What if Longstreet was at Spotsylvania?

Pete Longstreet

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Everyone has heard the famous question: "What if Jackson was at Gettysburg?" But would the presence of Longstreet at Spotsylvania have changed anything? He personally knew Grant very well, could that have assisted Lee in making certain command decisions? Would Longstreet's knowledge of defensive warfare had made a difference in this campaign?

Upon Longstreet being wounded at the Wilderness on May 6th 1864, command of the 1st corps was given to General Richard H. Anderson (pictured below). Anderson would command Longstreet's corps throughout the Spotsylvania campaign.

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-Image courtesy of Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.-
 

jackt62

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We do know that General Anderson successfully and quickly marched his (Longstreet's) Corps after the Wilderness battle to Spotsylvania Courthouse, thereby beating Grant to control of the crossroads. That in itself was significant enough that it foreclosed the possibility of Grant outflanking the ANV. I don't know whether Longstreet would have done as well or not; but given what actually happened, it's hard to conceive that Longstreet would have done any better.
 

Pete Longstreet

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We do know that General Anderson successfully and quickly marched his (Longstreet's) Corps after the Wilderness battle to Spotsylvania Courthouse, thereby beating Grant to control of the crossroads. That in itself was significant enough that it foreclosed the possibility of Grant outflanking the ANV. I don't know whether Longstreet would have done as well or not; but given what actually happened, it's hard to conceive that Longstreet would have done any better.
True. Anderson performed well in this situation, and deserves credit for his movements from the Wilderness to Spotsylvania Courthouse.

After the wounding of Longstreet, Lee had three Major Generals to evaluate for conmand of the 1st corps: Jubal Early, Edward Johnson and Richard Anderson. It appears he favored Early, but promoted Anderson based on the recommendation of Moxley Sorrel.
 

Jamieva

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True. Anderson performed well in this situation, and deserves credit for his movements from the Wilderness to Spotsylvania Courthouse.

After the wounding of Longstreet, Lee had three Major Generals to evaluate for conmand of the 1st corps: Jubal Early, Edward Johnson and Richard Anderson. It appears he favored Early, but promoted Anderson based on the recommendation of Moxley Sorrel.

Sorrel recommended Anderson because Anderson had been a division commander in that corps up until the re org prior to Gettysburg when he was shifted to Hill's corps.
 

Pete Longstreet

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Sorrel recommended Anderson because Anderson had been a division commander in that corps up until the re org prior to Gettysburg when he was shifted to Hill's corps.
Some argue that Lee was reluctant to give Longstreet back his old command upon his return in October of 64... but it appears he glady gave it back to him over retaining Anderson. I'm honestly not sure what Lee thought of Anderson, but Lee appeared to have always followed the chain of command and Longstreet was the senior officer.
 

lelliott19

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Some argue that Lee was reluctant to give Longstreet back his old command upon his return in October of 64... but it appears he glady gave it back to him over retaining Anderson. I'm honestly not sure what Lee thought of Anderson, but Lee appeared to have always followed the chain of command and Longstreet was the senior officer.
According to the diary of Thomas J Goree, Longstreet's Aid-de-camp, on October 13, 1864, after convalescence from the wound suffered in May 1864 during the Battle of the Wilderness, General Longstreet returned to the Army of Northern Virginia on Fly-By-Night, a horse sent to him by General Lee.

"Gen. Lee seems delighted to have him [Longstreet] back again, but he can not possibly be more pleased than the old 1st Corps is at his return to their command...When the men saw him coming, they mounted the breastworks and while he rode down the lines made the welkin ring with cheers for the 'old bull of the woods,' as they love to designate him. It is gratifying to Genl. L. to know that though he is not favorite with the President & Bragg, yet he has what is much better, the unbounded confidence of Genl. Lee and the officers and troops of his command." -Letter, Thomas J Goree to his sister, October 1864.
 

Pete Longstreet

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According to the diary of Thomas J Goree, Longstreet's Aid-de-camp, on October 13, 1864, after convalescence from the wound suffered in May 1864 during the Battle of the Wilderness, General Longstreet returned to the Army of Northern Virginia on Fly-By-Night, a horse sent to him by General Lee.

"Gen. Lee seems delighted to have him [Longstreet] back again, but he can not possibly be more pleased than the old 1st Corps is at his return to their command...When the men saw him coming, they mounted the breastworks and while he rode down the lines made the welkin ring with cheers for the 'old bull of the woods,' as they love to designate him. It is gratifying to Genl. L. to know that though he is not favorite with the President & Bragg, yet he has what is much better, the unbounded confidence of Genl. Lee and the officers and troops of his command." -Letter, Thomas J Goree to his sister, October 1864.
Thanks Laura! That's funny you quote Thomas J. Goree, as I'm currently reading this book right now. I'm about half way done.

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WScott

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Two of my favorites, Spotsylvania and Longstreet. Knowing that Longstreet preferred the defensive to the offensive, I think that Longstreet would not have allowed the establishment of the "Mule Shoe". Knowing it's creation would exposure his line to flanking fire and that the shoe created multiple fronts, he would have recommended Ewell extend his line across the base of the shoe to Early's position.
 

American87

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Two of my favorites, Spotsylvania and Longstreet. Knowing that Longstreet preferred the defensive to the offensive, I think that Longstreet would not have allowed the establishment of the "Mule Shoe". Knowing it's creation would exposure his line to flanking fire and that the shoe created multiple fronts, he would have recommended Ewell extend his line across the base of the shoe to Early's position.

Longstreet would have been commander of the First Corps, so he would not have been responsible for the Mule Shoe position.

However, I agree that had he been in charge of that sector of the line, he may have chosen a stronger position.
 

WScott

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By the time of Spotsylvania, I think Lee had varying levels of confidence in his 3 Corps commanders. With Jackson and Longstreet, Lee could tell them what his objective was and relied on his 2 corps commanders to carry them out. With Anderson (newly appointed) , Ewell (a disappointment at Gettysburg) and Early (new substitute for Hill), Lee had to be more specific and more involved in executing battle / defensive plans. I still think that Longstreet with his skills and capabilities would have made a big difference in the Battle of Spotsylvania Court House.
 

American87

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By the time of Spotsylvania, I think Lee had varying levels of confidence in his 3 Corps commanders. With Jackson and Longstreet, Lee could tell them what his objective was and relied on his 2 corps commanders to carry them out. With Anderson (newly appointed) , Ewell (a disappointment at Gettysburg) and Early (new substitute for Hill), Lee had to be more specific and more involved in executing battle / defensive plans. I still think that Longstreet with his skills and capabilities would have made a big difference in the Battle of Spotsylvania Court House.

I agree that Lee had to micromanage more after losing his "Jackson-Longstreet team." Even just losing Jackson was enough to cost him Gettysburg, in my opinion (partially because Jackson wasn't there, but also because the new high command failed to fight the battle as Lee wanted).

During the Overland Campaign, and perhaps Siege of Petersburg, Lee gave orders to brigade commanders himself. That is how little faith he had in his high command in the stage of the war.
 

American87

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All 3 commander's had proven that they could take care of themselves on the battlefield. Later Anderson would be given command of the new 4th Corps by Lee.

I disagree. From what I've read, Lee needed to advise Anderson on a few things when he first took command, although he must have proved himself later if Lee promoted him to permanent commander of the 4th Corps.

Ewell was later removed and replaced with Early

A.P. Hill I haven't read much about; Lee disagreed with his conduct at Bristoe Station, saying "Why wouldn't you do as Jackson would have done?" And later I never read that he accomplished much.

Lee was giving orders to general officers as low as in brigade command, so clearly he disagreed with what his corps commanders and division commanders were doing, at least on some or many occasions. During the Siege of Petersburg he routinely rode the length of the lines, and we can only speculate about how often he consulted with commanders of different ranks.
 

Stone in the wall

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I disagree. From what I've read, Lee needed to advise Anderson on a few things when he first took command, although he must have proved himself later if Lee promoted him to permanent commander of the 4th Corps.

Ewell was later removed and replaced with Early

A.P. Hill I haven't read much about; Lee disagreed with his conduct at Bristoe Station, saying "Why wouldn't you do as Jackson would have done?" And later I never read that he accomplished much.

Lee was giving orders to general officers as low as in brigade command, so clearly he disagreed with what his corps commanders and division commanders were doing, at least on some or many occasions. During the Siege of Petersburg he routinely rode the length of the lines, and we can only speculate about how often he consulted with commanders of different ranks.
If Lee was worried about Ewell he could have rode with the II corps at the Wilderness, but instead he chose to ride with Hill. Ewell's line wasn't the one that broke. But Hill's health was bad at this time. After over three years of service, and loss of his leg Ewell did have a mental break down at the Mule Shoe.

Lee trusted and chose Early to go on the Washington raid and until he's defeat at Cedar Creek. I don't know that Lee lost faith in him, but he was informed that the troops of the II corps had. John B Gordon would take over the II corps at that time, and an excellent choice.

Anderson's performance from Chancellorsville on was impressive.
 

American87

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If Lee was worried about Ewell he could have rode with the II corps at the Wilderness, but instead he chose to ride with Hill. Ewell's line wasn't the one that broke. But Hill's health was bad at this time. After over three years of service, and loss of his leg Ewell did have a mental break down at the Mule Shoe.

Lee trusted and chose Early to go on the Washington raid and until he's defeat at Cedar Creek. I don't know that Lee lost faith in him, but he was informed that the troops of the II corps had. John B Gordon would take over the II corps at that time, and an excellent choice.

Anderson's performance from Chancellorsville on was impressive.

If I remember correctly, Lee rode with Ewell during the Bristoe Station Campaign.

Riding with Hill at the Wilderness was probably, or at least may have been, a result of Hill's failure at Bristoe.

I don't think Lee was particularly fond if either as a subordinate by that point.

I agree that Gordon was an excellent choice. Early is not my favorite commander; certainly he was best qualified for independent command at the time, but I think Gordon would have been the better choice, if only Lee was willing to give army command to a division commander, which he clearly wasn't.

Gordon went on to become, I believe, the best Corps Commander in Lee's Army, as in, he was better than Jackson or Longstreet.

Anderson I haven't really followed all that much, but he was certainly better than some commanders, like Ewell, imo.
 

Stone in the wall

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If I remember correctly, Lee rode with Ewell during the Bristoe Station Campaign.

Riding with Hill at the Wilderness was probably, or at least may have been, a result of Hill's failure at Bristoe.

I don't think Lee was particularly fond if either as a subordinate by that point.

I agree that Gordon was an excellent choice. Early is not my favorite commander; certainly he was best qualified for independent command at the time, but I think Gordon would have been the better choice, if only Lee was willing to give army command to a division commander, which he clearly wasn't.

Gordon went on to become, I believe, the best Corps Commander in Lee's Army, as in, he was better than Jackson or Longstreet.

Anderson I haven't really followed all that much, but he was certainly better than some commanders, like Ewell, imo.
Gordon was good. Barry Benson was in the Old Capital Prison when Early reached Washington in 1864. Benton heard the guns and said Oh how he wished it was Jackson or Gordon instead of Early.
 
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