Friday, January 2, 2009

The Old War Horse

One of the principal Confederate Generals James Longstreet died on this day in 1904. He was born January 8th 1821 in the Edgefield District of SC. He was the fifth child of James and Mary Ann [Dent] Longstreet, who owned a cotton plantation near Gainesville. It was his father who felt a military career was the way James should go, and to get him the right education he was sent to live with an uncle in Augusta,GA, where he attended Richmond County Academy. He got an appointment to West Point in 1838, but was a poor student who ranked 54 out 56 cadets when he graduated in 1842. It was here that he made one of his closest friends, Ulysses S Grant who was a year behind him. They both saw service during the war with Mexico

Longstreet was General Robert E Lee’s “Old War Horse”, and saw action as a corp commander in the Army of Northern Virginia, and with General Braxton Bragg in the Army of Tennessee. There is still controversy over his role at Gettysburg and the disastrous assault known as Pickett’s Charge.

After the war Longstreet joined the Republican Party and found himself on wrong side of Southern politics, and it damaged his reputation. However through his old friend President Ulysses S Grant he enjoyed a career as a US Government civil servant, marshal and diplomat. He subsequently settled onto a 65 acre farm where he raised turkeys and had orchards and a vineyard. A fire there in April 1889 destroyed the house and many of his personal Civil War possessions. After long years of having his reputation trashed, Longstreet wrote his memoirs in 1896 “From Manassas to Appomattox where he refuted many of the arguments.

General Longstreet’s last years were spent in poor health from rheumatism and deafness. He developed Cancer in his right eye, and than came down with pneumonia. He died January 2nd 1904, and is buried in the Alta Vista Cemetery.

Some other good reading on the subject

General James Longstreet: the Confederacy's Most Modern General

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