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Longstreet to be remembered at site of Manassas battle

Annual event set for Oct. 1-2

POSTED: August 29, 2011 11:12 p.m.

The Longstreet Society's president says the group plans to "cheat" a little in this year's annual seminar, which has the overarching theme of the Civil War's 150th anniversary.

The Gainesville-based organization, which seeks to preserve the legacy of perhaps the city's most famous resident, Gen. James Longstreet, is sponsoring "With Sabre in Hand: Longstreet at 1st and 2nd Manassas."

The seminar is scheduled for Oct. 1-2 in Manassas, Va., site of two famous Civil War battles, with Longstreet taking a more prominent role in the second one in 1862.

"It doesn't quite fit our plans to be where he was 150 years ago," said Longstreet president Richard Pilcher, referring to Confederate Gen. Stonewall Jackson. "Everything can't be perfect."

According to the National Park Service's website, the North and South clashed heavily on fields of the Northern Virginia city on July 21, 1861 — just three months after the Civil War began — and dispelled notions of a quick war.

The Confederates won a solid victory when the two sides met there again in August 1862.

The battle of 1st Manassas "was Jackson's show," Pilcher said.

"Longstreet was still out there on the flank and was not hardly at all involved. But at 2nd Manassas, he was the main thing," Pilcher said. "Jackson had gotten himself pinned down. Longstreet's corps arrived and the Union Army didn't seem to want to recognize that he was there."

Longstreet took advantage of the lapse and "he just destroyed" the Union army.

"It was one of Longstreet's best two days on the battlefield — Chickamauga being the other," Pilcher said, referring to the 1863 battle at the Georgia-Tennessee line.

After the war, Longstreet — Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee's second in command — wound up retiring in Gainesville, where he owned and operated the Piedmont Hotel, the remnants of which now service as a museum and Longstreet Society offices.

He kept busy in Gainesville, accepting federal appointments, including postmaster.

Also, to the chagrin of many Southerners, Longstreet joined the Republican Party and advocated civil rights, including the right to vote, for blacks.

He died on Jan. 2, 1904, at his daughter's Gainesville home and is buried in Alta Vista Cemetery.

The Longstreet Society has held annual seminars about the general since 1999, skipping only 2005, when Hurricane Katrina disrupted plans to meet in New Orleans, where Longstreet lived before moving to Gainesville.

At this year's seminar, speakers include Henry P. Elliott, National Park Service ranger at the Manassas National Battlefield Park; Perry D. Jamieson, former U.S. Air Force senior historian; and Scott C. Patchan, author of "Second Manassas: Longstreet's Attack and the Struggle for Chinn Ridge."

The event also will feature battlefield tours and presentations and a Saturday evening dinner/social.

The Longstreet Society has an international following and typically draws 75 or more people at its seminars.

The Manassas event "may be one of our biggest ones," Pilcher said.

 



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