James Longstreet was born on January 8, 1821 in the Edgefield District of South Carolina. He was the son of planter James and Mary Ann Dent.
Longstreet spent his early years in Augusta, Ga. Soon after the death of his father, he went with his mother to Somerville, Ala where he lived with his uncle.
Longstreet entered West Point Academy and graduated 54th in a class of 62 in 1842. He was assigned to various military posts in Missouri and Louisiana until the outbreak of the War with Mexico in 1848. During the war he served under General Zachary Taylor and saw combat at Monterrey, Palo Alto, Resaca and was wounded at Chapultepec.
Longstreet met Maria Louisa Garland, the daughter of his regimental commander, Lt. Col. John Garland. They married in March 1848, after the Mexican-American War. Their marriage would last for more than 40 years and produce 10 children. Longstreet married his second wife, the much younger Helen Dortch Longstreet, in 1897 at the Georgia Governors Mansion.
Major Longstreet resigned from the U.S. Army on June 1, 1861 and offered his services to the new Confederacy, where he felt his loyalty belonged to his native state when the Civil War began.
He fought in the first and second battles of Bull Run, called First and Second Manassas by the Confederates (July 1861, August–September 1862). He was a division commander in the Peninsular Campaign (March–July 1862), at Antietam (September 1862) and Fredericksburg (November–December 1862).
He commanded what was soon called the I Corps in the Army of Northern Virginia. Longstreet was promoted to lieutenant general (1862) and participated in the Battle of Gettysburg as Gen. Robert E. Lee’s second in command. Lee, who was fond of Longstreet, gave him the nickname “My Old War Horse.”
His delay in attacking and his slowness in organizing “Pickett’s Charge,” many critics argue, were responsible for the Confederate defeat at Gettysburg. Others, however, place the blame on Lee, citing Lee’s inability to cope with ineffectual officers and stubborn insistence upon attacking the Union at Gettysburg.
In September 1863, he directed the attack at Chickamauga that broke the Federal lines.
Detached to reinforce Gen. Braxton Bragg in Georgia, he commanded a wing of the army on the second day at Chickamauga.
In the dispute over the follow-up of the victory, he was critical of Bragg and was soon detached to operate in East Tennessee, where he again showed an incapacity for independent operations, especially in the siege of Knoxville according to scholars.
Arriving at Knoxville, Gen. Longstreet ordered a siege of the city, as fate would have it, the action he opposed at Chattanooga.
The plan failed at Knoxville as it did at Chickamauga. General Ulysess Grant sent reinforcements to both cities, which resulted in Confederate defeats.
Learning that Federal reinforcements were in route to Knoxville, Longstreet ordered an attack on Fort Sanders on Nov. 29, 1863, resulting in a Confederate defeat.
Longstreet abandoned the siege of Knoxville on Dec. 4, 1863 and retreated to rejoin. Lee and the Army of Northern Virginia.
The Federal Army pursued, but not too closely. On Dec. 14, Gen. Longstreet was at Rogersville while the Federal Army was at Bean Station.
Longstreet turned his army around and they clashed at Bean Station. By nightfall, the Federals were retiring from Bean Station back toward Knoxville and the battle ended.
The weather turned severe with record low temperatures and snow and the Confederate Army was unable to travel and went into winter camp at Russellville.
During the winter, the armies fought in the Battle of Mossy Creek (present day Jefferson City), Dandridge and Fair Garden. Longstreet was severely wounded in the Wilderness Campaign in confusion by Confederate soldiers.
In November 1864, although with a paralyzed right arm, he resumed command of his corps. He surrendered with Lee at Appomattox.
After the war he befriended former West Point classmate and U.S. President Ulysses S. Grant and became a Republican. He served as Grant’s minister to Turkey.
He also served as commissioner of Pacific Railroads under Presidents William McKinley and Theodore Roosevelt, from 1897 to 1904.
After being criticized by many former Confederates, he struck back with his book, “From Manassas to Appomattox.”
He outlived most of his high-ranking postwar detractors. He died at Gainesville, Georgia on Jan. 2, 1904, the last of the high command of the Confederacy.
He is buried in Gainesville.
The Longstreet Headquarters in Russellville is one of the most important places in Tennessee to tell the whole story of the American Civil War.
During the brutal winter of 1864, General James Longstreet, one of General Robert E. Lee’s most significant lieutenants in the Army of Northern Virginia, made his headquarters.
From this location, Longstreet and his commanders kept the Confederate army fed and ready for battle against Federal forces located throughout East Tennessee.
Here, too, is the story of the Nenney family, who found their world turned upside down by Confederate occupation and the war that raged around them. The war’s major campaigns, the rigors of life on the home front, the divisions between neighbors and friends, and the dangers of occupation. All of these stories are conveyed by what is preserved and interpreted at today’s Longstreet Headquarters historic site.
This place found life through a creative, reciprocal partnership between the Lakeway Civil War Preservation Association and the Tennessee Civil War National Heritage Area, the statewide Civil War program that is administered by the Center for Historic Preservation at Middle Tennessee State University.
We began our assistance by carrying out a Historic Structure Report with a class of my graduate students five years ago. This comprehensive study of the Nenney House and its history created the roadmap for all future developments at the property.
Next came a fundraising brochure and PowerPoint presentation from Heather Bailey, one of my doctoral students. Another doctoral student, Spurgeon King, took the topic of the Civil War in Upper East Tennessee as his dissertation. Dr. King’s study has been invaluable to our exhibits at the house.
Then, another MTSU class of mine developed a furnishing plan for the period rooms at the restored house.
MTSU graduate students Lauren Pate and Jessi White worked with Heritage Area staff Michael Gavin, Jennifer Butt, and Dr. Antoinette van Zelm on the various exhibit panels found at the house today.
This summer, Mike Gavin, Jessi White, and I returned to the house one last time to work with our Lakeway partners to install the period rooms and exhibits.
It took five years of dedication and hard work to make the Longstreet Headquarters site a reality.
I congratulate the Lakeway partners for their never-flagging devotion to this cause. And, thanks once again to my MTSU graduate students for what they brought to the project.
Their energy and insights kept all of us on our toes.
This project shows the state of Tennessee that partnerships between communities and MTSU make a stronger state and create new economic opportunities through preservation and heritage tourism.
The soil of the Lakeway Area is rich in the footsteps, blood, sweat and tears of soldiers from both sides of the war that camped and fought in our own backyards.
There are several Lakeway sites that are included on the Tennessee Civil War Trail commemorating the sesquicentennial of the historic event.
In Mosheim, Confederates confronted Union forces under Gen. Ambrose Burnside, on their way to relieve Chattanooga, on Oct. 10, 1863.
The Confederates withdrew following a day-long battle. Another set of Union forces were confronted Confederates at Blue Springs on Aug. 23, 1864, with the same result.
After abandoning their siege of Knoxville, Confederates under Gen. James Longstreet turned to fight their pursuers at Bean Station on Dec. 14, 1863.
Longstreet won the battle and occupied Bean Station until withdrawing to Russellville to establish a winter camp. The actual site of the battle is under present day Cherokee Lake.
Bulls Gap was the site of several skirmishes and campsites during the Civil War. In November 1864, Major General John C. Breckinridge undertook an expedition into East Tennessee, anticipating that Confederate sympathizers would join his force and help drive the Yankees from the area.
The Federals initially retired in front of the force and on Nov. 10. were at Bull’s Gap on the East Tennessee and Virginia Railroad.
The Confederates attacked on the morning of the 11th but were repulsed. Artillery fire continued throughout the day.
The next morning, both sides attacked; the Confederates sought to hit the Union forces in a variety of locations but gained little.
Firing occurred throughout most of the following day, but the Confederates did not assault the Union lines because they were marching to flank them on the right.
Before making the flank attack, the Union forces, short on everything from ammunition to rations, withdrew from Bulls Gap after midnight on the 4th.
Breckinridge pursued, but the Federals received reinforcements, and foul weather played havoc with the roads and streams. Breckinridge, with most of his force, retired back to Virginia.
The victory was a temporary Union setback in the Federal plans to rid East Tennessee of Confederate influence.
One of the bridges successfully destroyed by the Bridge Burners was Lick Creek Bridge in Bulls Gap.
Bethesda Church was built in 1835, and used as a hospital when Confederate Gen. James Longstreet brought his 25,000 troops to the area in December 1863. A cannon ball caused damage during an engagement a few months earlier. The hospital served wounded soldiers on both sides during the Civil War and also patients with smallpox. The cemetery behind the church contains the graves of 80 Confederate soldiers. The church later became a casualty of war. When hostilities broke out, parishioners bitterly took sides forcing the church to close. Hay’s Ferry
In Dandridge, the actual site currently under Douglas Lake was once the location of fields of corn between the lines serving as a temptation for hungry soldiers, especially the starving Confederates. On Dec. 24, 1863, Union cavalry were dispatched to clear out Confederate foragers. In a running battle the arriving Confederates pushed the Federals back.
In Jefferson City, the Southern cavalry attacked threatening Union troops on Dec. 29, 1863, as the Confederates prepared to go into winter camp nearby. Among those participating in the battle was Union Capt. Eli Lily, who later developed a successful pharmaceutical company.
A memorial in Mosheim is dedicated to the Unionists who burned area railroad bridges on Nov. 8, 1861. The monument stands in a cemetery along with the remains of two of the men hanged for the effort. The plans for the burnings, with strong support from the government in Washington, were all made in the area. Nearly 60 men took part of the burnings.