GENERAL JAMES LONGSTREET by Jeffry D. Wert

GENERAL JAMES LONGSTREET

The Confederacy's Most Controversial Soldier--A Biography

KIRKUS REVIEW

 A carefully argued account of the general whom Robert E. Lee affectionately called ``my old war horse''--the same man who in the mythology of the Lost Cause became the scapegoat for the failure of Confederate arms at Gettysburg. Commander of the First Corps in Lee's Army of Northern Virginia, Longstreet (1821-1904) was not only Lee's senior officer but his most reliable--even more so, Wert (Mosby's Rangers, 1990) says, than Stonewall Jackson. Described by a colleague as ``a rock in steadiness when sometimes in battle the world seemed flying to pieces,'' Longstreet served at First and Second Manassas, the Seven Days campaign, Antietam, Fredericksburg, Chicamauga, the Wilderness, and the surrender at Appomattox. Lee depended on his counsel, except at Gettysburg, when three times Lee rejected Longstreet's advice not to make the fateful frontal assault. Although ostensibly covering Longstreet's entire life, Wert concentrates on the general's Civil War record, explaining the personality quirks and decisions that made the general, so fearless and beloved during the war, such a lightning rod of controversy in its aftermath. Longstreet excelled at Second Manassas, as well as at Fredericksburg, where his network of trenches, fieldworks, and artillery sealed the doom of thousands of Federals. But unlike Lee, Longstreet questioned the value of the tactical offensive and would risk his men's lives only in a carefully planned attacks with reasonable chances for success. Wert shows that Longstreet's warnings of disaster at Gettysburg were borne out--and he demonstrates that, except for one brief lapse, Longstreet carried out Lee's orders vigorously despite his misgivings. Longstreet's troubles resulted from his postwar decision to join the Republican Party--which made him the Benedict Arnold of the South--and his too-late, too-self-serving defense of his record in his memoirs. A fair, though not uncritical, reappraisal of one of the Civil War's great but maligned soldiers. (Twelve maps, 16 pp. of b&w photographs--not seen)

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1993
ISBN: 0-671-70921-6
Page count: 528pp
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1st, 1993




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