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Annual service honors Confederate Lt. Gen. Longstreet

Gen. Lee's second-in-command made postwar home in Gainesville

POSTED: January 18, 2008 5:04 a.m.

The life and death of Alta Vista Cemetery’s most renowned figure was honored Sunday afternoon with a three-volley rifle salute by Confederate re-enactors.

About 65 people attended the memorial service to honor Lt. Gen. James Longstreet, who rests in the historic Gainesville cemetery and served in the Confederate Army alongside Gen. Robert E. Lee during the Civil War.

Historians say the South Carolina native, who spent his early years near Augusta, was a prominent figure in Lee’s efforts to fend off the Union Army as he served as corps commander under Lee with the Army of Northern Virginia.

Longstreet died Jan. 2, 1904, and was buried Jan. 6. The ceremony is in its 11th year. About 20 re-enactors from the Sons of Confederate Veterans Camp 1860, Blue Ridge Rifles, dressed in Civil War-era wool uniforms to honor the general’s memory.

"Longstreet became basically Lee’s confidant and friend," said Tim Ragland, commander of the Dahlonega SCV camp, at the reception held at the historic Piedmont Hotel following the memorial service. "Longstreet was always renowned for his abilities as a tactician."

As a child, Longstreet attended the Georgia Military Academy. Upon graduation, he attended the United States Military Academy at West Point. Ragland said Longstreet fought with the Confederate Army in northern Virginia.

Ragland added that it was Longstreet’s role on the second day of the battle of Gettysburg that has led some to paint a less-than-
stellar picture of Longstreet’s military career.

The Camp 1860 commander said his organization aims to dig up an accurate account of Longstreet’s role in the pivotal Civil War battle, and to promote what he believes to be a more truthful and less negative account of Longstreet’s service in the Confederate Army.

"Our job is to protect and preserve the true history of the South and the Confederacy," Ragland said. "People need to know their history. They need to know where they came from, and they need to know their culture and the truth and facts of their past. The history of his achievements as a Confederate soldier should be known and should be taught."

Ragland said members of Camp 1860 have made presentations in Dahlonega public schools about Longstreet and the events typical of a Confederate soldier’s day during war.

Ronald Hawkins of Colonial Beach, Va., attended Sunday’s memorial service dressed in a reproduction of a navy blue Confederate officer’s uniform, and represented Longstreet during the afternoon’s events.

"I try to educate people on who Longstreet really was, instead of who some authors lead you to think he was," Hawkins said. "Some authors would have you believe he was nothing short of a criminal."

Hawkins said Longstreet was accused of deliberately disobeying Lee’s orders to move troops at dawn on the second day of the Battle of Gettysburg.

But Hawkins, as well as Richard Pilcher, president of the Longstreet Society, maintains that Longstreet did no such thing, and that his reputation as a war leader has been unfairly tarnished.

Hawkins said he believes it important to restore honor to Longstreet so that his descendants can enjoy a rectified account.

"He’s been done a terrible injustice throughout history," Pilcher said, adding that during the last 10 years of his life, Longstreet diligently promoted peace and love.

"We’ve made a lot of people aware of this problem," he said.

"All we want to do is to put out the facts as they happened, and then let people decide for themselves," Hawkins said. "We just want to set the record straight."


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