Samuel Johnston - Did He Reach Little Round Top?

Florida Rebel

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Let's just say it this way; we all have our favorites and if our general is catching some ****, we're upset about it. I firmly believe Longstreet was against anything Lee wanted to do for those 3 days. And numerous historians agree so it isn't just me. We all know the attacks were not properly coordinated and that certainly hurt the Rebel effort. Some people blame Lee, but I don't. Lee HAD to have given instructions on what he wanted done. Why was he heard a few times on July 2, "what is taking Longstreet so long?" What about Longstreet's supposed morning attack on July 3? Does anyone really believe a general like Lee could be so casual about his plans on July 2 and 3rd and what he wanted done? But Lee, unlike many other people, is NOT going to throw anyone under the bus and certainly he is not going to blame anyone and put it in writing. He will take responsibility and say it was his fault. That's the character of the man and a big reason why he is so universally admired.

Ewell on day 1, fought well until he stopped late in the day. Could he have taken Cemetery Hill? Again, if he was going to pursue it - it had to be fast. The Union leader at the time, Winfield Scott Hancock, said it may have succeeded if Ewell had acted immediately but not when the Federals had some time to fortify it. Then it would be too late. Some of Ewell's staff members wondered openly what Jackson would have done, after all, they knew him well. Their answer; "Jackson is not here." It's probably better to cut Ewell some slack because he was brand new to corp command, still, many of us think "what would have happened at Gettysburg had Jackson not died?"

Could Longstreet fight offensively? As some other readers point out, he had his moments. But he was NO Jackson when it came to fighting offensively at Gettysburg OR as an independent commander. That's why I was so surprised in March of this year, when I went to Gettysburg, I saw a statue of him on Seminary Ridge. Of course, it was so small, it would be easy to walk by and miss.

Back to the famous battle; it sure was the ONE, big chance for the South to win a big battle on Northern soil. Oh well.
 

thomas aagaard

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Does anyone really believe a general like Lee could be so casual about his plans on July 2 and 3rd and what he wanted done?
(...)
Could Longstreet fight offensively? As some other readers point out, he had his moments. But he was NO Jackson when it came to fighting offensively at Gettysburg OR as an independent commander.
Yes. he was exactly so casual about what he wanted. He was sick and made a number of mistakes during the campaign.
(Try read the orders to Stuart... yes It was written by his staff, but they where based on what Lee told them to write and they are not clear)
When he after the campaign offered his resignation, he made it clear that he was still not well.


Also, Jackson was very good at the operational level as he showed in the Valley. But he was at best mediocre at the tactical level.
His attack at Chancellorsville was a mess. And during the 7 day battles he messed everything up... If he even made it to the battlefield. He almost failed at Fredericksburg with Meade penetrating his lines.

Longstreet commanded 3 of the most effective frontal attacks of the war. Sure he liked to take his time, but when he did he was very effective.
Of the two, Longstreet was by far the superior tactician.

But when we talk commanding a independent force at the operational level then yes Jackson was very very good.
And Longstreet was not.
 

rpkennedy

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Let's just say it this way; we all have our favorites and if our general is catching some ****, we're upset about it. I firmly believe Longstreet was against anything Lee wanted to do for those 3 days. And numerous historians agree so it isn't just me. We all know the attacks were not properly coordinated and that certainly hurt the Rebel effort. Some people blame Lee, but I don't. Lee HAD to have given instructions on what he wanted done. Why was he heard a few times on July 2, "what is taking Longstreet so long?" What about Longstreet's supposed morning attack on July 3? Does anyone really believe a general like Lee could be so casual about his plans on July 2 and 3rd and what he wanted done? But Lee, unlike many other people, is NOT going to throw anyone under the bus and certainly he is not going to blame anyone and put it in writing. He will take responsibility and say it was his fault. That's the character of the man and a big reason why he is so universally admired.

Ewell on day 1, fought well until he stopped late in the day. Could he have taken Cemetery Hill? Again, if he was going to pursue it - it had to be fast. The Union leader at the time, Winfield Scott Hancock, said it may have succeeded if Ewell had acted immediately but not when the Federals had some time to fortify it. Then it would be too late. Some of Ewell's staff members wondered openly what Jackson would have done, after all, they knew him well. Their answer; "Jackson is not here." It's probably better to cut Ewell some slack because he was brand new to corp command, still, many of us think "what would have happened at Gettysburg had Jackson not died?"

Could Longstreet fight offensively? As some other readers point out, he had his moments. But he was NO Jackson when it came to fighting offensively at Gettysburg OR as an independent commander. That's why I was so surprised in March of this year, when I went to Gettysburg, I saw a statue of him on Seminary Ridge. Of course, it was so small, it would be easy to walk by and miss.

Back to the famous battle; it sure was the ONE, big chance for the South to win a big battle on Northern soil. Oh well.

The problem with a lot of the accounts that have Lee commenting that Longstreet was being too slow and Ewell's staff muttering about Jackson is that many of them were written long after the war, amidst the refighting of the battle between the various camps. Needless to say, there were a lot of axes being ground there. Contemporarily, there are many fewer accounts of these criticisms.

On July 2, Longstreet followed Lee's orders to the letter (which resulted in the countermarch rather than just turning his column around) and can't really be criticized for that but he definitely can be criticized for his actions very early on July 3. Again, Longstreet was following Lee's vague orders to the letter but was clearly violating the spirit of those orders.

As for Ewell on July 1, there was zero chance that he could have taken the hill without reinforcement. The 40-odd cannon would have blown apart any attacking column that would have had to form in the open between Gettysburg and the hill. Not to mention that he only had a disordered force of about 2500 available to make such an attack.

Ryan
 
Joined
Jun 16, 2016
Let's just say it this way; we all have our favorites and if our general is catching some ****, we're upset about it. I firmly believe Longstreet was against anything Lee wanted to do for those 3 days. And numerous historians agree so it isn't just me.

Numerous historians also disagree. Moreover, what's this business about "our" general? They all have been dead for some time. Historical understanding isn't an exercise in cheerleading.

We all know the attacks were not properly coordinated and that certainly hurt the Rebel effort. Some people blame Lee, but I don't. Lee HAD to have given instructions on what he wanted done. Why was he heard a few times on July 2, "what is taking Longstreet so long?" What about Longstreet's supposed morning attack on July 3? Does anyone really believe a general like Lee could be so casual about his plans on July 2 and 3rd and what he wanted done? But Lee, unlike many other people, is NOT going to throw anyone under the bus and certainly he is not going to blame anyone and put it in writing. He will take responsibility and say it was his fault. That's the character of the man and a big reason why he is so universally admired.

In postwar interviews Lee threw Stuart and Ewell under the bus. It may be fortunate for his reputation that he did not compose a memoir. Otherwise the Marble Man might have been chipped.

Ewell on day 1, fought well until he stopped late in the day. Could he have taken Cemetery Hill? Again, if he was going to pursue it - it had to be fast. The Union leader at the time, Winfield Scott Hancock, said it may have succeeded if Ewell had acted immediately but not when the Federals had some time to fortify it. Then it would be too late. Some of Ewell's staff members wondered openly what Jackson would have done, after all, they knew him well. Their answer; "Jackson is not here." It's probably better to cut Ewell some slack because he was brand new to corp command, still, many of us think "what would have happened at Gettysburg had Jackson not died?"

It would have taken a lot of work to reform any attack force east of the town (you weren't going to attack through the town) ... and it would have consumed valuable time. When you look at the distance Ewell's men had marched in a hot July sun followed by the fighting they did, by the time an attack could have been readied the Union defenders would have been in position.

Of course none of this has to do with Johnston's reconnaissance. :smile:

Could Longstreet fight offensively? As some other readers point out, he had his moments. But he was NO Jackson when it came to fighting offensively at Gettysburg OR as an independent commander. That's why I was so surprised in March of this year, when I went to Gettysburg, I saw a statue of him on Seminary Ridge. Of course, it was so small, it would be easy to walk by and miss.

Back to the famous battle; it sure was the ONE, big chance for the South to win a big battle on Northern soil. Oh well.

I think the Yankees had something to do with it. Moreover, as Lee understood from the previous year, winning battles and winning the war are two different things. It would have been very hard for Lee to convert a battlefield victory at Gettysburg to a significant strategic advantage. Armies were pretty resilient: to take one off the board you had to surround it. Once concentrated, given his supply situation Lee would have to act fast, and a big victory would have come at great loss (a Confederate victory that ends the battle on July 1 leaves Lee with needing to fight another battle against five intact Union corps).
 
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jackt62

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Longstreet was not a defensive general. In fact, he was one of the most successful attackers of the war

I agree. For that matter, it is sometimes misleading to characterize a particular commander as being "offensive" or "defensive." An effective offensive commander would surely have the capability to organize a successful defense, when the need arises. So I would not put Longstreet into a neat category of one or the other, in the same way that General George Thomas is sometimes known as a "defensive" general notwithstanding his offensive capabilities.
 

speedylee

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Aug 15, 2017
I agree with @infomanpa and @Andy Cardinal that the evidence is unclear. Personally, I can believe that Johnston reached the southern face of LRT which would have obscured the fields to the north while allowing him to see the area around the Peach Orchard. That said, Bushman Hill is also a possibility.

Plus, it's a miracle he didn't run into any cavalry patrols who were stretched almost to Fairfield on the morning of July 2.

Ryan
Thanks. I recall reading that Johnston reported that his return to the Confed lines was delayed because his party observed a group of Union soldiers near their intended path. My recollection is that Johnston said the group they observed was riding along Emmitsburg Road. I have read so many discussions of Johnston's scouting effort that morning that I really want to read whatever I can find that Johnston himself wrote.
 

rpkennedy

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Thanks. I recall reading that Johnston reported that his return to the Confed lines was delayed because his party observed a group of Union soldiers near their intended path. My recollection is that Johnston said the group they observed was riding along Emmitsburg Road. I have read so many discussions of Johnston's scouting effort that morning that I really want to read whatever I can find that Johnston himself wrote.
IIRC, Johnston wrote about his ride in the 1870s. I want to say that they were in the SHSP but my memory may be playing tricks on me.

Ryan
 

Florida Rebel

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I don't recall Lee EVER throwing his "other son," Jeb Stuart, under the bus after Stuart died. Had he done so, there would never have been a large statue of Stuart on Monument Ave with Jackson, Jeff Davis and of course, Lee himself. Ewell? As we all know, he removed Ewell from command before the war ended. He also removed Pickett, as he should have....
 

AThompson

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IIRC, Johnston wrote about his ride in the 1870s. I want to say that they were in the SHSP but my memory may be playing tricks on me.

Ryan
Little late to the party! Johnston was actually fairly publicity averse it seems. He only ever wrote private letters in response to questions he was asked about it, which is probably the biggest reason we don't have any detailed information on the reconnaissance. Most of the people asking him to recall his experience at Gettysburg were concerned about his role in the countermarch and the timing there, so he only really responded to that, addressing details of the actual recon as ancillary issues.

But more to the point, Fitzhugh Lee published part of his letter in SHSP, despite Johnston telling him not to, since he didn't want to become embroiled in controversy.

- Allen
 

speedylee

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Numerous historians also disagree. Moreover, what's this business about "our" general? They all have been dead for some time. Historical understanding isn't an exercise in cheerleading.



In postwar interviews Lee threw Stuart and Ewell under the bus. It may be fortunate for his reputation that he did not compose a memoir. Otherwise the Marble Man might have been chipped.



It would have taken a lot of work to reform any attack force east of the town (you weren't going to attack through the town) ... and it would have consumed valuable time. When you look at the distance Ewell's men had marched in a hot July sun followed by the fighting they did, by the time an attack could have been readied the Union defenders would have been in position.

Of course none of this has to do with Johnston's reconnaissance. :smile:



I think the Yankees had something to do with it. Moreover, as Lee understood from the previous year, winning battles and winning the war are two different things. It would have been very hard for Lee to convert a battlefield victory at Gettysburg to a significant strategic advantage. Armies were pretty resilient: to take one off the board you had to surround it. Once concentrated, given his supply situation Lee would have to act fast, and a big victory would have come at great loss (a Confederate victory that ends the battle on July 1 leaves Lee with needing to fight another battle against five intact Union corps).
I fear that, in your first comment, you miss the central point made by Florida Rebel. The point FR made was that many Civil War students find an historic figure or incident they enjoy researching or reading about. It appears that, for FR, that is Robert E. Lee at Gettysburg. FR did not engage in cheerleading, but made a point about Lee. It appears you disagree with FR's point. Fair enough.

As it happens, I agree with both of you. Longstreet's weaknesses were on display at Gettysburg and that was reflective to the AoNV's command staff in general. Lee did not go north to win the war, he went north to scare the northern populace, impact support for the war and get the AoP off of Virginia soil long enough for the farmers to get a crop in the field. And, yep, the Yankees WON the battle of Gettysburg as much as the Confeds lost it. The AoP's determined, hard fighting soldiers and officers held off the best the Confeds had to offer.
 

klongstreet

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Johnstone did write about his recon, however not wanting to cause any controversy he left out information that could stir a hornets nest (IMO) but he was not alone in this recon, Clarke and others went along at least part of the way, Did they say anything? just wondering.
 

AThompson

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Johnstone did write about his recon, however not wanting to cause any controversy he left out information that could stir a hornets nest (IMO) but he was not alone in this recon, Clarke and others went along at least part of the way, Did they say anything? just wondering.
If they did, it hasn't been discovered yet (or at least known publicly). Johnston primarily answered the questions he was asked. The issue then was primarily the timing of the march, not so much the validity of the recon (which I think says something). The hornets' nest had been kicked - he just didn't want to be near the swarm.
 

AThompson

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This has to be one of the Strangest Reconnaissance’s of the war, and it seems that it produced utterly false Intel on the Union position !
The interesting thing is that there is no account of what Johnston actually reported. That the recon produced false intel is just an assumption historians have made, primarily because of the results of July 2 and after 8 or 9 hours had passed. Sickles didn't give any orders at all before 7 am (when Johnston returned to headquarters) and most of the troops weren't moving forward to the infamous salient until much later in the morning and early afternoon (Berdan and the 3rd Maine didn't skirmish with the Confederate Third Corps until at least 11 am or so). There are many, many reasons and theories as to why the Confederate attack started late, so I'm not laying blame here - but if the attack had been able to kick off before noon, the situation would have looked considerably closer to what Johnston could have reported than it did when the attack started.
 

klongstreet

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Given that Buford had say 3000 troops with 3000 horses could they all fit in plum run and if so than Johnston would see or hear some sign of them, however if Buford's troops were spread out further South, the bulk being camped near South cavalry field a small gap does open up.
 

AThompson

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Given that Buford had say 3000 troops with 3000 horses could they all fit in plum run and if so than Johnston would see or hear some sign of them, however if Buford's troops were spread out further South, the bulk being camped near South cavalry field a small gap does open up.
He mentioned seeing cavalry patrols and having to avoid them (as do others like Pendleton and his staff that were possibly conducting recons that morning). Buford was headquartered in and around the Peach Orchard.

My opinion is that Johnston saw these things and reported them to Lee. He also would have been able to see both the 3rd Corps north of LRT and the 2nd Corps marching into position north of that, along Cemetery Ridge (even with fog, etc., as you said - you'd have to see and hear thousands of troops, wagons, horses, etc.).

I think the general assumption that is usually made is that Lee would not have ordered the attack against the left if he had known the 3rd Corps was there. But by all accounts, the 3rd Corps was in bivouac in the general vicinity of Cemetery Ridge and not anchored on or against LRT at all. The flank was in the air at that point in the morning and during the planning stages. Obviously by the time the attack kicked off, that intel was very dated. If you compare the original attack plan (partially envelope the Federal left, pivot, and use the Peach Orchard and Emmitsburg Road Ridge as a platform and guide up Cemetery Ridge to the ultimate goal of Cemetery Hill), it fits well within the scenario of what Johnston could have seen and reported that morning. (Hopefully one day a crisp, legible letter will show up from Johnston saying "I went here and did this" - but then we would have one less thing to talk about)
 

Tom Elmore

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Tactical intelligence has a limited "shelf life;" it is extremely perishable. With each passing minute, and certainly hour, it diminishes in importance until it becomes worthless, or actually detrimental. Even if it is timely and accurate, it might be misleading. For instance, the Union signalmen on Little Round Top reported a large body of enemy infantry was marching away from the Confederate right - they must have been observing the countermarch of Hood and McLaws. Fortunately no action was taken by the Federal high command based on this one piece of information.
 
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I've always found it unbelievable that Longstreet's Corps didn't take the same detour as Alexander's artillery battalion. With all the horses and equipment, you would have thought it would have been obvious where they turned off of the road. If it was passable for artillery, it should be the same for infantry. It seems like if they had followed Alexander they would have been in position to attack sooner.
 

AThompson

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I've always found it unbelievable that Longstreet's Corps didn't take the same detour as Alexander's artillery battalion. With all the horses and equipment, you would have thought it would have been obvious where they turned off of the road. If it was passable for artillery, it should be the same for infantry. It seems like if they had followed Alexander they would have been in position to attack sooner.
I've been working on a longer study of this, but I'm hesitant to take Alexander at his word on that. He is a great analyst, but he's also subject to the same limitations of memory as anyone else writing about it.
 
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