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James Longstreet

Civil War Figure

Born: 8 January 1821
Died: 2 January 1904
Birthplace: Edgefield District, South Carolina
Best known as: The Confederate Civil War general blamed for the Gettysburg loss
James Longstreet was a career soldier who served as a lieutenant general in the Confederate States Army (CSA) during the U.S. Civil War. Longstreet grew up in Georgia and Alabama, graduated from the military academy at West Point (1842) and served the United States with distinction in the war with Mexico (1846-48) under Zachary Taylor and Winfield Scott. When the southern states seceded from the United States in 1861, Longstreet resigned his commission in the U.S. Army and signed on with the CSA. By the end of 1862 he was a lieutenant general, in command of the First Corps of Northern Virginia, which was more than half of General Robert E. Lee's army. Longstreet had highs and lows during the war, but he is mostly remembered for his role in the 1863 battle at Gettysburg. In the years after the war, Longstreet was accused of being slow to carry out Lee's orders on 2 July and thus causing the Confederate defeat. Lee died in 1870, having publicly praised Longstreet, who he called "Old War Horse." Nonetheless, Longstreet was disparaged for decades in the South, partly for Gettysburg and partly because he was a "scalawag": after the war he joined the Republican party (Abraham Lincoln's party) and supported U.S. Grant for president in 1868. These days most scholars feel Longstreet was an able commander who was unfairly maligned over Gettysburg. He later served as American minister to Turkey (1880-81) and as a U.S. Marshal (1881-84). His memoir, From Manassas to Appomattox, was published in 1896.
Extra credit: Longstreet was a lousy student at West Point, but he made lots of friends, including Ulysses Grant, who married Longstreet's cousin, Julia Dent... To the men under his command, Longstreet was known as "Old Pete."

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