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"General Longstreet And The Lost Cause" Topic

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American Civil War

448 hits since 14 Mar 2018
©1994-2019 Bill Armintrout
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Tango01 Supporting Member of TMP15 Mar 2018 10:50 a.m. PST

Old.. but still interesting article…

"What are we to make of James Longstreet, lieutenant general, Confederate States Army? Longstreet's newest biographer subtitles his work "The Confederacy‘s Most Controversial Soldier." Not the most controversial during those four years of war, surely. Why, on that smoking battlefield at Antietam, this was the soldier General Lee affectionately called "my old war-horse." This was the soldier who, during that hopeless last march toward Appomattox, when the question came up if it was finally time to surrender, said calmly, "Not yet." This was the soldier who, when Lee rode off soon afterward to see Grant, said, again calmly, "General, if he does not give us good terms, come back and let us fight it out." The "most controversial"? Not that soldier!

No, that subtitle should have been "The Confederacy‘s Most Controversial Ex-Soldier." Only in the nearly four decades left to him after the war did he become so argued over. How that came about is a cautionary tale for those who write Civil War history, and for those who read it. It is also an argument in favor of the rewriting of history every generation or so.

When "Old Pete," as he was called by his men (the moniker arose from a childhood nickname), came to write his war memoir, he called it From Manassas to Appomattox . He did not miss much in between. Longstreet was by trade a professional infantry officer. A rural Southerner—born in South Carolina, reared in Georgia, accepted at West Point from Alabama—he was not of the gentleman caste. He graduated 54th of 56 in the Academy class of 1842. Only the cream of the graduates had a choice of the specialty Army branches; he was posted to the infantry. His closest friend there was 2nd Lt. Ulysses S. Grant. During the war with Mexico, Longstreet showed mettle in infantry-leading, winning two brevets for gallantry and taking a bad wound in the storming of Chapultepec. For most of the next dozen years he served on frontier duty, in Texas and the Southwest. He moved from line to staff in 1858 and, at the time of Fort Sumter, he was a major in the paymaster's office. His record was solid but wholly unremarkable, rather like Old Pete himself…."
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