This illustration depicts James Longstreet giving orders at Gettysburg. Image Source: Library of Congress.
General James Longstreet (1821–1904) rose to the rank of Lieutenant General in the Confederate Army during the Civil War (1861—1865). He was one of Robert E. Lee’s most trusted officers, and Lee called him his “Old War Horse.”
When the Civil War started, James Longstreet was working as a paymaster for the United States Army in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Despite his personal objection to secession and the Secession Crisis, the Battle of Fort Sumter pushed him to align with the Southern Cause.
He resigned from his commission in the U.S. Army on June 1, 1861, and returned to Alabama. When he arrived, he offered his services to the Confederacy. Soon after, he received a commission as a Brigadier General in the Confederate Army on June 25, 1861. On October 7, 1861, he was promoted to Major General and assumed command of a division of the Army of Northern Virginia.
Longstreet fought through most of the major campaigns in the Easter Theater of the Civil War. He also commanded troops during the Chickamauga Campaign, Chattanooga Campaign, and the Knoxville Campaign in the West.
In 1864, Longstreet rejoined the Army of Northern Virginia. On May 6, 1864, during the Battle of the Wilderness, Longstreet received severe wounds in the neck and right shoulder from friendly fire, only a few miles from where Stonewall Jackson suffered the same fate a year earlier.
Unlike Jackson, Longstreet survived his wounds and returned to action in time to take part in the Appomattox Campaign. Longstreet was present when Robert E. Lee surrendered to Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox Court House, Virginia, on April 9, 1865.
James Longstreet Joins the Confederate States of America
- James Longstreet resigned his commission in the United States Army on June 1, 1861, and joined the Confederate Army as a Lieutenant Colonel commanding infantry.
- James Longstreet was appointed as a Brigadier General, in the Confederate Army on June 25, 1861 (dating to June 17).
General James Longstreet in the Civil War — 1861
- General James Longstreet was a brigade commander of the Confederate Army of the Potomac during the First Battle of Bull Run (July 21, 1861).
- Longstreet was promoted to Major General, in the Confederate Army on October 7, 1861, and assumed command of a division of the Army of Northern Virginia.
General James Longstreet in the Civil War — 1862
- General James Longstreet served under General Joseph Johnston and then General Robert E. Lee during the Peninsula Campaign in the spring of 1862.
- Longstreet has been criticized for his delay in attacking the Union army at the Second Battle of Bull Run on August 29, 1862, despite direct orders from Robert E. Lee to do so. The delay allowed Union forces, under command of General George Meade, to prepare for the Confederate attack.
- Longstreet’s 1st Corps delivered a crushing flank attack at the Second Battle of Bull Run (August 28–30, 1862).
- His men held their part of the Confederate defensive line in the face of a much larger Union force at the Battle of Antietam (September 17, 1862).
- Longstreet was promoted to Lieutenant General on October 9, 1862.
- General Lee gave General Longstreet command of the Army of Northern Virginia’s 1st Corps on November 6, 1862.
- Longstreet’s 1st Corps repulsed Union assaults against the heights of Fredericksburg, during the Battle of Fredericksburg (December 11–15, 1862).
General James Longstreet in the Civil War — 1863
- In the spring of 1863, General Lee detached General James Longstreet from the Army of Northern Virginia and sent him along with two divisions to protect ports in the Carolinas, which were being threatened, causing Longstreet to miss the Battle of Chancellorsville (April 30–May 6, 1863).
- As second in command at the Battle of Gettysburg, General Longstreet opposed General Lee’s decision to attack Cemetery Ridge with a massive ground assault. Longstreet preferred a strategy of maneuvering the Union Army out of its position. The attack, known as Pickett’s Charge, was a disaster for the Confederate forces.
- On September 5, 1863, Longstreet led a large detachment from the Army of Northern Virginia west to reinforce General Braxton Bragg and the Army of Tennessee at the Battle of Chickamauga (September 19–20, 1863), leading to one of the greatest Confederate victories of the Civil War.
- Bragg’s failure to support Longstreet’s rout of the Union army at the Battle of Chickamauga (September 19–20, 1863), caused a rift between the two Confederate Generals.
- Longstreet’s detached command failed to defeat Union General Ambrose Burnside’s army or capture the city of Knoxville, Tennessee during the fall of 1863.
Longstreet’s Eyewitness Account of Pickett’s Charge
This video from History Gone Wilder gives Longstreet’s first-hand account of the disastrous attack on Union forces entrenched on Cemetery Hill on the second day of the Battle of Gettysburg.
General James Longstreet in the Civil War — 1864
- On May 6, 1864, during the Battle of the Wilderness, General James Longstreet was severely wounded in the neck and right shoulder by friendly fire, only a few miles from where General Stonewall Jackson suffered the same fate a year earlier.
General James Longstreet in the Civil War — 1865
- General James Longstreet was present when Robert E. Lee surrendered to Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox Court House on April 9, 1865.