Confederate General James Longstreet was born on this day in 1821 near Edgefield, South Carolina. Longstreet grew up in Georgia and attended West Point, graduating 54th in a class of 62 in 1842. He was a close friend of Ulysses S. Grant, and served as best man in Grant’s 1848 wedding to Julia Dent, Longstreet’s fourth cousin. Longstreet fought in the Mexican War and was wounded at the Battle of Chapultepec. He served in the army until he resigned at the beginning of the Civil War, when he was named brigadier general in the Confederate Army.
Longstreet fought at the First Battle of Bull Run and within a year was commander of corps in the Army of Northern Virginia under General Robert E. Lee. Upon the death of General Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson at the Battle of Chancellorsville in May 1863, Longstreet was considered the most effective corps commander in Lee’s army. He served with Lee for the rest of the war–except for the fall of 1863, when he took his force to aid the Confederate effort in Tennessee.
Longstreet was severely wounded at the Battle of the Wilderness in May 1864, and he did not return to service for six months. He resumed service and fought with Lee until the surrender at Appomattox in April 1865. After the war, Longstreet engaged in a number of businesses and held several governmental posts, most notably U.S. Minister to Turkey. Although successful, he made two moves that greatly tarnished his reputation among his fellow southerners. He joined the despised Republican Party and publicly questioned Lee’s strategy at the pivotal Battle of Gettysburg. His fellow officers considered these sins to be unforgivable, and former comrades such as Generals Jubal Early and John Gordon attacked Longstreet as a traitor. They asserted that, in fact, Longstreet was responsible for the errors that lost Gettysburg.
Longstreet outlived most of his comrades and detractors but died on January 2, 1904. His second wife, Helen Dortch, lived until 1962.
Information from the History Channel online.