James Longstreet (January 8, 1821 – January 2, 1904), sometimes called Old Pete, was one of the foremost Confederate generals of the American Civil War and the principal subordinate to General Robert E. Lee, who called him his "Old War Horse." He served under Lee as a corps commander for many of the famous battles fought by the Army of Northern Virginia (of which he was second-in-command for most of the war) in the Eastern Theater, but also with Gen. Braxton Bragg in the Army of Tennessee in the Western Theater.
He enjoyed a successful post-war career working for the U.S. Government as a diplomat, civil servant, and administrator. However, his conversion to the Republican Party and his cooperation with his old friend, President Ulysses S. Grant, as well as critical comments he wrote in his memoirs about General Lee's wartime performance, made him anathema to many of his former Confederate colleagues. He commanded black troops to suppress a New Orleans uprising in 1874, making him anathema to many of his former Confederate colleagues.
An oft-repeated tactical observation, commonly attributed to Longstreet, is sometimes worded as "raw troops and virgins are equally sensitive, when it comes to the matter of their flanks." Perhaps a dozen different wordings of this sentiment have found their way into the thoughts of Harry Turtledove characters.
James Longstreet in The Guns of the South
James Longstreet participated in the Army of Northern Virginia's 1864 spring campaign, which led to Confederate victory in the Second American Revolution. The campaign was waged against forces commanded by Ulysses S. Grant. Robert E. Lee sought out Longstreet, who had known Grant quite well during the Antebellum, for insight into the mind of his opponent.
Though Lee and Longstreet had a mutually respectful relationship, Lee was aware that of the generals serving beneath him in the Army of Northern Virginia, none was more willing to set his judgments against those of the Army's commander than Longstreet.
Longstreet remained in the Confederate States Army after the war ended, and was present at President Lee's inauguration ceremony on March 4, 1868. He also served as a guard for Lee in the immediate aftermath of the Richmond Massacre. Despite the grim and tragic nature of the situation, Longstreet was able to observe how many senior officers comprised Lee's improvised guard, and make a joke about there being too many generals and not enough soldiers.
James Longstreet in Southern Victory
James Longstreet entered politics after the War of Secession, eventually becoming the fourth President of the Confederate States, leading his country through the Second Mexican War and expanding the C.S. to the Pacific Ocean.
At the Battle of Camp Hill, Longstreet displayed offensive skill when he advanced on the right flank of the Army of the Potomac. The flank's commander, General Joseph Hooker, was temporarily stunned by a near-miss from a Confederate artillery shell, and after Hooker failed to respond to the probing attack, Longstreet took advantage of the confusion to order a general attack. The right flank was turned, and the Army of the Potomac was destroyed, allowing Lee to advance on Philadelphia and win the war.
After the war, Longstreet became involved in politics. In 1879 he was elected President of the CS as a member of the Whig Party. As President, he purchased the states of Chihuahua and Sonora from the Empire of Mexico. United States President James G. Blaine informed Longstreet that the US would not tolerate the purchase on pain of war, and Longstreet led the country to victory in the Second Mexican War. Though Longstreet despised Mormons, he became the first Confederate president to support their resistance movement in Utah. The same policy was carried out by his wartime successors, Woodrow Wilson and Jake Featherston, in later wars against the US.
The Confederate victory was at least as much due to Longstreet's skill at diplomacy as to the superior tactics and strategy of its military commanders. The cornerstone of his policy was the maintenance of the alliance with Great Britain and France, which had been the key factor in the CS gaining independence in the first place. The price, which Longstreet was willing to pay, was the manumission of the black slaves.
His diplomatic skill was especially evident in his use of the accidental capture of the veteran abolitionist Frederick Douglass by Confederate forces. Rather than the vindictive attitude which many other Confederates would have adopted on the capture of such a staunch foe, Longstreet ordered Douglass' immediate release, so as to appear magnanimous in the eyes of British and French public opinion - and reaped the reward of intensified military involvement of his allies in the war against the US.
After the Second Mexican War, Longstreet duly fulfilled his part of the bargain and helped bring about a Constitutional amendment to end slavery. The freed slaves were not made Confederate citizens, and remained at the bottom of the Confederate social ladder not even being allowed to have surnames.
Thus, the long term political and diplomatic heritage of Longstreet left the problem of the disenfranchised black population as a running sore which would considerably trouble the Confederacy in generations to come, up to the country's defeat in the Great War and later the horrors of Jake Featherston's regime during the Second Great War.
- James of Broadpath, a POV character in The War Between the Provinces: Sentry Peak, who is closely based on Longstreet.
- Samuel Longstreet, a minor fictional character in American Empire: The Center Cannot Hold, who is identified as a descendant of Longstreet.
- Ralph Longstreet, a minor fictional character in The War That Came Early: West and East, whose name similarity to Longstreet is noted in the text.
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