Behind The Stonewall

General James Longstreet's Memorial - Gettysburg Pennsylvania

About what you are looking at...

(Using the statue as a reference point)  The statue of Lieutenant General James Longstreet ("Old Pete") was created by sculptor Gary Casteel for the National Park Service.  Plans for the statue had been in the works for many decades, but kept getting pushed aside.  Finally, a group raised the money required to not only have the statue made, and installed, but, as is now required by law, to maintain it.  It was dedicated on July 3rd, 1998.  The statue resides in the east edge of Pitzer's Woods on the north end of Warfield Ridge.  Unlike other equestrian statues on the battlefield, this statues was erected on the ground, rather than on a pedestal.  The artist, and the National Park Service felt it should be more accessible to the public as a work of "living art".  The public pays homage to Longstreet by occasionally leaving flowers, flags, coins and cigars under the statue.  The coins are collected and sent to the United States Treasury, for inclusion in the general fund.  The General sits astride his favorite horse, "Hero", and they both face the east where the Union forces were waiting.

James Longstreet was described by General Robert E. Lee as  "My Old Warhorse".   One of the more capable generals of the war, Longstreet was born in South Carolina and raised in Georgia, and Alabama.  Longstreet was a member of the famed and fated class of 1842 at West Point, graduating 54th in a class of 62.   Among his graduating classmates:  U. S. Grant, Irvin McDowell, George H. Thomas, Henry Halleck, and William T. Sherman. 

Longstreet served in the United States Army after graduation, initially in the 4th and 8th United States Infantry Regiments, fought bravely in the War with Mexico, and was brevetted to the rank of Major.  When the Civil War broke out, he resigned his commission in the U. S.Army, and accepted a commission as a Brigadier General in the Confederate Army.  His performance at First Manassas earned him a promotion to Major General.  Lee recognized his abilities and assigned him command of the First Corps, Army of Northern Virginia.  Teamed in 1862 with Lieutenant General Thomas Jonathan "Stonewall" Jackson as the other Corps commander, Longstreet worked hard and fought well under Lee.  Successively defeating one Union commander after the other, Lee, Longstreet and Jackson amassed a military record which ranks among the best.  Longstreet commanded the respect and admiration of his men, and his divisions at Gettysburg, under Major Generals George Pickett, Lafayette McLaws, and John Bell Hood contained some of the hardest fighters in the Confederate Army.   While differences with Lee over tactical philosophy have been used to point out Longstreet's reluctance to order attacks he felt were futile on July 2nd and 3rd, he did make the best preparations for his men which he could.  The assaults by Hood and McLaws on the Union left (southern) flank on the second marked some of the most vicious and sustained combat of the entire campaign.  They were defeated by a competent enemy, and a wild and difficult terrain.  On July 3rd, 13,000 men marched from the woods to your north, across a mile of open farm fields, broken by fences, under the fire of a hundred cannons, and tens of thousands of muskets.  They marched in formation, proudly, bravely, and at the last, with a rush at the Union lines on Cemetery Ridge, fought hand to hand to force the breakthrough Lee had hoped to accomplish, and Longstreet had planned.   Alas, the attack was spent, and not enough remained to exploit their breakthrough.   Union soldiers described the assault as the grandest spectacle they ever saw.   Because of Longstreet's reluctance to order these attacks, post war writers often blamed him for Lee's defeat at Gettysburg, and ultimately the war.  Such generalizations, in light of more recent scholarship, have been found to be without much foundation.

Longstreet took his Corps to Georgia in late summer of 1863, arriving at Chickamauga just in time to line up and break through the Union Lines there, causing a panic and a mad-dash retreat to Chattanooga for Union General William S. Rosecrans and his army.   Longstreet was later sent to capture Knoxville, a daunting task at any time, made more so by rotten early-winter weather, and a lack of support and supplies from General Braxton Bragg.  The campaign failed, and Longstreet made his way back to Virginia with his Corps.  Riding in the woods, at the same location as, and nearly a year later than General "Stonewall" Jackson when he was shot, Longstreet was wounded in much the same fashion, by friendly troops in an obvious error.  Mortally wounded by being shot in the throat, he nevertheless recovered, rejoined his troops later in the year, and was at Lee's side the rest of the war.

Longstreet had many problems after the war, shunned and blamed for the Confederate defeat by others, Longstreet became a member of the Republican Party, and went to work for President Grant, in appointed  Federal posts in the south.  These actions earned him alienation among the southerners.

The area, once used as a picnic grove, now is used by re-enactor groups as their bivouac area when they visit the Park to provide living history displays for the general public.   Also located at the north end (scan right) of the area is the Park's Amphitheater, where Park Rangers (Interpretive) give lectures on various aspects of the battle.    Panning around toward the north (right) and northwest, the viewer can make out another section of woods in the distance just above the cannon.  Those are the woods on Seminary Ridge from which the brigades of Brigadier Generals Lewis Armistead, James Kemper, and Richard Garnett, all Virginians under George Pickett stepped off on their march to Cemetery Ridge, just visible on the horizon.  Panning to the east, the elevation over the fields is the one on which the Emmitsburg Road runs, which in turn obscures any view of Cemetery Ridge as it runs south.  Just visible to the southeast, on the horizon, are the peaks of Little Round Top on the left, and Big Round Top on the right .  Just north of Little Round Top, but nearer,  along the Emmitsburg Road is the low elevation where the Peach Orchard may be found.

W. G. Davis

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