ALS Mentioning Robert E. Lee and West Point’s Centennial

Signed by James Longstreet

Item: 20670
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LONGSTREET, JAMES. (1821-1904). Prominent Confederate general known as “Old War Horse.” ALS. (“James Longstreet”). 1p. Small 4to. Washington, D.C., May 15, 1902. To JOHN WALTER FAIRFAX (1828-1908), known as “Longstreet’s Fighting Aide.”

James Longstreet

Robert E. Lee


“Colo. McCalmont and I have arranged to go to West Point next month to the reunion of the association of Graduates at their centennial [?]. It occurs to me that you may like to make the visit at the time and I wish to suggest it. Yours always… Your letter in the Scout recd. Thanks for it….Your article of Gen. Lee reminds me of those nightly visits you used to make him at late hours”

Longstreet graduated from West Point in 1842 at the bottom of his class and went on to fight in the Mexican-American War where he became a close friend of Ulysses S. Grant whose wife, Julia Dent, was Longstreet’s cousin. With the 1861 secession of the Southern States, Longstreet resigned his military commission to join the Confederate Army. Reporting directly to General Robert E. Lee (1807-1870), he distinguished himself at the battles of Second Bull Run, Fredericksburg, Chickamauga, and Antietam becoming one of Lee’s most trusted commanders, though he openly questioned Lee’s strategy at the Battle of Gettysburg. Reluctantly following Lee’s orders, Longstreet led the doomed infantry assault that became known as Pickett’s Charge. Half of the South’s approximately 12,500 soldiers were killed, wounded or captured during the offensive, which ended Lee’s campaign in Pennsylvania and marked the turning point of the war.

Longstreet later embraced Reconstruction and became a scapegoat for the Confederacy’s defeat. Adding to his unpopularity in the South was his long friendship with Grant whose presidential campaign he supported. After leading local and federal forces to suppress the 1874 Battle of Liberty Place, an anti-Reconstruction insurrection in New Orleans, Longstreet became so unwelcome in that city that he was forced to relocate his family for safety reasons. He spent five years penning his memoir From Manassas to Appomattox, which responded to attacks on his war record. Modern historians have challenged prior criticisms to restore Longstreet’s reputation as a brilliant military commander.

Our letter mentions the 1902 reunion of the West Point Association of Graduates, which coincided with the centennial of West Point’s founding. The alumni association was established in 1869 and began hosting reunions the following year, on the anniversary of the Battle of Bunker Hill. “Although Confederates Ewell, Longstreet and Chambliss became members immediately, they did not attend the 1870 meeting… The centennial year of 1902 was a watershed for the association in that reconciliation was accomplished between those who served on opposite sides during the Civil War, and the academy’s reputation was firmly established. By 1902 twenty-seven of the forty-five living graduates who had served with the Confederacy were members, and Longstreet attended the centennial meeting,” as noted in our letter (To Be a Soldier: A Selective American Military History, Olejniczak). President Theodore Roosevelt presided over the West Point celebration from June 9-11, 1902.

Like Longstreet, John Swayze McCalmont (1822-1906) graduated from West Point in 1842. A native of Pennsylvania, he was a member of that state’s legislature. After the outbreak of war, he was commissioned a colonel of the 39th Pennsylvania Infantry and fought in Virginia through 1862.

A country gentleman from Virginia, Fairfax joined Longstreet’s staff after the First Battle of Manassas (the First Battle of Bull Run) and earned three citations for gallantry. Written in pencil on a heavily folded note sheet with a perforated top edge. In very good condition, but difficult to read.

ALS Mentioning Robert E. Lee and West Point’s Centennial

Signed by James Longstreet

$750 • item #20670

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