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This Day in Georgia History

January 08, 1821

James Longstreet Born

To view a portrait of James Longstreet, see the Digital Library of Georgia.

Military leader James Longstreet was born in the Edgefield District in South Carolina (an area near present-day North Augusta) while his mother was visiting her husband’s parents. Shortly after his birth, they returned to the family farm near present-day Cleveland,Georgia. Here he lived until he was nine, when he moved to Augusta to live with his grandfather Augustus B. Longstreet. Longstreet attended West Point, where he roomed with future Civil War generals William Rosecrans, John Pope, and A.P. Stewart. After graduating from West Point, Longstreet served in the Mexican War and eventually was promoted to major in the U.S. Army. After the secession of southern states in 1861, Longstreet resigned his commission and offered his services to the Confederacy. Initially, he was appointed colonel of an infantry unit, but soon he was promoted to brigadier general. Longstreet distinguished himself in the battles of First Manassas (Bull Run) and Seven Days, and he soon was Lee’s most respected subordinate. Longstreet’s reputation would be later tarnished – many authorities would say unfairly – by the Battle of Gettysburg in 1863. [After the war, Jubal Early charged that Longstreet’s delay in getting his troops into position was responsible for the devastating Confederate defeat – something Longstreet vigorously denied long after the war was over.] Later that year, Longstreet was the catalyst in the Confederate victory at Chickamauga, when he led his troops on a charge through an opening in the federal line, thus routing a major portion of the Union Army. Soon Longstreet was back in Virginia with Lee, where he stayed until the final surrender at Appomattox. After the war Longstreet returned to Gainesville. He ran an insurance company and then became a cotton merchant in New Orleans. When he joined the Republican Party, many of his fellow southerners turned against him. Thereafter, he took a number of jobs with the federal government, including serving as U.S. Minister to Turkey, U.S. marshal for Georgia, and a U.S. railroad commissioner. In June 1881, Longstreet returned to Gainesville, Ga. where he spent the rest of his life. served in a number of different politically appointed positions. Here he penned the autobiographical From Manassas to Appomattox and contributed much of the information that his wife, Helen Dortch Longstreet, used in her book, Lee and Longstreet at High Tide. He died in Gainesville on January 2, 1904, and was buried in Alta Vista Cemetery.