From Manassas to Appomattox: Memoirs of the Civil War in America (Barnes & Noble Library of Essential Reading)

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Overview

To read From Manassas to Appomattox is to traverse some of the most fought-over and hallowed ground in American history. Second-in-command to General Robert E. Lee, James Longstreet offers a unique insider's account of the operations of the Army of Northern Virginia. His memoirs also provide a broad perspective on the Civil War and the soldiers who fought in it.


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James Longstreet was one of the Confederacy's most successful ...

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From Manassas to Appomattox: Memoirs of the Civil War in America (Barnes & Noble Library of Essential Reading)

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Overview

To read From Manassas to Appomattox is to traverse some of the most fought-over and hallowed ground in American history. Second-in-command to General Robert E. Lee, James Longstreet offers a unique insider's account of the operations of the Army of Northern Virginia. His memoirs also provide a broad perspective on the Civil War and the soldiers who fought in it.


About the Author:
James Longstreet was one of the Confederacy's most successful generals. Born on January 8, 1821, he was the son of a modest north-Georgia farmer and graduated from West Point. General Robert E. Lee affectionately referred to Longstreet as his "old War Horse," but because of his performance at Gettysburg, combined with his acceptance of the Reconstruction, this Civil War icon remains a figure of controversy.

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Introduction

James Longstreet's memoirs, From Manassas to Appomattox, are aptly titled, as Longstreet witnessed the Civil War from its first major battle to its very end. Few soldiers saw more combat or served with greater distinction. Longstreet's campaigns and battles included First Manassas, the Peninsula, the Seven Days, Second Manassas, Antietam, Fredericksburg, Gettysburg, Chickamauga, Chattanooga, Knoxville, the Wilderness, Petersburg, and Appomattox. He fought in Virginia, North Carolina, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Georgia, and Tennessee. To read his recollections is to traverse some of the most fought-over and hallowed ground in American history. Longstreet was the senior corps-level officer in the Confederate army, serving as de facto first officer to P.G.T. Beauregard and Joseph E. Johnston, and as official second-in-command to Robert E. Lee and Braxton Bragg. No commander had a more intimate relationship with Lee than Longstreet, and Lee held no one in greater esteem. Because Lee died without writing anything, and Lee's other principal subordinates, "Jeb" Stuart and "Stonewall" Jackson, did not survive the war, Longstreet's recollections offer a unique insider's account of the operations of the Army of Northern Virginia. Since Longstreet also served in the western theater's Army of Tennessee, his memoirs also provide a broad perspective on the war and the soldiers who fought it.

Although James Longstreet is not as well known as Lee, Jackson, or Stuart, he was one of the Confederacy's most successful generals. Born on January 8, 1821, Longstreet was the son of a modest north-Georgia farmer. An 1842 graduate of West Point, he saw extensive combat during the MexicanWar, but spent most the 1850s in small western outposts, comfortably married and more interested in his growing family than glory. A slaveholder, he accepted secession in 1861 from loyalty to the South, but predicted a long war. After resigning his U.S. commission he donned a Confederate general's stars and his stalwart performance early in the war brought quick advancement. In 1862, Lee skipped over several higher-ranking officers to appoint Longstreet his second-in-command. They quickly developed a friendship that proved to be lifelong. Lee referred to Longstreet affectionately as his "old War Horse" and entrusted him with more important responsibilities than any other officer. At the war's close, when they parted at Appomattox, Lee wept. Longstreet was also greatly beloved by the troops who served under him. They called him "the Old Bull Dog" and "the Bull of the Woods," knowing that his presence on the field meant hot work ahead. Longstreet thus ended the war with a highly laudable reputation. It did not last. During Reconstruction, he supported the Republicans, accepting voting and other civil rights for the South's former slaves. Among white Southerners this was heresy of the worst sort, and in their anger they attacked both Longstreet and his wartime record. Lee, who died in 1870, never publicly criticized Longstreet, but many of Longstreet's former comrades-in-arms turned against him. In books and articles published throughout the 1870s and 1880s, they accused Longstreet of deliberately disobeying orders during Lee's Pennsylvania campaign, thereby losing the war. Although absurd, these accusations persistently dogged Longstreet. In response to being made a scapegoat, he became a writer himself, producing numerous articles for leading newspapers and magazines. From Manassas to Appomattox, the memoir he wrote in 1896 in old age, was his final and fullest defense of his reputation. He was only partly successful. By the time of his death on January 2, 1904, Longstreet had outlived most of his critics, but he remained a figure of controversy. Indeed, the lies concocted by Longstreet's detractors passed into history, misleading many writers up to the present day.

Longstreet's writing reflects the style of his times. Like the works penned by other high-ranking commanders, such as Ulysses S. Grant, William T. Sherman, and Joseph E. Johnston, Longstreet's is direct and simple, focusing on military operations. From Manassas to Appomattox is a memoir, not an autobiography. The gossipy and confessional military reminiscences written since the Vietnam era would strike soldiers of Longstreet's generation as unprofessional. One must turn to biographers to learn the details of Longstreet's happy marriage to Maria Louisa Garland (1829-1890), his devotion to his ten children (only five of whom lived to adulthood), or his surprising remarriage at age seventy-six to thirty-four-year-old Helen Dortch (1863-1963), who out-lived him by fifty-nine years. This does not mean, however, that From Manassas to Appomattox is sterile. It is filled with Longstreet's judgments regarding his peers and reflects his final say in a battle of words that went on for more than twenty years.

No one would have predicted that James Longstreet would become a figure of controversy. Although properly reserved when on duty or among strangers, he was bluff and hearty with his friends, and a great lover of vigorous outdoor activity. He was never bookish, finishing near the bottom of his class at West Point, yet his years at the Military Academy provided him with a better education than ninety-five percent of nineteenth-century Americans. Although he preferred swordsmanship and horsemanship, he was proficient in mathematics, drawing, and French-the tools of a military engineer-and he put his skills to good use in two wars.

Longstreet fought in almost every major battle of the Mexican War (1846-1848), advancing from lieutenant to brevet major, and from junior officer to company commander and regimental adjutant. Most of this combat was close-range and on two occasions, at Monterrey and Churubusco, it was hand-to-hand. He was severely wounded at Chapultapec, in one of the last actions of the conflict.

During the Civil War (1861-1865), Longstreet served consistently under men who possessed higher rank and more extensive administrative experience, but less combat experience, than he. Perhaps as a consequence, Longstreet never hesitated to express his opinions. This caused no problems in his relations with Beauregard, Johnston, or Lee, where the respect was mutual. But Longstreet's open contempt for Bragg, although entirely justified, hurt the Confederate war effort.

In the course of the conflict Longstreet developed his own sense of how the war should be waged. Keenly aware of the South's limited manpower and resources, he advocated a protracted war designed to wear down Northern civilian morale, thus ensuring Lincoln's defeat at the ballot box in 1864. Such a strategy could encompass daring maneuvers, such as the massive mounted raid into Kentucky Longstreet proposed while serving in the Tennessee. Tactically, he favored a defensive stance, supported by field fortifications, followed by a strong counterattack--a concept that foreshadowed later Prussian doctrine. Twice in his career, at Second Manassas and Chickamauga, Longstreet was assigned the sort of counterattack he idealized. In both cases he drove the enemy forces in his front completely from the battlefield.

Since Longstreet fought his greatest battles as a subordinate, it is difficult to determine how much credit he should receive. The portion should be considerable, however. In an era before radio communications, army commanders had to trust their lieutenants to interpret and apply their orders based on developing circumstances. Lee never wanted his generals to follow him blindly and Longstreet would have considered anyone who pledged to do so to be a fool. Longstreet's own success was based in part on the latitude he gave to his excellent staff officers. While some commanders, such as Jackson, kept their staff in the dark and used them as glorified messenger boys, Longstreet's staff was an efficient, modern administrative unit. Longstreet kept his staff fully briefed and relied on them to carry out his plans.

When the war ended, Longstreet settled in New Orleans. Most ex-Confederates preached undying opposition to the victorious Federals. Longstreet, however, counseled cooperation and reconciliation, and he accepted patronage positions from his prewar friend Ulysses S. Grant after Grant won the presidency in 1868. Far more shocking, Longstreet joined the Republican Party and accepted African-American participation in politics. In 1874, as commander of the predominantly black Louisiana state militia, he risked his life battling white supremacists attempting to overthrow the state government. Former friends and comrades consequently viewed Longstreet as a traitor to the white race. They heaped abuse on him and threatened his family. Longstreet moved to Gainesville, Georgia, in 1879, but he remained affiliated with the Republicans. Over the next two decades he served as a postmaster, federal marshal for Georgia, U.S. ambassador to Turkey, and U.S. Commissioner of Railroads. He also farmed and operated a hotel.

Longstreet's political heresy had dire consequences for his military reputation. Following Lee's death in 1870, a small group of Virginians who had failed to win reputations during the war began a process of enshrining Lee's memory in order to bask in Lee's reflected glory. This movement blossomed into a full-fledged Lee cult, which dominated the writing of Confederate history during its formative period. The leading figures were Jubal A. Early, a corps commander whom Lee had relieved of duty; William N. Pendleton, who had failed as Lee's chief of artillery; and J. William Jones, an obscure chaplain. As Lee apologists they argued that Virginia was the primary theater of the war and that Lee had not been beaten, but merely overwhelmed by superior numbers. They had no way to explain Lee's disastrous defeat at Gettysburg, however, until Longstreet's apostasy made him a perfect scapegoat. Although they knew it to be a lie, they claimed that Lee had expected Longstreet to attack at dawn on July 2, and argued that his failure to do so cost the South the battle and the Confederacy the war. This became the standard interpretation for over one hundred years.

The Lee cult's false version of history triumphed for three reasons. The first was sheer persistence. As their surviving correspondence demonstrates, Early, Pendleton, and Jones hated Longstreet for his Republican affiliation. Prolific writers, they conducted a carefully coordinated twenty-year campaign to shift Lee's shortcoming to Longstreet's shoulders and write him out of Confederate history. Second, in attributing the loss of the entire war to Longstreet's alleged disobedience at Gettysburg, they found a way to explain the Confederacy's defeat without bringing Southern manhood or valor into question. Amid the throes of Reconstruction, white Southerners found it irresistibly tempting to blame their troubles on Longstreet, a man who had betrayed the Confederate legacy by championing civil rights for African Americans. Third and finally, when Longstreet took up a pen to defend his reputation, he alienated more than a few of his readers. He wrote a number of articles in the 1870s and 1880s that remain valuable sources for modern historians. But in them he sometimes exaggerated his own accomplishments and belittled those of his former comrades. Many of Longstreet's contemporaries could not forgive such prose.

Since no one article could give Longstreet space to reply to all of his critics, it was natural for him to compose a memoir. As it turned out, From Manassas to Appomattox was a triumph over adversity. Longstreet began work sometime in the late 1880s. It was a slow process, as a wound he had received at the Battle of the Wilderness in 1864 forced him to write left-handed, an awkward practice he never fully mastered. Then in 1889 his entire manuscript and many of his notes perished when a tragic fire consumed his home. Undaunted, Longstreet returned to work, assisted by Pascal J. Moran, a journalist for the Atlanta Constitution. Moran was not a ghostwriter, however. He polished Longstreet's rough drafts, but anyone who compares the published text to Longstreet's private letters will see that Longstreet's own style and personality come through clearly. Perhaps because he had out-lived many of his detractors, Longstreet was more judicious and less self-promoting than in his earlier writings. If he nevertheless presented some of his postwar hindsight as wartime foresight, this places his memoirs in good company with those of Julius Caesar, Ulysses S. Grant, Douglas MacArthur, and Winston Churchill.

As he had in all his writings, Longstreet insisted that the Federal soldiers who had opposed him were worthy foes deserving respect. "Honor to all!" he wrote in his introduction. He also had the warmest praise for his old friend Grant. "Confederates," he argued, "should be foremost in crediting him with all that his admirers so justly claim." Indeed, Longstreet held only one Federal in contempt: Major General John Pope, who had issued orders in July 1862 to shoot civilian supporters of the Confederacy and confiscate their property. Longstreet castigated Pope at some length, yet the harshest language he used was to state that "such orders indicate a flaw in the armor of the author."

If Longstreet's prose was restrained, his opinions came through clearly. From Manassas to Appomattox contains particularly harsh criticism of three of Longstreet's enemies: Braxton Bragg, who had tried to make Longstreet a scapegoat of his own multitude of failures in Georgia and Tennessee; Jubal Early, leader of the Lee cult; and Virginia governor Fitzhugh Lee, a nephew of Robert E. Lee, who had joined the Lee cult to promote his own political ambitions. In recounting Bragg's actions after Chickamauga, Longstreet wrote: "The Confederate chief did not even know of his victory until the morning of the 21st . . . twelve hours after the retreat of the enemy." This was only a slight exaggeration of Bragg's confusion. Longstreet devoted more space to Fitzhugh Lee, who in several articles had charged him with being late at Second Manassas, Gettysyburg, and the Wilderness. Longstreet refuted these accusations with ease, dismissing Fitzhugh Lee as a fumbling cavalryman whose "unseasonable" joyrides had impeded the Confederate war effort. Longstreet labeled Jubal Early "the weakest general officer in the Army of Northern Virginia." He summed up Early's role at Gettysburg and subsequent failures with overt contempt:
There was a man on the left of the line who did not care to make the battle win. He knew where it was, had viewed it from its earliest formation, had orders for his part in it, but so withheld part of his command from it as to make co-operative concert of action impracticable. He had a pruriency for the honors of the field of Mars, was eloquent, before the fires of bivouac and his chief, of the glory of war's gory shield; but when the heavy field called for bloody work, he found the placid horizon, far and away beyond the cavalry, more lovely and inviting. He wanted command of the Second Corps, and succeeding to it, held the honored position until General Lee found, at last, that he must dismiss him from field service.
The outstanding feature From Manassas to Appomattox is Longstreet's critical evaluation of Robert E. Lee's generalship. Amid a tidal wave of sycophantic Southern writings, Longstreet was almost alone among his contemporaries in insisting that Lee was a fallible human being rather than a demigod. His critique of Lee's costly offensive strategy presaged that of modern historians. Although Longstreet praised Lee in many passages and remembered their friendship warmly (he had named one of his sons after Lee), he insisted that his chief had been a master of "the science but not the art of war." He also recalled the dismay combat veterans like himself felt when Lee, who had never led men in battle, took command. "Officers of the line are not apt to look to the staff in choosing leaders of soldiers, either in tactics or strategy," he wrote. And while Longstreet testified to the fervent love the men of the Army of Northern Virginia soon developed for Lee and praised Lee's strategic audacity, he had strong reservations about Lee as a battle commander. "In defensive warfare he was perfect. When the hunt was up, his combativeness was overruling," Longstreet concluded. "As a commander he was much of the Wellington 'Up-and-at-'em' style. He found it hard, with the enemy in sight, to withhold his blows."

From Manassas to Appomattox met a mixed public reaction. No reviewer gave Longstreet's critique of Lee the serious attention it deserved. But because of Longstreet's high position and intimate knowledge, the book was viewed as indispensable reading for anyone who wished to understand the Civil War fully. The same is true today.

Longstreet lived seven years beyond the publication of his book. His funeral in Gainesville reflected his complex place in Southern history. The public ceremonies in Gainesville were elaborate, befitting a high-ranking Confederate whose generation had shaped America more than any other. But some chapters of United Daughters of the Confederacy refused to send flowers.

Longstreet's place among Confederates is unique. A hero during the war, his postwar fall from grace was swift and prolonged. A few other prominent former Confederates, such as Georgia governor Joe Brown and famed cavalryman John S. Mosby, had cooperated with the Federals during Reconstruction. Like Longstreet, they felt the wrath of erstwhile friends and comrades. They recanted, however, and were accepted back into the fold. Longstreet never changed his views. Moreover, he alone actively defended African Americans, and he alone dared to criticize Lee.

For more than five decades after Longstreet's death the overwhelming majority of historians accepted uncritically the lies written about him by the Lee cult. In the 1960s, however, historian Glenn Tucker began to explore Longstreet's scapegoat role in relation to Gettysburg. Tucker's writings appear to have influenced novelist Michael Shaara, who portrayed Longstreet quite positively in his 1971 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Killer Angels. Beginning in the late 1970s, historians began to re-examine both Longstreet and Lee with a critical eye to the impact of the Lee cult, portraying Longstreet in a much more favorable light. The popularity of the 1993 movie Gettysburg, based on The Killer Angels, gave millions of Americans a laudatory view of Longstreet. The film depicted him as Lee's closest confidant and greatest supporter. During the 1990s, separate organizations succeeded in commemorating Longstreet by placing monuments dedicated to him at Gettysburg, at his birth site, and at his Gainesville home. In addition, Longstreet's Piedmont Hotel has been preserved and will re-open as a museum commemorating his postwar role in fostering reconciliation. Longstreet is finally receiving the credit he deserves.

William Garrett Piston teaches Civil War and military history at Southwest Missouri State University. He holds a Ph.D. in history from the University of South Carolina, and he writes frequently on the military history of the Civil War.
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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 9, 2012

    RIP OFF

    Beware of these books, Ckarles River Editors and other are giving you small portions of much larger books when after you read their description of the books you expect much much more. Barn and Nob,e should be ashamed for allow such deception to go on. At the very least the description should state the number of pages you are buying, this has eight.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 22, 2011

    Poorly edited eBook version

    General Longstreet wrote well but the conversion of his book into an eBook is so poorly crafted that reading it is frustrating. Also, there are parts missing. The text jumps from the middle of his family history right into the midst of the first battle of Bull Run. I am back in search of another version.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 21, 2011

    Good book recommend if you are civil war Buff

    Gen Longstreet confusing at times so much happens at once during battles. He also spends lots of time explaning is actions and defending why he did certain actions. He was a noble man but you are left with did he really do all he could when the south really needed a upfront leader. Still worth reading.

    1 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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