Book Review: Longstreet at Gettysburg: A Critical Reassessment by Cory M. Pfarr

Longstreet at Gettysburg: A Critical Reassessment

Longstreet at Gettysburg: A Critical Reassessment by Cory M. Pfarr

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Longstreet at Gettysburg: A Critical Reassessment by Cory M. Pfarr is indeed a critical reassessment and an impassioned defense of General James Longstreet’s performance during the Battle of Gettysburg. Conventional views of the battle, Pfarr holds, blame the Confederate loss on Longstreet for being intentionally slow and petulant because General Robert E. Lee wouldn’t fight the battle using Longstreet’s tactics and strategy. Pfarr maintains that this view was formed by the Lost Cause school of Civil War History with Longstreet a convenient scapegoat because of post-war views and an unwillingness to lay the blame at Lee’s feet. He takes a critical look at after-action reports, letters, memoirs, and more to show that Longstreet didn’t purposefully obstruct Lees plans and that he dutifully carried out Lee’s plans, often with Lee at his side or very close by. He takes a critical look at post-Gettysburg actions and the relationship between Longstreet and Lee after Gettysburg to show that Longstreet retained Lee’s confidence.

Perhaps there will be those that accuse Pfarr of a lack of objectivity, but I found that he compared and contrasted primary materials from a variety of observers along with official after-action reports and took a reasoned look at the battle itself and the actions of the participants. I have long thought that many authors have been unfair toward Longstreet and that Lee as commander of the Army of Northern Virginia bore most of the blame for the failure at Gettysburg (through errors of tactics and strategy and command errors), so I’m glad to see that someone has done such a detailed examination and analysis. I truly hope that Pfarr’s work leads to a more balanced view of what happened at Gettysburg.







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Categories: Books, Civil War, History, Military History

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