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" ‘We must be charitable with these people [the Northern civilians], Major. We have enough enemies.’ " (p.78) Lee is explaining to Taylor why the Confederates should return a blind horse that they conscripted from an old civilian man. Lee wants to be polite to the civilians, both out of honor and out of strategic desire to avoid unnecessary conflict. It is possible that Longstreet would have sacrificed honor to the objective of winning the war. An example of such a realist strategy is found in Sherman’s march to the sea, during which he burned many southern towns to the ground.
"Napoleon once said, ‘The logical end to defensive warfare is surrender.’ "
Lee’s statements give the reader insight into Lee’s preference of offensive strategies (as opposed to Longstreet’s trench defense).
Lee thought: the direction does not matter. Fight him [Meade] wherever he is. Lee said, "We have an opport2unity."
Longstreet chewed, nodded, grinned. "Yep....Now all we have to do is swing round between him and Washington and get astride some nice thick rocks and make him come to use, and we’ve got him in the open."
Take the defensive. Not again. Lee shook his head...Instinct said: hit hard, hit quick, hit everything. (p. 83-84)
The irony is in the fact that when Lee mentions the word "opportunity," the two soldiers’ minds go to nearly opposite conceptions of what the opportunity is for. A similar situation occurs on page 110 when Longstreet looks at Buford and Reynold’s men retreating and says, "This is almost perfect." Longstreet is thinking it’s a perfect time to swing around between them and Washington while Lee is thinking it’s perfect because the Rebs can pursue the fleeing Union troops.
His Attitude Toward Stuart
"When Stuart comes back...you ought to court-marshal him."
"And that will make him a better soldier?" [Lee asked]
Longstreet paused. He said, "All right. What Will?"
"Reproach, I think. I must let him know how badly he has let us down...Different men, different methods. [Yes, Stuart is an irresponsible hothead, but he has the passion to come through in the clutch.] Docile men make very poor soldiers."
Longstreet grinned wryly. "An army of temperamentals ["gentlemen"]. It isn’t an army, it’s a gentlemen’s club." (p.82-83)
Longstreet wants what’s best for the group, Lee cares about individuals. Consider the parable about Jesus being willing to leave the entire flock to go rescue one sheep. That’s not practical, but is instead a very idealistic act. In the same way, Lee cares about Stuart when it would be more pragmatic to dole out a harsh punishment. Lee has enough faith in human nature that he feels a reprimand is all that’s needed to turn Stuart around. Longstreet thinks some men are incorrigible. The final exchanges of the conversation make up an argument over the unpractical but passionate gentleman mentality that Stuart epitomizes.