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James Longstreet

Longstreet, James, 1821–1904, Confederate general in the American Civil War, b. Edgefield District, S.C. He graduated (1842) from West Point and served in the Mexican War, reaching the rank of major. At the outbreak of the Civil War he resigned from the U.S. army and became a Confederate brigadier general. He took part in the first battle of Bull Run and in the Peninsular campaign. His creditable performance at the second battle of Bull Run (1862), at Antietam, and at the battle of Fredericksburg led to his promotion (Oct., 1862) to lieutenant general. In 1862–63 he held a semi-independent command S of the James River, returning too late to aid General Lee at Chancellorsville. He commanded the right wing at Gettysburg (1863), where his delay in taking the offensive is generally said to have cost Lee the battle (see Gettysburg campaign). He fought at Chickamauga in the Chattanooga campaign and unsuccessfully besieged Knoxville (1863). Returning to Virginia in 1864, he distinguished himself in the Wilderness campaign, where he was wounded. Longstreet participated in the last defense of Richmond, surrendering with Lee at Appomattox. After the war he settled in New Orleans, became a Republican, and held a number of federal posts. He criticized Lee's conduct at Gettysburg harshly and was long unpopular in the South. As a general, he is considered to have been a poor independent commander and strategist but an excellent combat officer. His opinions on the war are expressed in his From Manassas to Appomattox (1896, repr. 1960).

See G. Tucker, Lee and Longstreet at Gettysburg (1968); W. G. Piston, Lee's Tarnished Lieutenant: James Longstreet and His Place in Southern History (1987).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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