Shelves: history For years, this has been one of those books I was going to get to. I suppose it was a recent trip to Gettysburg that spurred me to finally crack the dingy-looking pages of a bookstore special, the memoirs of General James Longstreet, From Manassas to Appomattox. There is a raw power to this material that sometimes overwhelms. There is self-interest in this account, an alibi-intensive recounting, that sometimes pervades the narrative, but there is also that sense of helplessness, of waste, that For years, this has been one of those books I was going to get to.
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My earliest recollections were of the Georgia side of Savannah River, and my school-days were passed there, but the appointment to West Point Academy was from North Alabama. Other children of the marriage, Rebecca, Gilbert, Augustus B. Richard Longstreet, who came to America in and settled in Monmouth County, New Jersey, was the progenitor of the name on this continent.
It is difficult to determine whether the name sprang from France, Germany, or Holland. That branch claimed to trace their line [Pg 14] back to the Conqueror. Marshall Dent married a Magruder, when they migrated to Augusta, Georgia. Father married the eldest daughter, Mary Ann.
Grandfather William Longstreet first applied steam as a motive power, in , to a small boat on the Savannah River at Augusta, and spent all of his private means upon that idea, asked aid of his friends in Augusta and elsewhere, had no encouragement, but, on the contrary, ridicule of his proposition to move a boat without a pulling or other external power, and especially did they ridicule the thought of expensive steam-boilers to be made of iron.
Can you row the boat ashore, Without paddle or an oar, Billy boy? In not reducing my scheme to active use it has been unfortunate for me, I confess, and perhaps the people in general; but, until very lately, I did not think that artists or material could be had in the place sufficient. However, necessity, that grand mother of invention, has furnished me with an idea of perfecting my plan almost entirely of wooden material, and by such workmen as may be had here; and, from a thorough confidence of its success, I have presumed to ask your assistance [Pg 15] and patronage.
Should it succeed agreeably to my expectations, I hope I shall discover that sense of duty which such favors always merit; and should it not succeed, your reward must lay with other unlucky adventures.
My father was a planter. From my early boyhood he conceived that he would send me to West Point for army service, but in my twelfth year he passed away during the cholera epidemic at Augusta. Mother moved to North Alabama with her children, whence in my sixteenth year I made application through a kinsman, Congressman Reuben Chapman, for appointment as cadet, received the coveted favor, and entered with the class that was admitted in As cadet I had more interest in the school of the soldier, horsemanship, sword exercise, and the outside game of foot-ball than in the academic courses.
The studies were successfully passed, however, until the third year, when I failed in mechanics. When I came to the problem of the pulleys, it seemed to my mind that a soldier could not find use for such appliances, and the pulleys were passed by. At the January examination I was called to the blackboard and given the problem of the pulleys. The drawing from memory of recitation of classmates was good enough, but the demonstration failed to satisfy the sages of the Academic Board.
It was the custom, however, to give those [Pg 16] who failed in the general examination a second hearing, after all of the classes were examined. The bridge was safely passed, however, and mechanics left behind. At the June examination, the end of the academic year, I was called to demonstrate the pulleys.
The professor thought that I had forgotten my old friend the enemy, but I smiled, for he had become dear to me,—in waking hours and in dreams,—and the cadet passed easily enough for a maximum mark. The cadets had their small joys and sometimes little troubles. On one occasion a cadet officer reported me for disobedience of orders. As the report was not true, I denied it and sent up witnesses of the occasion. Dick Garnett, who fell in the assault of the 3d, at Gettysburg, was one witness, and Cadet Baker, so handsome and lovable that he was called Betsy, was the other.
Upon overlooking the records I found the report still there, and went to ask the superintendent if other evidence was necessary to show that the report was not true. He was satisfied of that, but said that the officer complained that I smiled contemptuously. As that could only be rated as a single demerit, I asked the benefit of the smile; but the report stands to this day, Disobedience of orders and three demerits.
The cadet had his revenge, however, for the superintendent was afterwards known as The Punster. There were sixty-two graduating members of the class of , my number being sixty. I was assigned to the Fourth United States Infantry as brevet lieutenant, and found my company with seven others of the regiment at Jefferson Barracks, Missouri, in the autumn of Of the class graduating the year that we entered were G.
Beauregard and Irvin McDowell, who, twenty-three years later, commanded the hostile armies on the plains [Pg 17] of Manassas, in Virginia. Braxton Bragg and W. Hardee were of the same class. The head man of the next class was I.
Stevens, who resigned from the army, and, after being the first governor of Washington Territory, returned to military service, and fell on the sanguinary field of Chantilly on the 1st of September, Next on the class roll was Henry Wager Halleck, who was commander-in-chief of the United States armies from July, , to March, Sherman and George H.
Thomas, of the Union army, and R. Ewell, of the Confederate army, were of the same class The class of had the largest list of officers killed in action. Lyon, R. Garnett, J. Reynolds, R. Garnett, A. Whipple, J. Jones, I. Richardson, and J. Smith, M. Smith, R. Anderson, L. McLaws, D. Hill, A. Stewart, B. Alexander, N. Dana, and others. But the class next after us was destined to furnish the man who was to eclipse all,—to rise to the rank of general, an office made by Congress to honor his services; who became President of the United States, and for a second term; who received the salutations of all the powers of the world in his travels as a private citizen around the earth; of noble, generous heart, a lovable character, a valued friend,—Ulysses S.
I was fortunate in the assignment to Jefferson Barracks, for in those days the young officers were usually sent off among the Indians or as near the borders as they could find habitable places.
In the autumn of I reported to the company commander, Captain Bradford R. Alden, [Pg 18] a most exemplary man, who proved a lasting, valued friend. Eight companies of the Third Infantry were added to the garrison during the spring of , which made garrison life and society gay for the young people and interesting for the older classes.
All of the troops were recently from service in the swamps and Everglades of Florida, well prepared to enjoy the change from the war-dance of the braves to the hospitable city of St. Louis; and the graceful step of its charming belles became a joy forever. Of the class of , Ulysses S. Grant joined the Fourth Regiment as brevet lieutenant, and I had the pleasure to ride with him on our first visit to Mr. Augustine, Florida. The new republic of Texas was seeking annexation with the United States, which would endanger the peace between them and the republic of Mexico.
Annexation of Texas became the supreme question of the canvass of James K. Polk was the nominee of the Democratic and annexation party, and Henry Clay was on the other side as the Whig nominee.
Calhoun, joint resolutions of annexation were passed by both houses of Congress, subject to concurrence of the Congress of the new republic. Strange as it may seem, the resolutions that added to the territory of the United States more than the New England and Middle States combined, and which eventually led to extension to the Pacific coast and hundreds of miles north, only passed the lower house by twenty-two majority, and the Senate by a majority of two.
When the resolution was passed, the minister from Mexico to our government, General Almonte, demanded his passports, and diplomatic relations between the governments ceased. On July 4, , the Texas Congress accepted and ratified the resolutions of annexation by unanimous vote, and Texas was a State of the Union. At the time there were in the line of the army eight regiments of infantry, four of artillery, and two of dragoons, stationed along the northern frontier from Fort Kent in the northeast of Maine to the west end of Lake Superior, and along the western frontier from Fort Snelling to Fort Leavenworth, and southward to Fort Jessup in Louisiana.
By the middle of October, , three thousand eight hundred and sixty men of all arms had concentrated at Corpus Christi. There were many advantages too in the way of amusement, game on the wild prairies and fish in the broad gulf were plentiful, and there was the salt water for bathing.
On one occasion during the winter a violent north wind forced the waters over the beach, in some places far enough to disturb our camps, and when they receded, quantities of fish were found in the little puddles left behind, and turtles more than enough to supply the army. The officers built a theatre, depending upon their own efforts to reimburse them. As there was no one outside the army except two rancheros within a hundred miles, our dramatic company was organized from among the officers, who took both male and female characters.
In farce and comedy we did well enough, and soon collected funds to pay for the building and incidental expenses. The house was filled every night. General Worth always encouraging us, General Taylor sometimes, and General Twiggs occasionally, we found ourselves in funds sufficient to send over to New Orleans for costumes, and concluded to try tragedy. Grant to be the daughter of Brabantio. But after rehearsal Porter protested that male heroines could not support the character nor give sentiment to the hero, so we sent over to New Orleans and secured Mrs.
Hart, who was popular with the garrisons in Florida. Then all went well, and life through the winter was gay. Formal diplomatic relations between the republics were suspended, but quasi negotiations were continued, seeking a course by which war might be averted. The authorities of Mexico were not averse to the settlement according to the claims of Texas,—the Rio Grande [Pg 21] frontier,—but the political affairs of the country were such that they could not agree.
Excitement in the United States increased as the suspense continued. But the authorities, having confidence in their negotiations or wishing to precipitate matters, ordered General Taylor to march across to the Rio Grande at Matamoras in the spring of The execution of the order precipitated war.
The army was well instructed, under good discipline, and fully prepared for field work, the weather was fine, and the firm turf of the undulating prairies made the march easy.
Wild horses and cattle, and deer and antelope, were often seen in the distance as they scampered away to hide themselves. On the 19th the head of the column approached Arroyo Colorado, one hundred and thirty miles from Corpus Christi.
From Manassas to Appomattox: Memoirs of the Civil War in America
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