Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Longstreet: Love him ... or not? Symposium examines his actions during, after war

James Longstreet’s triumphs and travails on the battlefield and in the Southern society he inhabited after the Civil War are the subject of an upcoming symposium in metro Atlanta.

The Center for the Study of the Civil War Era at Kennesaw State University on March 18 will feature talks by historian and author Jeffry D. Wert, history professor Keith Bohannon and Brian Wills, director of the center. The program is entitled "Longstreet to Redemption."

Wills told the Picket he will focus on the Confederate general’s independent campaigns at Suffolk, Va.; and Knoxville, Tenn., in 1863.

Longstreet struggled to replicate success on his own,” away from the Army of Northern Virginia and Gen. Robert E. Lee, Wills said. “His inability to achieve results in these operations did not negate his performances before or after those campaigns, but exposed limitations for Longstreet in working under such circumstances.”

Bohannon, who teaches at the University of West Georgia, will summarize Longstreet’s actions in the 1863 Chickamauga campaign – including a fortuitously timed attack that sent thousands of Federals fleeing before Major. Gen. George Thomas stemmed the disaster.

Statue in Gainesville, Ga.
Bohannon’s talk is called “The Bull of the Woods Goes West” – and he will cover several areas.

I'm hoping to explore first how various historians have interpreted Longstreet's desire in 1863 to go west and reinforce (Gen. Braxton) Bragg's army,” Bohannon said. “Was Longstreet hoping to get command of the Army of Tennessee?”

The historian said he will discuss William Glenn Robertson’s view that Longstreet did not have a grand strategy at Chickamauga. “Lastly, I plan on concluding with some thoughts about the acrimonious relationship that developed between Longstreet and Bragg in the weeks following Chickamauga.”

Wert – who wrote a 1993 biography of the controversial general -- will examine the “criticism that Longstreet received following the war, largely associated with the Confederate defeat at Gettysburg, Longstreet's criticisms of General Lee and his postwar career as a Republican,” the Civil War Center said in a press release. “(Longstreet) was, as he stated, arraigned before the world as the "only one responsible for the loss of the cause."

Wert and other historians have done much to bring a new assessment of Longstreet’s tarnished postwar reputation.

Piedmont Hotel, the general's Gainesville residence.

People who want to learn more about Longstreet and his legacy also can take part in an April 8 bus tour to Gainesville, Ga., where the general lived his last years. Th event includes a guided tour of his home led by Wills and Richard Pilcher of the Longstreet Society, admission to the Northeast Georgia History Center and a boxed lunch.

The Longstreet Society works to rehabilitate the image of Lee's "War Horse." It argues he has been unfairly vilified by postwar detractors.

Advance registration for the 8:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. March 18 symposium is available here for a donation of $5 to benefit the center and its programs. The April 8 bus event has a cost is $59 per person. Kennesaw Corps Annual member admission is $49. You can register here.

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