Tuesday, November 7, 2017

An Interview with General Robert E. Lee.

[In the last days of April 1869, Robert E. Lee was wrapping up a visit to Baltimore, MD, where he was acting as a spokesman for the Valley Railroad Company, when he met Rev. Dr. John Leyburn. Reverend Leyburn (1814-1893) was a native of Lexington, VA, a past student of Washington College, and Southerner in his sympathies. He pastored Presbyterian congregations in Virginia, Alabama, Pennsylvania, and finally in Maryland. The following is the account of John Leyburn's encounter with General Lee, as published in the May 1885 issue of 'The Century Magazine.' - J. McCleese]

      Robert E. Lee                                      Rev. John Leyburn

An Interview with General Robert E. Lee

A year or more before the death of General Lee, he came to Baltimore as one of a committee to enlist the authorities of the city and the president and directors of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad in the project for a railroad down the Valley of Virginia.

I had met General Lee but once, and then only for a few minutes; and though his home during his last years was in my native place, I did not intend calling on him in Baltimore; but a Southerner of wealth, then in New York, Cyrus H. McCormick, having telegraphed to me to see the General and invite him to come on and be his guest, I called upon him to deliver the invitation. The General said he was here on a hurried visit, that his duties to the College required his presence at home, and that with many thanks for the courtesy, and the hope that he would be able to enjoy the proffered hospitalities some other time, he must decline. I urged him not to carry out that decision, assuring him that the College would probably gain substantial benefit from his visiting my friend. He at length agreed to hold the question under consideration during a day or two he was to be absent in the country, and made an appointment for my meeting him on his return.

The two days having expired, I called again and found him expecting me. He stated that, having fully considered the subject, he had decided that he must return home. After again presenting reasons why he should make the visit to my friend, I said:
"I think I see, General, that the real difficulty lies in your shrinking from the conspicuity of a visit to New York. I can readily understand that this would be unpleasant. But you need not be exposed to any publicity whatever; my friend has given me carte blanche to make all arrangement for your coming. I will engage a compartment in the palace car of the night train, and will telegraph my friend to meet you with his carriage on your arrival in New York."

I shall never forget the deep feeling manifested in the tones of his voice, as he replied:
"Oh, Doctor, I couldn't go sneaking into New York in that way. When I do go there, I'll go in the daylight, and go like man."

I felt rebuked at having made the suggestion; and finding he was fixed in his determination, the subject was dropped. But he seemed in a talkative mood, - remarkably so, considering his reputation for taciturnity, - and immediately began to speak of the issues and results of the war. The topic which seemed to lie uppermost and heaviest on his heart was the vast number of noble young men who had fallen in the bloody strife. In this particular he regarded the struggle as having been most unequal. The North, he said, had, indeed, sent many of her valuable young men to the field; but as in all large cities there is a population which can well be spared, she had from this source and from immigrants from abroad unfailing additional supplies. The South, on the other hand, had none but her own sons, and she sent and sacrificed the flower of her land.

After dwelling with emphasis and with feeling on this point, the General then introduced another topic which also moved him deeply, viz., the persistent manner in which the leading Northern journals, and the Northern people generally, insisted that the object of the war had been to secure the perpetuation of slavery. On this point he seemed not only indignant, but hurt. He said it was not true. He declared that, for himself, he had never been an advocate of slavery; that he had emancipated most of his slaves years before the war, and had sent to Liberia those who were willing to go; that the latter were writing back most affectionate letters to him, some of which he received through the lines during the war. He said, also, as an evidence that the colored people did not consider him hostile to their race, that during this visit to Baltimore some of them who had known him when he was stationed here had come up in the most affectionate manner and put their hands into the carriage-window to shake hands with him. They would hardly have received him in this way, he thought, had they looked upon him as fresh from a war intended for their oppression and injury. One expression I must give in his own words.
"So far," said General Lee, "from engaging in a war to perpetuate slavery, I am rejoiced that slavery is abolished. I believe it will be greatly for the interests of the South. So fully am I satisfied of this, as regards Virginia especially, that I would cheerfully have lost all I have lost by the war, and have suffered all I have suffered, to have this object attained." This he said with much earnestness.

After expressing himself on this point, as well as others in which he felt that Northern writers were greatly misrepresenting the South, he looked at me and, with emphasis, said:
"Doctor, I think some of you gentlemen that use the pen should see that justice is done us."

I replied that the feeling engendered by the war was too fresh and too intense for anything emanating from a Southern pen to affect Northern opinion; but that time was a great rectifier of human judgements, and hereafter the true history would be written; and that he need not fear that then injustice would be done him.

As the General was in a talking mood, he would have gone on much further, no doubt, but that at this point his son, General W.H.F. Lee, whom he had not seen for some time, and who had just arrived in Baltimore, entered the room.

John Leyburn.
Baltimore.

[Source: Leyburn, J. (1885, May). An Interview with General Robert E. Lee. Century Magazine, The, 30(1), 166-167.]

(All quotes have been italicized & emboldened, with quotes of Lee in red; underlines have been added by me to identify other thoughts of Lee not given as direct quotes. - J. McCleese)

Monday, May 29, 2017

Confederate Memorial Day (Camp #2257)

CONFEDERATE MEMORIAL DAY
Confederate Mound, Oak Woods Cemetery, Chicago
April 23, 2017

 
Sunday, 23 April, marked Confederate Memorial Day, and the annual service to honor the 6,229 Southern soldiers who died at infamous Camp Douglas, in Chicago, was held by the SCV’s Camp Douglas 516. Moreover, for the first time in years, Michigan supplied participants in the person of three SCV Camp 2257 members, and making the trip on a sun-shiny, 70 degree day were 7th Arkansas Captain Robert Fragala, Adjutant Duane Peachey, and Jim Perkins.


Approximately thirty people attended the ceremony at Confederate Mound, Oak Woods Cemetery on Chicago’s south side which was well organized and officiated by Chicago, Illinois SCV Camp 516. Included in a most impressive service were the opening prayer, the main address given by Camp 516’s Steve Quick, who was dressed as a Confederate naval officer, a three volley salute, and a moving ritual where handfuls of soil from all eleven Confederate States, along with three border states, were ceremoniously scattered along the burial grounds where these Confederate heroes now rest.


Below is the address delivered by Camp 516 Compatriot Steve Quick:
“Once a year we return to this place, this peaceful forgotten corner which conceals the horror of what happened to these men. We come to remember the 27,000 herded thru the walls of Camp Douglas and the 6,000 who never left. They rest, literally under our feet in the largest mass grave in the Western Hemisphere. In a nation which cyclically has a great fascination for our ‘Civil War’ this place is forgotten. Over 3 days in 1863 between 5-7K fell in a village named Gettysburg which today draws 1.2 M visitors a year. Look around you, and this is the largest gathering that will be in this place.

"It is precisely because of the intentional amnesia obscuring this “death camp”, that’s what author Geo Levy called it, that what we do here, what we say here, what we take from here matters so much. These were simple farm boys, literate enough to read their bibles and write letters in their own inventive script. They were enlisted men, many from rustic homes who hunted and fished, plowed behind mules, planted and harvested their own fields. They married young, buried too many of their children and wives in family plots on their own farms. These farms and these families were why they fought, these simple faithful uncommonly courageous men.

"They answered duty’s call as their grandfathers did during the revolution, to preserve the union as it was handed to them, uncorrupted by the unholy alliance of big business and big government. They chose to die here, wasting away rather than take an oath that could have saved their lives. Their deaths were not due to lack of resources, but to intentional deliberate neglect and human cruelty. The silence surrounding their death is wrapped in the same complicity, hoping to preserve a catechism which is neither truthful nor historical.

"The challenge for us today is to remember truthfully, without bitterness. To have the courage to speak of something too many prefer not to hear, to risk the epithets that will certainly be hurled if we dare break the silence and ignorance. Because until the truth of this place is known and their stories have been faithfully told, the work of beating swords into plowshares and spears into pruning hooks remains undone."

[For more on the historian, you can find him at his website: SteveQuick.org]

Confederately,
- James D. Perkins
Commander
Major General Patrick R. Cleburne Camp #2257 (Grand Rapids, MI)
Army of Tennessee, Sons of Confederate Veterans

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Statement Regarding the Upcoming Flag Burning in Detroit

Compatriots & Friends,

      On Thursday, May 18, 2017, it was reported by the Detroit Metro Times that an "artist," who is moderately known for his bizarre, anti-Confederate displays throughout the nation, will be holding a "Burn & Burial Funeral" ceremony for a replica Confederate flag at an art gallery in the City of Detroit on Memorial Day.

     Late in the evening that same night (May 18), a reporter from a local news station contacted Cmdr. Darron Williams, of Admiral Raphael Semmes Camp #1321 (Dearborn, MI), and requested a statement regarding the event, from the Camp, for use on that night's broadcast. Prior to receiving the email from the local reporter, no one in Camp leadership was aware that this event was going to take place. Having only been made aware of it right before the story was to air on television, Camp leadership felt that it was unwise to comment until we knew more about the event, who is putting it on, and what its purpose is intended to be. We have been in further contact with the reporter from the local news station, and he has expressed a willingness to give us a chance to respond sometime before the flag burning event takes place.

     According to the event listing from the art gallery's website, the purpose of this event is "to send a powerful message to the nation, especially under the Trump presidency and alt right politics that the Civil War is over, and the days of the Confederate Flag and white supremacy are numbered."

     The Sons of Confederate Veterans (SCV) is a non-political organization, and we do not endorse the use of Confederate symbols in support of any politician or modern political movement. The SCV is also a non-racial organization, and we oppose the misappropriation of Confederate symbols for the purposes of racial intimidation and/or hate. As a patriotic organization, with thousands of U.S. Veterans among our members, we are baffled by the use of Memorial Day for such an event, as that date is set aside by our nation specifically to honor & remember those who have died in the service of the U.S. Armed Forces.

     Unfortunately, there is no legal measure that can stop anyone from hijacking any historic American flag for hateful use, but it is another problem when we give in to the hate & lies, either by becoming hateful OR by letting those consumed by hate set a historical narrative that is factually-deficient. We refuse to let the hate & lies win on either front. We denounce & oppose any group or individual that attempts to use and/or redefine Confederate symbols for their own modern day agenda.

     Millions of living Americans have Confederate ancestors, and a large number of us take much pride in their courage, determination & sacrifice in protecting themselves, their families, their homes, and their home states during the awful, bloody War Between the States. We, the Sons of Confederate Veterans, simply choose to display Confederate flags & symbols in memory of those ancestors and in honor of their military service.

     The SCV is a diverse organization, as the Confederate military was comprised of men from numerous racial & ethnic backgrounds, and the SCV honors all Confederate Veterans who served with honor, without respect to race, ethnicity, or skin color. It would be impossible for us to adequately express how passionately we detest racism, discrimination, oppression, and bigotry, or any group/organization that would seek to promote such things. Our display of Confederate symbols is not intended to promote any of that or offend anyone; we only seek to properly & passionately honor our veteran ancestors, and we see no reason why we would consider Confederate symbols as anything other than historic American symbols of military honor.

DEO VINDICE!
- Jonathan McCleese
2nd Lieutenant Commander
Admiral Raphael Semmes Camp #1321 (Dearborn, MI)
Army of Tennessee, Sons of Confederate Veterans

Monday, May 8, 2017

Camp #2257 at the K-Zoo Living History Show (March 2017)

 
   The 42nd Annual Kalamazoo Living History Show was, as usual, attended by some 10,000 history enthusiasts, from several states and foreign countries. Meanwhile our SCV Major General Cleburne recruiting booth was tended by various combinations of camp members at one time or another, who answered a variety of questions from many interested prospects.            


    The Confederate battle flag almost always draws attention, which ranges from unconcealed delight, to an occasional look of quiet contempt. Stories of Confederate ancestors and Southern heritage were proudly proclaimed by many a passerby while, conversely, one person informed those who would listen that “the reason Southerners are so mean is due to the slave culture.” Well, perhaps calling someone so misinformed and ignorant a moron is not proper etiquette for a gentleman?



   Nevertheless, the 2017 excursion was a success, as we were visited by a good many young people, Southern sympathizers, and knowledgeable historians. Camp members/friends present included: Mike Lechenet, Jim & Kathy Pendergrass, Dan Stice, Duane Peachey, Henry Hawker, Cody Christensen, Bob Fragala, and Rick Bigham. The Cleburne Camp quarterly meeting was held Saturday afternoon on the Expo Center premises, where it was determined by a unanimous vote that the sixty dollars raised during the weekend will  go toward the plaque for  Private George E. Daft, Company F, 31st Virginia Volunteer Infantry, at the Michigan Military Heritage Museum in Grass Lake.

DEO VINDICE!
- James Perkins
Commander
Major General Patrick Ronayne Cleburne Camp #2257 (Grand Rapids, MI)
Army of Tennessee, Sons of Confederate Veterans

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Confederate Reactions to the Lincoln Assassination

On April 15, 1865, around 7:22 a.m., Abraham Lincoln, the 16th President of the United States, died after being struck by an assassin's bullet the previous evening.  The following gives the thoughts of three prominent Confederate leaders - President Jefferson Davis, Gen. Robert E. Lee & Adm. Raphael Semmes - regarding the event.
* * *
President Jefferson Davis was working to escape capture by the Yankees when the Lincoln assassination occurred, and did not learn of it until five days after the fatal shot was fired. On April 19th, as The President was about to enter a Charlotte, NC home to take lodging, a telegram from John C. Breckinridge (Confederate general & former U.S. Vice-President) was brought to him, informing him of Lincoln's fate. According to Davis biographer Hudson Strode, Davis was shocked, and had to read it again before handing it off to the person next to him, saying, "Here is a very extraordinary communication. It is sad news."


A column of Kentucky's Confederate Cavalry rode up to the house at that moment, and when someone read the dispatch aloud, one cavalryman shouted in jubilation, but Davis raised his hand to silence any further cheering before entering into the house. Inside, the President commented further to his personal secretary, Burton Harrison, saying, "I am sorry. We have lost our best friend in the court of the enemy."

Also traveling with the President was Secretary of the Navy Stephen Mallory, who recorded in his diary the following conversation with Davis about the assassination:
"I expressed my deep regret, expressing among other views, my conviction of Mr. Lincoln's moderation, his sense of justice, and my apprehension that the South would be accused of instigating his death. To this Mr. Davis replied sadly, 'I certainly have no special regard for Mr. Lincoln; but there are a great many men of whose end I would much rather have heard than his. I fear it will be disastrous to our people and I regret it deeply.'"

Years later, in Rise & Fall of the Confederate Government, he would reflect on the event by saying, "For an enemy so relentless in the war for our subjugation, we could not be expected to mourn; yet, in view of its political consequences, it could not be regarded otherwise than as a great misfortune to the South. [Lincoln] had power over the Northern people, and was without personal malignity towards the people of the South; his successor was without power in the North, and the embodiment of malignity towards the Southern people."
* * *
On April 24, 1865, reporter Thomas Cook obtained an interview with General Lee, who would summarize the General's words in the New York Herald's April 29th edition. Regarding the Lincoln assassination, Cook wrote: 
"The General considered this event in itself one of the most deplorable that could have occurred. As a crime it was unexampled and beyond execration. It was a crime that no good man could approve from any conceivable motive. Undoubtedly the effort would be made to fasten the responsibility of it upon the South; but from his intimate acquaintance with the leading men of the South, he was confident there was not one of them who would sanction or approve it. The scheme was wholly unknown in the South before its execution, and would have never received the slightest encouragement had it been known; but, on the contrary, the most severe execration.

"I called the General's attention, at this point, to a notice that had been printed in the Northern papers, purporting to have been taken from a paper published in the interior of the South, proposing, for the sum of one million dollars, to undertake the assassination of the President and his Cabinet. The General affirmed that he had never seen or heard of such a proposition, nor did he believe it had ever been printed in the South; though if it had, it had been permitted merely as the whim of some crazy person that could possibly amount to nothing. Such a crime was an anomaly in the history of our country, and we had yet before its perpetration to learn that it was possible of either earnest conception or actual execution."
* * *
Raphael Semmes, the one time Admiral in the Confederate States Navy turned Confederate Army General, was encamped with Southern troops near Greensboro, NC, when word of the assassination reached him on the morning of April 18, 1865. Four years later, in his book, Memoirs of a Service Afloat, Admiral Semmes gives the following thoughts about Lincoln and his killing: 
"[M]y camp was astounded one morning by the report that Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States, was dead. He had gone to a small theatre in the city of Washington, on the evening of Good Friday, and had been shot by a madman!

"It seemed like a just retribution that he should be cut off in the midst of the hosannas that were being shouted in his ears, for all the destruction and ruin he had wrought upon twelve millions of people. Without any warrant for his conduct, he had made a war of rapine and lust against eleven sovereign States, whose only provocation had been that they had made an effort to preserve the liberties which had been handed down to them by their fathers. These States had not sought war, but peace, and they had found, at the hands of Abraham Lincoln, destruction.

"As a Christian, it was my duty to say, 'Lord, have mercy upon his soul!' but the devil will surely take care of his memory."
* * *
After Lincoln's assassination, myth-makers masked as historians took the story of this mortal-man and spun the 16th President's tale as if he had been one of Christ's apostles, if not making him out to be a fourth addition to the blessed Trinity. His murder having happened on Good Friday only bolstered their efforts to make him a type of Christ figure. The men quoted above knew differently, however; now, with the blessing of hindsight for those of us willing to look at the actual historical record, we know that Lincoln was nothing less than a tyrant in the same vein as the men who usually come to mind when such a label is used.

I personally view Lincoln's assassination unfavorably; not because he deserved better, but because the South did. It would have been better if he had been charged with war crimes, tried in a court of law, and sentenced for execution. Better still would it have been if, at some time before November 1842, Abe had died from the flu, or been bitten by a poisonous snake, or killed by Native Americans during the Black Hawk War. If you are wondering why I say before Nov. of 1842, it's because Lincoln was married on the fourth day of that month & year, and if he had not lived to see that date then he never would have had a wife to widow or children to leave fatherless... he certainly would not have ever entered the realm of American politics, and thus there would have been no war, and the South would not have suffered as it did during four years of war & the aftermath. Millions of mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, relatives & friends would not have had to bury loved ones who died as a result of the unnecessary conflict.

These, of course, are just my own thoughts, and are now added among the millions of others written about the matter for public consumption. Lincoln died on April 15, 1865, and, because history played out the way it did, we here in the Sons of Confederate Veterans exist to tell the truth about that bloody struggle.

DEO VINDICE!
- Jonathan McCleese
2nd Lieutenant Commander
Admiral Raphael Semmes Camp #1321 (Dearborn, MI)
Army of Tennessee, Sons of Confederate Veterans

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Lee & Jackson Honored in Michigan Events

Robert Edward Lee (whose birthday is January 19, 1807) and Thomas Jonathan Jackson (whose birthday is January 21, 1824) have long been celebrated heroes throughout the South; Lee's birthday became a holiday in the south around 1889 and Jackson's was added to it in 1904. Since then, the combined Lee-Jackson Day has been celebrated, officially & unofficially, by folks of Confederate ancestry and freedom loving people all over the world on appropriate dates throughout the month of January every year.


Here in the Great Lakes State, the Michigan Camps of the SCV honored these two great leaders with two very special events.

For the Major-General Patrick Ronayne Cleburne Camp #2257, winter-weather related delays forced them to push back their 2nd Annual Christmas Dinner to the month of January, and thus transformed the event into a combined "Late Christmas/Lee-Jackson Day Dinner." The following report on this gathering was submitted by Cmdr. Jim Perkins of Camp #2257:
The second Annual Camp 2257 Christmas Dinner, which was twice postponed due to inclement weather, was finally held and  was renamed the Late Christmas/Lee-Jackson Dinner. Saturday, 14 January, eighteen Cleburne Camp members and guests gathered at Belvidere Township Hall in Six Lakes, where they celebrated the birthdays of Confederate heroes Robert E. Lee and Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson. 
Dinner was served at 1:30 and on the menu was turducken, mashed potatoes and gravy, baked beans, chicken wings, and coleslaw. Also on hand was plenty of citrus punch, water, and soda to wash it down, while for desert there was chocolate and vanilla cake, along with orange jello.

Without a doubt the highlight of the day was the introduction and  welcoming of three new SCV Major General Patrick Ronayne Cleburne, Camp 2257 members, Michael Woroniak and son Paul Woroniak of Manistee; and Rick Bigham of Howell. The three new compatriots received SCV certificates and other members were all afforded the splendid opportunity to meet them.
Following the new member ceremony, clips from the movie, Gods and Generals were shown as homage was paid to Generals Lee and Jackson before our silent auction was held and raised $165, as members purchased a variety of Confederate items that were donated by members and guests. Subsequently, two checks were sent from Camp 2257 to SCV National Headquarters at Elm Springs near Columbia, Tennessee: the first in the amount of $115.00 was written to the SCV Heritage Defense Fund; while the second check written for $50.00 went toward the new SCV Museum which is being built on site at SCV National Headquarters.

Finally, the afternoon-long celebration adjourned with the singing of that most beautiful tune, Dixie. Thank you members for attending this year’s dinner, and for your kind generosity. Hopefully, y’all will return along with many more members next year and may the Almighty Providence continue to bless you and your families. 
One week later, on January 21st (Stonewall Jackson's birthday), the Admiral Raphael Semmes Camp #1321 hosted it's annual Lee-Jackson Day Dinner at a banquet hall in Milford, MI. While this event is always one of the best attended of the year, this year's attendance was by far the best all-time. Members of SCV Camp #2257, ladies from the Thomas Ryan Chapter #2689 - United Daughters of the Confederacy, plus a number of friends and guests joined the members of the Semmes Camp in honoring these southern heroes.

  Before jumping into the event's festivities, Cmdr. Darron Williams began the ceremonies by honoring the camp's recently departed charter member, Fr. Constantine-Paul Michael Belisarius, with the SCV's memorial rites for a departed compatriot. 

   
Following this solemn ceremony, Cmdr. Williams welcomed all who came out, and kicked things off by showing two special videos - one a music video for "You Ain't Just Whistlin' Dixie" (as performed by the Bellamy Brothers) and another that focused on the truth about slavery. 2nd Lt.Cmdr. Jonathan McCleese was then introduced. At the request of Mrs. Margaret Bigham (from UDC Chapter #2689), a special certificate was presented to honor the Vietnam service of Andrew Keeney, who's wife is a member of the UDC's Thomas Ryan Chapter. Then 2nd Lt.Cmdr. McCleese gave a presentation on the lives of Robert E. Lee & "Stonewall" Jackson.

Throughout the event, a 50/50 raffle and silent auction were held to raise funds for the SCV's Heritage Defense Fund. Thanks to those who donated items for the auction and the generosity of those who participated, the camp was able to raise $508.00, which will assist our organization in paying for the legal battles that arise when the fight to preserve our heritage goes to the courthouse.

For the close of our very special night, we had a new Compatriot, William Maynard, take the oath of membership. Making it all the more special was having his brother, Compatriot Ben Maynard, present him with his certificate of membership.

[Image courtesy of Kirk Chidester]
Robert E. Lee & Stonewall Jackson have long been examples of the best of America. Even in the north, both men were revered and honored by those who fought on the opposite side from them in mortal combat. Today, in our modern culture, society has shifted away from honoring honorable men such as these, but we here in the Michigan Camps of the SCV and many other like minded individuals around our nation still recognize the valuable lessons the memory of these men can still teach... lessons in duty, courage, military service, sacrifice, living moral lives, and commitment to serving God. Let us never forget these two great Southern warriors, and let us always remember to teach other the importance of honoring their memory. Many thanks to everyone who came out to these two special events held in their honor.

To the Memory of Jackson! To the Memory of Lee! To God be the glory! Amen!

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Lee's Old Warhorse: In Memory of Gen. James Longstreet

Welcome, compatriots and friends, to 2017! It my sincere hope that you had the merriest Christmas and the happiest of New Year celebrations! Here at the close of the first week of January, I also hope you have your calendars marked and have made plans to be with us at the Annual Lee-Jackson Day Dinner on January 21st in Milford, MI (additional details should have reached you by email; please, check your inbox for those details).

Earlier this week, on January 2nd, was the 113th anniversary of the passing of Gen. James Longstreet (January 8, 1821 - January 2, 1904), and tomorrow will be the 196th anniversary of his birth. "Pete," as he was affectionately called by his close family & friends, was born in the historic Edgefield District of South Carolina, and, with the encouragement of his father, grew up dreaming of a military career.

In 1838, Pete's dreams came true as he was appointed to the United States Military Academy at West Point. While a cadet he was very popular among his classmates (among them being George Pickett & Ulysses S. Grant) but academically he was not considered impressive, ranking 54th out of 56 cadets when he graduated.

Following his graduation, Longstreet was commissioned a brevet second lieutenant in the 4th U.S. Infantry, and spent his first two years of service at Jefferson Barracks, Missouri. It was there, while serving under regimental commander Lt.Col. John Garland, that he would meet his future wife, Maria Louisa Garland, the daughter of Col. Garland. (Longstreet and Ms. Garland would wed several years later in 1848, shortly after the Mexican-American War.)

In the Mexican-American War (1846-48), Longstreet served with distinction in the 8th U.S. Infantry. Early on in the conflict, he served as a lieutenant under Zachary Taylor's command at the Battle of Monterey, and later received brevet promotions to captain (after the battles at Contreras and Churubusco) and then to major (for his performance in the battle at Molino del Rey). On September 12, 1847, at the Battle of Chapultepec, the young officer was charging up the hill with his regimental colors when he was wounded in the thigh. As he fell, he passed along the flag to his old friend & classmate, George Pickett, who carried the colors up the hill. This was to be Longstreet's final act of gallantry during the Mexican conflict.

After recovering from his wounds & marrying Col. Garland's daughter, Longstreet then took his new bride with him out west, where he would raise his family while serving on frontier duty in Texas, performing scouting missions. He also served as major and paymaster for the 8th U.S. Infantry from July 1858.

When the talks of Southern secession seriously broke out in 1860, Longstreet was not wholly in favor of the option, though he firmly believed in the right of states to do so. Once Southern secession became a reality, he resigned his commission in the U.S. Army and devoted himself to the Confederate Cause. For a look at his Southern war record, I will turn to what was written in Longstreet's obituary, as found in the February 1904 edition of the 'Confederate Veteran' magazine:
"(H)e was immediately appointed brigadier general, and won distinction in the first battle of Bull Run, where he prevented a large force of Federal troops from supporting McDowell's flank attack. On May 5, 1862, he made a brave stand at Williamsburg, where he was attacked by Heintzelman, Hooker, and Karney, and held his ground sturdily until Hancock arrived to reenforce his opponents, when he was driven back.

"At the second battle of Manassas he commanded the first corps of the Army of Northern Virginia, which came promptly to the relief of Jackson when he was hard pressed by Pope's army, and by a determined flank charge decided the fortunes of the day. When Lee retreated to Virginia, after the battle of Gettysburg, Gen. Longstreet, with five brigades, was transferred to Tennessee under Bragg, and at Chickamauga held the left wing of the Confederate forces. He rejoined Lee early in 1864, and was so prominent in the battle of the Wilderness that he was wounded by the fire of his own troops. He was in the surrender at Appomattox on April 9, 1865."
At the Appomattox surrender, as throughout the war, it must have difficult for James Longstreet to be on opposing sides against former West Point classmates such as U.S. Grant. General Lee sought Longstreet's counsel regarding the surrender, and Pete told his superior officer that he thought Grant would be fair in the terms, but as Lee rode out to meet his foe at the McLean House, Longstreet reportedly told him, "General, if he does not give us good terms, come back and let us fight it out."

While some over the years, including some of his prominent peers in the Confederate Army, have criticized Longstreet for his war conduct, many still have honored him for the brave & faithful service he rendered in the struggle for Southern independence. His eulogist in the 'Confederate Veteran' did not hesitate to say that "(t)hroughout the army he was ... considered the hardest fighter in the Confederate service. He had the unbounded confidence of his troops who were ordered to him, and the whole army became imbued with new vigor in the presence of the foe when it became known down the line that "Old Pete" was up."

Most of the harshest criticism of James Longstreet, however, regards his actions and choices after the close of the War Between the States, but the author of his printed eulogy in 'the Veteran' did not use his death as the time to heap scorn upon his memory. Instead, he quoted Gen. Clement Evans (former Confederate general, then commanding officer of the Tennessee Department, United Confederate Veterans) as saying:
"[Longstreet] was one of those who believed that, the South being defeated, there was no need of keeping alive in form even the differences between the sections. Grant was his friend, and I do not believe that when Longstreet was appointed to office in New Orleans the thought of seducing him ever entered the mind of the President, nor did Longstreet regard the appointment [as surveyor of customs in New Orleans] as an attempt to win him over to Republicanism. But as time went on he committed himself beyond recall and there could be no denying the fact that he affiliated with the Republican party, which party he remained in till his death... Now that the old fighter is dead, it is better to forget his mistakes, if he made any, and to remember only the great things of his life, which, indeed, were many, and to honor him for their sake."
James Longstreet died six days before his 83rd birthday in 1904 at the residence of his daughter in Gainesville, GA. His first wife, Louise, and several children preceded him in death. He was survived by his 2nd wife, Helen Dortch, plus 4 sons and a daughter. He was buried next to his first wife at Gainesville's Alta Vista Cemetery.

Per the above advice of General Evans, we remember the great things of Gen. James Longstreet's life and honor him for their sake. Rest well, General.

- Jonathan M. McCleese
2nd Lt. Commander
Admiral Raphael Semmes Camp #1321 (Dearborn, MI)
Army of Tennessee, Sons of Confederate Veterans