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The Solution to the Riddle, "Why did Longstreet outrank Jackson?"

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  • The Solution to the Riddle, "Why did Longstreet outrank Jackson?"

    So I think I may have found the answer to the oft-pondered question, why did Lee promote Longstreet ahead of Jackson?

    Early in the war, '61-spring '62 especially, Richmond made many questionable promotions. These included political generals, G.W. Smith, and others. Even Beauregard might be considered a questionable choice.

    After Johnston took command, something interesting happened. Longstreet asked to be relieved from an advanced position on the Confederae line. This was not a resignation, just a request to have his troops moved. The important thing is that he made this request because G.W. Smith had been promoted above him. While he might have been slated for promotion anyways, Longstreet was promoted to Major General above Jackson. This choice didn't make practical sense, given the imbalance of their careers up to this point, but Richmond was in the habit of greasing the squeaky wheels. In the "old army," Longstreet had been a Major, while Jackson was a Brevet Major. Longstreet had already made it plain he would not brook anyone usurping his former rank.

    After Lee took command and was ready to organize his two corps, he promoted Longstreet above Jackson. Again, this did not make much practical sense, given the imbalance of their careers up to this point. However, Longstreet had already proved his mindset towards rank. And while there is no record to prove it, it's not unreasonable that Lee sensed trouble if he promoted Jackson above Longstreet, when the latter had ever so slightly outranked the former in the old army and the new. Lee was the consumate pragmatist, and he knew that if he wanted to keep Jackson and Longstreet, and keep things civil, he would have to give seniority to Longstreet.

    Of course, Lee kept close eyes on Longstreet. While Jackson was off on semi-independent operations, Lee remained with Longstreet. At Second Manassas, Lee gave him multiple suggestions. At Antietam, Lee kept him in the background. And at Fredericksburg, Lee gave him a cozy position on Marye's Heights. Lee's actions never insinuated that he considered Longstreet the better general, but that ranking was a matter of policy to keep the army in a winning condition.
    "It is a fine fox chase, my boys"

    "It is well that war is so terrible-we would grow too fond of it"

  • #2
    Lee saw Jackson and Longstreet up close from the 7 days through Antietam, nad decided his " war horse" was slightly better overall. He knew their strenghts and weaknesses, given Jackson at 7 days, the ranking made sense.

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    • #3
      The simple answer is that Longstreet was both the better general and more reliable.
      We are not now that strength which in old days
      Moved earth and heaven; that which we are we are; One equal temper of heroic hearts
      Made weak by time and fate but strong in will
      To strive to seek to find and not to yield.

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by Massena View Post
        The simple answer is that Longstreet was both the better general and more reliable.
        The simpler answer, if I may, is that Longstreet would have asked for a transfer if passed over.
        "It is a fine fox chase, my boys"

        "It is well that war is so terrible-we would grow too fond of it"

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        • #5
          Source(s)?
          We are not now that strength which in old days
          Moved earth and heaven; that which we are we are; One equal temper of heroic hearts
          Made weak by time and fate but strong in will
          To strive to seek to find and not to yield.

          Comment


          • #6
            Robert E. Lee was related to 5 of the 7 Virginia delegates who signed the Declaration of Independence.
            "It is a fine fox chase, my boys"

            "It is well that war is so terrible-we would grow too fond of it"

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            • #7
              Originally posted by American87 View Post
              Robert E. Lee was related to 5 of the 7 Virginia delegates who signed the Declaration of Independence.
              SO, no big deal. Means next to nothing. Except those signers where for unity while Robert was for disunity. I doubt that the signers would have been happy with their relation
              "Ask not what your country can do for you"

              Left wing, Right Wing same bird that they are killing.

              you’re entitled to your own opinion but not your own facts.

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              • #8
                Only my opinion but the CSA would have been better serviced with Longstreet in command.
                "Ask not what your country can do for you"

                Left wing, Right Wing same bird that they are killing.

                you’re entitled to your own opinion but not your own facts.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by Half Pint John View Post

                  SO, no big deal. Means next to nothing. Except those signers where for unity while Robert was for disunity. I doubt that the signers would have been happy with their relation
                  Not an expert on his forbears, but Daddy was a big "unionist." Not sure where Bobbie got his Virginia First idealism.

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Tuebor View Post

                    Not an expert on his forbears, but Daddy was a big "unionist." Not sure where Bobbie got his Virginia First idealism.
                    So was his hero Washington. I guess Lee refused to side with the Union as long as it was attacking his home state. Had Virginia sided with the national flag, I doubt he would've joined the Confederacy.
                    "It is a fine fox chase, my boys"

                    "It is well that war is so terrible-we would grow too fond of it"

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by American87 View Post

                      So was his hero Washington. I guess Lee refused to side with the Union as long as it was attacking his home state. Had Virginia sided with the national flag, I doubt he would've joined the Confederacy.
                      There your mistaking. The Union was attacked first and before Lee made his decision to go with the South. He and his states decision brought ruin to VA, the state with the most battle fields.
                      "Ask not what your country can do for you"

                      Left wing, Right Wing same bird that they are killing.

                      you’re entitled to your own opinion but not your own facts.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by American87 View Post

                        So was his hero Washington. I guess Lee refused to side with the Union as long as it was attacking his home state. Had Virginia sided with the national flag, I doubt he would've joined the Confederacy.
                        Are you saying that Washington was for 'Virginia first'? If that was so he would not have agreed to becoming president of the Constitutional Convention nor being president of the US.
                        We are not now that strength which in old days
                        Moved earth and heaven; that which we are we are; One equal temper of heroic hearts
                        Made weak by time and fate but strong in will
                        To strive to seek to find and not to yield.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Jackson , did make some very grave errors, 1) at the battle of the peninsular(7-days) he was very slow and did not support longstreet. he dilly dallied fixing a bridge when he could have just walked across. 2) at fredericksburg he almost lost the battle

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                          • #14
                            When you had just Lee, Longstreet and Jackson, the chemistry of command worked. Longstreet was reliable and steady. His corps was the anvil against which Jackson could deliver a hammer blow. Jackson, much like Patton in WW 2, was more aggressive. But, that aggressiveness rode a fine line where it could turn into recklessness. As a top general, Longstreet had the better qualities while Jackson really needed someone to keep his becoming overly aggressive in check.

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                            • #15
                              Hammer and anvil don't really describe the situation when both were under Lee in battle, except once. Antietam and Fredericksburg were defense, and Longstreet was the hammer at 2nd Manassas.

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