Lee's Tarnished Lieutenant
Publication Year: 2013
In Lee's Tarnished Lieutenant, William Garrett Piston examines the life of James Longstreet and explains how a man so revered during the course of the war could fall from grace so swiftly and completely. Unlike other generals in gray whose deeds are familiar to southerners and northerners alike, Longstreet has the image not of a hero but of an incompetent who lost the Battle of Gettysburg and, by extension, the war itself. Piston's reappraisal of the general's military record establishes Longstreet as an energetic corps commander with an unsurpassed ability to direct troops in combat, as a trustworthy subordinate willing to place the war effort above personal ambition. He made mistakes, but Piston shows that he did not commit the grave errors at Gettysburg and elsewhere of which he was so often accused after the war.
In discussing Longstreet's postwar fate, Piston analyzes the literature and public events of the time to show how the southern people, in reaction to defeat, evolved an image of themselves which bore little resemblance to reality. As a product of the Georgia backwoods, Longstreet failed to meet the popular cavalier image embodied by Lee, Stuart, and other Confederate heroes. When he joined the Republican party during Reconstruction, Longstreet forfeited his wartime reputation and quickly became a convenient target for those anxious to explain how a "superior people" could have lost the war. His new role as the villain of the Lost Cause was solidified by his own postwar writings. Embittered by years of social ostracism resulting from his Republican affiliation, resentful of the orchestrated deification of Lee and Stonewall Jackson, Longstreet exaggerated his own accomplishments and displayed a vanity that further alienated an already offended southern populace.
Beneath the layers of invective and vilification remains a general whose military record has been badly maligned. Lee's Tarnished Lieutenant explains how this reputation developed--how James Longstreet became, in the years after Appomattox, the scapegoat for the South's defeat, a Judas for the new religion of the Lost Cause.
Published by: University of Georgia Press
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Confederate past. It is possible to argue, as Charles L. Dufour does inThe Night the War Was Lost, that the fall of New Orleans doomed theConfederacy.1 Nine Southern generals are buried in this city, amongthem P. G. T. Beauregard, John Bell Hood, and Leonidas Polk. Thecity is rich in bronze, with statues of Albert Pike, Jefferson Davis, and...
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...versity of South Carolina, for his invaluable advice and constant en-his to Lee is deliberate, although we have not always reached the samescript and provided helpful criticism: Professors Walter B. Edgar andJohn Scott Wilson of the University of South Carolina; the late HenryLee Swint, Professor Emeritus, Vanderbilt University; and Archer...
Prologue: Longstreet Antebellum
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...wheat, toward a stone wall and a clump of trees on a distant ridge. Itwas a hot July afternoon in 1863. The General was forty-two yearsold. He would live for another forty-one years, longer than almost allof the other high-ranking Confederates. Yet these hours spent in therolling hills surrounding the sleepy Pennsylvania town of Gettysburg...
PART I: Longstreet's Military Record: A Reappraisal
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1 From Manassas to Antietam
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...a comparable position in the Confederate forces. The error reflectseither false modesty or faulty memory. Major Longstreet was sta-tioned in Albuquerque, New Mexico Territory, in 1860. He opposedsecession but decided after Abraham Lincoln's election that he wouldside with the South if fighting broke out. In a move that his superiors...
2 From Fredericksburg to Gettysburg
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...participated in five major campaigns. While Seven Pines representeda colossal blunder, Blackburn's Ford, Williamsburg, the Seven Daysbattles, Second Manassas, and Antietam gave him a reputation anysoldier would envy. How had these experiences affected his outlookon the war? The wartime writings of the reticent Longstreet hold few...
3 "The Best Fighter in the Whole Army"
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...using the Shenandoah Valley to cover his advance into Maryland andPennsylvania. Ewell's Second Corps spearheaded the advance, captur-ing Winchester, Virginia, on the fifteenth. Ewell then moved intoPennsylvania, turning east at Chambersburg, dispersing his corps tocapture York and Carlisle. Longstreet and Hill followed a few days...
4 The Bull of the Woods at Chickamauga
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...force retreated from Cemetery Ridge. Although most of the army wasprepared to repulse any Federal counterattack, there was significantdemoralization.1 When General Pettigrew reported that he could notrally his men, Longstreet replied sarcastically, "just let them remainwhere they are; the enemy's going to advance, and they will spare you...
5 From East Tennessee to Appomattox
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...with his subordinates. Personality conflicts and petty jealousies hadplagued the Tennessee army for some time, and Bragg did not enjoya cordial relationship with any of his subordinates. He often seemedmore concerned with stifling dissent within his own forces than withdefeating those of the enemy. Given the depth of these problems and...
PART II: Longstreet's Place in Southern History
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6 Setting the Stage
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...moving at a leisurely pace and stopping frequently along his route tovisit relatives. He traveled only as far as New Orleans, however. Al-though the war was barely over, the Crescent City had already cap-tured the imagination of many prominent former Confederates, in-cluding Beauregard, Hood, and a host of lesser generals. Longstreet...
7 Scalawags, the Lost Cause, and the Sunrise Attack Controversy
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...leans Times, one of the city's leading Democratic newspapers. The pas-sage of the Military Reconstruction bills by Congress on March 2,1867, prompted its editor, W. H. C. King, to publish a list of promi-nent former Confederates residing in New Orleans. He appealed tothese men to submit their views on Reconstruction to the public, to...
8 The Anti-Longstreet Faction Emerges
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...badly and which has profoundly affected his place in history. Duringthis decade also, Early, Jones, and Pendleton set Robert E. Lee on theroad to sainthood. Lee's devotees became so fanatical in their en-deavors that they have rightly been described as a cult.1 Longstreetwas an integral part of this interesting phenomenon, through his role...
9 A Georgia Republican Courting Clio
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...the city's finest hotels. A Tribune journalist observing patrons at theprestigious Fifth Avenue Hotel in June 1881 was therefore able tointerview General Longstreet the moment he returned from Europe,having just resigned his position as United States minister to TurkeyThe reporter found Longstreet, then sixty years old, to be a fine-...
10 A Procrustean Ending
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...was rumored to be a crack shot, and few youngsters wished to test hishours on the farm that his neighbors called Gettysburg behind hisback. Wearing a broad-brimmed straw hat and a linen duster as whitepruned his orchard with loving care. He raised turkeys as well, selling1889 he was sixty-eight years old and probably still supported his son...
11 Longstreet Postmortem
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...ing of his place in Southern history. The early years of the twentiethcentury saw the publication of a final spate of works by key membersof the anti-Longstreet faction. In 1906 the seventy-year-old ReverendJones produced Life and Letters of Robert Edward Lee, Soldier and Man,which included a twenty-page refutation of Longstreet's memoirs and...
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...were a product of his controversies with Early and his supporters anddid not characterize Longstreet during the war. The assumption thatthey were lifelong characteristics has been a major historical error.But no single person or factor created Longstreet's negative image. Itresulted from a complex combination of personalities and circum-...
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Page Count: 272
Publication Year: 2013