At the Right Hand of Longstreet: Recollections of a Confederate Staff Officer

At the Right Hand of Longstreet: Recollections of a Confederate Staff Officer

At the Right Hand of Longstreet: Recollections of a Confederate Staff Officer

At the Right Hand of Longstreet: Recollections of a Confederate Staff Officer

Synopsis

As a young man in Georgia, G. Moxley Sorrel enlisted in a cavalry unit even before the Civil War erupted, so eager was he to serve his home state. During the war, as an aide-de-camp on Brigadier General James Longstreet's staff he fought in many battles, including those at Chickamauga and Chattanooga. He was at Longstreet's side when Longstreet was struck down in 1864.

Sorrel's "rough jottings from memory" provide vivid and detailed descriptions of many of the war's chief participants and events. His military career was cut short when he was shot in the lung at Hatcher's Run. Although he survived, the war ended before he could return to duty. In his declining years he wrote, "For my part, when the time comes to cross the river like the others, I shall be found asking at the gates above, 'Where is the Army of Northern Virginia? For there I make my camp.'"

Excerpt

Peter S. Carmichael

The transformation of James Longstreet's historical image from scapegoat to Confederate hero has been remarkable. Until the 1974 publication ofMichael Shaara Killer Angels, most Civil War enthusiasts and historians saw James Longstreet as a villain. He was disloyal, Lee's Judas, a man who lost Gettysburg because of his seditious ways, and thus the South's best chance for independence. This damning interpretation surfaced in the 1870s with the Lost Cause writings of Jubal A. Early and William N. Pendleton. Their criticisms drew not so much from Longstreet's battlefield performance, but from his postwar criticisms of Lee and his allegiance to the Republican Party. In many ways, Longstreet was his own worst enemy. He wildly exaggerated his contributions to the Army of Northern Virginia, often at the expense of Lee and his fellow officers. He even characterized Lee as a general who relished a good bloodletting on the battlefield. Once Longstreet had insulted the Confederacy's greatest chieftain, the gloves were tossed off across the South. Confederates of all ranks eagerly joined the Longstreet witch-hunt, waging a bitter and malicious campaign that ultimately destroyed the general's military record.

Only a few ex-Confederates challenged the antiLongstreet crusade. Next to the famous First Corps artillerist Edward Porter Alexander, Gilbert Moxley Sorrel stands as Longstreet's most important defender. In At the Right Hand of Longstreet: Recollections of a Confederate Staff Officer, Sorrel offers a balanced view of his former superior that captures the complexity of the man, his faults and virtues, without succumbing to the popular view of the time that . . .

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