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Confederate Leaders: Longstreet

James (“Pete”) Longstreet (1821-1904)

Longstreet served in the Seminole wars, the Mexican War (1 wound, 2 brevets), and on the frontier before resigning 1 June ’61. Appointed BG, C.S.A. 17 Jun ’61, Longstreet commanded a brigade at First Manassas (21 Jul ’61). He was promoted MG, 7 Oct. ’61, and commanded a division at Yorktown and Williamsburg, Fair Oaks and Seven Pines. In the reorganization that followed the Peninsular campaign Longstreet was given command of a wing containing over half of Lee’s infantry. During Second Manassas (29-30 Aug ’62) his command fell on the Union left flank to route the Federals. At Antietam Longstreet’s command held the Confederate right flank. He was promoted LTG on 9 Oct ’62. Shortly thereafter his command was reorganized and designated the First Corps, Army of Northern Virginia. At Fredericksburg (13 Dec ’62) his corps performed with distinction, throwing back multiple attacks on Lee’s left flank. In Feb ’63 Longstreet was sent to the Suffolk, Virginia as temporary commander of the Confederate Department of North Carolina and Southern Virginia.

James "Pete" Longstreet

Rejoining Lee’s army after Chancellorsville (1-4 May ’63), Longstreet joined the army’s march into Pennsylvania. He was opposed to the Gettysburg campaign in general and instead favored an offensive by Lee in the West. But since Lee was determined to invade Pennsylvania, Longstreet felt the campaign should be strategically offensive but tactically defensive and had the erroneous impression that Lee subscribed to this theory. His delay in attacking on the second day at Gettysburg, and his perceived lethargy in organizing “Pickett’s Charge” on 3 Jul exposed him to the most vindictive criticism by Southerners after the war. However, Lee never gave any intimation that he considered Longstreet’s failure at Gettysburg more than the error of a good soldier.

In Sep ’63 Longstreet was sent with two of his divisions to support Bragg’s army in the West. After the Battle of Chickamauga he was sent to oppose Burnside in the Knoxville Campaign. In ’64 he led his command back to join Lee for the Wilderness campaign and was seriously wounded on 6 May ’64 by his own men, almost precisely a year after Jackson had been mortally wounded under similar circumstances nearby. Longstreet was out of action until 19 Oct, when he was put in command of the forces at Bermuda Hundred and north of the James River. Longstreet joined Lee’s army on its retreat to Appomattox where he surrendered (9 Apr ’65). After the war he became president of an insurance company and joined the Republican party. He was at one time Minister Resident to Turkey.

Note: Biographical information comes from the U.S. Army Center for Military History Gettysburg Staff Ride book.

Posted in Civil War.

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