Say What Saturday: Hamlin Garland on James Longstreet

lelliott19

Brigadier General
Moderator
* OFFICIAL *
CWT PRESENTER
Forum Host
Silver Patron
Regtl. Staff Chickamauga 2018
Joined
Mar 15, 2013
1609824909970.png

...From the door-step I watched him slowly making his cautious way through throngs of lesser men (who gave no special heed to him), and as I thought of the days when his dread name was second only to Lee's in the fear and admiration of the North, I marveled at the change in twenty years. Now he was a deaf, hesitant old man, sorrowful of aspect, poor, dim-eyed, neglected, and alone. 'Swift are the changes of life, and especially of American life,' I made note. 'Most people think of Longstreet as a dead man, yet there he walks, the gray ghost of the Confederacy, silent, alone.'
~ Hamlin Garland, from A Daughter of the Middle Border. Published in 1921, the book was winner of the 1922 Pulitzer Prize for Biography.

Since General Longstreet's birthday is Friday, January 8th, I decided to post the Say What Saturday quote a bit early this week. I posted this quote a while back here at CWT, but I had never 'connected the dots.' It's a great quote on its own, but even more meaningful when when you understand the context in which it was written.

Hannibal Hamlin Garland (September 14, 1860 – March 4, 1940) was an American novelist, poet, essayist, short story writer, 'Georgist' (proponent of the single tax movement), and psychical researcher. Garland wrote a serialized biography of Ulysses S. Grant for McClure's Magazine before publishing it in 1898 as the book Ulysses S. Grant: His Life and Character. In 1917, Garland published his own autobiography, A Son of the Middle Border. The book's popularity prompted a sequel, A Daughter of the Middle Border, which won the 1922 Pulitzer Prize for Biography.

While researching for the Grant biography, Hamlin Garland established a relationship with General Longstreet. Beginning in November 1896, the two corresponded by mail and, in May 1897, after a "visit with the aged ex-warrior," Garland wrote "a sketch of the last great figure of the confederacy as he appears today in his quiet mountain home in Georgia..." [The entire article is included below in post #2 of this thread.]
1609829610458.png

Omaha Daily Bee. (Omaha, NE), May 30, 1897, Part III, page 20.

When Ulysses S. Grant: His Life and Character was published, Garland sent a copy to General Longstreet in Gainesville, GA. The gift was acknowledged as follows:
1609827878228.png

USC Digital Library, Creative Commons CC BY 4.0 (Attribution 4.0 International)

More than 20 years later, Hamlin Garland's reminiscence of the General was included in A Daughter of the Middle Border. [Source for quote: https://archive.org/stream/daughtersmidd00garlrich#page/58/mode/2up/search/Longstreet ~ page 59]
 
Last edited:

lelliott19

Brigadier General
Moderator
* OFFICIAL *
CWT PRESENTER
Forum Host
Silver Patron
Regtl. Staff Chickamauga 2018
Joined
Mar 15, 2013
1609989681739.png

To meet General Longstreet, to see his white hairs, to look into his retrospective eyes and watch his slow movements, the hesitating movements of an old man, is to be made emotionally aware that the mighty struggle of thirty-three years ago is passing into the land of dreams. In ten years, it will have scarcely a single living leader. Its steel is dust, its granite sand, its heroes are soon to be a memory.

Here are a few of my favorite excerpts from Hamlin Garland's May 1897 article on General Longstreet:

I looked for a large, old fashioned southern place, with pillars and wide hall. Instead, the house was an ordinary story and a half farmhouse, such as a northern carpenter might build. A board nailed to a tree offered wine for sale at a very low price, and I saw an extensive vineyard across the road. A lean farmer-like person told me that General Longstreet was in his vineyard, and there I came upon him, scissors in hand, busily pruning his vines. He is a big old man, stooping a little now, and slow of gait. He wears long white whiskers cut away from his chin. His hair is white as wool, but his skin is ruddy as though sleep and good digestion were still his to command....​
One of his arms is a little disabled, and he is quite deaf in one ear. He could not hear very well in the open air, and at his suggestion we returned to the house.​
'I live with my tenant. He is a veteran of the northern army," he said at the door, and there was a slight smile about his eyes. The house was small and plainly furnished and out of it, the general retains but a single room in which he sleeps and smokes and writes.​
As we sat together and talked of the war and of the great union commander, his old comrade at West Point, I became aware that I was in the presence of a very remarkable personality, not merely a great soldier, according to the estimate of Grant and others competent to judge, but also a thinker of unusual originality, and a brave, high-minded citizen. He was great enough and magnanimous enough to utter the finest eulogism of General Grant ever spoken by a southerner, and one excelled in its real comprehension of the man and soldier by few from any lips whatever. I refer to the address at Boston last summer.​
He talked of Grant with affection and with clear-sighted knowledge of his whole career. 'He was a highly honorable man as well as a great man. A man singularly free from vulgarity and profanity. His life was uniformly good and true and kind from the time he went to West Point until he died' -- was his judgement.​
1609988413345.png


I could not think of a man of his rank in the northern army left so utterly one side. This man, who set the first flag on the redoubt back of the bishop's palace at Monterey fifty years ago; who saw Grant win his promotion at Molino del Ray; who was present at his marriage; who entered the southern army just in the fullness of his powers and who won his way by leaps and bounds to a foremost place in the battle line of '65, and to a position second to none in patriotism when the war was over --- is now pruning vines on pleasant afternoons in a little vineyard on a Georgia hillside. His life, like Grant's, is an epic in its contrasts. I wonder if the past does not all seem a dream to him...

As I trod my cautious way back along the winding street toward the village I said to myself: "I have seen the ghost of the confederacy. I have touched the hand of its greatest living representative."

To meet General Longstreet, to see his white hairs, to look into his retrospective eyes and watch his slow movements, the hesitating movements of an old man, is to be made emotionally aware that the mighty struggle of thirty-three years ago is passing into the land of dreams. In ten years, it will have scarcely a single living leader. Its steel is dust, its granite sand, its heroes are soon to be a memory.
1609988935468.png

Omaha Daily Bee., May 30, 1897, Part III, page 20. Link
 

Ole Miss

Captain
Forum Host
Silver Patron
Regtl. Staff Shiloh 2020
Joined
Dec 9, 2017
Location
North Mississippi
@lelliott19 this is a really good thread. James Longstreet has long been on of my heroes due to his moral courage and attempt to live as an honorable man.

Sadly whenever I think about James Longstreet my first image is of an old scared bear with one paw and poor hearing fighting a swarm of bees. They are not worthy opponents of such a decorated and respected soldier yet there they are. Longstreet's greatest misfortune was being an honest man who did not parse his words but spoke the truth as he knew it.

He was always compared to Robert E. Lee and attacked to raise Lee up. The Lost Cause proponents---Maubry, Early and Pender to mention a few---used Longstreet to be the
scape goat for all the woes of the Confederacy. Unfairly in my opinion.
Regards
David

“General Longstreet is very decided in criticising General Lee for his investment of Harper's Ferry, and seems to favor the idiosyncrasy of General D. H. Hill about the lost dispatch, viz., "That, after all, this dispatch damaged the Confederate cause but little if at all, and probably did McClellan more harm than good." Longstreet gives us distinctly to understand that the responsibility in the Harper's Ferry matter was with Lee and Jackson, and none of it rests on his shoulders. He tells us, too, that he disapproved of the fight at South Mountain, and also says that battle should not have been given at Sharpsburg.

He says:
This lost order has been the subject of much severe comment by Virginians who have written on the war. It was addressed to D. H. Hill, and they charged that its loss was due to him. and that the failure of the campaign was the result of the lost order. As General Hill has proven that he never received the order at his headquarters, it must have been lost by some one else. . . . McClellan planned his attack upon D. H. Hill under the impression that I was there with twelve brigades, nine of which were really at Hagerstown, and H. H. Anderson's division was at Maryland Heights with General McLaws. Had he exercised due diligence in seeking information from his own resource* he would have known better the situation at South Mountain and could have enveloped GeneralD. H. Hill's division on the afternoon of the 13th or early on the morning of the 14th, and then turned upon McLaws at Maryland Heights before I could have reached either point.

Again he says: "The great mistake of the campaign was the division of Lee's army."

Source

Southern Bivouac
Volume V
October 1886
The Invasion of Maryland
by W. Allan
Pages 302-303
 

lelliott19

Brigadier General
Moderator
* OFFICIAL *
CWT PRESENTER
Forum Host
Silver Patron
Regtl. Staff Chickamauga 2018
Joined
Mar 15, 2013
my first image is of an old scared bear with one paw and poor hearing fighting a swarm of bees. They are not worthy opponents of such a decorated and respected soldier yet there they are.
That's a great analogy @Ole Miss Thanks so much for your comments.
 

RobertP

Lt. Colonel
Joined
Nov 11, 2009
Location
Dallas
If Longstreet was on board with the Maryland invasion I don’t see how investing Harper’s Ferry was a mistake. Otherwise there would be 12,000 Federals in your rear and astride your communication and supply line. I do agree that once the plan blew up Lee should have not engaged in a battle at Sharpsburg.
 

lelliott19

Brigadier General
Moderator
* OFFICIAL *
CWT PRESENTER
Forum Host
Silver Patron
Regtl. Staff Chickamauga 2018
Joined
Mar 15, 2013
He was great enough and magnanimous enough to utter the finest eulogism of General Grant ever spoken by a southerner, and one excelled in its real comprehension of the man and soldier by few from any lips whatever. I refer to the address at Boston last summer.
For those who may be interested in knowing the content of the eulogy that prompted this comment, you can read exactly what General Longstreet said about Grant during his 1896 address in Boston here: https://civilwartalk.com/threads/sa...hecy-of-peace-april-1896.173812/#post-2267314
 
Joined
Aug 1, 2020
Location
Mid Hudson Valley, New York
lelliott19,

Thank you for this excellent post. James Longstreet is one of the most interesting Confederate generals to study. While he was treated as a villain by the school of the glorious lost cause in the post war years the truth is that he was a smart and hard fighting leader in the ANV (if not a bit stubborn). And...was he all wrong to question the wisdom of the July 3rd assault at Gettysburg? I finally got around to reading his memoirs last year, it is well written and worthwhile reading for those interested in his side of the story.

Bill
 

VirgilKane

Private
Joined
Jul 9, 2019
lelliott19,

Thank you for this excellent post. James Longstreet is one of the most interesting Confederate generals to study. While he was treated as a villain by the school of the glorious lost cause in the post war years the truth is that he was a smart and hard fighting leader in the ANV (if not a bit stubborn). And...was he all wrong to question the wisdom of the July 3rd assault at Gettysburg? I finally got around to reading his memoirs last year, it is well written and worthwhile reading for those interested in his side of the story.

Bill
Other than his memoirs, any other bio's on Longstreet you recommend?
 
Joined
Aug 1, 2020
Location
Mid Hudson Valley, New York
Other than his memoirs, any other bio's on Longstreet you recommend?
VirgilKane,

I'm just finishing Stephen Sears' one volume abridgement of Douglas S. Freeman's "Lee's Lieutenants, A Study in Command" and it has been an excellent read. It provides very good insights regarding the personalities and interactions among Lee's high command, both the good and not so good. As you may expect, Longstreet is prominently featured and Freeman goes into detail about his strengths and weaknesses. Great song by The Band by the way, "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down" recorded here in the Hudson Valley.

Bill
 
Top