Longstreet was a "defensive" General

edfranksphd

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I think on the 2nd day at Gettysburg his corps, short a division, did the finest single day's fighting for a single corps of the entire war.

At Knoxville he buggered up, no doubt about it.
Agreed about day 2, though he was AWOL for much of the day, simply allowing his brigadiers to work out the mess for themselves when it was discovered that Lee's intel on the location of the left end of the yankee line was about 1 mile too far north, which added hours to the delay, a delay L nurtured, b/c he was against that strategy in the first place, so, just like Knoxville 5 mths later, he seemed to be working to create and nurture delays, for whatever reason.
 

Scott1967

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Chickamauga was not a slight victory. it was the 2nd largest victory of the entire war for the rebels?! What's with the inability to give credit where credit is due?
Bragg failed in his primary objective , He lost over 2.5k more men and expended resources for no gain , Yes he held the field but at what cost not only to his army but also to the already strained relationships to his high ranking officers and himself.

But granted I take note people will view the battle of Chickamauga differently.
 

Irishtom29

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Agreed about day 2, though he was AWOL for much of the day, simply allowing his brigadiers to work out the mess for themselves when it was discovered that Lee's intel on the location of the left end of the yankee line was about 1 mile too far north, which added hours to the delay, a delay L nurtured, b/c he was against that strategy in the first place, so, just like Knoxville 5 mths later, he seemed to be working to create and nurture delays, for whatever reason.

Longstreet got to the point of attack as soon as possible following Lee's orders. And he held McLaws back until he thought it proper for him to go in and it was the proper time. That the rebel attack broke down was no fault of Longstreet but of Lee and Hill. And the faulty overall plan of attack was Lee's business.
 

Ct Yank

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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.
Thanks for the reference to that thesis, however when I went to that site, the signup required entry of credit card information which I was unwilling to do. So I found an alternate site with the report: https://archive.org/details/DTIC_ADA299311/mode/2up.
 

Pat Answer

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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.
Wait a minute... when did 1982 become ancient?...!?

[Hold on... my dentures are slipping...] :D
 

Pete Longstreet

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Agreed about day 2, though he was AWOL for much of the day, simply allowing his brigadiers to work out the mess for themselves when it was discovered that Lee's intel on the location of the left end of the yankee line was about 1 mile too far north, which added hours to the delay, a delay L nurtured, b/c he was against that strategy in the first place, so, just like Knoxville 5 mths later, he seemed to be working to create and nurture delays, for whatever reason.
AWOL? Lee was with Longstreet most of the day on July 2nd and could have adjusted his operations as he saw fit. He was also in communication with Longstreet as well. Knoxville was not Longstreet's best performance by any means. That I will admit and is well-known. When one analizes Lee's performance throughout the war, Gettysburg was his blunder. Yet it was Longstreet's corps on day 2 that almost turned Lee's blunder into a glorious victory on northern soil.
 
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Wait a minute... when did 1982 become ancient?...!?
As a "young historian" (having graduated this year), my teacher always told me that documents we're using (texts, pictures, etc.) are considered to be ancient (or outdated) quite fast, ten to twelve years old being the maximum to be considered "fresh".

History is constantly working on being "up-to date" with more modern sources or new approaches. I guess the case of Gnl Longstreet was studied by many since 1982, that's why I considered Hite's thesis to be relatively ancient (no offense !). Imagine almost forty years without any book about Gnl Longstreet ...☺️.

Again, this is what I learned during those five previous years, when studying at university, from 2016 to present. By no means I'm considering this "time conception" is universally true.
 

Pat Answer

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As a "young historian" (having graduated this year), my teacher always told me that documents we're using (texts, pictures, etc.) are considered to be ancient (or outdated) quite fast, ten to twelve years old being the maximum to be considered "fresh".

History is constantly working on being "up-to date" with more modern sources or new approaches. I guess the case of Gnl Longstreet was studied by many since 1982, that's why I considered Hite's thesis to be relatively ancient (no offense !). Imagine almost forty years without any book about Gnl Longstreet ...☺️.

Again, this is what I learned during those five previous years, when studying at university, from 2016 to present. By no means I'm considering this "time conception" is universally true.
No offense taken, young sir! I believe I had some professors who told me the same years ago. I just can’t remember… :roflmao:

Jeffry Wert’s 1993 book on the “…Confederacy’s Most Controversial Soldier” is the last one I read, shortly after finishing the “From Manassas to Appomattox” memoirs.
 

Belfoured

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It is my understanding that just prior to the Gettysburg campaign, it was learned that the usual supplier of fuses would not be able to furnish them just then.

The slower burning Richmond fuses were supplied in their stead; thus the overshots in the pre assault bombardment.
You're mixing fuze problems. The long-standing issues were mostly with the Confederate version of the Bormann. The "slower burning" issue was new and apparently had to do with a change in manufacturers of paper fuzes in Spring 1863. It's never been confirmed in an official writing that I've actually seen, nor have I seen anything communicating that to Lee, Longstreet, etc etc. If it was in anybody's "wheel house", that would be Pendleton and the three guys in charge of corps artillery.
 

Belfoured

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I think on the 2nd day at Gettysburg his corps, short a division, did the finest single day's fighting for a single corps of the entire war.

At Knoxville he buggered up, no doubt about it.
Knoxville is a little more complicated - starting with the issue that from the gitgo Bragg splitting his forces that way given the numbers of Union troops in the theater was not a great idea - and was probably driven in part by Bragg simply wanting to be rid of Longstreet. The only "open terrain" fight was Campbell's Station, which actually began well but then foundered. The issue at Fort Sanders was probably the decision to make the attack, as opposed to the actual execution. I'd give Longstreet a "C" overall on that campaign - but his assaults at 2BR, Gettysburg, Chickamauga, and the Wilderness are in the "A-/A" category.
 

danny

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You're mixing fuze problems. The long-standing issues were mostly with the Confederate version of the Bormann. The "slower burning" issue was new and apparently had to do with a change in manufacturers of paper fuzes in Spring 1863. It's never been confirmed in an official writing that I've actually seen, nor have I seen anything communicating that to Lee, Longstreet, etc etc. If it was in anybody's "wheel house", that would be Pendleton and the three guys in charge of corps artillery.
I gladly defer to your technical knowledge on the issue
 

Belfoured

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I gladly defer to your technical knowledge on the issue
The CSA Ordnance Dep't under Gorgas apparently later commissioned a study by a Lt Dinwiddie. His study concluded that the fuzes manufactured in two locations (one was Selma - I forget the other) had a slower burn rate than those that had been made in Richmond, although they were actually of better quality. If I recall correctly, the rate was c. 1 second slower, meaning that if it were cut for range X it would go off at Range X+. I assume that the Selma, etc facilities became important because of the disaster at the Brown's Island facility at Richmond in March 1863. I've never actually seen the report and Alexander says nothing about it or this issue in his published accounts. I think the bottom line, however, is that this issue wasn't really known by anybody at Gettysburg. The mechanical fuze problem for the Confederates was the opposite - premature detonation due to manufacturing defects. By Gettysburg they had pretty much stopped using their Bormanns.
 
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Pete Longstreet

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You're mixing fuze problems. The long-standing issues were mostly with the Confederate version of the Bormann. The "slower burning" issue was new and apparently had to do with a change in manufacturers of paper fuzes in Spring 1863. It's never been confirmed in an official writing that I've actually seen, nor have I seen anything communicating that to Lee, Longstreet, etc etc. If it was in anybody's "wheel house", that would be Pendleton and the three guys in charge of corps artillery.
I was waiting for you to chime in on the fuses. I quickly learned from previous posts, that your well educated in that arena.
 

Pete Longstreet

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Knoxville is a little more complicated - starting with the issue that from the gitgo Bragg splitting his forces that way given the numbers of Union troops in the theater was not a great idea - and was probably driven in part by Bragg simply wanting to be rid of Longstreet. The only "open terrain" fight was Campbell's Station, which actually began well but then foundered. The issue at Fort Sanders was probably the decision to make the attack, as opposed to the actual execution. I'd give Longstreet a "C" overall on that campaign - but his assaults at 2BR, Gettysburg, Chickamauga, and the Wilderness are in the "A-/A" category.
This is actually a very important part of the Knoxville Campaign that many forget. The campaign was almost doomed from the start. As you've stated, Bragg wanted to rid himself of Longstreet, due to being one of the ring leaders in advocating for his removal. Longstreet was promised mules, supplies, wagons and reinforcements that he never received. I can agree with the "C" rating on Longstreet's performance during Knoxville... but it seems like Bragg was happy to send Pete on his way, win or lose. It's another example of where egos were more important than the cause they were fighting for.
 

Belfoured

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This is actually a very important part of the Knoxville Campaign that many forget. The campaign was almost doomed from the start. As you've stated, Bragg wanted to rid himself of Longstreet, due to being one of the ring leaders in advocating for his removal. Longstreet was promised mules, supplies, wagons and reinforcements that he never received. I can agree with the "C" rating on Longstreet's performance during Knoxville... but it seems like Bragg was happy to send Pete on his way, win or lose. It's another example of where egos were more important than the cause they were fighting for.
Since Longstreet was "at the top", the fact that the fight at the Campbell's Station crossroads ended up not being a win ultimately falls on him. But the reality is that Jenkins did not maneuver his division well, so he screwed up one prong of Longstreet's two-pronged attack. McLaws did execute the other prong and the tactical plan was a good one. I agree with your points about the campaign. It failed, so it's hard to give Longstreet a good grade, but there was a lot that tied his hands.
 

Wizard of Cozz

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This is my first post on this board. I have a very healthy respect for Lee, Longstreet, and Jackson, and feel like we do too much of one better than the other. From my readings and studying of Longstreet, he was probably one of the most tactically sound Corps commanders on either side during the war. I don't know that he was as brilliant in independent operations as say Jackson, but was probably better tactically in organizing his men during a defense or assault. If you gave Longstreet a order he was usually meticulous in how he carried it out.

The quick assessment is always of him as a defensive general, but that I think that comes primarily from his disagreements with Gettysburg and that he wanted a defensive campaign. But I can't think of any commander during the war who carried out more large scale successful attacks then Longstreet. I want to just touch on these to show his flexibility.

2nd Manassas - probably the least tactically efficient of the 4, but also earlier in the war. The attack was somewhat piecemeal compared to later attacks, but still, he launched an attack trying to coordinate 5 divisions (another reason I think Lee thought the 2 Corps structure was so unwieldy, thats alot of units to coordinate in a battle) against Pope's left wing, and utterly crushed Pope, with better coordination they may have bagged the whole lot.

Gettysburg - Not going to discuss day 3 here, just looking at Day 2 for now, some accuse him of being slow, but I can't blame him too much, I do think if he had followed Alexander's artillery that would have allowed the attack to start sooner, and given more daylight for when the echelon moved onto Hill's corps. But Longstreet launched a well timed echelon attack. That drew in major Union reinforcements, and I'm a believer that if Anderson uses his whole division, and Pender doesn't get injured, that the combination of those attacks with Early's attacks on cemetary hill would have undone the Union positions that day. Longstreet times Barksdale and Wofford's attacks to roll up the III corps position. Again he's shown success with a massive flank attack at 2nd Manassas and a Echelon attack on Day 2 at Gettysburg.

Chickamauga - Maybe one of the best frontal attacks of the war. Obviously the wooded terrain aids in protecting the attacking troops from artillery fire, as well as the fact that Woods division pulls out of the line, but the fact of the matter is Longstreet amasses in a much similar manner to Upton at Spotsylvania the idea of depth of attack. Amassing an 8 brigade attack force in 5 lines. I believe he learned from day 3 at gettysburg that depth of attack was what was needed.

Lastly, the Wilderness - Longstreet meets Hancocks II corps attack head on and stops it with Field and Kershaw's division, and then uses the railroad cut to launch a hard flanking attack that almost stops Grant in his tracks. If not for him getting injured the Confederates may have taken the Brock road and forced Grant back across the Rappahannock river.

I think Longstreet gets mistreated because of the attacks against him post war, though he himself wasn't always fair in his postwar writings either. I rank him as one of the best Corps commanders in the war, I don't know that he would have been successful in Army command, but I would have been curious to see it play out over Bragg and Johnston, I don't think he would have done any worse than Johnston. I won't say he was better than Jackson or vice versa they were both good in their own rights. I feel like it's very similar to the Grant and Lee debates. They were both probably the two best commanders during the war, and it's really a personal preference who's best.
 

jackt62

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I think Longstreet gets mistreated because of the attacks against him post war
Very true. I also think that Longstreet gained a bit of a reputation as a "schemer" for constantly angling for independent command, asserting his tactical opinions with Lee, and identifying with the so-called "western concentration." But overall, Longstreet was as good at defense as he was at offense as you point out in your post. Important to remember that Lee depended on Longstreet's counsel until the very end at Appomattox. That alone counts for much in his favor.
 
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