James Longstreet was raised to be in the military. After attending the U. S. Military Academy, he started his long career in the army where his rank was frequently promoted. He fought with the confederates during the Civil War and served as General Lee’s right hand man. During the Civil War Longstreet became well known for his often successful defensive strategies. Throughout his life he experienced both success and defeat, but whenever he was given an obstacle he always had a strategy to get around it. James Longstreet was born on January 8, 1821 in South Carolina. His early childhood was spent on his family’s otton plantation.
His father wanted him to go into a military career so he sent Longstreet to live with his aunt and uncle on their plantation in Augusta, Georgia for a better education. While he lived on his uncle’s plantation, he attended the Academy of Richmond County. Longstreet joined the United States Military Academy in 1838. His academic performance was poor, but he became close with many people who would also play a big part in the Civil War. Not long after he graduated from the military academy, he met his first wife Maria Louisa Garland, who was his regimental commander’s daughter.
Over the forty ears they were married, they had ten children. Five of their children survived to adulthood. After Longstreet graduated from the United States Military Academy, he spent two years at Jefferson Barracks, Missouri. He fought in the Mexican American war with the 8th U. S. Infantry. Throughout the Mexican war Longstreet earned many promotions. He served as a lieutenant in Zachary Taylor’s army during the 1846 Battle of Monterrey at the beginning of the war. He was later promoted to captain for the Battle of Contreras and the Battle of Churubusco.
He advanced to major for the Battle of Molino del Rey. Longstreet as wounded during the Battle of Chapultepec while charging up the hill carrying his regiment’s flag. After the Mexican war ended and Longstreet recovered from his injury, he served on frontier duty in Texas. There he scouted and was major and paymaster of the 8th U. S. Infantry. In the June of 1861, Longstreet resigned from the U. S. Army to join the Confederate Army. Since the state of Alabama had got him to the Military Academy, he offered his military services there so he could receive a higher rank.
He was designated a brigadier general which was the fifth ranking general. With this ranking he was iven three Virginia regiments. They first saw conflict at the Battle of Blackburn’s Ford. Longstreet was later promoted to major general and took command of a division in the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia. He led his men the wrong way down the wrong road which confused the other confederate soldiers and in result weakened the confederate’s performance during the Battle of Seven Pines. During the Seven Days Battle, Longstreet had command of fifteen of General Robert E. Lee’s brigades.
In 1862 Longstreet strategized the defense during the battle of Antietam. Following the battle, Longstreet was promoted to lieutenant general. He acquired command of the First Corps which consisted of 41,000 men. He commanded the First Corps during the Battle of Fredericksburg where they held defensive position. In 1863 Longstreet held a siege on union forces in Suffolk. The siege cause Longstreet and some of the First Corps to miss the Battle Chancellorsville. After the Battle of Chancellorsville, General Lee and Longstreet met to discuss the amy’s next move.
General Lee wanted to advance into Pennsylvania. General Lee ordered the confederates to assemble in the town of Gettysburg. The confederates won the irst day of battle even though they started fighting before they were organized like General Lee wanted them to be. Longstreet didn’t like the defensive position the Union had and tried to convince General Lee to position the army between the Union and their capital so they could pick the battleground and get the defensive position. Longstreet thought if they did this the Union would attack them to prevent them from taking the capital.
General Lee didn’t agree with Longstreet’s strategy, he wanted to attack the Union if they were there the next day. The next day Longstreet’s division didn’t attack the Union as soon as General Lee ordered them to which was one of the reasons the confederates lost the second day of the battle. On the third day General Lee ordered the Confederates to attack the middle of the Union’s position. Longstreet knew the attack had little chance for success since they would have to cover over a mile of open field and climb up a hill to get to the Union Army.
Longstreet reluctantly ordered Pickett’s charge which resulted in many fatalities as Longstreet had predicted. The next day General Lee ordered a retreat back to Virginia. In September of 1863 Longstreet transferred to the Western Theater at his own equest. He led divisions at the Battle of Chickamauga which was a large win for the confederates. Longstreet came to a disagreement with General Braxton Braggs and testified against him in front of the president of the confederate army. In result General Braggs demoted him to only having command of the units he brought from Virginia.
After Longstreet lost many battles with his Virginian unit they rejoined the Army Northern Virginia. Longstreet attempted to resign from the confederate army in 1863, but his request was denied. The Battle of Wilderness was the first battle Longstreet fought after his return o General Lee’s command. Longstreet planned the course of the attack across the difficult terrain. The initial attack was successful. During the battle Longstreet was shot in the shoulder by his own man. After Longstreet was injured the attack slowed down and General Lee stopped the attack so they could reorganize.
The later attack was not successful because the Union had time to reorganize as well. After Longstreet’s recovery, he joined General Lee in October of 1864 with his right arm paralyzed and in a sling. During the last of the Siege on Petersburg he was in charge of the defense in front of the apital of Richmond. He commanded the First and Third Corps during the retreat of the Appomattox Campaign. After the war Longstreet settled in New Orleans with his family. There he was a partner of a cotton brokerage company and president of a new Marine and Accident Insurance Company.
The governor of Louisiana made him the adjutant general of the state militia and in 1872 he became a major general on all state militia and state police in New Orleans. In 1875 the Longstreets moved to Gainesville, Georgia. In 1880 Longstreet became the ambassador to the Ottoman Empire. From 1897 to 1904 he was the U. S. Commissioner of Railroads. After many career changes Longstreet retired to a farm near Gainesville. In 1889 the Longstreet house burnt down and later that year his wife died. Longstreet remarried in 1897 at age 76.
He married 37 year old Helen Dortch who supported his legacy and kept it alive after his death. Longstreet accepted the reconstruction of the country after the war and the end of slavery which generated criticism of his performance during the war. Even though people tried to destroy his reputation, he wasn’t defended until his second wife published a book after his death that honored his service during he Civil War. From 1902 until his death on January 2, 1904, Longstreet suffered many illnesses.
Longstreet was a successful man that is still well known today for his defensive tactics during the Civil War. He transitioned from fighting with the nation during the Mexican War to fighting against it during the Civil War, and joining the country again to execute many different careers before his retirement. Although Longstreet faced criticism from many southerners about his service during the Civil War, his reputation has been restored and his legacy as a successful confederate general during the Civil War lives on.