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Why was Gen. James Longstreet ‘widely condemned’ after Civil War? Learn that and more at 2 events this week
Gen. James Longstreet

Civil War buffs can get their fill of everything Gen. James Longstreet this week.

The Confederate leader and Gen. Robert E. Lee’s principal military adviser, depicted by Longstreet Society member Tom Rasmussen, will present a talk about Longstreet at 7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 25, at the Northeast Georgia History Center in Gainesville.

Rasmussen, dressed in Longstreet’s military garb, said in an interview last week he plans to talk about the famous military figure’s life and times, from his days at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., to the Battle of Gettysburg and finally to his time living in Gainesville.

“We like to do an event maybe once or twice a year to spread the word, and we may get more support for the work of the Longstreet Society,” Rasmussen said.

The society was founded in 1994 to preserve the history and legacy of the general.

“Longstreet was widely condemned for about 100 years after the Civil War,” said Rasmussen, a board member with Longstreet Society.

“He had the idea that Southerners really ought to try work with the Republican occupiers to try to soften the terms of Reconstruction, and that proved not to be a very popular strategy,” he said.

“It proved not to be, and he was pretty much isolated politically during his lifetime.”

Longstreet joined the Republican Party and earned political appointments, serving as Gainesville’s postmaster at one point.

He also fought for the civil rights of former slaves — a stance that “didn’t become a popular position until the 1960s,” Rasmussen said.

Longstreet also was something of a military pariah, as well. Although regarded as a sharp strategist on the battlefield, his differences with the revered Lee — particularly in the disastrous Pickett’s Charge at Gettysburg — didn’t sit well with Confederate veterans.

Painting depicting Gen. Longstreet and Gen Robert E. Lee at Gettysburg.

He was “rather the Judas Iscariot who betrayed Lee, and that became a storyline for those people writing about the war,” Rasmussen said.

Longstreet, moving to Gainesville in 1875, started the Piedmont Hotel. But he ended up traveling a lot, especially in the North, during his post-Civil War years, “and that didn’t help the hotel any,” Rasmussen said.

The hotel shut down in 1900 and was mostly torn down in 1915. The portion that remains was later restored.

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

A celebration is also planned Saturday, Oct. 27, with period re-enactors and guided tours of Longstreet’s Piedmont Hotel.

The event, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the hotel at 827 Maple St., will put the Piedmont on display.

The Piedmont Hotel today

In addition to tours of the building and gardens, which sits off Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and is headquarters of the Longstreet Society, musicians in costume will sing Civil War-era songs and veterans in period uniforms will tell stories.

Both the Thursday and Saturday events will feature a conversation between Longstreet and Ulysses S. Grant, the former U.S. president and Union commander during the war. Grant and Longstreet were wartime adversaries but otherwise longtime friends.

Noted historian and re-enactor Curt Fields will portray Grant.

Also, “there will be a discussion as to why the hotel was built, and its relationship to the (nearby) railroad station and economic growth in Gainesville in the 1870s,” Rasmussen said.

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