Lieutenant General James Longstreet


James 'Old Pete' Longstreet was called "My War Horse" by Gen. Robert E. Lee. Longstreet commanded I Corps, Army of Northern Virginia during the Battle of Gettysburg. His troops were heavily involved in the fighting on both 2 July--John Hood's and Lafayette McLaws' divisions--and 3 July--George Pickett's division; Pickett was at the end of Lee's column guarding the South Mountain pass, and did not arrive until late in the evening of 2 July.

It has been said that Lee had envisioned a coördinated attack early on 2 July involving Richard Ewell's II Corps located on the extreme left of the Confederate lines opposite Cemetery and Culp's Hills. Longstreet did not begin the attack until 4 PM. Ewell's artillery on Benner Hill opened up at approximately the same time but his infantry, under Jubal Early and Edward Johnson, attacked a few hours later (reports vary from 6:30 PM to 8:00 PM), as Longstreet's attack was ending.

On 3 July, Longstreet was in overall command of the the assault on Cemetery Ridge, an assault Longstreet objected to making, even to the point of suggesting that command be given to A. P. Hill because troops from his corps made up about two-thirds of the attacking force. When it finally came, the assault contained Pickett's division from his I Corps and Dorsey Pender's division, Henry Heth's division, and two brigades from Richard Anderson's division from III Corps.

After the War, Longstreet's opponents, the "Lost Causers," led off by Early on 19 Jan 1872, and joined by William H. Pendleton, attributed Longstreet's not beginning the attack at daybreak on 2 July, and for his disagreement with Lee's plans for both 2 and 3 July as the major reasons for the Confederate defeat at Gettysburg--'Baldy' Ewell got the lion's share of what blame remained for not taking Cemetery and Culp's Hills on 1 and 2 July, and some even went to Jeb Stuart for his late arrival. "Old Jube" later retracted his criticism of Stuart in order to heap greater blame on Longstreet.#

Although four of Lee's own staff officers--Cols. Armistead Long, Walter Taylor, and Charles Marshall and Maj. Charles Venable--refuted this claim of tardiness, Early's description of Longstreet's "having the slows" has endured to the present.

# E. M. Thomas in The Gettysburg Nobody Knows, G. S. Boritt, ed. Oxford, UK, Oxford University Press, 1997.
¶ Piston, W. G., Lee's Tarnished Lieutenant: James Longstreet and His Place in Southern History, p. 118.

View the Longstreet Memorial on Seminary Ridge.

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Photo credit: Library of Congress
Special thanks to Clark Thorton for bringing Piston's book to my attention
Created 20 MAY 1996; Revised 23 JUL 2014