by Andy Mateja

In 1863 just a few months after the battle of Gettysburg, General Robert E Lee dispatched General James Longstreet to assist General Braxton Bragg in defeating Union General William S Rosecran’s late summer/early fall advance into Georgia.  Longstreet, with McLaws and Hoods divisions of his First Corps, arrived on the battlefield of Chickamauga just in time to exploit a breach in the Union lines, caused by Rosecrans’s mistaken withdrawal of General Thomas Wood’s division to plug an imaginary hole in the Union line. Longstreet’s troops poured though the real “hole” in the Union lines and contributed greatly to Rosecran’s defeat. Too bad the story did not end there, as this Confederate victory had offset their loss as Gettysburg and caused additional consternation for President Lincoln and Washington DC.    But once again Longstreet, misread the situation and naively allowed himself to become embroiled in the raging political squabble between Bragg and his generals. Longstreet became their spokesperson to President Jefferson Davis and followed their lead by recommending the ousting of Bragg from command (Longstreet felt HE would be a good alternative). Davis, a personal friend of Bragg’s , not only sided with his long time friend, but turned on Bragg’s generals, including Longstreet,who had been with Bragg only a few weeks. Davis approved Bragg’s decision to dispatch his newest “troublemaker” – Longstreet with his two divisions to advance on the Union stronghold at Knoxville. Ironically,  just as Bragg was weakening his forces that surrounded the Union army trapped in Chattanooga, General Ulysses S. Grant  had come from the West to take command and was reinforcing the besieged troops with reinforcements from his Army of the Mississippi and the Army of the Potomac.  The tide of battle shifted against Bragg since he was now out numbered and Grant won an impressive victory at Chattanooga. Mainly due to this victory, Grant was soon promoted to Lieutenant General and commander of all the Union Armies, setting up his headquarters with the Army of the Potomac who would engage Lee’s Army of Northern Virgina in the final death struggle of the Civil Way.  If  Longstreet had remained with Bragg with his two seasoned divisions when Grant attacked, there may have been no Union victory at Chattanooga and no promotion for Grant. Unfortunately Longstreet could not keep his mouth shut and allowed his ego to get the best of him once again.

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