Bob Krick’s criticism of Longstreet better comports with the general’s work at Knoxville, where he was defeated after a cursory inspection following many days of dithering.
But, of course, there’s a positive side to Lee’s war horse as well. And historian Jeffry Wert is a good exponent of the man his troops after Chickamauga called The Bull of the Woods.
“He is a conservative, a very cautious general,” Wert says in this talk. Which really doesn’t explain his behavior at Fort Sanders, where he was anything but cautious. But hear Wert—author of General James Longstreet: The Confederacy’s Most Controversial Soldier—tell it.
It is true that Longstreet did not perform at his best at Knoxville, however, by the time he was sent, the opportunity he saw had evaporated (that would be because of Bragg’s dithering and deviousness), and he no longer thought it was an operation that would yield anything positive for the Southern effort, especially without any logistical support whatsoever. The profoundly bad karma in the Army of the Tennessee infected Longstreet’s normally very professional officer corps and had as much to do with Longstreet’s distress than anything else. It has been noted that some people like to harp on the Fort Sanders debacle, however, it certainly wasn’t a battle or anywhere near that, and other than Confederate casualties really didn’t amount to anything of consequence for anyone. Longstreet surely wished he could erase that whole trip after the Battle of Chickamauga. He later remarked July 1-3 1863 were the worst days of his life, not Knoxville.
I do not believe that Longstreet was overly cautious as Wert does. He did want to have the best odds possible when spending his troops lives. Longstreet understood that the South could not afford to through away its resources and therefore was committed to conserving them, unlike some of his colleagues. That is not cautious, it is judicious.
Thanks for the comment.
In my view, he wasn’t at all judicious with the hundreds of lives he expended in the ditch in front of the northwest bastion at Fort Sanders. But, then, I’m not writing a biography of him as you say on your blog that you are.
Perhaps you can discover why he had no spy at Knoxville, as he famously did at Gettysburg, to tell him that the fort’s ditch was not narrow or shallow, but a trap that his soldiers wouldn’t be able to get out of, either to advance or retreat.
I can understand why he wasn’t able to tell that from looking at it, since it was at a higher elevation than he could find to view it. But there were plenty of Southern sympathizers in the town and area who might have either known about it or could find out for him and he certainly had time enough to recruit one, but apparently did not.