Friday, July 3, 2009

Day 3-Gettysburg

On this day in 1863, the Confederacy lost its final chance for a battle of annihilation. Like Napoleon in his wars, Lee sought a final battle that could end the war. With the failure of Picketts Charge, the Union Army destroyed the South's offensive striking power. Lee's army no longer had the ability to mount a knockout blow that would bring strategic victory. Henceforward, every battle would be a defensive or tactical loss or win.
The loss of Picketts Charge also showed Longstreet's strategic insight. He knew that the Charge would fail. For that reason, he gave his assent to the attack at 4pm on July 3rd with a silent nod of the head. He understood the need for defensive warfare. I think Longstreet saw that the days of the Napoleonic charge were over. He would have made a very good World War I general. Like most people ahead of their time, he was ignored or despised.

He seemed like a very interesting man. Can anyone recommend a good biography about him?

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  1. I think you've read too much of *The Killer Angels.* Contrary to what the novel says, Lee was not in PA seeking "a final battle that could end the war." Nor was Longstreet regarded by his contemporaries as having a special penchant for defensive operations. (Longstreet's having a WWI mindset is also an idea of Shaara's.)

    BTW, your earlier post about Hooker repeats a long-debunked myth. The term "hooker" was connected to prostitutes long before the Civil War. Even Wikipedia acknowledges that.

  2. Best bio of Longstreet is by Jeff Wert. Most GNMP rangers whom I have heard give tours state that the primary goal of Lee's invasion was the gathering supplies and staying out of Virginia for six weeks or more. Lee hoped to inflict defeats of any kind on the AoP north of the Mason Dixon line. Civil War Librarian reviews a recent essay on Lee's quest for a battle of annihilaton ( on June 19th.

    Rea Andrew Redd, CivilWarLibrarian blog