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Longstreet's Original Day 3 Strategy

Discussion in 'Battle of Gettysburg' started by OldBrainsHalleck, Mar 9, 2018.

  1. OldBrainsHalleck

    OldBrainsHalleck Private

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    What was Longstreet's original strategy for Day 3 during the Battle of Gettysburg, before he had to change it to the one that resulted in Pickett's Charge?
     

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  3. GABoy

    GABoy Private

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    Well, I wouldn't say he had a strategy that he changed, so much as he had a preference that differed from General Lee's wishes. It was Lee's staunch position that to succeed the Army of Northern Virginia must charge, aiming for the center of the Union's position, after an extensive artillery barrage. This Longstreet had disagreed with always, preferring instead to move around the Union Army and reposition so that the Confederates could face Meade "on ground of their choosing". Longstreet had deep misgivings about the planned charge, had expressed his feelings that it would fail due to the Union Army's strong position. Still, looking at the numbers, the charge itself maybe should have been named A P Hill's charge, minus A P Hill but including Pickett.
     
  4. rpkennedy

    rpkennedy Major

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    Before dawn on July 3rd, Longstreet had sent scouts out beyond his right in order to find a path around the Union flank. When Lee arrived at Longstreet's headquarters around 4:30am, Longstreet was preparing to get his men moving rather than to attack, much to Lee's chagrin. Lee positively ordered Longstreet to prepare to attack the southern end of Cemetery Ridge (while Ewell was to attack Culp's Hill) but Longstreet wanted Pickett in position to support the attack and Lee agreed. While this meeting took place, the Union bombardment of the Confederate positions around Culp's Hill began and the plan was bolloxed as there would be no coordination like Lee wanted. As the fighting raged along Ewell's front, Lee developed a new plan for an attack against Cemetery Ridge.

    Ryan
     
  5. jackt62

    jackt62 Sergeant Major

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    Longstreet was guided by a strong desire that the ANV not engage federal forces unless they could be maneuvered into a position where the ANV was fighting a defensive battle.
     
  6. Carronade

    Carronade 1st Lieutenant

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    A defensive battle, even if successful, rarely produces the sort of decisive victory the Confederacy needed at that point.
     
  7. WJC

    WJC Moderator Moderator

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    On the other hand, the Army of Northern Virginia had great success in prior battles where they held a defensive position.
     
  8. WJC

    WJC Moderator Moderator

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    I would go a step further and say that- at least according to Longstreet- that was what he understood was Lee's plan as the campaign began: to avoid confrontation with the U. S. force unless it could be had at a place and under circumstances favorable to the rebels. Then take a strong defensive position and make the U. S. forces 'come to him'.
     
  9. Carronade

    Carronade 1st Lieutenant

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    Yes, and both armies survived, to do it all over again a couple of months later. This is what Lee saw, and Longstreet seems to have missed: an ongoing stalemate in the ANV's theater of operations would not provide the needed relief to the Confederates everywhere else. They didn't need another Fredericksburg; they needed a crushing, decisive victory.
     
  10. WJC

    WJC Moderator Moderator

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    Thanks for your response.
    Lee was, by nature, aggressive.
    This seems to explain much about the events at Gettysburg.
     
  11. James N.

    James N. Major Forum Host Civil War Photo Contest
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    Unfortunately for Lee this just wasn't the way to achieve it!
     
  12. E_just_E

    E_just_E Moderator Moderator

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    Given that the Union Right Flank on July 3rd was at the top of Big Round Top, that would have been pretty impossible. And this does not count being exposed to the 2nd Div. VI Corps reserves that were camped around what is now Wright/Howe Ave...
     
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  13. Carronade

    Carronade 1st Lieutenant

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    The "Longstreet strategy" is usually described - including by myself - as taking a strong defensive position and hoping the Yankees will helpfully batter themselves to pieces against it, and indeed I have never seen any further elaboration attributed to Longstreet or anyone else in the ANV; but I wonder if there might have been a bit more to it. A truly crushing victory can only be completed with offensive action, but it might start with a defensive phase, drawing the enemy into an assault that pins him down before hitting him with a decisive flank attack. Second Manassas would be an example, with Longstreet making the crucial attack. Chancellorsville, or more distantly Austerlitz or Waterloo, also somewhat fit the mold.
     
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  14. E_just_E

    E_just_E Moderator Moderator

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    Not really. As a matter of fact the Union losses (in % of active) were larger at Fredericksburg (10.9%), where the Confederates fought a defensive battle, than at Chancellorsville (9.1%). And if you look at the Confederate losses in Fredericksburg, they were about 1/4 of those they had at Chancellorsville.

    Fredericksburg was a much more decisive victory than Chancellorsville for the Confederates, and it was a defensive battle.
     
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  15. ivanj05

    ivanj05 First Sergeant

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    I sometimes wonder if we underestimate the effect of Chancellorsville on Lee. After all, there the solution to a seemingly impossible tactical position was going on offense. And, it worked. And from Lee's perspective, going on the attack on July 2 had come within a hair's breadth of outright victory.
     
  16. WJC

    WJC Moderator Moderator

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    Thanks for your response.
    I believe that you are correct. The magnificent performance of his force at Chancellorsville, the victory on July 1 and the near-victory of July 2 clearly contributed to Lee's optimism.
    I often wonder whether he fully appreciated the condition of his army after the day's work on July 2.
    Longstreet sincerely believed that since they hadn't succeeded on July 2, they were unlikely to succeed with a smaller effective force July 3.
     
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  17. Carronade

    Carronade 1st Lieutenant

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    I think we are using different definitions of "decisive". I suggest there is more to it than just numbers and percentages. The key point about the eastern battles of 1862-63 was that the defeated army, either side, retired in reasonably good order to its bases and was able to take the field again before long. Meanwhile things were "going south" for the Confederacy in the west and down the Mississippi. They didn't just need to send the AofP back to its camps with a few more casualties than the ANV; they needed a victory that would turn the whole tide of the war.
     
  18. rpkennedy

    rpkennedy Major

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    I agree. Longstreet did not appreciate that Lee was looking for a decisive victory rather than just another tactical one.

    Ryan
     
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  19. rpkennedy

    rpkennedy Major

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    But those victories were fairly hollow because the Union forces were able to reconstitute and come back as strong as ever. Lee, on the other hand, was being bled white and realized that he was going to need to win soon or he was going to be in serious trouble.

    Ryan
     
  20. rpkennedy

    rpkennedy Major

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    We don't know where his scouts went but he did send them out around midnight (IIRC). It's possible that they did go beyond the Union flank but Longstreet's plan to get his troops out there simply wasn't practical.

    Ryan
     
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  21. rpkennedy

    rpkennedy Major

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    By 1863, Lee had come to expect the near miraculous from his soldiers and officers and at Gettysburg, it was just a little too much.

    Ryan
     
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