This brief story of a gigantic event, and General Longstreet’s part therein was arranged for publication in book form in the fall of 1903, before his death, which occurred January 2, 1904. It is the carefully sifted story of the records and contemporaneous witnesses, and for clearness I have here and there introduced General Longstreet’s personal version of some of the disputed points. But the reader will perceive that at last it is the story of the records.
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For my undertaking I drew liberally from General Longstreet’s memoirs of the war, “Manassas to Appomattox;” from his stores of knowledge in the military art, and his treasure-house of memories of the Titanic encounter on the field of Gettysburg. The war-pictures included herein are also from the above-mentioned volume. And I am gratefully indebted to Captain Leslie J. Perry, formerly of the War Records Office, Washington City, for valuable assistance.
An appendix, added since General Longstreet’s death, includes a small selection from the thousands of tributes from every quarter of the republic.
One of the last of the brilliant generals of the Civil War, whose valor and skill in the command of great armies, is to-day the common glory of the restored Union, has contributed an introduction. No survivor of the great struggle has a better right to speak of Gettysburg than General Daniel E. Sickles. In this connection the following letter is appreciatively reproduced.
“Washington, September 19, 1902.
“General D. E. Sickles,
“My dear General Sickles,—My plan and desire was to meet you at Gettysburg on the interesting ceremony attending the unveiling of the Slocum monument; but to-day I find myself in no condition to keep the promise made you when last we were together. I am quite disabled from a severe hurt in one of my feet, so that I am unable to stand more than a minute or two at a time. Please express my sincere regrets to the noble Army of the Potomac, and accept them, especially, for yourself.
“On that field you made your mark that will place you prominently before the world as one of the leading figures of the most important battle of the Civil War. As a Northern veteran once remarked to me, ‘General Sickles can well afford to leave a leg on that field.’
“I believe it is now conceded that the advanced position at the Peach-Orchard, taken by your corps and under your orders saved that battle-field to the Union cause. It was the sorest and saddest reflection of my life for many years; but, to-day, I can say, with sincerest emotion, that it was and is the best that could have come to us all, North and South; and I hope that the nation, reunited, may always enjoy the honor and glory brought to it by the grand work.
“Please offer my kindest salutations to your governor and your fellow-comrades of the Army of the Potomac.
“Always yours sincerely,
(Signed) “James Longstreet,
“Lieutenant-General Confederate Army.”
Early in December advance chapters were given to the press for January 3; by strangely pathetic coincidence that being the date on which public announcement was made of General Longstreet’s death.
This hour does not clamor for the charity of silence, but for the white light of truth which I reverently undertake to throw upon the deeds of the commander9 who, from Manassas to Appomattox, was the strong right arm of the Confederate States Army.
I was writing for love of him whose dear name and fame had been attacked; to place before his fading vision enduring appreciation of his valiant deeds as a soldier and high qualities as a gentleman. Providence decreed otherwise. While the opening chapters were running into type, the Great Captain on High called him hence, where he can at last have his wrongs on earth forever righted.
The warrior sleeps serenely to-day, undisturbed by all earthly contentions, the peace of God upon him. And I bring to his tomb this little leaf fragrant with my love, bedewed with my tears, heavy-weighted with my woe and desolation.
H. D. L.
Gainesville, Georgia, August 1, 1904.