“Old Pete,” senior lieutenant general of the Confederate Army, was born in Edgefield District, South Carolina, January 8, 1821, and was graduated from West Point in 1842. He served in various Indian campaigns and won two brevets for gallantry in Mexico. As the time of his resignation from the old army on June 1, 1861, he was a major (paymaster). Appointed brigadier general in the Confederate service on June 17, 1861, he fought at First Manassas the following month. He was promoted major general on October 7, 1861 and rendered distinguished service in the Peninsular campaign, from April to July 1862, and at Second Manassas and Sharpsburg in the two months succeeding.
He was made lieutenant general from October 9, 1862. In December his last Corps occupied an impregnable position on Marye’s Heights at Fredericksburg and inflicted terrible losses on the attacking Federals. Longstreet in 1862-63 was on detached service south of the James River and this arrived too late to participate at Chancellorsville. He commanded the right wing at Gettysburg and was charged post bellum with losing the battle by his failure to attack at daylight on the second day, in accordance with Lee’s orders. This unwarranted charge plagued him to the end of his life.
At Chickamauga in September 1863, he was largely responsible for the Confederate victory, but was unsuccessful in an attempt to take Knoxville. He arrived at the Wilderness on May 6, 1864, with the leading division of his corps, in time to repulse the Federal assault of that morning and to organize a brilliant counterattack. A few hours later he sustained a critical wound, which incapacitated him until late fall, but he was again at the head of his corps in the closing months.
With Lee he surrendered to Grant at Appomattox Courthouse. After the war Longstreet settled in New Orleans. He became a Republican and was a personal friend of Grant, who made him a U.S. minister to Turkey in 1880. He was also the commissioner of Pacific railroads under McKinley and Roosevelt, from 1897 to 1904. Lee affectionately called Longstreet “my old War Horse.” He unquestionably had no superior in either army as battlefield tactician; his record in independent command, however, was not distinguished. He died at Gainesville, Georgia, on January 2, 1904, the last of the high command of the Confederacy. He is buried in Gainesville.