee's reckless demeanour.

Maybe Longstreet hoped by going west he could ether replace Bragg or help Johnston into taking command of the AoT I know he had various plans that were thrown out by Davis who like Lee required more direct action even though the South did not have the resources to go on the offensive.

The cost of Chickamauga even with Longstreet's spirited punching attack was to great and only cost the South more heartache with the continuation of Bragg with Davis putting his personal friendship before his country.

BTW I really enjoy this thread I have learned a lot from yourself and others , I do read books but I have a very busy life so i do forget stuff you will have to forgive me for that. :confused:
We'll probably just have to disagree on the Lee issue. In early September the CSA was in danger of losing the remainder of Tennessee. There is zero evidence that Lee was in any sense looking for a way to move Longstreet and in Spring 1864 welcomed him back with open arms. Let's also not forget that at the time both armies in Virginia were pretty much inactive and had been so for weeks. By the time action resumed in October the XI and XII Corps both had transferred west, as well.

And everybody here "forgets stuff" - believe me. 😎
 

Pete Longstreet

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Here's a succinct attempt. Lee's staff was always small - c. 6 or 7 maximum and late in the war it was down to 3. That was far too small for an army commander. Longstreet had 6 or 7 fairly pretty early. When the ANV was organized into corps he doubled the number. Lee also pretty much used his staff as clerks and not for much else. Longstreet appears to have selected his staff from among officers who were unafraid to weigh in on matters and several had prior staff experience. One example of how he used them was Sorrel's role in helping organize the attack at the Wilderness. I think the consensus is that Lee never really appreciated how a good staff should function, while Longstreet did.
I believe it was Willliam Garrett Piston who wrote an interesting peice pertaining to Longstreet's staff. He compared Longstreet's staff to Jackson's. He wrote how Longstreet carefully selected capable men, who ended up performing very well. Like Sorrel as you indicated, and Goree, Moses, Latrobe, etc. He then went on to write that Jackson picked mainly friends and acquaintances, which most were not qualified, and did not function as nearly as efficient as Longstreet's staff. Sorrel was promoted to brigadier after his performance during the Wilderness.
 

Pete Longstreet

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I don't think Lee wanted to get rid of him but certainly a cooling down period was needed after Gettysburg however you are quite correct because Lee was so cordial in his writings regardless we can conclude their certainly was no intense hatred but their must have been some tension after Gettysburg however most of that I suspect would have been private and between the two men we shall never know.

The way I look at is why would you send your best troops and commander to Bragg not knowing was Meade was going to do in the fall 1863 when you have Ewell and Hill in dire need of getting more corps experience?.

Granted Longstreet wanted to go knowing he would be serving under Bragg not something to look forward to really its all very strange imho.
In early of 63, Longstreet wanted to be sent west to reinforce Vicksburg, which he called the "lungs of the Confederacy". Lee refused. Then when Lee told Longstreet about his plan to invade Pennsylvania, Longstreet eventually agreed.

I truly don't think it had anything to do with a "cooling down period". Lee never wanted to send Longstreet west, but as Bragg's situation worsened, Davis began to see that Longstreet's plan made a lot of sense. To me, it appears that once Davis was on board, Lee finally approved.

There were disagreements, like at Gettysburg, but based on what I've read, the respect between Lee and Longstreet never wavered.

As far as sending Longstreet... well, he was the one who had been advocating for the movement and why not send your most trusted subordinate to get the job done and return to Virginia. I can't speak for what was on Longstreet's mind, but I'm sure he thought about commanding the AoT. That's not abnormal to want to advance one's career. We see it all the time during the Civil War. Lots of times it was advancement and personal egos that seemed more important than fighting battles.

You make some solid points. But I think if Lee had his way, Longstreet would have never went west. It was the recipe of Bragg's dire situation, Longstreet advocating, and Davis's approval, that put the wheels in motion.
 

Pete Longstreet

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If you read Longstreets memoirs, which are exceedingly dry, and it’s been a few years for me, so forgive and correct me if I misremember here - Longstreet went to Bragg to try to save what was left of Tennessee. After an incredibly miserable winter, Longstreet knew he wasn’t going to save Tennessee from Bragg because Bragg couldn’t save himself from himself. The whole situation was dire in every direction. Longstreet just needed to salvage his command and his men from starvation and being frozen to death in the mud and snow and get back east. He knew TN was gone. Longstreet was highly realistic and pragmatic. Bragg was also not a well man physically, besides ALL the other social/emotional issues and his command was completely floundering. Bragg was not recalled and replaced and the best Longstreet could do for himself and his men was get out of there.
Agreed. Before returning to Virginia from Tennessee, Longstreet proposed a plan to Lee and Davis about mounting his army on mules. He wanted to gather the necessary amount of mules/horses and take his entire army into Kentucky. There was already a shortage of mules and the plan was quickly shot down by Davis and Lee, and Longstreet was ordered back to the ANV.
 

Wizard of Cozz

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Agreed. Before returning to Virginia from Tennessee, Longstreet proposed a plan to Lee and Davis about mounting his army on mules. He wanted to gather the necessary amount of mules/horses and take his entire army into Kentucky. There was already a shortage of mules and the plan was quickly shot down by Davis and Lee, and Longstreet was ordered back to the ANV.
I just finished Wirts biography of longstreet and he makes a convincing case that longstreet was very much in favor of the 63 invasion.
 

Pete Longstreet

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I just finished Wirts biography of longstreet and he makes a convincing case that longstreet was very much in favor of the 63 invasion.
Agreed. That's what I gathered as well. When Lee proposed his plan to invade northern soil, Longstreet was in favor, and thus put his western plan on hold.
 

rpkennedy

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I just finished Wirts biography of longstreet and he makes a convincing case that longstreet was very much in favor of the 63 invasion.
Longstreet was definitely in favor of going West but once Lee and Davis made the decision to invade Pennsylvania, Longstreet threw himself fully behind the plan.

Ryan
 

WScott

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As you look back, it was Longstreet that tried to convince Lee to move the army toward Frederick, Md. on day 2 of the Gettysburg campaign, forcing Meade to attack the Confederate army in a strong defensive position. "Longstreet the Confederacy's Most Modern General"
 

Wizard of Cozz

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As you look back, it was Longstreet that tried to convince Lee to move the army toward Frederick, Md. on day 2 of the Gettysburg campaign, forcing Meade to attack the Confederate army in a strong defensive position. "Longstreet the Confederacy's Most Modern General"
Besides Fredericksburg, Antietam, and Petersburg, most of Longstreets battles were offensive. And the move around the right has been debunked. Stuart's three brigades arent up yet, and the road network doesn't give the Confederates a speed advantage moving in that direction as the best main roads are under Union control.
 

rpkennedy

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Besides Fredericksburg, Antietam, and Petersburg, most of Longstreets battles were offensive. And the move around the right has been debunked. Stuart's three brigades arent up yet, and the road network doesn't give the Confederates a speed advantage moving in that direction as the best main roads are under Union control.
Agreed. The move to the right simply was not practical. The road network favored the Army of the Potomac who get move on a more direct line, keeping themselves between Washington/Baltimore and the Army of Northern Virginia. In addition, as you pointed out, Stuart was not available to clear the way while elements of the Union cavalry was close by. Lastly, the Confederates were not really in a condition to stay in one location for an extended period of time due to their supply situation. Meade could simply wait them out and Lee would either have to attack or retreat. IMO, Lee felt that he may as well take action at Gettysburg than anywhere else and this was as far from the AotP's supply line as he was going to get them. Plus, it was anathema for Lee to give up the initiative like that and become passive in the face of "those people".

Ryan
 

Belfoured

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I believe it was Willliam Garrett Piston who wrote an interesting peice pertaining to Longstreet's staff. He compared Longstreet's staff to Jackson's. He wrote how Longstreet carefully selected capable men, who ended up performing very well. Like Sorrel as you indicated, and Goree, Moses, Latrobe, etc. He then went on to write that Jackson picked mainly friends and acquaintances, which most were not qualified, and did not function as nearly as efficient as Longstreet's staff. Sorrel was promoted to brigadier after his performance during the Wilderness.
i hadn't seen Piston's account, but that correlates to everything else I've seen. Stonewall's Chief of Staff was the Rev. Dabney. That speaks volumes ....
 

WScott

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Reynolds (1st Corps), Howard (11th Corps) and Sickles (2nd Corps), all used the Emmitsburg Road to get to Gettysburg by the end of July 1. The Emmitsburg Road south was relatively clear by the time Longstreet suggested a move toward Frederick to force Meade to protect his lines of communication and supply and to attack the Confederates. Granted Lee didn't have Stuart and his troopers but he was not the only cavalry Lee had available. Granted, this would not have been the smartest strategy but Lee won Chancellorsville with a high risk move.
 

Wizard of Cozz

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Reynolds (1st Corps), Howard (11th Corps) and Sickles (2nd Corps), all used the Emmitsburg Road to get to Gettysburg by the end of July 1. The Emmitsburg Road south was relatively clear by the time Longstreet suggested a move toward Frederick to force Meade to protect his lines of communication and supply and to attack the Confederates. Granted Lee didn't have Stuart and his troopers but he was not the only cavalry Lee had available. Granted, this would not have been the smartest strategy but Lee won Chancellorsville with a high risk move.
If Confederates try to get on Emmitsburg Road, they will be harrassed by cavalry while they do it and Meade will be able to get reinforcements there faster then they would. Also Meade has 6th corps coming up.
 
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