The latest installment of my Civil War series for Ashbrook is now available
here. The topic is the continuing controversies about the campaign and battle.
Most of these are on the Confederate side and include the decision to invade Pennsylvania in the first place; the performance of Longstreet during the battle; Lee vs. Longstreet on the question of defense; the effect of losing Jackson at Chancellorsville; and Lee’s decision on the third day to attack the Union center on Cemetery Ridge on the second and third days of the battle. Many of them are the result of personal and professional jealosies that the participants aired after the war, most notably the attacks by Jubal Early and the Southern Historical Society on James Longstreet, who was deemed an apostate. His worst sin was to criticize Lee.
There were plenty of controversies on the Union side as well, although they are not generally as well known as those on the Southern side. These have to do primarily with Meade’s performance as commanding general of the Army of the Potomac during the campaign. They involve the intersection of the claims of ambitious officers, primarily Maj. Gen. Daniel Sickles and Maj. Gen. Daniel Butterfield, who also were partisans of the army’s former commander, Maj. Gen. Joseph “Fighting Joe” Hooker, and the open war waged by the Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War, the creation of radical congressional Republicans, against West Point graduates and Democrats (often one in the same) in the Union army. I will address these soon in my next installment.