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  • General James Longstreet

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    James Longstreet was a U.S. Army officer, government official and most famously a lieutenant general in the Confederate Army during the Civil War (1861-65).  One of Robert E. Lee’s most trusted subordinates, Longstreet played a pivotal role in Confederate operations in both the Eastern and Western Theaters of the war. Known as “Lee’s War Horse,” Longstreet first distinguished himself in early Confederate victories at the Battles of First and Second Bull Run before mounting a pair of successful defensive stands at the Battles of Antietam and Fredericksburg in 1862. Longstreet played a controversial part in the Confederate defeat at the Battle of Gettysburg in 1863, in which he reluctantly oversaw “Pickett’s Charge,” a doomed offensive that resulted in a Confederate defeat.  Longstreet later took part in the crucial Confederate victory at the Battle of Chickamauga in Tennessee, and was seriously wounded during the Battle of the Wilderness in 1864.  After the war Longstreet’s criticism of Robert E. Lee’s tactics and his support of Lincoln’s Republican party—in particular the 1868 presidential campaign of Ulysses S. Grant—led to repeated attacks on his character in the South.  Longstreet would go on to serve as the U.S. ambassador to Turkey and as a railroad commissioner before his death in 1904.

    Lieutenant-General James Longstreet was born in Edgefield district, South Carolina, January 8, 1821, the son of James Longstreet, a native of New Jersey.  His maternal grandfather, Marshall Dent, was a first cousin of Chief Justice John Marshall.  His grandfather, William Longstreet, was the first to apply steam as a motive power, in 1787, to a small boat on the Savannah river at Augusta.

    General Longstreet was reared to the age of twelve years at Augusta, Ga., whence after the death of his father he accompanied his mother to North Alabama.  From that State, he was appointed to the United States military academy in 1838.  He was graduated in 1842, and with the brevet of second-lieutenant went on duty at Jefferson Barracks, Mo., with the Fourth infantry.

    The command was joined next year by Lieutenant U. S. Grant, whom Longstreet introduced to his cousin, Miss Julia Dent, subsequently the wife of the Federal general.  In 1844 Longstreet joined the army in Louisiana under General Taylor, and in 1845, promoted lieutenant of the Eighth regiment, was at St. Augustine, Fla., until he was ordered to Taylor's army in Texas.

    He participated in the battles of Palo Alto, Resaca de la Palma, Monterey, Vera Cruz, Cerro Gordo, San Antonio, Churubusco, and Molino del Rey, winning the brevets of captain and major.  At Chapultepec he was severely wounded.  He was promoted captain in 1852, and in 1858 major and paymaster, and stationed at Albuquerque, N. M.  Resigning this office he reported at Richmond June 29, 1861, and asked an appointment in the pay department, having resigned "aspirations for military glory."  But he received a commission as brigadier-general July 1st, and was ordered to report to Beauregard at Manassas, where, in command of the First, Eleventh and Seventeenth Virginia regiments, he repulsed the Federal attack at Blackburn's Ford, July 18th, and during the battle of July 21st threatened the Federal rear.

    On October 17th he was promoted to major-general, and with this rank he commanded a division of the army under Joseph E. Johnston, and at the battle of Williamsburg was in immediate command of the field, manifesting here those sturdy qualities which gave him to such a great degree the confidence of his men, and won their admiration.  He commanded the right wing of the army before Richmond during the two days' battle of Seven Pines, and was in command of his own and A. P. Hill's division, under Robert E. Lee, in the successful battles of Gaines' Mill and Frayser's Farm, and was preparing to make a flank movement against the Federals at Malvern Hill when the series of battles ended by the safe retreat of McClellan to the James.  After following the retreating enemy to Harrison's Landing, he there entered upon his command of the First corps of the army of Northern Virginia, Stonewall Jackson leading the Second.

    Jackson marched at once to confront Pope in northern Virginia, and Longstreet soon followed.  While Jackson flanked the enemy from their strong position on the Rappahannock he engaged them at various points on the river, and finally forcing the passage of Thoroughfare Gap, participated in the crushing defeat of Pope's army.  In the Maryland campaign he moved his division from Frederick to Hagerstown, with part of his command holding the South Mountain passes, while Jackson captured Harper's Ferry, and at Sharpsburg he won additional renown for stubborn and heroic fighting.

    October 9, 1862, he was promoted to lieutenant-general.  At Fredericksburg the fighting of the left wing, including the heroic defense of Marye's Hill, was under his supervision.  In the spring of 1863 he operated with part of his corps at Suffolk, Va., but rejoined Lee at Fredericksburg after the battle of Chancellorsville and the mortal wounding of Jackson.

    It was decided at this crisis to make a diversion by a campaign in Pennsylvania, and in accordance with the general plan Longstreet moved his command to Chambersburg, Pa., and thence to Gettysburg, reaching the field in person on the afternoon of the first day of the battle.  General Lee having been successful thus far, decided to continue the fight on the Federal front.

    Longstreet's troops, having arrived, participated in the second day's battle, and on the third day, under orders from Lee, Pickett's division, reinforced by Pettigrew and Trimble, made the memorable charge against the Federal position on Cemetery Hill.  After the Confederate army had retired to Virginia, Longstreet, with Hood and McLaws' divisions, was sent to reinforce Bragg in north Georgia, and as commander of the left wing at Chickamauga he crushed the Federal right, becoming, as D. H. Hill wrote, "The organizer of victory on the Confederate side, as Thomas was the savior of the army on the other side."

    After Rosecrans was shut up in Chattanooga Longstreet was detached for the capture of Knoxville.  Marching to that point in November, on heavy roads, he had begun assaults upon the works when apprised of the defeat of Bragg at Chattanooga.  Rejoining the army of Northern Virginia before the fighting began in the Wilderness, on May 6 he reached the field opportunely and led his men in a successful assault which promised the defeat of Grant's army, when in the confusion a Confederate volley seriously wounded him and killed his favorite brigade commander, the gallant General Jenkins.

    During the greater part of the siege at Richmond and Petersburg he commanded on the north side of the James, and on the movement to Appomattox he commanded the advance and the main portion of the army.  After hostilities closed he was told by President Johnson that he was one of three, the others being Mr. Davis and General Lee, who could never receive amnesty.

    It was subsequently bestowed, however, and he engaged in business at New Orleans.  During Grant's presidency he was appointed surveyor of the port of that city, and afterward supervisor of internal revenue and postmaster.  In 1880 he was appointed United States minister to Turkey, and under President Garfield he was United States marshal for the district of Georgia, in which State he has made his residence of recent years, at the town of Gainesville.  In October, 1897, he was appointed United States railroad commissioner to succeed General Wade Hampton resigned.

    Lieutenant-General JAMES Longstreet (U.S.M.A. 1842) was born in Edgefield District, South Carolina, January 8, 1821, and served in the Mexican War, where he was severely wounded.

    In June, 1861, he resigned as major in the army and was appointed brigadier-general in the Confederate service.  As major-general, he had a division, and, later, as lieutenant-general, the First Corps of the Army of Northern Virginia.  In September, 1863, he was sent with part of his corps to Tennessee and took command of the left wing at the battle of Chickamauga.  He was then placed at the head of the Department of East Tennessee and returned to Virginia in April, 1864. He was severely wounded at the battle of the Wilderness, May 6, 1864, but resumed command of the corps in October.  After the war, he engaged in business in New Orleans and held several political offices.  In 1880-81 he was American minister to Turkey, and in 1898 he was appointed United States railway commissioner.He died at Gainesville, Georgia, January 2, 1904.

    Lieutenant colonel, infantry, C. S. A., March 16, 1861.

    Brigadier general, P. A. C. S., June 17, 1861.

    Major general, P. A. C. S., October 7, 1861.

    Lieutenant general, P. A. C. S., October 9, 1862.

    Brigade composed of the First, Seventh, Eleventh and Seventeenth Virginia Regiments Infantry, being the Fourth Brigade, First Corps, Army of the Potomac.  Division composed of the brigades of Kemper, Pickett, Willcox, Anderson, Pryor and Featherston, Army of Northern Virginia. Commanding First Corps, Army of Northern Virginia, from August 13, 1862, to August 15, 1863. At battle of Fredericksburg, November 19, 1862, corps composed of the divisions of Anderson, Pickett, Ransom, Hood and McLaws, and the artillery battalions of Colonels Alexander and Walton.

    In October, 1863, commanding corps in the Army of Tennessee, composed of the divisions of McLaws, Preston, Walker, Hood and Bushrod R. Johnson, and the artillery battalions of Alexander, Williams, Leyden and Robertson. Pickett's Division also constituted a part of this corps.

    Commanding, from December 5, 1863, until April 12, 1864, the Department of East Tennessee.    Commanding First Corps, Army of Northern Virginia, January 13, 1865.

    Longstreet, James, born in South Carolina, appointed from Alabama cadet United States Military Academy, July 1, 1838; graduated fifty-fourth in a class of fifty-six.

    Brevet second lieutenant, Fourth Infantry, July 1, 1842.

    Second lieutenant, Eighth Infantry, March 4,1845.

    First lieutenant, February 23, 1847.

    Regimental adjutant, June 8,1847, to July 1, 1849.

    Captain, December 7, 1852.

    Major and paymaster, July 19, 1858.

    Brevet captain, August 20, 1847, for gallant and meritorious services in the battles of Contreras and Churubusco, Mexico, and Brevet Major, September 8,1847, for gallant and meritorious conduct in the battle of Molino del Rey.  Resigned June 1, 1861.


    Inventory Number: CDV 084