Saturday, March 8, 2008

Part Four - An Analysis of Longstreet's Charges

In the very public battle that occurred after Lee’s death, Longstreet, due to his actions on the second and third days of battle, found himself shouldering most of the blame for the loss at Gettysburg. He responded to the charges in a series of newspaper articles in which he attacked Lee’s decision making during the battle. In 1896, he delivered his final treatise on his role at Gettysburg in his book, From Manassas to Appomattox. Within the pages, he criticized Stuart severely for disobeying orders and leaving Lee blind.

Longstreet reports that the idea of a cavalry movement around the enemy was first discussed on June 19, and it was determined that Stuart was to withdraw “west of the Blue Ridge and cross the Potomac on its right at Shepherdstown, and make his ride towards Baltimore.”(17) He further explains how the plan was modified by Lee so Stuart could “cross the Potomac with part of his command east of the Blue Ridge,” (18) but the exact location of the crossing was left to Longstreet’s decision. “[…] the extent of authority with me, therefore, was to decide whether the crossing should be made at Point of Rocks (Maryland) or through the Hopewell Gap east of the Union army.” (19)

Longstreet publishes the postscript he added to his June 22 letter to prove he had command decision in the cavalry movement. He writes that the postscript indicated the following: “1) The move along my rear to the crossing at Point of Rocks. 2) My preferred march on my flank to the Shepherdstown crossing. 3) The route indicated by General Lee. All of which General Stuart understood as well as I did. Especially did he know that my orders were that he should ride on the right of my column as originally designed, to the Shepherdstown crossing.” (20)

Besides disobeying orders to ride on the First Corps’ right flank to Shepherdstown, Longstreet also indicts Stuart for not leaving Hampton in command as ordered and leaving Robertson “without orders to report at his headquarters.” (21) Finally, Longstreet wraps up his critique by saying, “Our plans, adopted after deep study, were suddenly given over to gratify the youthful cavalryman's wish for a romantic ride.” (22)

Longstreet writes in his endorsement for Stuart to “order General Hampton – whom I suppose you will leave here in command – to report to me at Millwood.” (23) Assumptions are not orders. If Longstreet was adamant that Hampton was to be left in charge of the two brigades, he should have ordered Stuart to do so. Instead, he says the items in his letter are “suggestions.” (24) Robertson was not directly ordered to report to Longstreet’s headquarters. His command, as well as Jones’ command, was placed under Longstreet’s authority though. If Longstreet was dissatisfied with Stuart’s orders on this point, he should have ordered Robertson to Millwood.

Longstreet writes that a move along our rear, which he identifies in his book as the crossing at Point of Rocks, Maryland, would disclose our plans. The rear of the ANV is in the Valley, or west of the Blue Ridge. Point of Rocks is east of the Blue Ridge. Stuart is also east of the Blue Ridge at Rector’s Cross Road. A move to Point of Rocks would not be along the rear but along the front of the army. The only way Stuart, from his present location, could march to the rear of the army was to move into the Valley and cross at Shepherdstown. The very movement Longstreet advised against because it would disclose our plans. His endorsement states and his postscript reiterates that “you had better not leave us, therefore, unless you plan to take the proposed route in rear of the enemy.” (25) The rear of the enemy is via the Hopewell Gap, which is the proposed route of Lee.

Longstreet finishes his analysis by saying that “Our plans, adopted after deep study, were suddenly given over to gratify the youthful cavalryman's wish for a romantic ride.” (26) This is simply not true. Stuart headed around the Union army because Lee ordered him to do so, and Longstreet gave his approval.

(17)James Longstreet, Lieutenant General. From Manassas to Appomattox. (New York: Smithmark Publishers, 1995), 341.
(20)Ibid., 342
(23)Longstreet. “Dispatch to General JEB Stuart, June 22, 1863.”
(26)Longstreet. From Manassas to Appomattox., 342.