Publication Date

March 2020




Indiana University Press


At least since 1867 when James Longstreet wrote a letter urging southerners to accept the reality of military reconstruction, he became one of the most controversial figures of the Civil War era. Political revulsion quickly led to extensive criticism of Longstreet’s military career focusing on his performance at Gettysburg. In letters and articles, Longstreet responded in kind, sometimes inconsistently, often defensively, and the battle has been joined ever since. Defenders of Robert E. Lee and the Lost Cause have often portrayed Longstreet, if not exactly as a villain, at least as a deeply flawed general who had let the Army of Northern Virginia down during those fateful July days in Pennsylvania. In our own time, Robert K. Krick, especially in his wonderfully titled essay, “’If Longstreet . . . Says So, It Is Most Likely Not True’: James Longstreet and the Second Day at Gettysburg,” has followed suit. Taking up the cudgels for Longstreet have been historians William Garrett Piston and Jeffrey D. Wert, but it was novelist Michael Shaara who turned the general into a tragic hero in his classic novel The Killer Angels. To this day, any mention of Longstreet’s name can start an argument among Civil War buffs and some historians...