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(1863) Battle of Gettysburg
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Gregory C. White
Canton
GA USA
Posts: 297
Invade Pennsylvania; or Relieve Mississippi ? Longstreet's views
Posted on: 9/5/2020 11:00:27 AM

In July 1879, former Confederate General James Longstreet gave an interview with noted journalist Henry W. Grady, which was published in the Philadelphia Inquirer, and Atlanta Constitution newspapers. I've included an excerpt below.

Longstreet was not in favor of the invasion of Pennsylvania, but favored to send relief to Mississippi. This was debated by President Davis & Robert E. Lee in mid-May 1863, a week following Jackson's death. I believe it was proposed to send Longstreet's corps to the western theatre.

If Longstreet's corps ad been sent, would the remainder of the ANV had fallen back from the Fredericksburg area to protect Richmond from Hooker's army?

Would Longstreet's force been large enough to break the Vicksburg siege; move on to Tullahoma; sweep through Tennessee and Kentucky; and proceed into Ohio ?

Best Regards,

Greg







What were the decisive battles of the war?

It is my opinion that we were whipped when we failed at Gettysburg. After that we had only a chance. After [General Braxton] Bragg’s failure to follow up the advantage at Chattanooga, I felt that only a miracle could save us, and you know a soldier does not rely to any great extent on miracles. You see, as regards Gettysburg, we had staked a great deal on the invasion of which it was the turning point.

It had been decided that we must make an offensive campaign. I did not favor the invasion of Pennsylvania. My idea was to hurry the army, then concentrating at Jackson for the purpose of succoring Vicksburg, forward to Tullahoma, where Bragg was confronting [Maj. Gen. William Starke] Rosecrans, who might have been easily crushed, and with our grand army we could have swept through Tennessee and Kentucky and pierced Ohio. By sending this great force, with the prestige of victory, through Tennessee and Kentucky, we would have won over both of those doubtful states. I found, however, that General Lee had his head very much set on invading Pennsylvania. I agreed to his plans, only making one point, viz: that we should never attack the Federals, but force them to attack us. I remembered Jackson’s saying: “We sometimes fail to drive the enemy from a position. They always fail to drive us.”

The invasion was made. Its wise plan was changed by the Battle of Gettysburg, and we were forced back across the river. I felt then that we were beaten. I considered it simply a question of time.

Once after this there was a chance (a bare chance) of saving the Confederacy. This was after the Battle of Chickamauga, which was in many respects the most brilliant victory of the war. The enemy was more thoroughly put to rout here than be fore or since.

If ever there was an occasion that demanded pursuit pell-mell, this was the time. The Federals were rushing back on Chattanooga in the utmost confusion. It was a bright moonlit night, and our people were anxious to pursue. We might actually have entered Chattanooga with the flying Federals and thus recovered the key to Georgia and East Tennessee. General Bragg declined to follow up this advantage. The enemy rallied, reformed, and Bragg was driven back to Missionary Ridge.
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"I do not believe that any man can adequately appreciate the world of to-day unless he has some knowledge of...[and] some feeling for...the history of the world of the past." Theodore Roosevelt
Michigan Dave
Muskegon, Michigan
MI USA
Posts: 5894
Invade Pennsylvania; or Relieve Mississippi ? Longstreet's views on the Sum
Posted on: 9/5/2020 11:28:18 AM

Hi Greg,

Interesting take on Ole Pete’s preference, And it would have made a positive situation in most of the west.
Remember Grant is still in great position surrounding Vicksburg, & I can’t see him retreating from Mississippi!?

So I still think ultimately the Union would hold serve!
Just my humble opinion,
Good for debate, however?

Regards,
MD
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"The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract."
Phil Andrade
London
 UK
Posts: 4652
Invade Pennsylvania; or Relieve Mississippi ? Longstreet's views on the Sum
Posted on: 9/5/2020 11:42:53 AM

Greg,

Does Old Pete's record in the Knoxville Campaign suggest that he was made of the stuff to win the war in the West ?

Brilliant Corps commander that he was when he was working with Lee : no doubt about that....but, something fades when a shining star is taken out of its comfort zone.

Lee himself was such a Virginian to his very marrow, that I wonder how much he could ever be reconciled to detaching from his beloved state to pursue a chance in a theatre that was thoroughly toxified by bickering generals.

Interesting to read Longstreet's assessment of Chickamauga ...in many respects the most brilliant victory of the war. The enemy was more thoroughly put to rout here than be fore or since.

That surprised me a little, mainly on account of the cost of that victory, which was truly Pyrrhic.

As a squandered chance, I suppose, it does rate as a tantalising affair, with failure to exploit.

Regards, Phil
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"Egad, sir, I do not know whether you will die on the gallows or of the pox!" "That will depend, my Lord, on whether I embrace your principles or your mistress." Earl of Sandwich and John Wilkes
Gregory C. White
Canton
GA USA
Posts: 297
Invade Pennsylvania; or Relieve Mississippi ? Longstreet's views on the Sum
Posted on: 9/5/2020 1:23:16 PM

Quote:
Greg,

Does Old Pete's record in the Knoxville Campaign suggest that he was made of the stuff to win the war in the West ?

Brilliant Corps commander that he was when he was working with Lee : no doubt about that....but, something fades when a shining star is taken out of its comfort zone.

Regards, Phil



If the addition of Longstreet's force had successfully ended the siege of Vicksburg, who would have commanded the reinvigorated army of the west into Tennessee, Kentucky, and Ohio - Joe Johnston or Braxton Bragg ?

Cutting across four states (MS,TN,KY, OH), how would logistics (food, ammunition) have been addressed?

If Ohio was under threat, would Hooker's Army of the Potomac be sent west to confront it? Would the ANV follow
the AOP into Ohio for the ultimate showdown of the war?

Too many moving pieces!

Greg
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"I do not believe that any man can adequately appreciate the world of to-day unless he has some knowledge of...[and] some feeling for...the history of the world of the past." Theodore Roosevelt
Phil Andrade
London
 UK
Posts: 4652
Invade Pennsylvania; or Relieve Mississippi ? Longstreet's views on the Sum
Posted on: 9/6/2020 3:00:01 AM

Greg,

Yes, indeed, too many moving pieces.

But Washington and Richmond were not moving, and the relatively confined arena between them and around them defined the cockpit of the war. Any exposure of either of the rival capitals in an endeavour to transfer westwards was bound to be exploited, and in diplomatic and political terms - as well as in the obvious battlefield exigencies - the results were going to be amplified.

That’s not to underrate the importance of the Mississippi and Tennessee theatres.....without securing those, the Union was bound to be in jeopardy, and then there was the fragility of the Border States, another aspect that the Confederacy could exploit, as Bragg had attempted in Kentucky in September and October 1862.

Perryville, Corinth and Iuka, along with Antietam, served to show that Confederate resurgence had been tried on the broader canvas, and had failed. Chickamauga served to drive the lesson home.

I would have thought that it was the South’s triumph at Second Mannassas, rather than Chickamauga , that gave Dixie her best chance.....a chance that Lee immediately tried to exploit , even on a wing and a prayer.
He was justified, I think, in taking the risk of his Maryland Campaign, although his stand at Sharpsburg was an outrageously dangerous thing to do. If this was the case in September 1862, with a ragged and footsore and badly outnumbered force, then it was surely feasible when the power of his army was so much improved in the following summer, most markedly relative to that of the enemy.

My opinion is that Lee was justified in trying to seek conclusions in Pennsylvania in the high summer of ‘63.

For all the importance of relieving Vicksburg, there was a peripheral aspect to it when compared with the fruits of success that might be attained by the Confederacy in Pa.

I wonder if Lee was feeling that sending Longstreet westwards was like casting seed on stony ground. Too toxic out there.

Edit : In stating all the above, I should, of course, have acknowledged that the Confederacy’s best chance was the victory of First Mannassas......

Regards, Phil
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"Egad, sir, I do not know whether you will die on the gallows or of the pox!" "That will depend, my Lord, on whether I embrace your principles or your mistress." Earl of Sandwich and John Wilkes
morris crumley
Dunwoody
GA USA
Posts: 2811
Invade Pennsylvania; or Relieve Mississippi ? Longstreet's views on the Sum
Posted on: 9/6/2020 10:13:13 AM

What`s interesting is that both Lee and Longstreet realized that the confederacy could not continue to fight effectively as time went along, and both men holding this belief would, at the same time, be distanced by it. Lee envisioned loosing a war of attrition and sought a plan to get both armies out of the breadbasket of Virginia at summer harvest, and win a victory on Union soil that would cause great political unrest...and a loss of support for the war itself in the North.

Longstreet felt the same...that attrition caused by bold, head-on assaults was slowly crippling the army-bleeding it of men and leadership in the East, while the war was also being lost in the West due to a lack of cohesive planning and the best possible use of the one great advantage the South had...interior supply and communication. The quick concentration of men and materials to any sector in need.

Respects, Morris
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"You are a $70, red-wool, pure quill military genius, or the biggest damn fool in northern Mexico."
Phil Andrade
London
 UK
Posts: 4652
Invade Pennsylvania; or Relieve Mississippi ? Longstreet's views on the Sum
Posted on: 9/6/2020 2:07:38 PM

Morris,

Ironic, isn't it, that the southern victory that he most lauded - Chickamauga - was one of the war's best examples of " attrition caused by bold, head-on assaults..." ?

Longstreet himself was instrumental in both CSA victories at Second Mannassas and Chickamauga ; undoubtedly, both those victories offered the South very significant strategic advantages.

In both of those battles, the South inflicted sixteen thousand casualties on the North ; but, while at Mannassas the confederates suffered nine thousand casualties, at Chickamauga they suffered twice as many.

Using Livermore as a source, I cite yankee casualties as 16,054 at 2nd Mannassas and 16,170 at Chickamauga, compared with 9,197 and 18,454 respectively for the rebels.

Regards, Phil

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"Egad, sir, I do not know whether you will die on the gallows or of the pox!" "That will depend, my Lord, on whether I embrace your principles or your mistress." Earl of Sandwich and John Wilkes
Steve Clements
Toronto
ON Canada
Posts: 709
Invade Pennsylvania; or Relieve Mississippi ? Longstreet's views on the Sum
Posted on: 9/7/2020 9:23:30 AM

Quote:
Brilliant Corps commander that he was when he was working with Lee : no doubt about that....but, something fades when a shining star is taken out of its comfort zone.


Phil,

Agree. His performance at Chattanooga bordered on pure negligence.

And the worst part of the Knoxville campaign was Pete's insistence on throwing blame at everyone but himself. Kinda like Hooker after Chancellorsville.

My bias is that his whole "let's reinforce the West" was little more than a desire for independent command.

I also suspect that Lee thought that " a couple divisions in my army can do much good work...but sending two divisions to Joe Johnston will prove to be a waste of good men". Which you apparently agree with -:)

Quote:
I wonder if Lee was feeling that sending Longstreet westwards was like casting seed on stony ground. Too toxic out there


Two thoughts about reinforcing Johnston:

1) as per the above, even with another 12,000 men, Johnston's track record does not provide much hope that Johnston would actually be aggressive enough to help lift the siege.

2) once Grant had Pemberton trapped, Grant's army received a significant number of reinforcements. Please, someone correct me...but from memory, I think that Grant fought much of the campaign with around 45k men...but eventually had closer to 70k during the siege. Not sure that even a well led force could have lifted the siege of Vicksburg with the forces that might have been made available to Johnston et al.

s.c.
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Lightning
Glasgow
 UK
Posts: 597
Invade Pennsylvania; or Relieve Mississippi ? Longstreet's views on the Sum
Posted on: 9/9/2020 9:43:47 AM

Quote:

For all the importance of relieving Vicksburg, there was a peripheral aspect to it when compared with the fruits of success that might be attained by the Confederacy in Pa.

Regards, Phil


Hi Phil,

I can't disagree. The very public appearance of the Confederates, victorious over the Army of the Potomac, marching on Washington unopposed would have surely forced Lincoln to at least sit down and talk with the Secessionists. Whether the Union would have folded or fought on (like Rome facing down Hannibal after Cannae) is a matter worthy of debate!

Quote:

Edit : In stating all the above, I should, of course, have acknowledged that the Confederacy’s best chance was the victory of First Mannassas......


Indeed and the one 'war-winning moment' the Union had prior to victory in 1865 was surely at Antietam? McLellan threw away a golden opportunity to end the war that afternoon. Perhaps that's a debate for another time, however!

Cheers,

Colin
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"There is no course open to us but to fight it out. Every position must be held to the last man: there must be no retirement. With our backs to the wall and believing in the justice of our cause, each one of us must fight to the end."
Phil Andrade
London
 UK
Posts: 4652
Invade Pennsylvania; or Relieve Mississippi ? Longstreet's views on the Sum
Posted on: 9/9/2020 10:50:37 AM

Lovely to see you back on parade, Colin !

Longstreet is controversial.

The Lost Causers don’t forgive him for Gettysburg. Robert Krick damned him with faint praise . His Knoxville foray diminished his reputation.....he was beaten by Burnside : hardly an endorsement !

It’s been said of a comparison between Longstreet and Jackson Jackson argued, then obeyed. Longstreet argued.....then argued.

But, By Jove, what a superb fighter he was ; and what a punch he delivered ! That huge attack at Second Mannassas, one of the truly successful juggernauts of the war : and, in the Wilderness on 6 May 1864, he showed what could be done with good soldiers and inspired leadership. His wounding by friendly fire almost defies belief as an uncanny coincidence of battle....almost exactly the same place, almost exactly the same circumstances, almost exactly one year after the man who argued, but then obeyed, met the same fate with lethal consequence .

As for Gettysburg itself, I find it hard to make up my mind. I’m loathe to swallow the Lost Cause depiction. It smacks too much of conspiracy and manipulation.....after all , Old Pete defied them all by joining the Republican Party, and the cup of resentment must have run over. Did the Lost Cause legend of his conduct at Gettysburg pre date his political conversion ?

And yet...and yet....there’s something convincing in that summation that he argued ; and then argued.

His image as the soldier who better understood the realities of what could and could not be achieved by flesh and blood against firepower is a seductive one. I wonder whether it bears scrutiny. Fort Sanders makes things uncomfortable for those who wish to endorse that.

If I had to stake my life on it, I would come down on his side. A bit of a wobble, though !

Regards, Phil

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"Egad, sir, I do not know whether you will die on the gallows or of the pox!" "That will depend, my Lord, on whether I embrace your principles or your mistress." Earl of Sandwich and John Wilkes
morris crumley
Dunwoody
GA USA
Posts: 2811
Invade Pennsylvania; or Relieve Mississippi ? Longstreet's views on the Sum
Posted on: 9/9/2020 12:22:32 PM

Phil, Robert Krick had to be surgically removed from Stonewall Jackson`s posterior! He damns Longstreet for his failings....yet makes excuses for Jackson`s ( he was nonexistent in the Seven Days, and seriously harmed Lee`s attempts at severely damaging McClellan.)

Douglass Southall Freeman won a Pulitzer Prize for his work ......a work of fiction when it comes to Longstreet. According to the "Nobel Prize-winning" Freeman, Lee awoke, breakfasted , and then looked out from Seminary Ridge with his glasses stunned to find Longstreet not massing for an assault....all at a time of the day when Lee had not formalized his own plans!

The lost cause was born of Virginians, and was countenanced by, and continued into the 20th century by, Virginian`s, like Krick and Freeman.

Longstreet was one of the most accomplished corp level commanders of that war, commanding a corp so large at some times that it rivaled and surpassed in size McPherson`s Army in Georgia ( which was referred to by the Confederates as "McPherson`s Corps." His tactical knowledge and innovations that included improvements to the traverse entrenchments that would be utilized in the first World War are a testament to his treatment of deployment as a science. One cannot explain his actions at Knoxville. He deferred too much to Leadbetter....I have no idea why, which is what EP Alexander believed. Whether this was because Leadbetter, as engineer officer, had designed the Knoxville works, or whether he felt pressure from the failed removal of Bragg to not rock the boat further and risk consequences of failing to cooperate with Bragg`s "gift" of his Chief Engineer.

In the years after the war, when old foes met, the veterans of the Army of the Potomac said they always knew when Longstreet`s men were on the other side of battle..."he always dealt the heaviest blows."

Respects, Morris
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"You are a $70, red-wool, pure quill military genius, or the biggest damn fool in northern Mexico."

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