8 thoughts on “Two Views on James Longstreet

  1. Noma November 15, 2011 / 8:56 pm

    Very interesting to hear the two different perspectives on Longstreet, in a depth beyond my rudimentary famiarity. Bob Krick makes an impressive case for Longstreet’s “bad attitude,” especially with the McLaws quote. But seeing Jeffry Wert put that quote in context is pretty revealing. I would have liked to hear Wert talk more about Longstreet’s post war career as well. Thanks for posting this.

  2. wgdavis November 17, 2011 / 8:29 am

    I simply find Krick to be “somewhat unreliable” in his pronouncements about historical figures. Longstreet is not the only one to receive harsh treatment from Krick.

    On the other hand, as a biographer and an outstanding historical writer of battle histories, I do trust Wert’s judgment. Folks tend to shy away from him because he only teaches High School history, but his writings prove that to be a canard. His “Gettysburg Third Day is still the best written version of the events of July 2-4th, 1863 at Gettysburg I have ever read.

    • Lyle Smith November 17, 2011 / 11:11 am

      I think Krick is reliable. He’s just pointing out some of Longstreet’s character flaws. He even concedes that Longstreet was a good commander.

      I’ve read only one book by Wert: his J.E.B. Stuart biography. It’s a well written overview of Stuart, but I wasn’t too impressed by it compared to some other Civil War biographies (I had read the new Rodes and Sickles books at about the same time, and preferred their style to Wert’s classic biography style).

  3. reconstructedrebel November 20, 2011 / 3:34 pm

    Krick’s bias towards Lee and Jackson disqualifies him from credibility. In one book, he takes a letter from Longstreet’s aide, Tom Goree, written back home to Goree’s family and reports its context exactly the opposite of what Goree conveys in his letter. His sources are people like Richard Taylor, who is in the Davis camp (biased against Longstreet) and a proponent of the Lost Cause after the war, who wasn’t even in the theater he is commenting on. He also relies on material that has absolutely no credibility whatsoever, such as Mary Chesnut’s expertise in military strategy and tactics. Such blatent disregard for obvious bias and agenda on the part of a historian is downright wrong.

    Wert does a nice detailed review of events, but seems to need to find something wrong with the men he has covered. He missed J.E.B. Stuart’s spirit entirely, and it seems to me that a core element of any biography must include leaving the reader with a sense of who the subject was as a person. Stuart left so much material to convey his spirit, it seems almost impossible to escape understanding his soul. Wert does better with Longstreet, but accuses Longstreet of a dark and dirty secret (double-dipping) that is not only no secret, but Wert contradicts his findings himself in describing the mail service. Wert does easily have the best biography on Longstreet.

    Read William Garrett Piston’s book, “Lee’s Tarnished Lieutenant: Gen. James Longstreet and his Role in Southern History,” and LTC Harold Knudsen’s “Gen. James Longstreet, the South’s Most Modern General” for a look at who Longstreet really was.

  4. Noma November 23, 2011 / 1:45 pm

    I just heard Harold Knudsen give a presentation at the local Civil War Round Table last week. I had not heard of him before. In general, I’m interested in the interplay of personalities in the Civil War, but Knudsen pretty much set that aside, and focused his presentation on where Longstreet’s tactics fit in in the context of military history. From his version, it seemed like Longstreet’s fights were the forerunner of the Blizkrieg attacks 80 years later. It was a clearly organized and fascinating presentation, very compelling.

  5. reconstructedrebel November 25, 2011 / 3:24 pm

    Yes, Knudsen is a military operational art expert, having over 20 years of professional experience with the US Army. He is a professional student of military strategy and tactics (operational art), and studies military history from that perspective on his off-duty time as well.

  6. Gary E. Brosch March 5, 2012 / 4:31 am

    General Longstreet’s modern assailants can too often be ‘caught out’ citing ‘imaginative’ histories generated earlier by the ‘Early Cabal’ and other 2nd and 3rd rate confederates for purposes intended to enhance their own poor performance during the war.

    Add speciousness and out-off-context citations of dubious source data to reputation enhancement, and we have as fictitious a ‘history’ about the General as we are likely to find in a Stephen King novel.

    I have completed seven years of my own research on Longstreet’s (and others’) performance during the Gettysurg campaign. I admit to having become somewhat jaded by the flood of errors, distortions, misjudgements and downright lies about Longstreet during that single battle – in history – ; that I have composed my own history of the battle, which will soon be published as ‘The Longstreet Chronicles’.

    Unlike the General’s original detractors, I fully admit to filling gaps in the recorded histories of that battle with my own version of reality; thus making my book a ‘historical fiction’; unlike the ‘fictitious histories’ foisted upon us by Jubal Early and his merry band of historical miscreants.

    Gary Brosch

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