Question of the Week: 11/16-11/22/20

In your opinion, who was the best corps commander for the Army of Northern Virginia?

26 Responses to Question of the Week: 11/16-11/22/20

  1. Perhaps a much more interesting question would be divisional commanders!….but I’ll take Jackson…Manassas, the Valley, Second Bull Run, Antietam, and his magnum opus, the flank march at Chanslorsville….more than make up for his pitiful performance at the Seven Days!

    1. Well, ignoring First Kernstown, McDowell, Port Republic, Cedar Mountain, Brawner’s Farm, Second Bull Run (Day 2), and Hamilton’s Crossing – in addition to the Seven Days – make that easy. Meanwhile, Longstreet delivered devastating textbook assaults at Second Bull Run and Chickamauga; another at the Wilderness before he got shot; and nearly busted through on July 2, 1863. Jackson gets the legend. Longstreet gets the accomplishment.

      1. Too simplistic an analysis, I think. Jackson accomplished a lot in his time as a wing/Corps commander. Tactical perfection isn’t the end all be all and Jackson, like everyone was learning as they went. I think it is also clear Lee preferred or trusted Jackson over Longstreet.

      2. “Too simplistic an analysis” can be a two-way street. Jackson never really progressed at the tactical level, as the persistent shortcomings in that area demonstrate. You appear to be conflating operational maneuver – at which Jackson was accomplished but which is often an independent role – with tactical competence. That is an important requirement for a corps commander and in that role Longstreet showed greater capability. As for Lee’s preferences, he wasn’t always correct. I’ll leave it at that.

      3. Enh… I would say his Chancellorsville attack was an example of showing tactical improvement. Not perfect, but it shows he was learning how to mass his units in a Corps size assault. Also, it’s often said he was tactically inept during the Valley Campaign, which there is a lot of truth too… but then it is still the Valley Campaign where he routed Banks, by a flanking movement at Winchester, and can claim a strategic victory.

        What I would like to know is when he would start to use earthworks. I think that was coming, but we’ll never know.

      4. Probably true that we’ll never know about earthworks. As you correctly suggest, even the flank march on May 2, 1863 could have been pulled off with greater efficiency – Jackson was fortunate that the higher-ups in the XI Corps ignored the numerous reports coming back from the front over a period of hours; he was unfortunate in that the inefficient execution resulted in the need to reconnoiter in the gloaming, with fatal consequences. Room for disagreement but I’ll stick with Longstreet ad the multiple devastating assaults he directed.

  2. Tough call. Jackson didn’t survive the war so one never knows how he would have done at Gettysburg or in later Campaigns. Had he survived, I would say Jackson would eventually have eclipsed Longstreet, but he did not. So I go with Longstreet because the Jackson body of work is too short to fairly judge.

  3. For the Confederate side, I’m partial to Longstreet. Can’t really find much of a fault with him besides his semi-characteristic hesitance. For the Union, there’s George Thomas in the western theater. He did quite a few things right.

  4. Lee’s “Old Warhorse”, Longstreet, and John B Gordon. I give my nod to these two soldiers because they fought superbly in most every major battle of the Army of Northern Virginia, from the beginning of the war to the end, and unlike Jackson, lived to tell about it! Had Jackson lived, he might well have been the greatest soldier of all time.

  5. I would have said Longstreet except for Knoxville when he had an independent command. Jackson’s independent command in the Shenandoah was exceptional. Therefore, on that basis, I vote for Jackson.

  6. Although he was not the best corps commander, I’ll do a shout out for Richard Anderson. After Longstreet was wounded, Anderson stepped in and did a credible job. He was also humble, which sometimes was a rare trait in the AoNV.

  7. Does anyone want to count the tenure of one of the shortest infantry corps commander in the AVN. What about a shout our for Major General Jeb Stuart for his work at Chancellorsville.

    1. That’s not a bad point, but he was only given the brief opportunity, so he’s probably “disqualified”. There’s reason to believe he may have been a better long-term choice than Ewell or Hill.

  8. I have often thought that Lee should have appointed Stuart to be an infantry commander but I know that Lee thought too much of Stuart’s ability to bring him accurate intelligence. If Lee did decide to appoint Stuart to the infantry he could have given Stuart’s command to Wade Hampton.

    1. Its an unpopular opinion but Wade Hampton was the better cavalry commander IMHO. A left wing under Stuart and a right under Longstreet after Chancellorsville is a fascinating alternative history thought. Stuart would have known what was in front of him, and maybe its the Rebs sitting on those hills in that otherwise forgettable town a couple months later.

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