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James Longstreet

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Title: James Longstreet  
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James Longstreet

James Longstreet
Nickname(s) "Old Pete", "Lee's War Horse", "Bull of the Woods"
Born (1821-01-08)January 8, 1821
Edgefield District, South Carolina, U.S.
Died January 2, 1904(1904-01-02) (aged 82)
Georgia, U.S.
Place of burial Alta Vista Cemetery
Georgia, U.S.
Allegiance  United States of America
 Confederate States of America
Service/branch United States Army
 Confederate States Army
Years of service 1842–61 (USA)
1861–65 (CSA)
Rank Major (USA)
Lieutenant General (CSA)
Commands held First Corps, Army of Northern Virginia, Department of East Tennessee[1]
Battles/wars Mexican-American War
American Civil War
Other work Surveyor of Customs in New Orleans
U.S. Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire
U.S. Commissioner of Railroads
U.S. Marshal for Northern Georgia
James Longstreet
United States Minister to the Ottoman Empire
In office
Preceded by Horace Maynard
Succeeded by Lew Wallace
Personal details

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, but also with Gen. Braxton Bragg in the Army of Tennessee in the Western Theater. Biographer and historian Jeffry D. Wert wrote that "Longstreet ... 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."

Longstreet's talents as a general made significant contributions to the Confederate victories at Second Bull Run (Second Manassas), Fredericksburg, and Chickamauga, in both offensive and defensive roles. He also performed strongly during the Seven Days Battles, the Battle of Antietam, and until he was seriously wounded, at the Battle of the Wilderness. His performance in semiautonomous command during the Knoxville Campaign resulted in a Confederate defeat. His most controversial service was at the Battle of Gettysburg, where he openly disagreed with General Lee on the tactics to be employed and reluctantly supervised the disastrous infantry assault known as Pickett's Charge.

He enjoyed a successful post-war career working for the U.S. government as a diplomat, civil servant, and administrator. However, 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. His reputation in the South was damaged for over a century and has only recently begun a slow reassessment.


  • Early life and career 1
  • Mexican-American War 2
  • American Civil War 3
    • First Bull Run and the Peninsula 3.1
    • Second Bull Run, Maryland, and Fredericksburg 3.2
    • Suffolk 3.3
    • Gettysburg 3.4
      • Campaign plans 3.4.1
      • Battle of Gettysburg 3.4.2
    • Tennessee 3.5
    • Wilderness to Appomattox 3.6
  • Post-bellum life 4
  • Legacy 5
    • In memoriam 5.1
  • In popular culture 6
  • Notes 7
  • References 8
  • Further reading 9
  • External links 10

Early life and career

Longstreet was born in Dutch colony of New Netherland in 1657, but the name became Anglicized over the generations.[2] 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.[3]

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 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.[4]

In 1837, Augustus attempted to obtain an appointment for James to the Ulysses S. Grant of the class of 1843. Longstreet was commissioned a brevet second lieutenant in the 4th U.S. Infantry.[5] Longstreet spent his first two years of service at Jefferson Barracks, Missouri, where he was soon joined by his friend, Lieutenant Ulysses Grant.

Soon after, Longstreet met his future first wife Maria Louisa Garland, called Louise by her family. She was the daughter of Longstreet's regimental commander, Lt. Col. John Garland. They married in March 1848, after the Mexican-American War. Although their marriage would last for over 40 years and produce 10 children, Longstreet never mentioned Louise in his memoirs and most anecdotes about their relationship came to historians through the writings of his second wife, Helen Dortch Longstreet.[6]

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.[7] 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 any such role in either of their memoirs.[8]

Mexican-American War

Longstreet served with distinction in the

  • The Longstreet Museum
  • The Longstreet Chronicles
  • The Longstreet Society
  • Military biography of James Longstreet from the Cullum biographies
  • Encyclopedia VirginiaJames Longstreet in
  • Original Document: James Longstreet's Signature on The Confederate Surrender at Appomattox, Virginia April 10, 1865
  • James Longstreet: Robert E. Lee's Most Valuable Soldier article by Jeffry D. Wert
  • The History of Hayslope
  • General Longstreet Recognition Project

External links

  • DiNardo, Richard L. James Longstreet: The Man, the Soldier, the Controversy. Conshohocken, PA: Combined Publishing, 1998. ISBN 0-938289-96-9.
  • Eckenrode, Hamilton J., and Bryan Conrad. James Longstreet: Lee's War Horse. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1986. ISBN 0-8078-1690-6. First published 1936 by University of North Carolina Press.
  • Freeman, Douglas S. Lee's Lieutenants: A Study in Command. 3 vols. New York: Scribner, 1946. ISBN 0-684-85979-3.
  • Freeman, Douglas S. R. E. Lee, A Biography. 4 vols. New York: Scribner, 1934.
  • Longstreet, Helen Dortch. Lee and Longstreet at High Tide: Gettysburg in Light of the Official Records. Gainesville, GA: self-published, 1904. OCLC 10119841.
  • Mendoza, Alexander. Confederate Struggle For Command: General James Longstreet and the First Corps in the West. College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 2008. ISBN 1-60344-052-6.
  • Piston, William G. Lee's Tarnished Lieutenant: James Longstreet and His Place in Southern History. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1990. ISBN 0-8203-0907-9.
  • Reardon, Carol. I Have Been a Soldier All My Life": Gen. James Longstreet, CSA. Gettysburg, PA: Farnsworth Military Impressions, 1997. ISBN 0-9643632-9-1.

Further reading

  • Alexander, Edward P. Fighting for the Confederacy: The Personal Recollections of General Edward Porter Alexander. Edited by Gary W. Gallagher. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1989. ISBN 0-8078-4722-4.
  • Callihan, David L. "Neither Villain Nor Hero: A Reassessment of James Longstreet's Performance at Gettysburg." The Gettysburg Magazine, issue 26, January 2002.
  • Coddington, Edwin B. The Gettysburg Campaign; a study in command. New York: Scribner's, 1968. ISBN 0-684-84569-5.
  • Connelly, Thomas L., and Barbara L. Bellows. God and General Longstreet: The Lost Cause and the Southern Mind. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1982. ISBN 0-8071-1020-5.
  • Dickson, Charles Ellis. "James Longstreet." In Encyclopedia of the American Civil War: A Political, Social, and Military History, edited by David S. Heidler and Jeanne T. Heidler. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2000. ISBN 0-393-04758-X.
  • Eicher, John H., and David J. Eicher. Civil War High Commands. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2001. ISBN 0-8047-3641-3.
  • Foote, Shelby. The Civil War: A Narrative. Vol. 3, Red River to Appomattox. New York: Random House, 1974. ISBN 0-394-74913-8.
  • Fuller, Maj. Gen. J. F. C. Grant and Lee, A Study in Personality and Generalship. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1957. ISBN 0-253-13400-5.
  • Gallagher, Gary W. Lee and His Generals in War and Memory. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1998. ISBN 0-8071-2958-5.
  • Hartwig, D. Scott. A Killer Angels Companion. Gettysburg, PA: Thomas Publications, 1996. ISBN 0-939631-95-4.
  • Hattaway, Herman, and Archer Jones. How the North Won: A Military History of the Civil War. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1983. ISBN 0-252-00918-5.
  • Knudsen, LTC Harold M. General James Longstreet: The Confederacy's Most Modern General. Tarentum, PA: Word Association Publishers, 2007. ISBN 1-59571-188-0.
  • Longstreet, James. From Manassas to Appomattox: Memoirs of the Civil War in America. New York: Da Capo Press, 1992. ISBN 0-306-80464-6. First published in 1896 by J. B. Lippincott and Co.
  • Lott, John. "Could Longstreet's Delay Have Been Avoided?" The Civil War Courier, February 2008.
  • O'Reilly, Francis Augustín. The Fredericksburg Campaign: Winter War on the Rappahannock. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2003. ISBN 0-8071-3154-7.
  • Rhea, Gordon C. The Battle of the Wilderness May 5–6, 1864. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1994. ISBN 0-8071-1873-7.
  • Sanger, Donald B., and Thomas Robson Hay. James Longstreet, I: Soldier. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1952. OCLC 445168
  • Sawyer, Gordon. James Longstreet: Before Manassas & After Appomattox. Gainesville, GA: Sawyer House Publishing, 2005. ISBN 0-9769331-0-1.
  • Smith, Jean Edward. Grant. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2001. ISBN 0-684-84927-5.
  • Tagg, Larry. The Generals of Gettysburg. Campbell, CA: Savas Publishing, 1998. ISBN 1-882810-30-9.
  • Wakelyn, Jon L. "James Longstreet." In Leaders of the American Civil War: A Biographical and Historiographical Dictionary, edited by Charles F. Ritter and Jon L. Wakelyn. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1998. ISBN 0-313-29560-3.
  • Welsh, Jack D. Medical Histories of Confederate Generals. Kent, OH: Kent State University Press, 1999. ISBN 978-0-87338-853-5.
  • Wert, Jeffry D. General James Longstreet: The Confederacy's Most Controversial Soldier: A Biography. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1993. ISBN 0-671-70921-6.
  • biography of Helen Dortch LongstreetNew Georgia Encyclopedia


  1. ^ Official Records Series 1, Vol. XXXI (Part I), p. 454. Eicher, pp. 353, 869, states that it was the District of East Tennessee; the Department was downgraded to the status of District (within the Department of Tennessee) on July 25, 1863.
  2. ^ Longstreet wrote in his memoirs, p. 13, that "It is difficult to determine whether the name sprang from France, Germany, or Holland."
  3. ^ Wert, pp. 19-22; Longstreet, p. 13; Dickson, p. 1213.
  4. ^ Wert, pp. 22-26; Dickson, p. 1213.
  5. ^ Longstreet, pp. 16-17; Wert, pp. 26-31; Eicher, p. 353.
  6. ^ Wert, pp. 26-31.
  7. ^ Smith, p. 73.
  8. ^ Sanger, p. 13.
  9. ^ "Civil War Notables At Monterrey". Retrieved 7 May 2014. 
  10. ^ Wert, pp. 35-45; Eicher, p. 353.
  11. ^ Wert, pp. 47-51; Eicher, p. 353.
  12. ^ Phillips, Kevin, The Cousins' Wars, New York: Basic Books, 1999, p. 347. Phillips gives no details of the plot or names other participants. None of the other references to this article mention this incident.
  13. ^ Dickson, p. 1213; Wert, pp. 51-53.
  14. ^ Wert, pp. 58-61. Longstreet, pp. 32-33, claimed that he sought only appointment as a paymaster, but historians such as Wert believe this was falsely modest and that he sought the glory of infantry command from the earliest days.
  15. ^ Tagg, p. 204; Wert, pp. 62-77; Dickson, p. 1214; Longstreet, pp 37-57.
  16. ^ Wert, pp. 90-91; Eicher, p. 353.
  17. ^ Tagg, p. 205; Wert, p. 97.
  18. ^ Wert, pp. 110-25; Dickson, p. 1214.
  19. ^ Dickson, p. 1214; Tagg, p. 204; Wert, pp. 134-52.
  20. ^ Wert, p. 206.
  21. ^ Wert, p. 164.
  22. ^ Gallagher, pp. 140-57; Tagg, p. 205; Wert, pp. 166-72.
  23. ^ Wert, p. 177.
  24. ^ Dickson, p. 1214; Longstreet, pp. 180-98; Wert, p. 179.
  25. ^ Knudsen, pp. 35-42.
  26. ^ Longstreet, pp. 239-78; Dickson, p. 1215; Wert, pp. 200, 205, 208.
  27. ^ Wert, pp. 215-23; Longstreet, pp. 297-321; Alexander, pp. 166-87; Dickson, p. 1215; O'Reilly, p. 499.
  28. ^ Wert, p. 228.
  29. ^ Wert, p. 228; Eicher, p. 353.
  30. ^ Tagg, p. 205; Alexander, p. 190; Wert, pp. 234-41; Longstreet, pp. 322-33.
  31. ^ Knudsen, pp. 62-65.
  32. ^ Wert, pp. 242-46.
  33. ^ Longstreet, p. 331.
  34. ^ Coddington, p. 11; Wert, p. 246.
  35. ^ Coddington, p. 12; Wert, p. 248.
  36. ^ Coddington, pp. 188-90.
  37. ^ Sears, Stephen W. "General Longstreet and the American Cause" American Heritage, Feb/March 2005.
  38. ^ Longstreet, pp. 346-61; Coddington, pp. 360-61; Tagg, p. 206.
  39. ^ Fuller, p. 198.
  40. ^ Coddington, pp. 378-79; Sears, pp. 258-61.
  41. ^ Dickson, p. 1215.
  42. ^ Wert, p. 268
  43. ^ Hattaway and Jones, pp. 406-07.
  44. ^ Coddington, pp. 378-80.
  45. ^ Pfanz, p. 123.
  46. ^ Callihan, p. 14.
  47. ^ Lott, p. 27.
  48. ^ Coddington, pp. 359-441; Longstreet, pp. 362-84; Tagg, pp. 206-07.
  49. ^ Coddington, pp. 455-58.
  50. ^ Wert, p. 283.
  51. ^ Alexander, pp. 254-65; Longstreet, pp. 385-425; Coddington, pp. 493-534; Wert, pp. 280-97; Tagg, p. 208.
  52. ^ Longstreet, p. 384.
  54. ^ Wert, pp. 300-05.
  55. ^ Knudsen, pp. 81-87.
  56. ^ Wert, pp. 308-20; Longstreet, pp. 445-79; Alexander, pp. 284-92.
  57. ^ Wert, pp. 325-28.
  58. ^ Knudsen, pp. 83-87.
  59. ^ Longstreet, pp. 460-65.
  60. ^ Wert, p. 338.
  61. ^ Wert, pp. 330-39; Longstreet, pp. 467-81.
  62. ^ Wert, p. 357.
  63. ^ Wert, pp. 340-59, 360-75; Longstreet, pp. 480-523.
  64. ^ John Randolph Poole (2000). Cracker Cavaliers: The 2nd Georgia Cavalry Under Wheeler and Forrest. Mercer University Press. p. 106.  
  65. ^ Wert, pp. 369-71; Longstreet, pp. 544-46.
  66. ^ Rhea, p. 42.
  67. ^ Wert, pp. 385-87.
  68. ^ Foote, p. 177.
  69. ^ Wert, pp. 385-89; Alexander, p. 360.
  70. ^ Sawyer, p. 63.
  71. ^ Project Canterbury website
  72. ^ a b Welsh, p. 144.
  73. ^ Wert, pp. 390-403; Alexander, p. 538; Longstreet, pp. 573-631.
  74. ^ Wert, pp. 407-10, 413-14; Longstreet, p. 634.
  75. ^ Wert, pp. 413-16.
  76. ^ Eicher, p. 353; Wert, pp. 417-19.
  77. ^  
  78. ^ Wert, pp. 418-25; Eicher, p. 353.
  79. ^ Wert, pp. 422-27.
  80. ^ a b Knudsen, pp. 7-19.
  81. ^ Gallagher, p. 62. Gallagher cites Freeman's description on the end of fighting on July 1 at Gettysburg: "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 "it has often been asked why Lee did not arrest him for insubordination or order him before a court-martial." Gallagher notes that Freeman comes to different conclusions in his later three-volume set, Lee's Lieutenants: a Study in Command, 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."
  82. ^ Gallagher, p. 207; Connelly and Bellows, pp. 32-38; Hartwig, p. 34; Wert, pp. 422-23.
  83. ^ New Georgia Encyclopedia
  84. ^ Hartwig, p. 2.
  85. ^ Wakelyn, p. 258.
  86. ^ Wert, p. 405.
  87. ^ Richard L. DiNardo. "Southern by the Grace of God but Prussian by Common Sense: James Longstreet and the Exercise of Command in the U.S. Civil War." The Journal of Military History 66. 4 (2002), pp. 1011-32.
  88. ^ Digital Library of Georgia
  89. ^ Dedication of the James Longstreet Memorial at Gettysburg
  90. ^ The Longstreet Society: Who We Are
  91. ^ The General Longstreet Recognition Project
  92. ^ The Killer AngelsReview summaries of .


In popular culture

Longstreet's Billet, the house in Russellville, Tennessee, that Longstreet occupied during the winter of 1863–64, has been converted into The Longstreet Museum, open to the public.

The Longstreet Society is an organization and museum in Gainesville, dedicated to the celebration and study of his life and career.[90] 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.[91]

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.[89]

Longstreet is remembered through numerous places that bear his name in and around U.S. Route 129 that crosses the Chattahoochee River (later dammed to form Lake Sidney Lanier), and the local Longstreet Chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy.[88]

Equestrian statue of CSA General James Longstreet on his horse Hero in Pitzer Woods at Gettysburg National Military Park, Gettysburg, PA

In memoriam

Jeffry D. Wert wrote that "Longstreet ... 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."[86] 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." DiNardo cited the effective way in which Longstreet delegated responsibilities for control of battlefield movements to his staff and how they were able to communicate with him more effectively during battles than the staffs of other Confederate generals during the war.[87]

The publication of Michael Shaara's novel The Killer Angels in 1974, based in part on Longstreet's memoirs, followed by its 1993 film adaptation, Gettysburg, have been credited with helping to restore Longstreet's reputation as a general and to dramatically raise his public visibility.[84] The 1982 work by Thomas L. Connolly and Barbara L. Bellows, God and General Longstreet, provided a "further upgrading of Longstreet through an attack on Lee, the Lost Cause, and the Virginia revisionists."[85]

After Longstreet's death, his second wife Helen privately published Lee and Longstreet at High Tide in his defense, in which she stated "the South was seditiously taught to believe that the Federal Victory was wholly the fortuitous outcome of the culpable disobedience of General Longstreet."[83]

Criticism from authors in the Lost Cause movement attacked Longstreet's war career for many years after his death. Knudsen maintains that because Longstreet became a "reconstructed rebel", embraced equal rights for blacks, unification of the nation, and reconstruction, he became the target of those who wanted to maintain racist policies and otherwise could not accept the verdict of the battlefield.[80] The attacks formally began on January 19, 1872, the anniversary of Robert E. Lee's birth, and less than two years after Lee's death. Jubal Early, in a speech at Washington College, exonerated Lee of his failure at Gettysburg and falsely accused Longstreet of attacking 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 of these allegations were fabrications;[80] however, Longstreet failed to challenge these lies publicly until 1875. The delay was damaging to his reputation, as the Lost Cause mythology had taken hold in common opinion by this time. In the 20th century Douglas Southall Freeman kept criticism of Longstreet foremost in Civil War scholarship in his biography of Lee.[81] Clifford Dowdey, a Virginia newspaperman and novelist, was noted for his severe criticism of Longstreet in the 1950s and 1960s.[82]


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.[72] He contracted pneumonia and died in Gainesville, six days before his 83rd birthday. 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.[79]

On one of his frequent return trips to New Orleans on business, Longstreet converted to Catholicism in 1877 and was a devout believer until his death.[77] He served as a U.S. Marshal from 1881 to 1884, but the return of a Democratic administration ended his political careers 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 Civil War documents and memorabilia. That December Louise Longstreet died. He remarried in 1897, in a ceremony at the governor's mansion in Atlanta, to Helen Dortch, age 34. 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.[78]

In 1875 the Longstreet family left New Orleans with concerns over health and safety, returning to 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 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.[76]

James Longstreet in later life (1896), affecting the sideburns of his opponent at Fredericksburg and Knoxville.

Longstreet was the only senior Confederate officer to join the Republican Party during Reconstruction. He endorsed Grant for president in 1868, attended his inauguration ceremonies, and six days later received an appointment as surveyor of customs in New Orleans. For these acts he lost favor with many 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." 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 New Orleans. During protests of election irregularities in 1874, referred to as the Battle of Liberty Place, an armed force of 8,400 White League members advanced on the State House. 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 required to restore order. Longstreet's use of black troops during the disturbances increased the denunciations by anti-Reconstructionists.[75]

After the war, Longstreet and his family settled in New Orleans and Northeastern Railroad.) He applied for a pardon from President Andrew Johnson, endorsed by his old friend 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 United States Congress restored his rights of citizenship in June 1868.[74]

James Longstreet after the War

Post-bellum life

[73] on April 9, 1865, Longstreet said, "General, if he does not give us good terms, come back and let us fight it out."Appomattox Court House, commanding both the First and Third Corps, following the death of A.P. Hill on April 2. As Lee considered surrender, Longstreet advised him of his belief that Grant would treat them fairly, but as Lee rode toward Appomattox Campaign he 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 Siege of Petersburg For the remainder of the [72] 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.[71] 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.[70] Longstreet missed the rest of the 1864 spring and summer campaign, where Lee sorely missed his skill in handling the army. He was treated in

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. E.P. 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."[69]

Finding out that his old friend Ulysses Grant was in command of the Union Army, he told his fellow officers that "he will fight us every day and every hour until the end of the war."[66] 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, in which he launched a powerful flanking attack along the Orange Plank Road against the Union II Corps and 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. Wilderness 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."[67] After the war, the Union II Corps commander that day, Maj. Gen. Winfield S. Hancock, said to Longstreet of this flanking maneuver: "You rolled me up like a wet blanket."[68]

Longstreet's attack in the Battle of the Wilderness, May 6, 1864, shortly before he was wounded.

Wilderness to Appomattox

His corps suffered through a severe winter in Eastern Tennessee with inadequate shelter and provisions. Writing to Georgia's Quartermaster General, [64] 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.[65]

Longstreet was criticized for the slow pace of his advance toward William T. 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 Evander M. 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.[63]

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.[58] While Bragg resigned himself and his army to the siege of the Union Joseph Hooker and arriving Union troops from the Eastern Theater in a disadvantageous position. The plan was well received and approved by President Davis,[59] but it was disapproved by Bragg, who objected to the significant logistical challenges it posed. Longstreet accepted Bragg's arguments[60] and agreed to a plan in which he and his men were dispatched to East Tennessee to deal with an advance by Union 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 the correct direction.[61]

Longstreet soon clashed with the much-maligned 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 leadership and abrasive personality; the arrival of Longstreet (the senior lieutenant general in the Army) and his officers, 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 did nothing to resolve the conflict.[57]

[56] The First Corps veterans arrived in the early stages of the

[54] In mid-August 1863, Longstreet resumed his attempts to be transferred to the Western Theater. He wrote a private letter to


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.[53]

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.[52]

Criticism of Longstreet after the war was based not only on his reputed conduct at the Battle of Gettysburg, but also intemperate remarks he made about Robert E. Lee and his strategies, such as:

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.[51]

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.[50]

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 harnessed 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:

Pickett's Charge, 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."[49]

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.[41] 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."[42] 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."[43] 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."[44] Gettysburg historian Harry Pfanz concluded that "Longstreet's angry dissidence had resulted in further wasted time and delay."[45] 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."[46] 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 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."[47] But Longstreet's command of the operation had for the most part, been reasonable, since taking the route he should have would have alerted the whole Union army of his assault. 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.[48]

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, 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.[39] 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.[40]

Longstreet's actions at the [38]

Gettysburg, July 2.

Battle of Gettysburg

In the initial movements of the campaign, Longstreet's corps followed Ewell's through the Shenandoah Valley. A spy he had hired, Henry Thomas Harrison who went by just "Harrison", was instrumental in warning the Confederates that the Union Army of the Potomac was advancing north to meet them more quickly than they had anticipated, prompting Lee to order the immediate concentration of his army near Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.[36]

[35] The

This 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."[34]

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.[33]

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. Lee was opposed to a division of his army and instead advocated a large-scale offensive or raid into Pennsylvania.[32] In his memoirs, Longstreet described his reaction to Lee's proposal:

Campaign plans


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.[30] 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.[31]

[29] In the early spring of 1863, Longstreet suggested to Lee that his corps be detached from the Army of Northern Virginia and sent to reinforce the


In December, Longstreet's First Corps played the decisive role in the Battle of Fredericksburg. 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 come. Remembering the slaughter at Antietam, in which the Confederates did not construct defensive works, Longstreet ordered trenches, abatis, and fieldworks to be constructed, which would set a precedent for future defensive battles of the Army of Northern Virginia. Additionally, Longstreet positioned his men behind a stone wall at the foot of Marye's Heights and held off fourteen assaults by Union forces. The Union army suffered almost 8,000 casualties at Marye's Heights, Longstreet only 1,000. 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.[27]


[26] 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. In the

Despite this criticism, the following day, August 30, was one of Longstreet's finest performances of the war. Pope came to believe that Jackson was starting to retreat and Longstreet took advantage of this by launching a massive assault on the Union army's left flank with over 25,000 men. For over four hours they "pounded like a giant hammer"[23] 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 (First Manassas), 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.[24]

When Longstreet's men arrived 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. the division of Brig. Gen. John Bell Hood moved forward against the troops of the Union V Corps, and Longstreet withdrew them at 8:30 p.m., having a better idea of the terrain and enemy soldiers in the area. On the next day, Longstreet's preparations paid dividends, as his artillery was a major factor in helping Jackson resist the V Corps attack, and he capitalized on Federal confusion by launching an attack of his own, anticipating an order from Lee that had not yet arrived. 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 Gen. 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."[22]

Longstreet circa 1862

The military reputations of Lee's corps commanders are often characterized as Stonewall Jackson representing the audacious, offensive component of Lee's army, whereas Longstreet more typically advocated and executed defensive strategies and tactics. Jackson has been described as the army's hammer, Longstreet its anvil.[20] In the Northern Virginia Campaign of August 1862, this stereotype did not hold true. Longstreet commanded the Right Wing (later to become known as the First Corps) and Jackson commanded the Left Wing. Jackson started the campaign under Lee's orders with a sweeping flanking maneuver that placed his corps into the rear of Union Maj. Gen. John Pope's Army of Virginia, 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 north to reach the battlefield. 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 Gen. Lee did not attempt to get his army concentrated any faster.[21]

Second Bull Run, Maryland, and Fredericksburg

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 well in his new, larger command, particularly at Gaines' Mill and Glendale. Lee's army in general suffered from weak performances by Longstreet's peers, including, uncharacteristically, Maj. Gen. Thomas J. "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." Gen. Lee said, "Longstreet was the staff in my right hand." He had been established as Lee's principal lieutenant.[19]

Longstreet turned in a mixed performance in 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.[18] Gen. Joseph E. Johnston was wounded during the battle and he was replaced in command of the Army of Northern Virginia by Gen. Robert E. Lee.

Tragedy struck the Longstreet family in January 1862. A scarlet fever epidemic in Richmond claimed the lives of his one-year-old daughter Mary Anne, his four-year-old son James, and eleven-year-old Augustus ("Gus"), all within a week. His 13-year-old son Garland almost succumbed. 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 more somber, he rarely drank, and he became a devout Episcopalian.[17]

Longstreet assembled his staff and trained his brigade incessantly. They saw their first action at Blackburn's Ford on July 18, resisting a Union Army reconnaissance in force that 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. Longstreet was infuriated that his commanders would not allow a vigorous pursuit of the defeated Union Army. His trusted staff officer, 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, "Retreat! Hell, the Federal army has broken to pieces."[15] On October 7, Longstreet was promoted to major general and assumed command of a division in the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia —four infantry brigades and Hampton's Legion.[16]

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.[14]

First Bull Run and the Peninsula

American Civil War

Longstreet was not enthusiastic about U.S. Army in June 1861 to cast his lot with the Confederacy in the Civil War.[13]

After the war and his recovery from the Chapultepec wound, Longstreet and his new wife served on frontier duty in Texas, primarily at Fort Martin Scott near Fredericksburg and Fort Bliss in El Paso. He performed scouting missions and also served as major and paymaster for the 8th Infantry from July 1858.[11] Author Kevin Phillips claims that during this period Longstreet was involved in a plot to draw the Mexican state of Chihuahua into the Union as a slave state.[12]

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.


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