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150th Anniversary of the Civil War: Longstreet at hand when curtain fell
Society unveils rare document; generals signature on terms of surrender
The Longstreet Society displays a Civil War document marking the official end of the war as signed by James Longstreet. The document is on display inside the historic Piedmont Hotel in Gainesville.

Much of the end of the Civil War is focused on Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee surrendering to Union Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox on April 9, 1865.

But The Longstreet Society, a Gainesville-based organization that seeks to preserve the legacy of Confederate Lt. Gen. James Longstreet, wants history buffs to know that Lee’s second-in-command also had a hand in the end to the bloody four-year struggle between North and South.

On Thursday, the society, based in the general’s restored Piedmont Hotel, unveiled the framed copy of a document signed on April 10 laying out more specifically the terms of the surrender.

The document, which clearly shows the signatures of Longstreet and other Confederate and Union leaders, has been in Gainesville architect Garland Reynolds’ possession for nearly 20 years.

“I think he’s been waiting for the perfect time to unveil it and, of course, this is the perfect time,” said C.J. Clarke, the society’s president.

Civil War enthusiasts have been observing the 150th anniversary of the Civil War. Longstreet is Hall County’s main connection, as he settled in

Gainesville after the war, opened the hotel and otherwise became a prominent citizen.

“I think this (document) could actually bring a lot of people wanting to see it,” Clarke said.

Like the Lee-Grant papers, it also was signed at the home of Wilmer and Virginia McLean in the rural town of Appomattox Court House, Va.

Terms govern weapons and other military matters, including that “all horses and property for all kinds to be turned to staff officers designated by the United States authorities.”

Another provision stated “officers and mounted men of authority ... would be allowed to retain” horses and other private property.

Longstreet’s signature is something of a scribble, but then, it’s believed he signed the document with his left hand. An injury Longstreet suffered during the Battle of the Wilderness left him unable to use his right hand, which he normally used to write with.

Reynolds discovered the document after a visit to The Huntington, a private, nonprofit institution in California that is considered to be one of world’s largest repositories for historic documents.

He asked for Longstreet’s papers but was told he needed to submit credentials, such as an advanced degree from an accredited university.

Reynolds followed through, using his graduate degree from Georgia Tech, to push the matter, and eventually succeeded.

“I was flipping through (the papers) and I was stunned,” he said. “There were two pages of this handwritten document, and it’s the surrender of the Confederacy.”

Reynolds decided to just hang on to the papers.

“It’s been shelved in my files. But with the 150th (anniversary), I thought it was time to pull them out,” he said.

He considers the find a stroke of luck.

“How did it get to California?” Reynolds said. “Evidently, (Huntington) got hold of this, but why it got into Longstreet’s papers, I don’t know.”

The surrender on April 9, historians agree, was only the initial agreement between Lee and Grant. A surrender commissioners’ meeting would be held over the next few days to iron out details.

“Longstreet was, by far, the highest rank of anybody (there),” Reynolds said.

The document also matches up with a painting that has long been displayed at the Piedmont Hotel, which is at 827 Maple St., just north of Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard in Gainesville.

The painting, dubbed “Born to Be Brothers,” shows Grant handing a cigar to Longstreet at Appomattox, both men in full military regalia, standing near rain puddles and surrounded by soldiers in blue and gray.

An inscription shows the encounter as taking place on April 10, 1865.

Knowing what he does about Longstreet’s involvement and the document makes Reynolds grin.

“It makes for a better painting,” he said.