Sunday, November 19, 2023


Lt. Gen. James Longstreet remains the Confederacy’s most controversial senior military leader. Born in 1821, the West Point graduate, like many of his future comrades in arms, served ably during the war with Mexico and on the Western frontier before resigning his commission in 1861 to join the Confederacy. ....

Longstreet commanded troops from brigade to corps level in the major battles of the war’s eastern theater and in 1863 scored a decisive victory at Chickamauga, the largest and bloodiest battle in the west. He opposed Lee’s ill-fated frontal attack—the famous Pickett’s Charge—at Gettysburg, and for this and other perceived failings, Lost Cause apologists and Lee acolytes have long blamed him for the Confederate defeat there, which, they argue, cost the South the war.

But Longstreet earned the lasting opprobrium of former Confederates less for his supposed failures at Gettysburg than for his rapid acceptance of Reconstruction and his early postwar membership in the Republican Party. He supported the integrationist policies of his friend President Ulysses S. Grant, advocated racial reconciliation, and rejected the Lost Cause mythology that absolved a saintlike Lee of any responsibility for Southern defeat.

Longstreet’s long and troubled postwar life (he lived until 1904) included duty as the commander of the interracial New Orleans police and Louisiana state militia, which he led in defense of the Republican state government against an attempted violent coup by white supremacists in 1874. Longstreet also served as United States minister to the Ottoman Empire. And for years he expended much energy waging literary war with Jubal Early and other Confederate veterans who sought to scapegoat him for the South’s defeat. ....

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