General James Longstreet

 

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Confederate Generals

General James Longstreet

James Longstreet in Harper's Weekly

General James Longstreet

Biography

Born in Edgefield District, South Carolina, January 8, 1821, the son of a farmer, Longstreet spent his early years in Augusta, Georgia.  On the death of his father he went with his mother to Somerville, Alabama.  Corps commander James Longstreet made three mistakes that have denied him his deserved place in Southern posterity: He argued with Robert E. Lee at Gettysburg, he was right, and he became a Republican. He entered West Point from Alabama, graduated in 1842, and was wounded at Chapultepec in Mexico. With two brevets and the staff rank of major he resigned his commission on June 1, 1861, and joined the Confederacy. His assignments included: brigadier general, CSA June 17, 1861); commanding brigade (in 1st Corps after July 20), Army of the Potomac July 2 - October 7, 1861);major general, CSA (October 7, 1861); commanding division, Ist Corps, Army of the Potomac (October 14-22, 1861);

General James Longstreet

General James Longstreet

commanding division (in Potomac District until March 1862), Department of Northern Virginia (October 22, 1861 - July 1862); commanding lst Corps, Army of Northern Virginia July 1862 - February 25, 1863; May - September 9, 1863; April 12 - May 6, 1864; and October 19, 1864-April 9, 1865); lieutenant general, CSA (October 9, 1862); commanding Department of Virginia and North Carolina (February 25-May 1863); commanding his corps, Army of Tennessee (September 19-November 5, 1863); and commanding Department of East Tennessee (November 5, 1863-April 12, 1864).

Commanding a brigade, he fought at Blackburn's Ford and 1st Bull Run before moving up to divisional leadership for the Peninsula Campaign. There he saw further action at Yorktown, Williamsburg, Seven Pines, and the Seven Days. In the final days of the latter he also directed A. P. Hill's men. Commanding what was variously styled a "wing," "command," or "corps," the latter not being legally recognized until October 1862, he proved to be a capable subordinate to Robert E. Lee at second Bull Run, where he delivered a crushing attack. He also saw service at South Mountain, Antietam, and Fredericksburg.

 

 By now promoted to be the Confederacy's senior lieutenant general, he led an independent expedition into southeastern Virginia where he displayed a lack of ability on his own. Rejoining Lee, he opposed attacking at Gettysburg in favor of maneuvering Meade out of his position. Longstreet, who had come to believe in the strategic offense and the tactical defense, was proven right when the Confederate attacks on the second and third days were repulsed. Detached to reinforce General Braxton Bragg in Georgia, he commanded a wing of the army on the second day at Chickamauga. In the dispute over the follow-up of the victory he was critical of Bragg and was soon detached to operate in East Tennessee. Here again he showed an incapacity for independent operations, especially in the siege of Knoxville. Rejoining Lee at the Wilderness, he was severely wounded, in the confusion, by Confederate troops. He resumed command in October during the Petersburg operations and commanded on the north side of the James. Lee's "Old War Horse" remained with his chief through the surrender at Appomattox.

After the war he befriended Grant and became a Republican. He served as Grant's minister to Turkey. He also served as commissioner of Pacific Railroads under Mckinley and Roosevelt, from 1897 to 1904. Criticized by many former Confederates, he struck back with his book, From Manassas to Appomattox. He outlived most of his high-ranking postwar detractors. He died at Gainsville, Georgia, on January 2, 1904, the last of the high command of the Confederacy. He is buried in Gainsville.

 

 

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