Monday, March 11, 2019

Booknotes: Longstreet at Gettysburg

New Arrival:
Longstreet at Gettysburg: A Critical Reassessment by Cory M. Pfarr (McFarland, 2019).

Cory Pfarr's Longstreet at Gettysburg: A Critical Reassessment "is the first book-length, critical analysis of Lieutenant General James Longstreet's actions at the Battle of Gettysburg. The author argues that Longstreet's record has been discredited unfairly, beginning with character assassination by his contemporaries after the war and, persistently, by historians in the decades since."

Most readers are familiar with the traditional criticisms and condemnations of Longstreet's overall performance at Gettysburg, from his obtusely circuitous approach march to the right on July 2 (though no one can discount the fierceness of his two-division assault that chewed up an entire federal corps plus a huge host of reserve troops) to the general's alleged petulance and foot-dragging in response to Lee not heeding his advice throughout the three-day battle. All of these issues and more, both large and small, are addressed in Longstreet at Gettysburg.

Pfarr divides the study into three appropriate sections: campaign through July 1, July 2, and July 3. In terms of scope, it certainly does appear to be an exhaustive reevaluation of the many controversies and myths surrounding Longstreet's actions, with the author dissecting on a point by point basis over 150 years of critical interpretation. In the book the author quotes and challenges the views and conclusions expressed in the publications of a host of major modern scholars.

"By closely studying the three-day battle, and conducting an incisive historiographical inquiry into Longstreet's treatment by scholars, this book presents an alternative view of Longstreet as an effective military leader, and refutes over a century of negative evaluations of his performance."

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