James Longstreet


Who: James Longstreet

What: Principle subordinate to Robert E Lee in the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia.

Where: Born in Edgefield District, South Carolina; died Gainesville, Georgia.

Why: Arguably the best corps commander on either side of the Civil War.

When: Born January 8, 1821; died January 2, 1904.

“Not yet.” – General James Longstreet’s response to the suggestion from General Grant that Robert E Lee surrender.

Confederate General James Longstreet was born in South Carolina in 1821, and spent his youth in Georgia and Alabama, before attending West Point in 1838. He graduated 54th out of 56 in 1843, in the same class as George Pickett and Ulysses S Grant, attending Grant’s wedding in 1848. After serving with distinction in the Mexican-American War, he resigned from the U.S. Army in 1861 and was commissioned into the Confederate Army. He saw action at First Bull Run and the Seven Days’ Battles, in the latter driving George McClellan back down the Virginia Peninsula, establishing himself as an equal of Stonewall Jackson and Lee’s principal lieutenant. Jackson and Longstreet were described as Lee’s hammer and anvil – Jackson the daring, aggressive type and Longstreet the more cautious and defensive: the perfect match. At Gettysburg, Longstreet reluctantly oversaw the infamous ‘Pickett’s Charge’, which ended in a decisive Confederate defeat. He then requested a transfer to the Western Theater, winning decisively at Chickamauga, before reuniting with Lee at the Battle of the Wilderness, where he was wounded by friendly fire. After the war, Longstreet went into business, and supported the Republican party and his good friend Ulysses S Grant’s presidential campaign, a move which saw massive criticism in the South, and his use as a scapegoat in the Lost Cause movement. His apparent insubordination fuelled the movement’s vilification of him. He died in 1904, six days before his 83rd birthday after years of ill-health, having published his memoirs, defending himself against the attacks on his stellar war career from members of the Lost Cause movement.

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