Longstreet's possible ulterior motive to go west

Pete Longstreet

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Did Longstreet go west for the betterment of the Confederacy? Or was his plea to Lee a smokescreen so he could succeed Bragg as commander of the Army of Tennessee?

Thoughts...
 

Orion.M.E

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Im leaning more to wanting a higher rank. Ironically my ancestor has a small part in this story, he was captured by Bragg‘s forces at Stone river by Terry’s Texas rangers regiment. Even though that one part of his force was successful overall at Stone river, at the end Bragg actually retreated. Honestly a retreat from stone river with a small part of his force being better then a lot of the other units during a battle wouldn’t look good for him. Also as a side note my ancestor commonly encountered Bragg‘s forces often and May of encountered Bragg so my knowledge on Bragg is a little better then Longstreet as Bragg has many encounters with my ancestor. Always wondered if he met Bragg? But I’m getting off topic. I also think he could of originally had the intention of doing it to help the confederates but realized it could get him a higher rank and then felt more like doing it.
 

Pete Longstreet

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I have always suspicioned that Ole Pete wanted to be free of Lee and have his own separate command? After Knoxville I kinda think he was glad to go back to the Army of Northern Virginia.
Regards
David
He always had a fondness for J. Johnston, and his campaign west did not go as he envisioned. Although, after dealing with Bragg... he was glad to be back with Lee in Virginia.
 

jackt62

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I don't think there were ulterior motives at work. As a member of the so-called "Western Concentration," Longstreet openly believed that the success of the western armies was critical to the fate of the Confederacy. At the same time, Longstreet hungered for independent command of any sort; he first had the opportunity to do so when in April 1863, Lee sent Longstreet and part of his Corps to engage in operations in the vicinity of Suffolk, Virginia.
 

Pat Answer

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"Did Longstreet go west for the betterment of the Confederacy?" Yes, in accord with the general strategic ideas of the "western concentration" mentioned by jackt62. Chickamauga was the first fruit of that - turning sour later but that is another issue.

Was the move just "a smokescreen" to "succeed Bragg"? Likely not at the time though a chance to make a reputation out from under Lee, as others have stated, was almost certainly in the back of his mind. Once he got to see the dysfunction that was the AoT high command, he no doubt sensed an opportunity to add gasoline. At least Bragg saw it, because sending 12,000+ men away as the prospects of a major confrontation grow before you has always struck me as an... interesting... decision.

Well, he found (#Knoxville) that independent command is not an easy thing.
 

Pete Longstreet

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"Did Longstreet go west for the betterment of the Confederacy?" Yes, in accord with the general strategic ideas of the "western concentration" mentioned by jackt62. Chickamauga was the first fruit of that - turning sour later but that is another issue.

Was the move just "a smokescreen" to "succeed Bragg"? Likely not at the time though a chance to make a reputation out from under Lee, as others have stated, was almost certainly in the back of his mind. Once he got to see the dysfunction that was the AoT high command, he no doubt sensed an opportunity to add gasoline. At least Bragg saw it, because sending 12,000+ men away as the prospects of a major confrontation grow before you has always struck me as an... interesting... decision.

Well, he found (#Knoxville) that independent command is not an easy thing.
He no doubt added fuel to the anti-Bragg fire. Although this backfired for him... as it did D.H. Hill, Polk and others. I believe he thought Bragg would be ousted and that he might take over. But Longstreet underestimated Davis's loyalty to Bragg.
 

Pete Longstreet

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I don't think there were ulterior motives at work. As a member of the so-called "Western Concentration," Longstreet openly believed that the success of the western armies was critical to the fate of the Confederacy. At the same time, Longstreet hungered for independent command of any sort; he first had the opportunity to do so when in April 1863, Lee sent Longstreet and part of his Corps to engage in operations in the vicinity of Suffolk, Virginia.
Longstreet always advocated for a strong western position. Before Vicksburg fell... he called it "the lungs of the Confederacy"
 

jackt62

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Longstreet always advocated for a strong western position. Before Vicksburg fell... he called it "the lungs of the Confederacy"
He was right. Longstreet gets a bad rap for what some believe is his opposition to Lee's strategy and tactics, but Longstreet was, as far as I am aware, the only major commander in the ANV who had a broader vision beyond Virginia of how and where the war needed to be fought.
 

Pat Answer

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He was right. Longstreet gets a bad rap for what some believe is his opposition to Lee's strategy and tactics, but Longstreet was, as far as I am aware, the only major commander in the ANV who had a broader vision beyond Virginia of how and where the war needed to be fought.

Well, the AoNV was tasked with the defense of Richmond after all. :D

Let's not sell Lee short, though. He truly believed that what he did there would offset to some extent setbacks in other theaters, especially in the eyes of Europe and the American press. He wasn't far wrong: "...it seems unreasonable that a series of successes, extending through half-a-year, and clearing more than a hundred thousand square miles of country, should help us so little, while a single half-defeat should hurt us so much," Lincoln wrote in August 1862, comparing the conquest of western Tennessee and gain of New Orleans with the outcome of the Seven Days campaign.
 

Rebforever

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He was right. Longstreet gets a bad rap for what some believe is his opposition to Lee's strategy and tactics, but Longstreet was, as far as I am aware, the only major commander in the ANV who had a broader vision beyond Virginia of how and where the war needed to be fought.
That was because he thought from early on he was a better General than Robert E. Lee. His heart was at the wrong place and caused him to question practically all orders from General Lee.
 

Polloco

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I'm pretty sure Longstreet didn't just decide to "up and go west" all on his own. He was detached from Lee and sent to help Bragg, but by who? Someone had to make that order. There were probably several reasons for his going but number 1 would have been following orders.
 

Pat Answer

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That was because he thought from early on he was a better General than Robert E. Lee. His heart was at the wrong place and caused him to question practically all orders from General Lee.

Playing devil's advocate for Longstreet from his perspective (not that I believe for one minute that he would have done better in Lee's shoes)...
1862
June/July - No one really shines during the Seven Days, culminating in Malvern Hill, which he (and DH Hill) would interpret as 'this is why you leave an enemy in a strong position alone'
Aug - He would see the fruits of his timing of the flank attack at Second Manassas as proof that his judgment is at least as sound
Sept - He would disagree with the division of forces in Maryland and recognizing how close things came at Antietam would lend that argument weight
Dec - Doesn't really count as of test of AoNV generalship when Burnside persistently cooperates in his own destruction
1863
May - When Lee becomes a "god of war" to his men on the 3rd in the Chancellor clearing, Longstreet is not there to witness.
July - Almost a year to the day after Malvern Hill, he is ordered to launch an open field charge against a strong position...

In the end, I don't see it as his heart being in the wrong place so much as different command styles. Lee had a strong grasp on the psychological aspects of war as well as the technical. There were reasons so many of Lee's technically 'incorrect' gambles paid off. Longstreet's mastery of the technical side may have gotten in the way of his seeing that.
 

Pete Longstreet

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He was right. Longstreet gets a bad rap for what some believe is his opposition to Lee's strategy and tactics, but Longstreet was, as far as I am aware, the only major commander in the ANV who had a broader vision beyond Virginia of how and where the war needed to be fought.
He understood the Confederacy's fate hung upon the west and other regions, and not Richmond alone. He also was a strong proponent of the defensive-offensive... rather than just strictly the offensive.
 

Pete Longstreet

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I'm pretty sure Longstreet didn't just decide to "up and go west" all on his own. He was detached from Lee and sent to help Bragg, but by who? Someone had to make that order. There were probably several reasons for his going but number 1 would have been following orders.
Longstreet advocated to be sent west prior to the fall of Vicksburg. But your right... Davis ordered him west... but only after Lee was in agreement, and gave his approval for the detachment of the First Corp.
 

Pete Longstreet

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In the end, I don't see it as his heart being in the wrong place so much as different command styles. Lee had a strong grasp on the psychological aspects of war as well as the technical. There were reasons so many of Lee's technically 'incorrect' gambles paid off. Longstreet's mastery of the technical side may have gotten in the way of his seeing that.
Lee was definitely more inclined to take "long chances". Longstreet was much more cautious, sometimes to a fault. And was even called "slow Peter" during some campaigns.
 

jackt62

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That was because he thought from early on he was a better General than Robert E. Lee. His heart was at the wrong place and caused him to question practically all orders from General Lee.
I guess I have a more balanced view of Lee and Longstreet. Each had strengths and weaknesses, sometimes they complemented one another.
 

jackt62

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Well, the AoNV was tasked with the defense of Richmond after all. :D

Let's not sell Lee short, though. He truly believed that what he did there would offset to some extent setbacks in other theaters, especially in the eyes of Europe and the American press. He wasn't far wrong: "...it seems unreasonable that a series of successes, extending through half-a-year, and clearing more than a hundred thousand square miles of country, should help us so little, while a single half-defeat should hurt us so much," Lincoln wrote in August 1862, comparing the conquest of western Tennessee and gain of New Orleans with the outcome of the Seven Days campaign.
Agreed. Lee and Longstreet had unique strengths and weaknesses that, despite the later criticism, helped the ANV achieve many of its greatest moments. To this day, there is probably no definitive conclusion as to what type of strategy would have best served the Confederacy in its quest for independence.
 
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