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In The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara, the styles of leadership of confederate Generals Robert Edward Lee and James Longstreet differ greatly, and it is this that ultimately determines the outcome of The Battle of Gettysburg. While Lee is more of an offensive general, always looking to strike his enemy first, Longstreet is more cautious and prefers trench warfare. By setting up a strong defense and waiting for the enemy to come to him, Longstreet believes that it is the best way to fight.
Unfortunately, when Lee and Longstreet disagree, Lee ends up getting his way as a result of his higher status.
In war, most army generals are cold and unforgiving because they know that they cannot afford to make any mistakes. General Longstreet, on the other hand, is not. He puts his trust into a seemingly untrustworthy spy, named Harrison. General Lee, though, is rather reluctant to deal with this mercenary. “lee glanced again at Longstreet…He Longstreet moved to the map table, under the awning…Lee came slowly to the table, watching the man.
After a moment he said to Harrison ‘I understand that you are General Longstreet’s’—a slight pause—‘scout’… Lee would not use the word spy…Lee listened without expression.”. Even though it is apparent that the man is trustworthy and knowledgeable, Lee is still reluctant to trust him. “Do you believe this man…Am I to move on the word of a paid spy?.
In some ways, though, Lee is too trusting with his own men and he doesn’t realize that there is a time when some people are simply not to be trusted anymore.
Lee is wondered and a bit frustrated with one of his officers named Jeb Stuart that has, after a long time, has not given a report of his position or the enemy’s position. “’There should have been something from Jeb Stuart…’
‘Stuart would not have left us blind…’
‘Longstreet says this time you ought to stomp him, really stomp him…’
‘Stuart would not leave us blind’”. Lee still, after it is obvious that Jeb has failed him, puts his trust into Stuart, whereas Longstreet feels that he should be severely punished for his failure, which he should. Longstreet now ponders why Lee does not use one of his other officers to do the job properly. “Longsteet grimaced. He thought: we have other cavalry. Why doesn’t the old man send of a look? Tell you why: he can’t believe Stuart would let him down” (52). Longstreet knows what is right whereas Lee does not.
The Union forces are positioned strategically on a hill, and Longstreet knows it would be slaughter to go for a head on attack, right for the center of the Union line, but Lee thinks it will be a great strategy. “Longsteet said again. ‘Sir, I’ve discovered a way south that seems promising. If we would move— ‘’ General the enemy is there—‘’’ Lee lifted his arm and pointed up the ridghe in a massive gesture —–and there’s where I’m going to strike him”. Lee is stubborn and doesn’t listen to longsteet. Later Lee makes up his mind: “Genreral we will attack the center”.
In the end, lee’s poor tacktics cost the confederates the Battle of Gettysburg. If only he had thought of the consequenbces of his audacious assault rught up the center of the Union line. The outcome of the battle would have been quite different though if lee had taken longstreet’s advice and thought through his plan of action before he actually executed it. Lee obviously didn’t know what he was doing. Always before making a major desicison one should consult his./ her aides before actually doing anything.
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