Brief Nerd Rants: Longstreet FTW

Among Southern revisionists, two of the favorite figures to canonize are Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson. Nathan Bedford Forrest was pretty chill for a while until the whole “KKK” thing made him no longer PC. Yes, the group that idolizes the slave holders of our past has to be PC…

I liked Lee okay when I was a kid. He was certainly popular in his day, but that popularity has been so utterly bloated over time and re-imaginings that it’s hard to find where his real popularity ended and his postmortem worship begins. Jackson never really did anything for me.

I mean, for one thing, he was crazy. I mean totally bum-f–k insane. He rode around with one arm in the air to “keep the blood balanced.” And he was scary religious. And he constantly sucked on lemons. I guess the counter argument would be “But he was a great general!” Yeah, I guess. If you ignore the part where he commissioned the creation of pikes to be used against the Federals. In a war where casualties were catastrophic from VERY old tactics being used in a bad combination with modern technology, even his contemporaries were stopping and saying “Yeah, but PIKES?!”

So no thanks. And Lee has been glorified into a saint of unreal proportions. Like, somehow he didn’t like slavery? Bullshit. He only gave his up because he had to. Heck, I’m sure most people would feel the same way nowadays, too, so I’m not especially upset about that. But to illustrate this point, he inherited several slaves from his father-in-law that, in accordance with his will, must be freed by a certain date. Now, if this was a man who didn’t like slavery, he could have pulled a U.S. Grant (you know, a general that DIDN’T suck), and freed them immediately. But he didn’t. He only freed them on the midnight before the will mandated they must be released. So, yeah. Obviously there’s a man who just abhors slavery.

To be fair, I AM a Yankee. There’s simply no getting away from that. But that’s not to say I hate the South, or even don’t see where they were coming from on certain points (not the slavery one, obviously). I even like some Confederate commanders. I adored the snot out of Lewis Armistead as a kid. But you know who I really like? Who’s tragically under-appreciated?

James “Pete” Longstreet (I’m not up to snuff on him, so I have NO clue why his nickname was Pete. Feel free to fill me in if you know). I mean, this guy had it going on. And the South hates him for it! Historians think he may have been the greatest general on either side of the conflict, and the man gets no respect! Because he understood what many of his comrades didn’t – that the South didn’t need to beat the North to gain independence. They only needed to have a viable army long enough to be such a thorn in the side of the Union that continued conflict could no longer be justified in Washington. Heck, that’s how the American Revolution was won in the first place, even with most major cities occupied by the British!

The North had the lion’s share of morons, there’s no doubt about that, but the South had enough to trip them up. See Braxton Bragg (that name is so awesomely appropriate). Or Jubal Early. I’m pretty sure there was a second Early somewhere in there, and they both sucked. So what do they do with this truly competent, down-right GOOD general of theirs? They go and shit on him.

Problem 1: He disagreed with Lee at Gettysburg. And he should have! You know why? Because Lee lost. From the very beginning, Longstreet pointed out what a stupid idea it was to fight there. And Lee USUALLY listened to him – because that’s what you do when you have competent people on your staff – but here his head had been so bloated by three years of constant victory in the east that he went on blindly. Gettysburg was a MASSACRE. The North had heavy losses, but nothing like the South, who had fewer men to begin with. If they had withdrawn as was Longstreet’s idea, I’m not saying they would have won. The South was never going to win to begin with, but that’s a discussion for another day. But they would have extended the war for a few more years, and maybe even snatched victory from the jaws of defeat. So thank you to R.E. Lee for being a fathead on July 1, 1863!

Problem 1.5: He dared to write about disagreeing with Lee in his autobiography. In shockingly un-repentant detail. How DARE he not continue the hero-worship of the South’s favorite son and point out realistic flaws?! SHAME ON YOU, SIR!

Problem 2: He wasn’t a jerk about the whole “You’re still a part of our country” thing. A lot of this is because he had been good friends with Grant before the war, and saw no reason for this to change once the war was over. Longstreet’s involvement with the South was not due to attachment to slavery so much as an inability to fight against his own family. You can hardly fault a guy for that. So he was more than happy to go along with his trusted friend’s plans, and even become – GASP – a Republican!


In a world where Southern meant without question Democrat (my, how times change….), this was an unthinkable offense. Longstreet was persona non grata throughout the rest of his lifetime in the South (this was BRIEFLY disregarded in a reunion of confederates much later in the century, when he was publicly embraced by Jefferson Davis, but it never really changed much). Lost Causers blamed the defeat at Gettysburg on him, despite it being Lee’s plan and his objecting to every part of it in the first place. It is only VERY recently that this attitude is changing, but even then, I don’t know that poor old Longstreet will ever have his day.

So South, you didn’t deserve to win. Because look how you treat the good ones! And then look how you treat the not-very-admirable/totally nucking futs ones! Shame on you.

And a wrap up: Michael, I’m not vilifying the South, don’t yell at me.
Hanna, I know what your response will be. Jubilation T. Cornpone. He didn’t exist, but maybe he should have.


About emilydnelson

A recent graduate of Hofstra University with a B.A. in anthropology, Emily is like every other twenty-two year old on the planet - trying to figure out what the hell to do now. Follow as she struggles with writing, her social work job, and bopping from coast to coast.
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2 Responses to Brief Nerd Rants: Longstreet FTW

  1. That Hanna Creature says:

    …he didn’t exist? Are you sure? He was the greatest fighting general the confederacy ever knew!

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