eReview: Lee's Tarnished Lieutenant: James Longstreet and His Place in Southern History
by William Garrett Piston Paperback Reprint edition (March 1990) Univ of Georgia Press; ISBN: 0820312290
Review by Molly Nash
Although not a recent publication, Piston has written a scholarly work on James Longstreet and his military career. He focuses on the historical record from the Official Records and primary source material illustrating the significant role Longstreet played in the war. What he also does, and in my opinion, does masterfully is trace the anti-Longstreet faction and its impact on him in the post war historiography.
Because one of Longstreet's foremost characteristics was his pragmatism, he accepted the loss of the war and advocated support of the Republican regime. Many in the defeated South saw his public statement as heresy. Jubal Early, probably eager to redeem himself in the pantheon of Southern military heroes, deliberately began a campaign designed to discredit Longstreet. Upon the death of Robert E. Lee in October 1870, Early and several others, particularly clergymen in Lexington, Virginia, developed a strategy for enhancing Lee's saintly reputation. They reasoned that because Lee's loss at Gettysburg was inconsistent with his perfect military record, a scapegoat was needed on whom to fasten blame for the loss. Longstreet became that scapegoat.
Piston devotes the second half of the book to discussing the Early faction and its extraordinary results in enshrining Lee and tarnishing Longstreet. The author also accords to Longstreet blame for his inept defense against the prolific outpouring of published materials.
Any one who wishes to peel away the many layers of untruths about Longstreet and Gettysburg should read this book. It is rich in perspective and logical conclusions and is thoroughly footnoted.---Molly Nash, CWW Reviews
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