The Longstreet decision

MikeyB

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Sep 13, 2018
Hi everyone,
Was curious - what was the background to the decision to send Longstreet West? Was Lee GiC of all the CSA at this time, or was Davis or someone else in Richmond calling the shots? Whose idea was it? Bragg? Lee? Davis? If not Lee's idea, did he fight it? Did Davis have to overrule him?
 

thomas aagaard

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Denmark
Lee didn't become commander in chief until very late in the war. Too late for it to do any difference.

Longstreet suggested in spring of 1863 to send his entire Corp west to Bragg.
This would then give the CSA a local superiority in numbers and a victory and a puc north might force Grant to stop his attempt at Vicksburg.
But Lee wanted to invade the north. And he got his way.

Then after that had failed It was decided to send Longstreet, with two divisions to the west. This did give them a about even numbers.
 

Ole Miss

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I believe Longstreet requested to be sent to the Western Theater. After Gettysburg, Ole Pete wanted to be away from Lee. I suspect that he anticipated being allowed more freedom to make decisions on how to use his corps and where..

I can't see any situation in which Lee would agree to lose his best corps commander and its men after the serious losses experienced during the Gettysburg campaign.

Jefferson Davis thought about Richmond and its safety 24/7! The West was a secondary concern compared to Richmond and Davis would not jeopardize its safety by transferring Longstreet there.

That is why I believe Longstreet was the sole source for the Western movement. Now how he convinced Lee and Davis to approve the transfer is beyond my ken.
Regards
David
 

jackt62

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Not only did Longstreet constantly crave opportunities for independent command, he strongly believed in the so-called "Western Concentration" whereby the fate of the Confederacy was heavily dependent on shoring up resources in the western seat of war. It was Longstreet who, with his allies in the Confederate Congress, badgered Davis and the War Department to send him out west. Lee and the government were forced to relent on this because of the realization that Bragg's AoT, was in trouble, having already been pushed out of Tennessee.
 

Carronade

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I don't know who made the first suggestion or the final decision, but the situation was clear - the war was being lost in the west, while the ANV was holding its own. They were even able to defeat Hooker at Chancellorsville despite the absence of Longstreet and two divisions, 1/4 of the army. The amazing thing would be if they had not considered shifting troops between theaters. Operating on interior lines was one of the Confederacy's key advantages in coping with the Union's superior strength.
 
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It's funny how Lee always gets blamed for wanting to keep his army intact. How often did Johnston or Bragg offer to send troops to fight in Virginia? It wasn't Lee's job to make these decisions. Had they been sent to Mississippi after Chancellorsville, they probably would have arrived too late (Champion's Hill was May 16), and i can assure you Johnston would not have used them to any good effect.

And as it turned out, except for a lucky break when Wood's Union division pulled out of line, the assault at Chickamauga may have ended in bloody repulse. We know that Longstreet's two excellent divisions were absolutely wasted in the Chattanooga and Knoxville campaigns. Let's face it, the problem in the West wasn't a disproportionate shortage of men, it was awful generalship again and again.
 

jackt62

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it's funny how Lee always gets blamed for wanting to keep his army intact. How often did Johnston or Bragg offer to send troops to fight in Virginia?
Lee, as general commanding the Army of Northern Virginia, was within rights to look after his own area of operations, as would any other commander do such as Bragg or Johnston. So the argument is really should Lee have striven to impart a bigger sense of uniformity on Confederate strategy, given his influence and ability? Lee did make demands on Davis for additional manpower, particularly during the critical Petersburg campaign, when his forces where being systematically diminished and extended over longer lines.
 

Joshism

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And as it turned out, except for a lucky break when Wood's Union division pulled out of line, the assault at Chickamauga may have ended in bloody repulse.

It was indeed a lucky break, but Longstreet had arranged a powerful piledriver attack. I think he was good to break through no matter what.

If Wood is in place it certainly reduces the damage though. Instead of routing half of Rosecrans army it is probably instead driven back to Snodgrass Hill where it rallies. The result is a position not unlike Stones River, but without the Union flanks anchored on a river.
 

Pete Longstreet

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Well before Vicksburg fell... Longstreet advocated sending troops west to deal with Grant and Rosecrans. Longstreet called Vicksburg the "lungs of the Confederacy". His early plans to reinforce Vicksburg were not approved by Lee, and thus were not acted upon... until it was too late. Even after Lee and Davis approved of sending Longstreet west... it wasn't til after he continually lobbied for the move. Once Longstreet left, Lee constantly wrote for him to come back as soon as he was able, thus being much more concerned about Virginia than Vicksburg. You have to wonder... if Longstreet's plan to reinforce Pemberton was put into motion and Vicksburg saved... the Battle of Gettysburg may have never been fought.
 

uaskme

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Longstreet don’t move until Sep 9, the day Bragg abandon Chattanooga. By this time Bragg has given up upper East TN and the RR. Bragg don’t know Longstreet is coming when he abandoned Chattanooga. So, Longstreet should of moved earlier. He could of stopped in Knoxville and stopped Burnside. Federals would of lost their Left Flank. Their Rear would of been in jeopardy. At least should of gotten to Chattanooga earlier. McLaws don’t get down here until after the battle. Porter Alexander days later. That could of made a huge difference.

Richmond knew Bragg could never win a battle with 2/1 odds against him. Rosecrans knows he is in trouble by the 14th. Calls Grant and Burnsides for help. On the night of the 19th Rosecrans knows Bragg had been reinforced. He thinks he is facing 120k Confederates. So he immediately starts moving his right flank to the left. Knows if he loses his left, he has lost his Army. So, Reenforcing Bragg caused Rosecrans to make all these troop movements. Unfortunately Bragg don’t react to Rosecrans. He should of shifted his troops North. AOC probably wouldn’t of walked away from it.

It was no Mistake reinforcing Bragg. With a 2/1 disadvantage, Rosey would of been in ATL by winter 63. War would of been over a year earlier.
 

Carronade

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It's funny how Lee always gets blamed for wanting to keep his army intact. How often did Johnston or Bragg offer to send troops to fight in Virginia?

Was there ever an occasion when they should have? When the situation in Virginia was more critical than that of the western armies? Granted Confederate commanders rarely felt that they had all the troops they could want, but the situation in the Virginia theater was basically stable from the Seven Days to the Overland campaign while that of the west was progressively deteriorating.

I've long felt (and bored the forum with) that the Confederates needed to make more use of interior lines, shifting forces to meet crises, exploit opportunities - or create them. They should have had a more balanced allocation of troops between theaters, rather than keeping a disproportionate share semi-permanently in the far northeast corner of the Confederacy, and made more movements like Longstreet's, in either direction, to concentrate as needed for particular campaigns.

Generals can certainly make suggestions, which often will focus on needs or opportunities in their own theaters, but the decisions need to be made and enforced at the national command level.
 

A. Roy

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I've long felt (and bored the forum with) that the Confederates needed to make more use of interior lines, shifting forces to meet crises, exploit opportunities - or create them. They should have had a more balanced allocation of troops between theaters, rather than keeping a disproportionate share semi-permanently in the far northeast corner of the Confederacy, and made more movements like Longstreet's, in either direction, to concentrate as needed for particular campaigns.

What do you think prevented them from operating this way? And why did this kind of shift work in the case of Longstreet's movement? Did Longstreet just have some mojo that other commanders didn't, so that when he wanted to go west, it was allowed? (I promise not to be bored...)

Roy B.
 

jackt62

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What do you think prevented them from operating this way?

Roy B.

The Confederacy did use its interior lines to advantage, the 2 most famous concentrations being that at Shiloh in 1862 and Chickamauga in 1863. In those cases, the Confederacy was able to successfully marshal far flung forces with the ability to deliver a powerful punch to the enemy. (In spite of that, Shiloh ended up being a Confederate defeat because of flaws in the execution of the battle plan.) But it is true that because the Confederacy never developed a consistent national war strategy, it's use of interior lines was limited and ad hoc as in the cases mentioned. Moreover, reliable movements across various terrain was stymied by inadequacies in the southern rail and road system.
 

jackt62

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And why did this kind of shift work in the case of Longstreet's movement? Did Longstreet just have some mojo that other commanders didn't, so that when he wanted to go west, it was allowed?
Longstreet had political connections with certain members (such as Louis Wigfall) of the so-called "Western Concentration" movement, who had some influence in advocating for additional resources for the western theater. On top of which Longstreet was known to hanker for independent command, and made no secret of his desire to get away from Lee's oversight. Longstreet did command respect as a field commander, and the dire situation after Chattanooga was occupied by Rosecrans forced the Richmond government to send additional forces to bolster Bragg.
 

wausaubob

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Longstreet made it to Tennessee. Then he found out that Bragg was less able to deal with disagreement than was General Lee. And the Conf Army of Tennessee, and Longstreet's divisions found out that the Confederate loss of Tennessee and that US occupation of the entire Mississippi profoundly changed the logistical situation for the Confederacy.
 

Carronade

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I think the key point with regard to Longstreet was that the alternative had been tried and failed. Longstreet suggested the move prior to the Pennsylvania campaign. Lee had just defeated Hooker at Chancellorsville despite the absence of Longstreet and two divisions, which suggested that a defensive stance on the Virginia front could be successfully maintained. On the other hand, taking the offensive would require the full strength of the ANV.

After Gettysburg they decided to try the other option, although the situation had deteriorated in the interim; rather than succoring Vicksburg it was now a matter of stopping Rosecrans' advance. Another factor may have been that Longstreet wouldn't be as far away if an urgent need arose to call him back to Virginia. Lee was still left with six divisions, as at C'ville, enough for a defensive stance.

We also might consider how many troops Longstreet would take with him. In early 1863 his corps comprised four divisions, half of the ANV, which would likely be considered too much to send away when they could anticipate a renewed Union offensive. After that offensive had been defeated at C'ville, sending Longstreet and the two divisions not engaged in that battle might be a more viable option; they were even located conveniently to railroad lines.

(I promise not to be bored...)

Don't underestimate me :wink:
 

wausaubob

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Sending Longstreet to Tennessee was the right move. And the US countered by sending Grant there too, and pouring resources into the campaign. When that happened Longstreet probably realized the US was not going to allow Grant to lose. It probably affected General Longstreet's willingness to stay in Bragg's area.
 

uaskme

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Longstreet wanted to go West in time to familiarize himself with the AOT. Richmond knew that Bragg had crossed the TN River on July 3rd or so. The same time of the Vicksburg collapse and Gettysburg defeat. So a movement 2 weeks prior would have given Longstreet the ability move by the most direct route, nearly half the miles. Plus McLaws and Alexander and his artillery would of gotten here before the battle. That could of made a big difference. D H Hill replaced Hardee so there was significant influence of the ANV here. Hood gets here on the 18th, Longstreet on the 19th about 11 pm to the battlefield. Morning of the 20th was the final day of the Battle.

Prior to the Federals retreat back into Chattanooga, was the period when several opportunities to destroy the AOC were Lost. Options were limited after the battle of Chickamauga. However, Bragg had the High Ground and a force level that should of stopped Grant. Bragg had parity in Troop Level and Natural Fortifications that should of been, but were not Enhanced.

Long story short. Opportunity was squandered.
 

uaskme

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Sending Longstreet to Tennessee was the right move. And the US countered by sending Grant there too, and pouring resources into the campaign. When that happened Longstreet probably realized the US was not going to allow Grant to lose. It probably affected General Longstreet's willingness to stay in Bragg's area.
Grant wasn’t at Chickamauga. Rosey sends a request for support to him and Burnside.: On the 14th or a day or so earlier. Halleck dithers with Burnside. Grant wrecks his horse in NO. Something about his drinking. Extended Holiday. Unable to respond For a few days. Rosey has a response hen he gets back to Chattanooga.
 
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