Longstreet had criticized Bragg's generalship and may have been hoping to replace him, although he also might have wished to see Joseph Johnston take command, and indicated that he would be content to serve under him as a corps commander. Lee prevented this plan from taking place by telling Davis that parting with large numbers of troops would force him to move his army closer to Richmond, and instead advancing a plan to invade Pennsylvania.
A campaign in the North would relieve agricultural and military pressure that the war was placing on Virginia and North Carolina, and, by threatening a federal city, disrupt Union offensives elsewhere and erode support for the war among Northern civilians. His plan or wishes announced, it became useless and improper to offer suggestions leading to a different course.
All that I could ask was that the policy of the campaign should be one of defensive tactics; that we should work so as to force the enemy to attack us, in such good position as we might find in our own country, so well adapted to that purpose—which might assure us of a grand triumph. To this he readily assented as an important and material adjunct to his general plan.
There is conflicting evidence for the veracity of Longstreet's account. It was written years after the campaign and is affected by hindsight, both of the results of the battle and of the postbellum criticism of the Lost Cause authors. In letters of the time Longstreet made no reference to such a bargain with Lee.
In April , Lee said that he "had never made any such promise, and had never thought of doing any such thing. The Army of Northern Virginia was reorganized after Jackson's death. Two division commanders, Richard S. Ewell and A. Hill , were promoted to lieutenant general and assumed command of the Second and the newly created Third Corps respectively.
Longstreet's First Corps gave up the division of Maj. Richard H. Anderson during the reorganization, leaving him with the divisions of Hood, McLaws, and Pickett.
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After it was determined that an advance north was inevitable, Longstreet dispatched the scout Henry Thomas Harrison , whom he had met during the Suffolk Campaign, to gather information. He paid Harrison in gold and told him that he "did not care to see him till he could bring information of importance. Harrison reported to Longstreet on the evening of June 28, and was instrumental in warning the Confederates that the Army of the Potomac was advancing north to meet them more quickly than they had anticipated, and were already massing around Frederick, Maryland.
Lee was initially skeptical, but the report prompted him to order the immediate concentration of his army north of Frederick near Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Harrison also brought news that Joseph Hooker had been replaced as commander of the Army of the Potomac by George Meade. Longstreet's actions at the Battle of Gettysburg would become the centerpiece of the controversy that surrounded him for over a century.
By then, two Union corps had been driven by Ewell and Hill back through the town into defensive positions on Cemetery Hill. Lee had not intended to fight before his army was fully concentrated, but chance and questionable decisions by A.
General James Longstreet in the West
Hill brought on the battle, which—on the first day—was an impressive Confederate victory. Meeting with Lee, Longstreet was concerned about the strength of the Union defensive position on elevated ground and advocated a strategic movement around the left flank of the enemy, to "secure good ground between him and his capital," which would presumably compel Meade to attack defensive positions erected by the Confederates. Lee's plan for July 2 called for Longstreet to attack the Union's left flank, which would be followed up by Hill's attack on Cemetery Ridge near the center, while Ewell demonstrated on the Union right.
Longstreet was not ready to attack as early as Lee envisioned. He received permission from Lee to wait for Brig. Evander M. Law 's brigade Hood's division to reach the field before he advanced any of his other brigades; Law marched his men quickly, covering 28 miles in eleven hours, but did not arrive until noon. Three of Longstreet's brigades were still in march column, and some distance from the attack positions they would need to reach. Postbellum criticism of Longstreet claims that he was ordered by Lee to attack in the early morning and that his delays were a significant contributor to the loss of the battle.
Although Longstreet's motivations have long been clouded by the vitriol of the Lost Cause partisans see Legacy , many historians agree that Longstreet did not aggressively pursue Lee's orders to launch an attack as early as possible.
Wert wrote, "Longstreet deserves censure for his performance on the morning of July 2. He allowed his disagreement with Lee's decision to affect his conduct. Once the commanding general determined to assail the enemy, duty required Longstreet to comply with the vigor and thoroughness that had previously characterized his generalship. The concern for detail, the regard for timely information, and the need for preparation were absent.
During all the time that passed, Meade continued to move in troops to bring about a more and more complete concentration; by 6 p. Callihan, in a reassessment of Longstreet's legacy, wrote, "It is appalling that a field commander of Longstreet's experience and caliber would so cavalierly and ineptly march and prepare his men for battle.
It would have been impossible to have commenced an attack much earlier than it occurred, and it is doubtful that the Confederacy could have placed the attack in any more secure hands than General Longstreet. Regardless of the controversy regarding the preparations, however, once the assault began around 4 p. On the night of July 2, Longstreet did not follow his usual custom of meeting Gen.
Lee at his headquarters to discuss the day's battle, claiming that he was too fatigued to make the ride. Instead, he spent part of the night planning for a movement around Big Round Top that would allow him to attack the enemy's flank and rear. Longstreet, despite his use of scouting parties, was apparently unaware that a considerable body of troops from the Union VI Corps was in position to block this move.
Shortly after issuing orders for the attack, around sunrise, Longstreet was joined at his headquarters by Lee, who was dismayed at this turn of events. The commanding general had intended for Longstreet to attack the Union left early in the morning in a manner similar to the attack of July 2, using Pickett's newly arrived division, in concert with a resumed attack by Ewell on Culp's Hill.
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What Lee found was that no one had ordered Pickett's division forward from its bivouac in the rear and that Longstreet had been planning an independent operation without consulting with him. Since his plans for an early-morning coordinated attack were now infeasible, Lee instead ordered Longstreet to coordinate a massive assault on the center of the Union line, employing the division of George Pickett and brigades from A.
Hill's corps. Longstreet knew this assault had little chance of success. The Union Army was in a position reminiscent of the one Longstreet had taken at Fredericksburg to defeat Burnside's assault. The Confederates would have to cover almost a mile of open ground and spend time negotiating sturdy fences under fire. The lessons of Fredericksburg and Malvern Hill were lost to Lee on this day. In his memoirs, Longstreet claims to have told Lee that he believed the attack on the Union center would fail:.
General, I have been a soldier all my life.
I have been with soldiers engaged in fights by couples, by squads, companies, regiments, divisions, and armies, and should know, as well as any one, what soldiers can do. It is my opinion that no fifteen thousand men ever arranged for battle can take that position. During the artillery barrage that preceded the infantry assault, Longstreet began to agonize over an assault that was going to cost dearly. He attempted to pass the responsibility for launching Pickett's division to his artillery chief, Col.
Edward Porter Alexander. When the time came to actually order Pickett forward, Longstreet could only nod in assent, unable to verbalize the order. The assault, known as Pickett's Charge , suffered the heavy casualties that Longstreet anticipated. It was the decisive point in the Confederate loss at Gettysburg and Lee ordered a retreat back to Virginia the following day.
Criticism of Longstreet after the war was based not only on his reputed conduct at the Battle of Gettysburg and support for Reconstruction, but also intemperate remarks he made about Robert E. For example, in his memoirs, he commented:. That he [Lee] was excited and off his balance was evident on the afternoon of the 1st, and he labored under that oppression until enough blood was shed to appease him. For years after the war Longstreet's reputation suffered and was blamed for the failed attack even though Lee ordered the advance after Longstreet's repeated advice to cancel the attack.
In mid-August , Longstreet once again resumed his attempts to be transferred to the Western Theater. He wrote a private letter to Seddon, requesting that he be transferred to serve under his old friend Gen.