James Longstreet | Wikipedia audio article


James Longstreet (January 8, 1821 – January
2, 1904) was one of the foremost Confederate generals of the American Civil War and the
principal subordinate to General Robert E. Lee, who called him his “Old War Horse.” He
served under Lee as a corps commander for many of the famous battles fought by the Army
of Northern Virginia in the Eastern Theater, and briefly with Braxton Bragg in the Army
of Tennessee in the Western Theater. After graduating from the United States Military
Academy at West Point, Longstreet served in the Mexican–American War. He was wounded
in the thigh at the Battle of Chapultepec, and afterward married his first wife, Louise
Garland. Throughout the 1850s, he served on frontier duty in the American Southwest. In
June 1861, Longstreet resigned his U.S. Army commission and joined the Confederate Army.
He commanded Confederate troops during an early victory at Blackburn’s Ford in July
and played a minor role at the First Battle of Bull Run.
Longstreet’s talents as a general made significant contributions to several important Confederate
victories, mostly in the Eastern Theater as one of Robert E. Lee’s chief subordinates
in the Army of Northern Virginia. He performed poorly at Seven Pines by accidentally marching
his men down the wrong road, causing them to be late in arrival. He played an important
role in the success of the Seven Days Battles in the summer of 1862. Longstreet led a devastating
counterattack that routed the Union army at Second Bull Run in August. His men held their
ground in defensive roles at Antietam and Fredericksburg. Longstreet’s most controversial
service was at the Battle of Gettysburg in July 1863, where he openly disagreed with
General Lee on the tactics to be employed and reluctantly supervised several attacks
on Union forces, including the disastrous Pickett’s Charge. Afterwards, Longstreet was,
at his own request, sent to the Western Theater to fight under Braxton Bragg, where his troops
launched a ferocious assault on the Union lines at Chickamauga, which carried the day.
Afterwards, his performance in semiautonomous command during the Knoxville Campaign resulted
in a Confederate defeat. Longstreet’s tenure in the Western Theater was marred by his central
role in numerous conflicts amongst important Confederate generals. Unhappy serving under
Bragg, Longstreet and his men were sent back to Lee. He ably commanded troops during the
Battle of the Wilderness in 1864, where he was seriously wounded by friendly fire. He
later returned to the field, serving under Lee in the Siege of Petersburg and the Appomattox
Campaign. He enjoyed a successful post-war career working
for the U.S. government as a diplomat, civil servant, and administrator. His conversion
to the Republican Party and his cooperation with his old friend, President Ulysses S.
Grant, as well as critical comments he wrote in his memoirs about General Lee’s wartime
performance, made him anathema to many of his former Confederate colleagues. His reputation
in the South further suffered when he led African-American militia against the anti-Reconstruction
White League at the Battle of Liberty Place in 1874. Authors of the Lost Cause movement
focused on Longstreet’s actions at Gettysburg as a primary reason for the Confederacy’s
loss of the war. Since the late 20th century, his reputation has undergone a slow reassessment.
Many Civil War historians now consider him among the war’s most gifted tactical commanders.==Early life and career==
James Longstreet was born on January 8, 1821 in Edgefield District, South Carolina, an
area that is now part of North Augusta, Edgefield County. He was the fifth child and third son
of James Longstreet (1783-1833), of Dutch descent, and Mary Ann Dent (1793-1855) of
English descent, originally from New Jersey and Maryland respectively, who owned a cotton
plantation close to where the village of Gainesville would be founded in northeastern Georgia.
James’s ancestor Dirck Stoffels Langestraet immigrated to the Dutch colony of New Netherland
in 1657, but the name became Anglicized over the generations. James’s father was impressed
by his son’s “rocklike” character on the rural plantation, giving him the nickname Peter,
and he was known as Pete or Old Pete for the rest of his life.Longstreet’s father decided
on a military career for his son, but felt that the local education available to him
would not be adequate preparation. At the age of nine, James was sent to live with his
aunt and uncle in Augusta, Georgia. His uncle, Augustus Baldwin Longstreet, was a newspaper
editor, educator, and a Methodist minister. James spent eight years on his uncle’s plantation,
Westover, just outside the city while he attended the Academy of Richmond County. His father
died from a cholera epidemic while visiting Augusta in 1833. Although James’s mother and
the rest of the family moved to Somerville, Alabama, following his father’s death, James
remained with uncle Augustus. As a boy, Longstreet enjoyed swimming, hunting, fishing, and riding
horses. He became adept at shooting firearms. Northern Georgia was very rural frontier territory
during Longstreet’s boyhood, and Southern genteel traditions had not yet taken hold.
As a result, Longstreet’s manners were sometimes rather rough. He dressed unceremoniously and
at times used coarse language, although not in the presence of women. Longstreet never
made any known political statements before the war and seemed largely disinterested in
politics. But Augustus was a man of some political prominence, and was a fierce states’ rights
partisan who supported South Carolina during the Nullification Crisis. Longstreet must
have been exposed to these ideas while living with him. Augustus was also known for drinking
whiskey and playing card games even though many Americans in this era considered them
to be immoral, habits he seems to have passed on to Longstreet.In 1837, Augustus attempted
to obtain an appointment for his nephew to the United States Military Academy, but the
vacancy for his congressional district had already been filled so James was appointed
in 1838 by a relative, Reuben Chapman, who represented the First District of Alabama
(where Mary Longstreet lived). James was a poor student academically and a disciplinary
problem at West Point, ranking 54th out of 56 cadets when he graduated in 1842. He was
popular with his classmates, however, and befriended a number of men who would become
prominent during the Civil War, including George Henry Thomas, William S. Rosecrans
(his West Point roommate), John Pope, D. H. Hill, Lafayette McLaws, George Pickett, and
Ulysses S. Grant, who was of the Class of 1843. Longstreet was commissioned a brevet
second lieutenant. After a brief furlough, he set out to join the 4th U.S. Infantry at
Jefferson Barracks, Missouri. Longstreet spent his first two years of service at the post,
which was under the command of Lt. Col. John Garland. In 1843, he was joined by his friend,
Lieutenant Ulysses Grant. In 1844, Longstreet met his future first wife Maria Louisa Garland,
called Louise by her family. She was the daughter of Longstreet’s commander, Lt. Col. Garland.At
about the same time as Longstreet began courting Garland, Grant became acquainted with and
courted Longstreet’s fourth cousin, Julia Dent, and the couple eventually married. Historians
agree that Longstreet attended the Grant wedding on August 22, 1848 in St. Louis, but his role
at the ceremony remains unclear. Grant biographer Jean Edward Smith asserted that Longstreet
served as Grant’s best man at the wedding. John Y. Simon, editor of Julia Grant’s memoirs,
concluded that Longstreet “may have been a groomsman,” and Longstreet biographer Donald
Brigman Sanger called the role of best man “uncertain” while noting that neither Grant
nor Longstreet mentioned such a role in either of their memoirs.Later in 1844, the regiment
was transferred to Louisiana. On March 8, 1845, Longstreet received a promotion to second
lieutenant, and was transferred to the Eighth Infantry, stationed in Florida. The regiment
then received orders to join the army of General Zachary Taylor in Corpus Christi, Texas.==Mexican-American War==
Longstreet served with distinction in the Mexican–American War with the 8th U.S. Infantry.
He fought under Zachary Taylor as a lieutenant in May 1846 in the battles of Palo Alto and
Battle of Resaca de la Palma, while saying nothing in his memoirs about his personal
role in the battles. He fought again with Taylor’s army at the Battle of Monterrey in
September 1846. He received brevet promotions to captain for Contreras and Churubusco and
to major for Molino del Rey. In the Battle of Chapultepec on September 12, 1847, he was
wounded in the thigh while charging up the hill with his regimental colors; falling,
he handed the flag to his friend, Lt. George E. Pickett, who was able to reach the summit.Longstreet
was a veteran member of the Aztec Club of 1847. The Aztec Club was a military society
for officers who had served in the Mexican War. Many distinguished officers, both Union
and Confederate, who served the American Civil War were members of the Aztec Club.==Subsequent activities==After the war and his recovery from the Chapultepec
wound, Longstreet and Louise Garland were officially married on March 8, 1848, and the
marriage produced 10 children. Little is known of their courtship or marriage. Longstreet
mentions her only rarely in his memoirs, and never revealed any personal details. There
are no surviving letters between the two. Most anecdotes about their relationship come
through the writings of Longstreet’s second wife, Helen Dortch Longstreet. Novelist Ben
Ames Williams, a descendant of Longstreet, included Longstreet as a minor character in
two of his novels. Williams questioned Longstreet’s surviving children and grandchildren, and
in the novels depicted him as a very devoted family man with an exceptionally happy marriage.Longstreet
and his new wife served on frontier duty in Texas, primarily at Fort Martin Scott near
Fredericksburg and Fort Bliss in El Paso. On January 1, 1850, Longstreet was appointed
Chief Commissary for the Department of Texas, responsible for the acquiring and distributing
food to the soldiers and animals of the depatment. The job was complex and consisted mainly of
paperwork, although it provided valuable experience in how to manage troops. In June, Longstreet,
hoping to find promotion and an income above his $40-per month pay to support his growing
family, requested transfer to the cavalry. His request was rejected. He resigned as commissary
in March 1851 and returned to the Eighth Infantry. Longstreet performed scouting missions and
also served as major and paymaster for the 8th Infantry from July 1858.Knowledge of Longstreet’s
prewar life is extremely limited. His experience resembles that of many would-be Civil War
generals insofar as he went to West Point, served with distinction in the War with Mexico,
and continued his career in the peacetime army of the 1850s. But beyond that, there
are few details. He left no diary, and his lengthy memoirs focus almost entirely on recounting
and defending his Civil War military record. They reveal little of his personal side while
providing only a very cursory view of his pre-war activities. Not only that, but an
1889 fire destroyed his personal papers, making it so that the number of “[e]xisting antebellum
private letters written by Longstreet [could] be counted on one hand.”==
American Civil War=====
First Bull Run===At the time of the Battle of Fort Sumter at
the beginning of the American Civil War, Longstreet was paymaster for the United States Army and
stationed in Albuquerque, New Mexico, having not yet resigned his commission. After news
of the engagement, he joined his fellow Southerners in leaving the post. In his memoirs, Longstreet
calls it a “sad day,” and records that a number of Northern officers attempted to persuade
him not to go. He states that he asked one of them “what course he would pursue if his
State should pass ordinances of secession and call him to its defence. He confessed
that he would obey the call.”Longstreet was not enthusiastic about secession from the
Union, but he had long been infused with the concept of states’ rights, and felt he could
not go against his homeland. Although he was born in South Carolina and reared in Georgia,
he offered his services to the state of Alabama, which had appointed him to West Point and
where his mother still lived. Furthermore, he was the senior West Point graduate from
that state, which implied a commensurate rank in the state’s forces would be available.
After settling his accounts, he resigned from the U.S. Army on May 8, 1861 to cast his lot
with the Confederacy in the Civil War. Longstreet arrived in Richmond, Virginia with
a commission as a lieutenant colonel in the Confederate States Army. He met with Confederate
President Jefferson Davis at the executive mansion on June 22, 1861, where he was informed
that he had been appointed a brigadier general with date of rank on June 17, a commission
he accepted on June 25. He was ordered to report to Brig. Gen. P. G. T. Beauregard at
Manassas, where he was given command of a brigade of three Virginia regiments—the
1st, 11th, and 17th Virginia Infantry regiments in the Confederate Army of the Potomac.Longstreet
assembled his staff and trained his brigade incessantly. On July 16, Union General Irvin
McDowell began marching his army towards Manassas Junction. Longstreet’s brigade first saw action
at Blackburn’s Ford on July 18, when it collided with McDowell’s advance division under Brigadier
General Daniel Tyler. An infantry charge pushed Longstreet’s men back, and in his own words
Longstreet “rode with sabre in hand for the leading files, determined to give them all
that was in the sword and my horse’s heels, or stop the break.” A second attack soon began,
but Confederate successes were hampered when inexperienced soldiers from Colonel Jubal
Early’s brigade sent to reinforce Longstreet began firing on their own men. Tyler eventually
withdrew, as he had orders not to bring on a general engagement. The battle preceded
the First Battle of Bull Run (First Manassas). When the main attack came at the opposite
end of the line on July 21, the brigade played a relatively minor role, although it endured
artillery fire for nine hours. Between 5 and 6 in the evening, Longstreet received an order
from General Joseph E. Johnston instructing him to take part in pursuit of the Federal
troops, who had been defeated and were fleeing the battlefield. He obeyed, but when he met
the brigade of Brigadier General Milledge Bonham, Bonham, who outranked Longstreet,
ordered him to retreat. An order soon arrived from Johnston ordering the same. Longstreet
was infuriated that his commanders would not allow a vigorous pursuit of the defeated Union
Army. His trusted Chief of Staff, Moxley Sorrel, recorded that he was “in a fine rage. He dashed
his hat furiously to the ground, stamped, and bitter words escaped him.” He quoted Longstreet
as saying afterwards, “Retreat! Hell, the Federal army has broken to pieces.”On October
7, Longstreet was promoted to major general and assumed command of a division in the newly
reorganized and renamed Confederate Army of Northern Virginia under Johnston (formed from
the previous Army of the Potomac and the Army of the Shenandoah) — with four infantry
brigades-commanded by generals Daniel Harvey Hill, David R. Jones, Bonham, and Louis Wigfall-as
well as Hampton’s Legion, which was under Wade Hampton III.===Family tragedy and Peninsula===
On January 10, 1862, Longstreet travelled under orders from Johnston to Richmond, where
he discussed with Davis the creation or a draft or conscription program. He spent much
of the intervening time with Louise and their children, and was back at army headquarters
in Centreville by the 20th. After only a day or two, he received a telegram informing him
that all four of his children were extremely sick in an outbreak of scarlet fever. Longstreet
immediately returned to Richmond.Longstreet arrived in Richmond before the death of his
one-year old daughter Mary Anne on January 25. Four-year old James died the following
day. Eleven-year-old Augustus Baldwin (“Gus”) died on February 1. His 13-year-old son Garland
remained ill but appeared to be out of mortal danger. George Pickett and his future wife
LaSalle Corbell were in the Longstreet’s company throughout the affair. They arranged the funeral
and burial, which for unknown reasons neither Longstreet nor his wife attended. Longstreet
waited a very short time to return to the army, doing so on February 5. He rushed back
to Richmond later in the month when Gus took a turn for the worse, but came back after
he recovered. The losses were devastating for Longstreet and he became withdrawn, both
personally and socially. In 1861 his headquarters were noted for parties, drinking, and poker
games. After he returned from the funeral the headquarters social life became for a
time more somber. He rarely drank, and his religious devotion increased.That spring,
Union Maj. Gen. George B. McClellan, commander of the Army of the Potomac, launched the Peninsula
Campaign intending to capture the Confederate capital of Richmond. In his memoirs, Longstreet
would claim that he wrote to Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson proposing that he march to Jackson
in the Shenandoah Valley and combine forces. No evidence has emerged for this claim.Following
the delay of the Union offensive against Richmond at the Siege of Yorktown, Johnston oversaw
a strategic withdraw to the outskirts of Richmond, where defenses had already been prepared.
Longstreet’s division formed the rearguard, which was heavily engaged at the Battle of
Williamsburg on May 5. There, Joseph Hooker’s division of the Union III Corps, which was
commanded by Samuel P. Heintzelman, came out of a forest into open ground to attack Longstreet’s
men. To protect the army’s supply wagons, Longstreet launched a strong counterattack
with the brigades of Cadmus M. Wilcox, A. P. Hill, Pickett and two other regiments.
The assault drove Hooker’s troops back. Finding the ground he occupied not entirely tenable,
Longstreet requested reinforcements from D.H. Hill’s division a little further up the road
and received Early’s brigade. Early, without coordinating with other units, launched a
fruitless and bloody attack well after the wagons had already been safely evacuated.
Overall, the battle was a success, protecting the passage of Confederate supply wagons and
delaying the advance of Union McClellan’s army toward Richmond. The affair resulted
in the capture of nine Union artillery pieces. Longstreet reported 9,000 Confederate troops
engaged compared to 12,000 Union troops, and the Confederates suffered fewer casualties.
McClellan inaccurately characterized the battle as a Union victory in a dispatch to Washington.During
the Battle of Seven Pines he marched his men in the wrong direction down the wrong road,
causing congestion and confusion with other Confederate units, diluting the effect of
the massive Confederate counterattack against McClellan. His report unfairly blamed fellow
Maj. Gen. Benjamin Huger for the mishaps. General Johnston was wounded during the battle
and he was replaced in command of the Army of Northern Virginia by G. W. Smith for a
single day and then by Robert E. Lee. During the Seven Days Battles that followed
in late June, Longstreet had operational command of nearly half of Lee’s army—15 brigades—as
it drove McClellan back down the Peninsula. Longstreet performed aggressively and quite
well in his new, larger command, particularly at Gaines’s Mill and Glendale. Lee’s army
in general suffered from weak performances by Longstreet’s peers, including, uncharacteristically,
Stonewall Jackson, and was unable to destroy the Union Army.Moxley Sorrel wrote of Longstreet’s
confidence and calmness in battle: “He was like a rock in steadiness when sometimes in
battle the world seemed flying to pieces.” General Lee said shortly after Seven Days,
“Longstreet was the staff in my right hand.” He had been established as Lee’s principal
lieutenant. Overtime, Lee and Longstreet became good friends, and set up headquarters very
near each other. Despite sharing with Jackson a belief in temperance as well as a deep religious
conviction, Lee never developed as strong a friendship with him. Historian William Garrett
Piston speculates that the more relaxed atmosphere of Longstreet’s headquarters, which included
gambling and drinking, allowed Lee to relax and take his mind off the war, and reminded
him of his more happy younger days.===Second Bull Run===
The military reputations of Lee’s corps commanders are often characterized as Stonewall Jackson
representing the audacious, offensive component of Lee’s army, with Longstreet more typically
advocating and executing strong defensive strategies and tactics. Jackson has been described
as the army’s hammer, Longstreet its anvil. In the Northern Virginia Campaign of August
1862, this stereotype did not hold true. In June, the Federal Government created the 50,000-strong
Army of Virginia, and put Major Gen. John Pope in command. For the Confederate Army,
Longstreet commanded the Right Wing (later to become known as the First Corps) and Jackson
commanded the Left Wing. Pope moved south in an attempt to attack Lee and threaten Richmond
through an overland march. Lee left Longstreet near Richmond to guard the city and dispatched
Jackson in order to hinder Pope’s advance. Jackson won a major victory at the Battle
of Cedar Mountain. After learning that McClellan, as ordered from Washington, had dispatched
troops north to assist Pope, Lee ordered Longstreet north as well, leaving only three divisions
under G.W. Smith to protect Richmond against McClellan’s reduced force. Longstreet’s men
began their march on August 17, aided by Stuart’s cavalry. On August 23, Longstreet engaged
Pope’s position in a minor artillery duel at the First Battle of Rappahannock Station.
The Confederate Washington Artillery was heavily damaged and a Union shell landed feet away
from Longstreet and Wilcox but failed to explode. Meanwhile, Stuart’s cavalry road around the
Army of Virginia and captured hundreds of soldiers and horses as well as some of Pope’s
personal belongings.Jackson executed a sweeping flanking maneuver that captured Pope’s main
supply depot. He placed his corps in the rear of Pope’s army, but he then took up a defensive
position and effectively invited Pope to assault him. On August 28 and August 29, the start
of the Second Battle of Bull Run (Second Manassas), Pope pounded Jackson as Longstreet and the
remainder of the army marched from the west, through Thoroughfare Gap, to reach the battlefield.
On the afternoon of the 28th, Longstreet engaged a 5,000-man federal division under James B.
Ricketts at the Battle of Thoroughfare Gap. Ricketts had been ordered to delay Longstreet’s
march towards the main Confederate army, but he took up his position too late, allowing
George T. Anderson’s brigade to occupy the high ground. Lee and Longstreet watched the
battle together and decided to flank the Union position. A division under John Bell Hood
and a brigade under Henry L. Benning advanced towards the gap from the north and the south,
respectively, while Wilcox’s division followed in a six mile march northward. Ricketts realized
his position was untenable and withdrew that evening, allowing Longstreet to join up with
the rest of Lee’s army. Postwar criticism of Longstreet claimed that he marched his
men too slowly, leaving Jackson to bear the brunt of the fighting for two days, but they
covered roughly 30 miles (50 km) in a little over 24 hours and Lee did not attempt to get
his army concentrated any faster. When Longstreet’s men arrived at Second Manassas,
around midday on August 29, Lee planned a flanking attack on the Union Army, which was
concentrating its attention on Jackson. Longstreet demurred against three suggestions from Lee,
urging him to attack, recommending instead that a reconnaissance in force be conducted
to survey the ground in front of him. By 6:30 p.m., Hood’s division moved forward against
the troops of the Union V Corps under Fitz John Porter, and Longstreet withdrew them
at 8:30 p.m., having a better idea of the terrain and enemy soldiers in the area. Despite
the smashing victory that followed, Longstreet’s performance at the battle was criticized by
postbellum advocates of the Lost Cause, claiming that his slowness, reluctance to attack, and
disobedience to General Lee were a harbinger of his controversial performance to come on
July 2, 1863, at the Battle of Gettysburg. Lee’s biographer, Douglas Southall Freeman,
wrote: “The seeds of much of the disaster at Gettysburg were sown in that instant—when
Lee yielded to Longstreet and Longstreet discovered that he would.” Longstreet biographer Jeffry
D. Wert disputes this conclusion, pointing out that in a post-war letter to Longstreet,
Porter told him that had he attacked him that day, his “loss would have been enormous.”Despite
this criticism, the following day, August 30, was one of Longstreet’s finest performances
of the war. After his attacks on the 29th, Pope came to believe with little evidence
that Jackson was in retreat. He ordered a reluctant Porter to move his corps forward
in pursuit, and they collided with Jackson’s men and suffered heavy casualties. The attack
exposed the Union left flank, and Longstreet took advantage of this by launching a massive
assault on the Union flank with over 25,000 men. For over four hours they “pounded like
a giant hammer” with Longstreet actively directing artillery fire and sending brigades into the
fray. Longstreet and Lee were together during the assault and both of them came under Union
artillery fire. Although the Union troops put up a furious defense, Pope’s army was
forced to retreat in a manner similar to the embarrassing Union defeat at First Bull Run,
fought on roughly the same battleground. Longstreet gave all of the credit for the victory to
Lee, describing the campaign as “clever and brilliant.” It established a strategic model
he believed to be ideal—the use of defensive tactics within a strategic offensive. On September
1, Jackson’s corps moved to cut off the Union retreat at the Battle of Chantilly. Longstreet’s
men remained on the field in order to fool Pope into thinking that Lee’s entire army
was still on his front.===Antietam and Fredericksburg===
Longstreet’s actions in the final two major Confederate defensive battles of 1862 would
be the proving grounds for his development of dominant defensive tactics. After the Confederate
success at Second Manassas, Lee, holding the strategic initiative, decided to take the
war to Maryland to relieve Virginia and hopefully induce foreign nations to come to the Confederates’
aid. Longstreet supported the plan. “The situation called for action,” he later said, “and there
was but one opening-across the Potomac.” His men crossed into Maryland on September 6 and
arrived in Frederick the following day. In the Maryland Campaign of September, at the
Battle of Antietam, Longstreet held his part of the Confederate defensive line against
Union forces twice as numerous. After the delaying action Longstreet’s corps fought
at South Mountain, he retired to Sharpsburg to join Stonewall Jackson, and prepared to
fight a defensive battle. Using terrain to his advantage, Longstreet validated his idea
that the tactical defense was now vastly superior to the exposed offense. While the offense
dominated in the time of Napoleon, the technological advancements had overturned this. Lt. Col.
Harold M. Knudsen claims that Longstreet was one of the few Civil War officers sensible
of this development. At the end of that bloodiest day of the Civil War, Lee greeted his subordinate
by saying, “Ah! Here is Longstreet; here’s my old war-horse!” On October 9, a few weeks
after Antietam, Longstreet was promoted to lieutenant general. Lee arranged for Longstreet’s
promotion to be dated one day earlier than Jackson’s, making the Old War-Horse the senior
lieutenant general in the entire Confederate Army. In an army reorganization in November,
Longstreet’s command, now designated the First Corps, consisted of five divisions, approximately
41,000 men. In December, Longstreet’s First Corps played
the decisive role in the Battle of Fredericksburg, midway between the two opposing capitals,
where the Confederate army made its stand to protect Richmond from the Army of the Potomac,
now commanded by Ambrose Burnside. Since Lee moved Longstreet to Fredericksburg early,
it allowed Longstreet to take the time to dig in portions of his line, methodically
site artillery, and set up a kill zone over the axis of advance he thought the Union attack
would follow. Remembering the slaughter at Antietam, in which the Confederates did not
build defensive works, Longstreet ordered trenches, abatis, and fieldworks to be constructed
south of the town along a stonewall at the foot of Marye’s Heights, which would set a
precedent for future defensive battles by the Army of Northern Virginia. This was completed
in the days before the battle. After failing to cross the Rappahannock on December 11,
Burnside ordered an artillery bombardment of the town, and forced his way across the
following day.Longstreet had his men firmly entrenched along Marye’s Heights. On December
13, under Burnside’s orders, troops from the Union Right Grand Division under Edwin Vose
Sumner launched fourteen frontal assaults against Longstreet’s troops on Marye’s Heights,
which unexpectedly became the center of the battle. When Lee expressed apprehension that
the Federal troops might overrun Longstreet’s men on Marye’s Heights, Longstreet replied
that as long as he had sufficient ammunition he would “kill them all” before any of the
reached his line. He advised him to look towards Jackson’s more tenuous position to the right.
Longstreet was proven correct, for from their strong position, Longstreet’s men easily held
off all of the Union assaults, while Jackson managed to repel a much stronger Union attack
by the division of George Meade. One Union general compared the scene before Marye’s
Heights to “a great slaughter pen” and said that his men “might as well have tried to
take Hell.”Burnside intended to attack again the next day, but several of his officers,
particularly Sumner, advised him against it. He entrenched his men instead and withdrew
on December 15. The Union army suffered almost 8,000 casualties at Marye’s Heights; Longstreet
lost only 1,900. His great defensive success was not based entirely on the advantage of
terrain; this time it was the combination of terrain, defensive works, and a centralized
coordination of artillery.===Suffolk===
Shortly after Fredericksburg, Longstreet vaguely suggested to Lee that “one corps could hold
the Rappahannock while the other was operating elsewhere.” In the early spring of 1863, he
made a more specific request, suggesting that his corps be detached from the Army of Northern
Virginia and sent to reinforce the Army of Tennessee, where Gen. Braxton Bragg was being
challenged in Middle Tennessee by Union Maj. Gen. William S. Rosecrans, Longstreet’s roommate
at West Point. By this time, Longstreet could be identified as part of a “western concentration
bloc” which believed that reinforcing Confederate armies operating in the Western Theater of
the war to protect the states in that part of the Confederacy from invasion was more
important than offensive campaigns in the East. This group also included Joe Johnston
and Louis Wigfall, now a Confederate senator, both of whom Longstreet was very close with.
These people were generally cautious and believed that the Confederacy, with its limited resources,
should engage in a defensive rather than an offensive war. In February 1863, Longstreet
wrote to Wigfall asking to be sent west. Lee did detach two divisions from the First Corps,
but ordered them to Richmond, not Tennessee. Seaborne movements of the Union IX Corps potentially
threatened vital ports on the mid-Atlantic coast. The division of George Pickett started
for the capital in mid-February, was followed by John Hood’s, and then Longstreet himself
was told to take command of the detached divisions and the Departments of North Carolina and
Southern Virginia. The divisions of McLaws and Anderson remained with Lee.In April, Longstreet
besieged Union forces in the city of Suffolk, Virginia, a minor operation, but one that
was very important to Lee’s army, still stationed in war-devastated central Virginia. It enabled
Confederate authorities to collect huge amounts of provisions that had been under Union control.
However, this operation caused Longstreet and 15,000 men of the First Corps to be absent
from the Battle of Chancellorsville in May. Despite Lee’s brilliant victory at Chancellorsville,
Longstreet once again came under criticism, claiming that he could have marched his men
back from Suffolk in time to join Lee. However, from the Chancellorsville and Suffolk scenario,
Longstreet brought forward the beginnings of a new Confederate strategy. These events
proved that the Army of Northern Virginia could manage with fewer troops for periods
of time, and units could be shifted to create windows of opportunity in other theaters.
Longstreet advocated the first strategic movements to utilize rail, interior lines, and create
temporary numerical advantages in Mississippi or Tennessee prior to Gettysburg.===Gettysburg=======
Campaign plans====Following Chancellorsville and the death of
Stonewall Jackson, Longstreet and Lee met in mid-May to discuss options for the army’s
summer campaign. Longstreet advocated, once again, detachment of all or part of his corps
to be sent to Tennessee. The justification for this course of action was becoming more
urgent as Union Maj. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant was advancing on the critical Confederate
stronghold on the Mississippi River, Vicksburg. Longstreet argued that a reinforced army under
Bragg could defeat Rosecrans and drive toward the Ohio River, which would compel Grant to
break his hold on Vicksburg. He advanced these views during a meeting with Confederate Secretary
of War James Seddon, who approved of the idea but doubted that Lee would do so, and opined
that Davis was unlikely to go against Lee’s wishes. Longstreet had criticized Bragg’s
generalship and may have been hoping to replace him, although he also might have wished to
see Joseph Johnston take command, and indicated that he would be content to serve under him
as a corps commander. Lee prevented this plan from taking place by telling Davis that parting
with large numbers of troops would force him to move his army closer to Richmond, and instead
advancing a plan to invade Pennsylvania. A campaign in the North would relieve agricultural
and military pressure that the war was placing on Virginia and North Carolina, and, by threatening
a federal city, disrupt Union offensives elsewhere and erode support for the war among Northern
civilians. In his memoirs, Longstreet described his reaction to Lee’s proposal: His plan or wishes announced, it became useless
and improper to offer suggestions leading to a different course. All that I could ask
was that the policy of the campaign should be one of defensive tactics; that we should
work so as to force the enemy to attack us, in such good position as we might find in
our own country, so well adapted to that purpose—which might assure us of a grand triumph. To this
he readily assented as an important and material adjunct to his general plan.
There is conflicting evidence for the veracity of Longstreet’s account. It was written years
after the campaign and is affected by hindsight, both of the results of the battle and of the
postbellum criticism of the Lost Cause authors. In letters of the time Longstreet made no
reference to such a bargain with Lee. In April 1868, Lee said that he “had never made any
such promise, and had never thought of doing any such thing.” Yet in his post-battle report,
Lee wrote, “It had not been intended to fight a general battle at such a distance from our
base, unless attacked by the enemy.”The Army of Northern Virginia was reorganized after
Jackson’s death. Two division commanders, Richard S. Ewell and A. P. Hill, were promoted
to lieutenant general and assumed command of the Second and the newly created Third
Corps respectively. Longstreet’s First Corps gave up the division of Maj. Gen. Richard
H. Anderson during the reorganization, leaving him with the divisions of Hood, McLaws, and
Pickett.After it was determined that an advance north was inevitable, Longstreet dispatched
the scout Henry Thomas Harrison, whom he had met during the Suffolk Campaign, to gather
information. He paid Harrison in gold and told him that he “did not care to see him
till he could bring information of importance.” In the initial movements of the campaign,
Longstreet’s corps followed Ewell’s through the Shenandoah Valley. The scout “Harrison”,
as he was known, reported to Longstreet on the evening of June 28, and was instrumental
in warning the Confederates that the Army of the Potomac was advancing north to meet
them more quickly than they had anticipated, and were already massing around Frederick,
Maryland. Lee was initially skeptical, but the report prompted him to order the immediate
concentration of his army north of Frederick near Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Harrison also
brought news that Joseph Hooker had been replaced as commander of the Army of the Potomac by
George Meade.====July 1–2====Longstreet’s actions at the Battle of Gettysburg
would become the centerpiece of the controversy that surrounded him for over a century. Longstreet
arrived on the battlefield late in the afternoon of the first day, July 1, 1863, hours ahead
of his troops. By then, two Union corps had been driven by Ewell and Hill back through
the town into defensive positions on Cemetery Hill. Lee had not intended to fight before
his army was fully concentrated, but chance and questionable decisions by A.P. Hill brought
on the battle, which- on the first day- was an impressive Confederate victory. Meeting
with Lee, Longstreet was concerned about the strength of the Union defensive position on
elevated ground and advocated a strategic movement around the left flank of the enemy,
to “secure good ground between him and his capital,” which would presumably compel Meade
to attack defensive positions erected by the Confederates. Instead, Lee exclaimed, “If
the enemy is there tomorrow, I will attack him.” Longstreet replied, “If he is there
tomorrow it is because he wants you to attack.”Lee’s plan for July 2 called for Longstreet to attack
the Union’s left flank, which would be followed up by Hill’s attack on Cemetery Ridge near
the center, while Ewell demonstrated on the Union right. Longstreet was not ready to attack
as early as Lee envisioned. He received permission from Lee to wait for Brig. Gen. Evander M.
Law’s brigade (Hood’s division) to reach the field before he advanced any of his other
brigades; Law marched his men quickly, covering 28 miles in eleven hours, but did not arrive
until noon. Three of Longstreet’s brigades were still in march column, and some distance
from the attack positions they would need to reach. All of Longstreet’s divisions were
forced to take a long detour while approaching the enemy position, misled by inadequate reconnaissance
that failed to identify a completely concealed route.Postbellum criticism of Longstreet claims
that he was ordered by Lee to attack in the early morning and that his delays were a significant
contributor to the loss of the battle. However, Lee agreed to the delays for arriving troops
and did not issue his formal order for the attack until 11 a.m. Although Longstreet’s
motivations have long been clouded by the vitriol of the Lost Cause partisans (see Legacy),
many historians agree that Longstreet did not aggressively pursue Lee’s orders to launch
an attack as early as possible. Biographer Jeffry D. Wert wrote, “Longstreet deserves
censure for his performance on the morning of July 2. He allowed his disagreement with
Lee’s decision to affect his conduct. Once the commanding general determined to assail
the enemy, duty required Longstreet to comply with the vigor and thoroughness that had previously
characterized his generalship. The concern for detail, the regard for timely information,
and the need for preparation were absent.” Military historians Herman Hattaway and Archer
Jones wrote, “Unenthusiastic about the attack, Longstreet consumed so much time in properly
assembling and aligning the corps that the assault did not commence until 4 p.m. During
all the time that passed, Meade continued to move in troops to bring about a more and
more complete concentration; by 6 p.m. he had achieved numerical superiority and had
his left well covered.” Campaign historian Edwin Coddington presents a lengthy description
of the approach march, which he described as “a comedy of errors such as one might expect
of inexperienced commanders and raw militia, but not of Lee’s “War Horse” and his veteran
troops.” He called the episode “a dark moment in Longstreet’s career as a general.” Gettysburg
historian Harry Pfanz concluded that “Longstreet’s angry dissidence had resulted in further wasted
time and delay.” David L. Callihan, in a 2002 reassessment of Longstreet’s legacy, wrote,
“It is appalling that a field commander of Longstreet’s experience and caliber would
so cavalierly and ineptly march and prepare his men for battle.”
An alternative view has been expressed by John Lott, “General Longstreet did all that
could be expected on the 2nd day and any allegations of failing to exercise his duty by ordering
a morning assault can be repudiated. It would have been impossible to have commenced an
attack much earlier than it occurred, and it is doubtful that the Confederacy could
have placed the attack in any more secure hands than General Longstreet.”Regardless
of the controversy regarding the preparations, however, once the assault began around 4 p.m.,
Longstreet pressed the assault by McLaws and Hood (Pickett’s division had not yet arrived)
competently against fierce Union resistance, but it was largely unsuccessful, with significant
casualties.====July 3====
On the night of July 2, Longstreet did not follow his usual custom of meeting Gen. Lee
at his headquarters to discuss the day’s battle, claiming that he was too fatigued to make
the ride. Instead, he spent part of the night planning for a movement around Big Round Top
that would allow him to attack the enemy’s flank and rear. (Longstreet, despite his use
of scouting parties, was apparently unaware that a considerable body of troops from the
Union VI Corps was in position to block this move.) Shortly after issuing orders for the
attack, around sunrise, Longstreet was joined at his headquarters by Lee, who was dismayed
at this turn of events. The commanding general had intended for Longstreet to attack the
Union left early in the morning in a manner similar to the attack of July 2, using Pickett’s
newly arrived division, in concert with a resumed attack by Ewell on Culp’s Hill. What
Lee found was that no one had ordered Pickett’s division forward from its bivouac in the rear
and that Longstreet had been planning an independent operation without consulting with him. Lee
wrote with some restraint in his after-battle report that Longstreet’s “dispositions were
not completed as early as was expected.” Since his plans for an early-morning coordinated
attack were now infeasible, Lee instead ordered Longstreet to coordinate a massive assault
on the center of the Union line, employing the division of George Pickett and brigades
from A.P. Hill’s corps. Longstreet knew this assault had little chance of success. The
Union Army was in a position reminiscent of the one Longstreet had taken at Fredericksburg
to defeat Burnside’s assault. The Confederates would have to cover almost a mile of open
ground and spend time negotiating sturdy fences under fire. The lessons of Fredericksburg
and Malvern Hill were lost to Lee on this day. In his memoirs, Longstreet claims to
have told Lee that he believed the attack on the Union center would fail: General, I have been a soldier all my life.
I have been with soldiers engaged in fights by couples, by squads, companies, regiments,
divisions, and armies, and should know, as well as any one, what soldiers can do. It
is my opinion that no fifteen thousand men ever arranged for battle can take that position.
During the artillery barrage that preceded the infantry assault, Longstreet began to
agonize over an assault that was going to cost dearly. He attempted to pass the responsibility
for launching Pickett’s division to his artillery chief, Col. Edward Porter Alexander. When
the time came to actually order Pickett forward, Longstreet could only nod in assent, unable
to verbalize the order. The assault, known as Pickett’s Charge, suffered the heavy casualties
that Longstreet anticipated. It was the decisive point in the Confederate loss at Gettysburg
and Lee ordered a retreat back to Virginia the following day.Criticism of Longstreet
after the war was based not only on his reputed conduct at the Battle of Gettysburg and support
for Reconstruction, but also intemperate remarks he made about Robert E. Lee. For example,
in his memoirs, he commented: That he [Lee] was excited and off his balance
was evident on the afternoon of the 1st, and he labored under that oppression until enough
blood was shed to appease him. For years after the war Longstreet’s reputation
suffered and was blamed for the failed attack even though Lee ordered the advance after
Longstreet’s repeated advice to cancel the attack.===Chickamauga===
In mid-August 1863, Longstreet once again resumed his attempts to be transferred to
the Western Theater. He wrote a private letter to Seddon, requesting that he be transferred
to serve under his old friend Gen. Joseph Johnston. He followed this up in conversations
with his congressional ally Wigfall, who had long considered Longstreet a suitable replacement
for Braxton Bragg. Bragg had a poor combat record and was very unpopular with his men
and officers. Since Bragg’s army was under increasing pressure from Rosecrans outside
of Chattanooga, Lee and President Davis agreed to the request on September 5. In one of the
most daunting logistical efforts of the Confederacy, Longstreet, with the divisions of Lafayette
McLaws and John Hood, a brigade from George Pickett’s division, and Porter Alexander’s
26-gun artillery battalion, traveled over 16 railroads on a 775-mile (1,247 km) route
through the Carolinas to reach Bragg in northern Georgia. Although the entire operation would
take over three weeks, lead elements of the corps arrived on September 17.The First Corps
veterans began to arrive in the early stages of the Battle of Chickamauga on September
19. Bragg had already begun an unsuccessful attempt to interpose his army between Rosecrans
and Chattanooga before the arrival of Longstreet’s corps. Throughout the day, Confederate troops
launched largely unsuccessful assaults on Union positions that were highly costly for
both sides. One of Longstreet’s own divisions under Hood successfully resisted a strong
Union counterattack from Jefferson C. Davis’s division of the XX Corps that afternoon. When
Longstreet himself arrived on the field in the late evening, he failed to find Bragg’s
headquarters. He and his staff spent considerable time riding looking for them. They accidentally
came across a federal picket line and were nearly captured. When the two finally met
at Bragg’s headquarters late at night, Bragg placed Longstreet in command of the Left Wing
of his army; Lt. Gen. Leonidas Polk commanded the Right. On September 20, Longstreet lined
up eight brigades in a deep column against a narrow front, an attack very similar to
future German tank tactics in World War II. The attack was supposed to begin early in
the morning shortly after an assault by Polk’s wing. However, confusion and mishandled orders
caused Polk’s attack to be delayed, and Longstreet’s advance did not begin until just after 11
after hearing gunfire from his left. By chance, a mistaken order from General Rosecrans caused
a gap to appear in the Union line by transferring Thomas J. Wood’s division from the right to
reinforce the XIV Corps under George Henry Thomas in the center.Longstreet took additional
advantage of the confusion to increase his chances of success. The organization of the
attack was well suited to the terrain and would have penetrated the Union line regardless.
Bushrod Johnson’s division poured through the gap, driving the Union forces back. After
Longstreet ordered Thomas C. Hindman’s division forward, the Union right collapsed entirely.
Rosecrans fled the field as units began to retreat in panic. Thomas managed to rally
the retreating units and solidify a defensive position on Snodgrass Hill. He held that position
against repeated afternoon attacks by Longstreet, who was not adequately supported by the Confederate
right wing. Once night fell, the battle was over, and Thomas was able to extricate the
units under his control to Chattanooga. Bragg’s failure to coordinate the right wing and cavalry
to further envelop Thomas prevented a total rout of the Union Army. Bragg also neglected
to pursue the retreating Federals aggressively, resulting in the futile Siege of Chattanooga.
He had dismissed a proposal from Longstreet that he do so, citing a lack of transportation
and calling the plan a “visionary scheme.” Nevertheless, Chickamauga was the greatest
Confederate victory in the Western Theater and Longstreet deserved and received a good
portion of the credit.===Tennessee===
Not long after the Confederates entered Tennessee following their victory at Chickamauga, Longstreet
clashed with Bragg and became leader of the group of senior commanders of the army who
conspired to have him removed. Bragg’s subordinates had long been dissatisfied with his abrasive
personality and poor battlefield record; the arrival of Longstreet (the senior lieutenant
general in the Army) and his officers, and the fact that they quickly took their side,
added credibility to the earlier claims, and was a catalyst toward action. Longstreet wrote
to Seddon, “I am convinced that nothing but the hand of God can save us or help us as
long as we have our present commander.” The situation became so grave that President Davis
was forced to intercede in person. What followed was one of the most bizarre scenes of the
war, with Bragg sitting red faced as a procession of his commanders condemned him. Longstreet
stated that Bragg “was incompetent to manage an army or put men into a fight” and that
he “knew nothing of the business.” Davis sided with Bragg and left him and his dissatisfied
subordinates in their positions, doing nothing to resolve the conflict. Bragg retained his position, relieving or
reassigning the generals who had testified against him, and retaliated against Longstreet
by reducing his command to only those units that he brought with him from Virginia. Despite
the dysfunctional command climate under Bragg, and the lack of support from the War Department
and President Davis concerning Bragg’s removal, Longstreet did the best he could to continue
to seek options in the Chattanooga Campaign. While Bragg resigned himself and his army
to the siege of the Union Army of the Cumberland in Chattanooga, Longstreet devised a strategy
to prevent reinforcement and a lifting of the siege by Grant. He knew this Union reaction
was underway, and that the nearest railhead was Bridgeport, Alabama, where portions of
two Union corps would soon arrive. After sending his artillery commander, Porter Alexander,
to reconnoiter the Union-occupied town, he devised a plan to shift most of the Army of
Tennessee away from the siege, setting up logistical support in Rome, Georgia, to go
after Bridgeport to take the railhead, possibly catching Maj. Gen. Joseph Hooker and arriving
Union troops from the Eastern Theater in a disadvantageous position. The plan was well
received and approved by President Davis, but it was disapproved by Bragg, who objected
to the significant logistical challenges it posed. Longstreet accepted Bragg’s arguments
and agreed to a plan in which he and his men were dispatched to East Tennessee to deal
with an advance by the Union Army of the Ohio, commanded by Maj. Gen. Ambrose Burnside. Longstreet
was selected for this assignment partially due to enmity on Bragg’s part, but also because
the War Department intended for Longstreet’s men to return to Lee’s army and this movement
was in that direction.Longstreet was criticized for the slow pace of his advance toward Knoxville
in November and some of his troops began using the nickname “Peter the Slow” to describe
him. At the Battle of Campbell’s Station on November 16, the Federals evaded Longstreet’s
troops. This was due both to the poor performance of Brigadier General Evander M. Law, who exposed
his brigade to the enemy and thus ruined what was supposed to be a surprise attack, and
Burnside’s skillful retreat. The Confederates also dealt with muddy roads and a shortage
of good supplies. Burnside settled into entrenchments around the city, which Longstreet besieged
unsuccessfully. The Battle of Fort Sanders failed to bring a Confederate breakthrough.
When Bragg was defeated by Grant at Chattanooga on November 25, Longstreet was ordered to
join forces with the Army of Tennessee in northern Georgia. He demurred and began to
move back to Virginia, soon pursued by Maj. Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman in early December.
The armies went into winter quarters and the First Corps rejoined the Army of Northern
Virginia in the spring. The only real effect of the minor campaign was to deprive Bragg
of troops he sorely needed in Chattanooga. Longstreet’s second independent command (after
Suffolk) was a failure and his self-confidence was damaged. He reacted to the failure of
the campaign by blaming others, as he had done at Seven Pines. He relieved Lafayette
McLaws from command and requested the court martial of Brig. Gens. Jerome B. Robertson
and Law. He also submitted a letter of resignation to Adjutant General Samuel Cooper on December
30, 1863, but his request to be relieved was denied.His corps suffered through a severe
winter in Eastern Tennessee with inadequate shelter and provisions. Writing to Georgia’s
Quartermaster General, Ira Roe Foster on January 24, 1864, Longstreet noted: “There are five
Georgia Brigades in this Army – Wofford’s, G.T. Anderson’s, Bryan’s, Benning’s, and Crews’
cavalry brigade. They are all alike in excessive need of shoes, clothing of all kinds, and
blankets. All that you can send will be thankfully received.” Meanwhile, Longstreet again developed
strategic plans. He called for an offensive through Tennessee into Kentucky in which his
command would be bolstered by P. G. T. Beauregard and 20,000 men. Although he had the concurrence
of Gen. Lee, Longstreet was unable to convince President Davis or his newly appointed military
advisor, Braxton Bragg, who had finally been relived and replaced by Joe Johnston as commander
of the Army of Tennessee following the defeat at Chattanooga.===Wilderness to Appomattox===Longstreet found out that his old friend Ulysses
S. Grant had been appointed General-in-Chief of the Union Army, with headquarters in the
field alongside the Army of the Potomac. Longstreet told his fellow officers that “he will fight
us every day and every hour until the end of the war.” Longstreet helped save the Confederate
Army from defeat in his first battle back with Lee’s army, the Battle of the Wilderness
in May 1864. After Grant moved south of the Rapidan River in an attempt to take Richmond,
Lee intended to delay battle in order to give Longstreet’s 14,000 men time to arrive on
the field. Grant disrupted these plans by attacking him on May 5, and the fighting was
inconclusive. The following morning at 5 A.M., Hancock led two divisions in a ferocious attack
on A.P. Hill’s corps, driving the men back two miles. Just as this was happening, Longstreet’s
men arrived on the field. They took advantage of an old roadbed built for an out-of-use
railroad to creep through a densely wooded area unnoticed before launching a powerful
flanking attack. Longstreet’s men moved forward along the Orange Plank Road against the II
Corps and in two hours nearly drove it from the field. Once again he developed innovative
tactics to deal with difficult terrain, ordering the advance of six brigades by heavy skirmish
lines, which allowed his men to deliver a continuous fire into the enemy, while proving
to be elusive targets themselves. Historian Edward Steere attributed much of the success
of the Army to “the display of tactical genius by Longstreet which more than redressed his
disparity in numerical strength.” After the war, Hancock said to Longstreet of this flanking
maneuver: “You rolled me up like a wet blanket.” Longstreet was wounded during the assault—accidentally
shot by his own men only about 4 miles (6.4 km) away from the place where Jackson suffered
the same fate a year earlier. A bullet passed through his shoulder, severing nerves, and
tearing a gash in his throat. General Micah Jenkins, who was riding with Longstreet, was
also shot and died from his wounds. The momentum of the attack subsided. As he was taken from
the field, Longstreet urged Lee to press the attack. Instead, Lee delayed further movement
until units could be realigned, giving the Union defenders adequate time to reorganize.
The subsequent attack was a failure. Alexander called the removal of Longstreet the critical
juncture of the battle: “I have always believed that, but for Longstreet’s fall, the panic
which was fairly underway in Hancock’s [II] Corps would have been extended & have resulted
in Grant’s being forced to retreat back across the Rapidan.”Longstreet missed the rest of
the 1864 spring and summer campaign, where Lee sorely missed his skill in handling the
army. On May 1, he was confirmed as an Episcopalian. He was treated in Lynchburg, Virginia, and
recuperated in Augusta, Georgia, with his cousin, Emma Eve Longstreet Sibley, the daughter
of his father’s brother, Gilbert. While in Augusta, he participated in the funeral service
for Lt. Gen. Leonidas Polk at Saint Paul’s Church, joining the Bishops of Mississippi
and Arkansas in casting earth onto the coffin. He rejoined Lee in October 1864, with his
right arm paralyzed and in a sling, initially unable to ride a horse. He had taught himself
to write with his left hand; by periodically pulling on his arm, as advised by doctors,
he was able to regain use of his right hand in later years. At this time, Longstreet’s
staff underwent major changes. The most significant was that of Sorrel, Longstreet’s Chief of
Staff, to brigade command. He was replaced by Major Osmun Latrobe. For the remainder
of the Siege of Petersburg, Longstreet commanded the defenses in front of the capital of Richmond,
including all forces north of the James River and Pickett’s Division at Bermuda Hundred.
He retreated with Lee in the Appomattox Campaign, commanding both the First and Third Corps,
following the death of A.P. Hill on April 2. Lee worried that his refusal to meet with
Grant to discuss surrender terms at the latter’s first request would cause him to demand harsher
terms this time. Longstreet advised him of his belief that Grant would treat them fairly.
As Lee rode toward Appomattox Court House on April 9, Longstreet said that if Grant
gave too strong demands, he ought to “break off the interview and tell General Grant to
do his worst.” After Lee’s surrender, Longstreet arrived in the McLean House, where Grant happily
greeted him. He offered Longstreet a cigar and invited him to play a card game. “Why
do men fight who were born to be brothers?…His whole greeting and conduct towards us was
as though nothing had ever happened to mar our pleasant relations,” Longstreet told a
reporter.==Postbellum life==After the war, Longstreet and his family settled
in New Orleans, a location popular with a number of former Confederate generals. He
entered into a cotton brokerage partnership there and also became the president of the
newly created and prominent insurance company. He actively sought the presidency of the Mobile
and Ohio Railroad but was unsuccessful, and also failed in an attempt to get investors
for a proposed railroad from New Orleans around the northwestern coast of the Gulf of Mexico
south across the Rio Grande river and American-Mexican border to Monterrey, Mexico. (In 1870, he
was named president of the newly organized New Orleans and Northeastern Railroad.) He
applied for a pardon from 17th President Andrew Johnson, endorsed by his old friend and Union
Army General-in-Chief, Ulysses S. Grant. Johnson refused, however, telling Longstreet in a
meeting: “There are three persons of the South who can never receive amnesty: Mr. Davis,
General Lee, and yourself. You have given the Union cause too much trouble.” Regardless
of such opposition the Radical Republican controlled United States Congress restored
his rights of American citizenship in June 1868.Longstreet was one of a small group of
former Confederate generals, including James L. Alcorn and William Mahone, to join or ally
with the nationally dominant Republican Party during the Reconstruction era. He endorsed
Grant for president in the election of 1868, attended his inauguration ceremonies in Washington,
D.C. and six days later was appointed by Grant as surveyor of customs in New Orleans. For
these acts he lost favor with many white Southerners. His old friend Harvey Hill wrote to a newspaper:
“Our scalawag is the local leper of the community.” Unlike Northerners who moved South and were
sometimes referred to as “Carpetbaggers,” Hill wrote, Longstreet “is a native, which
is so much the worse.”A major element of the Lost Cause movement, aside from attacking
Longstreet’s war record, was the idea that the central cause of the Civil War was the
protection of states’ rights, not slavery. Responding to such arguments, Longstreet once
remarked, “I never heard of any other cause of the quarrel than slavery.”The Republican
governor of Louisiana appointed Longstreet the adjutant general of the state militia
and by 1872 he became a major general in command of all militia and state police forces within
the city of New Orleans. In April 1873, Longstreet dispatched a police
force under Colonel T.W. DeKlyne to the Louisiana town of Colfax to help the local government
and its majority-black supporters defend themselves against an insurrection by white supremacists.
DeKlyne did not arrive until April 14, one day after the Colfax massacre. By then, his
men’s task consisted mainly of burying the bodies of blacks who had been killed and attempting
to arrest the culprits. During protests of election irregularities in 1874, referred
to as the Battle of Liberty Place, an armed force of 8,400 members of the anti-Reconstructionist
White League advanced on the State House in New Orleans, which was the capitol of Louisiana
at the time, after Republican William Pitt Kellogg was declared the winner of a close
and heavily disputed gubernatorial election. Longstreet commanded a force of 3,600 Metropolitan
Police, city policemen, and African-American militia troops, armed with two Gatling guns
and a battery of artillery. He rode to meet the protesters but was pulled from his horse,
shot by a spent bullet, and taken prisoner. The White League charged, causing many of
Longstreet’s men to flee or surrender. There were casualties of 38 killed and 79 wounded.
Federal troops were sent by President Grant and required to restore order. Longstreet’s
use of armed black troops during the disturbances increased the denunciations by anti-Reconstructionist
and former Southern Confederates. In 1875, the Longstreet family left New Orleans
with concerns over health and safety, returning to Gainesville, Georgia. By this time Louise
had given birth to ten children, five of whom lived to adulthood. He applied for various
jobs through the Rutherford B. Hayes administration and was briefly considered for Secretary of
the Navy. He served briefly as deputy collector of internal revenue and as postmaster of Gainesville.
In 1880, President Hayes appointed Longstreet as his ambassador to the Ottoman Empire and
later he served from 1897 to 1904, under Presidents William McKinley and Theodore Roosevelt, as
U.S. Commissioner of Railroads, succeeding Wade Hampton III.In March 1877, on one of
his frequent return trips to New Orleans on business, Longstreet converted to Catholicism
and was a devout believer until his death. He was encouraged to convert by Fr. Abram
J. Ryan, author of The Conquered Banner, who assured Longstreet that he would be welcomed
with “open arms” if he decided to come into the Church.Longstreet served as a U.S. Marshal
from 1881 to 1884, but the return of a Democratic administration under Grover Cleveland ended
his political career and he went into semiretirement on a 65-acre (26 ha) farm near Gainesville,
where he raised turkeys and planted orchards and vineyards on terraced ground that his
neighbors referred to jokingly as “Gettysburg.” A devastating fire on April 9, 1889 (the 24th
anniversary of Lee’s surrender at Appomattox) destroyed his house and many of his personal
possessions, including his personal papers and memorabilia. That December, Louise Longstreet
died. In 1897 at the age of 76 in a ceremony at the governor’s mansion in Atlanta he married
34 year old Helen Dortch. Although Longstreet’s children reacted poorly to the marriage, Helen
became a devoted wife and avid supporter of his legacy after his death. She outlived him
by 58 years, dying in 1962.After Louise’s death, and after bearing criticism of his
war record from other Confederates for decades, Longstreet refuted most of their arguments
in his memoirs entitled From Manassas to Appomattox, a labor of five years that was published in
1896. His final years were marked by poor health and partial deafness. In 1902 he suffered
from severe rheumatism and was unable to stand for more than a few minutes at a time. His
weight diminished from 200 to 135 pounds by January 1903. Cancer developed in his right
eye, and in December he had X-ray therapy in Chicago to treat it. He contracted pneumonia
and died in Gainesville on January 2, 1904, six days before his 83rd birthday. At his
funeral, Mass was said by Bishop Benjamin Joseph Keiley of Savannah, Georgia, a veteran
of the Army of Northern Virginia. Longstreet’s remains are buried in Alta Vista Cemetery.
He outlived most of his detractors, and was one of only a few general officers from the
Civil War to live into the 20th century.==Legacy=====
Historical reputation===Authors espousing the Lost Cause attacked
Longstreet’s war career for many years after his death. Modern authors trace that criticism
to Longstreet’s acceptance of the defeat and accommodations both with the Republican party
and freed blacks. The attacks formally began on January 19, 1872, the anniversary of Lee’s
birth and less than two years after Lee died. Jubal Early, in a speech at Washington College,
exonerated Lee for the defeat at Gettysburg and falsely accused Longstreet of having attacked
late on the second day and of being responsible for the debacle on the third. The following
year, William N. Pendleton, Lee’s artillery chief, claimed in the same venue that Longstreet
disobeyed an explicit order to attack at sunrise on July 2. Both allegations were fabrications;
however, Longstreet failed to challenge them publicly until 1875. The delay damaged his
reputation, as the Lost Cause mythology had now taken hold.
Longstreet’s former subordinate Col. John S. Mosby defended his commander, and other
former Confederates who joined the Republican Party were subjected to similar criticism,
including Gen. William Mahone and Robert W. Flournoy. A “reconstructed rebel”, Longstreet
embraced equal rights for blacks, unification of the nation, and Reconstruction, After Longstreet
died, his widow Helen Dortch Longstreet, privately published Lee and Longstreet at High Tide
in his defense and stated that “the South was seditiously taught to believe that the
Federal Victory was wholly the fortuitous outcome of the culpable disobedience of General
Longstreet.”In the 20th century, Douglas Southall Freeman kept criticism of Longstreet foremost
in Civil War scholarship in his biography of Lee. “The battle was being decided at that
very hour in the mind of Longstreet, who at his camp, a few miles away, was eating his
heart away in sullen resentment that Lee had rejected his long cherished plan of a strategic
offensive and a tactical defensive.” He called Longstreet’s performance on July 2 so sluggish
that “it has often been asked why Lee did not arrest him for insubordination or order
him before a court-martial.” Historian Gary W. Gallagher notes that Freeman comes to different
conclusions in his later three-volume set, Lee’s Lieutenants: a Study in Command by stating
that Longstreet’s “attitude was wrong but his instinct was correct. He should have obeyed
orders, but the order should not have been given.” Clifford Dowdey, a Virginia newspaperman
and novelist, was noted for his severe criticism of Longstreet in the 1950s and 1960s.The Civil
Rights Movement of the 1960s somewhat helped restore Longstreet’s reputation. In 1974,
Michael Shaara’s novel The Killer Angels about the Battle of Gettysburg was published, and
was based in part on Longstreet’s memoirs. In 1993 the book was adapted into a film,
Gettysburg, with Tom Berenger portraying Longstreet. He is depicted very favorably in both, significantly
improving his standing in popular imagination. God and General Longstreet (1982), also upgraded
Longstreet “through an attack on Lee, the Lost Cause, and the Virginia revisionists.”
In 1993, Jeffry D. Wert published a new Longstreet biography, stating that his subject was “the
finest corps commander in the Army of Northern Virginia; in fact, he was arguably the best
corps commander in the conflict on either side.” Military historian Richard L. DiNardo
wrote, “Even Longstreet’s most virulent critics have conceded that he put together the best
staff employed by any commander, and that his de facto chief of staff, Lieutenant Colonel
G. Moxley Sorrel, was the best staff officer in the Confederacy.” Noting Longstreet’s effectively
delegating responsibilities for control of battlefield movements to his staff, DiNardo
believed this allowed them to communicate more effectively during battles than the staffs
of other Confederate generals during the war.===In memoriam===Longstreet is remembered through numerous
places that bear his name in and around Gainesville, Georgia, including Longstreet Bridge, a portion
of U.S. Route 129 that crosses the Chattahoochee River (later dammed to form Lake Sidney Lanier),
the local Longstreet Chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, and the James
“Warhorse” Longstreet chapter of the non-profit WarFighters Motorcycle Club.In 1998, one of
the last monuments erected at Gettysburg National Military Park was dedicated as a belated tribute
to Longstreet, an equestrian statue by sculptor Gary Casteel. He is shown riding on a depiction
of his favorite horse, Hero, at ground level in a grove of trees in Pitzer Woods, unlike
most generals, who are elevated on tall bases overlooking the battlefield.The Longstreet
Society is an organization and museum in Gainesville, dedicated to the celebration and study of
his life and career. The General Longstreet Recognition Project
is an educational project of the Agribusiness Council Heritage Preservation Committee aimed
at broadening public awareness of Longstreet’s military and public service.Longstreet’s Billet
is the house in Russellville, Tennessee that was occupied by Longstreet in the winter of
1863–64, has been converted into The Longstreet Museum, which is open to the public.==In popular culture==
Longstreet is featured as a minor character in two novels by Ben Ames Williams, one of
his descendants. These are House Divided (1947) and The Unconquered (1953). He appears as
a cadet in “The Santa Fe Trail” played by Frank Wilcox (1940). He is a character in
Row After Row, a full length one act play by American playwright, Jessica Dickey. The
action of the play takes place one evening after a Gettysburg re-enactment. One re-enactor,
Cal, plays Longstreet in the battle. In parts of the play, the action moves to the moments
leading up to Pickett’s Charge. The play ends with a tormented Longstreet addressing the
future, as he wonders if we will ever form a “more perfect union.”
Longstreet plays a prominent role in Michael Shaara’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The
Killer Angels and in the film Gettysburg, being portrayed by Tom Berenger. He is also
featured in Shaara’s son Jeff Shaara’s novel Gods and Generals, a prequel to his father’s
novel. In the film Gods and Generals (2003), he is portrayed by Bruce Boxleitner and given
a minor role. Longstreet was played by Brian Amidei onstage in the world premiere of The
Killer Angels at the Lifeline Theatre in Chicago.Longstreet is a character in a number of prominent alternate
history novels: Robert Skimin’s Gray Victory (1988), Robert Conroy’s 1901 (1995), and Harry
Turtledove’s The Guns of the South (1992) and How Few Remain (1997) which are not part
of the same series, and Newt Gingrich & William Forstchen’s Gettysburg trilogy (2003-2005).
In addition, Turtledove’s War Between the Provinces trilogy (2000-2002), which reimagines
the Civil War in a magecraft high fantasy setting, casts Longstreet as the prominent
character “Earl James of Broadpath.”==
See also==Bibliography of the American Civil War
Bibliography of Ulysses S. Grant List of American Civil War generals (Confederate)
List of American Civil War battles==Notes

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