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MARS AND THE REVEREND LONGSTREET: OR, ATTACKING AND DYING IN THE CIVIL WAR Albert Castel During the early months of 1864 soldiers of the Confederate Army of Tennessee received copies of a pamphlet on military tactics written by an author whose last name was Longstreet. In spite of its subject, however , the pamphlet did not come from the pen of Lee's "war horse," Lieutenant General James Longstreet. Instead it was the handiwork of his sixty-eight-year-old uncle, the Reverend Augustus Baldwin Longstreet , LL.D. Before the war the reverend was far more famous than the general. Not only was he a prominent Methodist minister and university president, he also was the author of Georgia Scenes, a popular and highly praised collection of short stories first published in 1835 and still regarded as a classic of early American literature. Thus the Reverend Longstreet was more than just another preacher; he was a public figure of considerable prestige and influence. Although he originally opposed secession, once it occurred and the war began Longstreet passionately supported the cause of Confederate independence. By the end of 1863 tfiat cause was in desperate straits. Terrible defeats had been suffered at Gettysburg, Vicksburg, and Missionary Ridge, the Northern invaders had occupied large and vital areas of the South, and there no longer could be any realistic hope of BritishFrench intervention. Only if the Southern armies could drive back or at least hold back the Federal forces could the Confederacy survive. But these armies were heavily outnumbered; moreover, the South had reached the bottom of its manpower barrel, whereas the North could pour, and in fact was pouring, hundreds of thousands of fresh troops into the struggle. How, then, could defeat be staved off and victory achieved? The reverend's answer was that the Confederate soldiers should strike to make up for their inferiority in numbers with a superiority in fighting spirit, thereby enabling quality to prevail over quantity. To that end he wrote and published his pamphlet, which he entitled Civil War History, Vol. XXXIII, No. 2, © 1987 by The Kent State University Press 104CIVIL WAR HISTORY "Valuable Suggestions Addressed to the Soldiers of the Confederate States."1 In it he endeavored with logic and statistics to persuade his soldierreaders that though the Yankees badly outnumbered them, they could still achieve victory through sheer fortitude, determination and will power: Let each man go into the battlefield with this train of reflections: "I shall be frightened of course. At what? Why at the danger to which my life is exposed. Well, now, what is really the extent of that danger? In the most sanguinary battle, not one fifth ofthe combatants are killed or wounded. The chances are, therefore, five to one that I shall not be hurt. The proportion of the slightly wounded and recoverably wounded is to the killed and mortally wounded as five is to one. The chances are, therefore, five to one, that if touched at all, I shall not be mortally wounded. The cannon are the common engines which unnerve men. Now, of the whole number of killed in battle not more than one in one hundred are killed by cannon [at this point Longstreet has a footnote affirming that "I state this upon the authority of a Brigadier General ofmany battles, who has turned his attention to this matter on the field."]. A hundred to one, therefore, that those noisy bellowers do not hurt me. The alternative is presented to me, to stand my ground in spite of my fears, or to run. Now, in which is the most danger? Why surely in running; for as a general rule, of a given number, more men are killed in flight than in fight. While I stand my ground, I am all the time destroying, weakening and disheartening the enemy and encouraging my companions in arms. Victory, therefore, is likely to insure my safety. . . . If ten thousand engage twenty thousand, the labor of fighting is about equal on both sides. The human constitution can only endure a certain amount of labor and fatigue, and at this point the belligerents must stop. All otherthings being equal then, ifthetenthousand hold on to this...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1533-6271
Print ISSN
0009-8078
Pages
pp. 103-114
Launched on MUSE
2012-01-04
Open Access
No
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