James Longstreet: The Confederate General Who Defied The South And Was Scapegoated for Its Loss

History Unplugged Podcast

02-01-2024 • 46 mins

During the Civil War, Gen. James Longstreet was one of the Confederacy’s most beloved generals. Southerners called him “Lee’s Warhorse” and considered him a pillar of the war effort, largely responsible for victories at Second Bull Run, Fredericksburg, and Chickamauga.

But after the war Longstreet moved to New Orleans, where he dramatically changed course. He supported black voting and joined the newly elected, integrated postwar government in Louisiana. When white supremacists took up arms to oust that government, Longstreet, leading the interracial state militia, did battle against former Confederates. His defiance ignited a firestorm of controversy, as white Southerners branded him a race traitor and blamed him retroactively for the South’s defeat in the Civil War.

Today’s guest is Elizabeth Varon, author of “Longstreet: The Confederate General Who Defied the South.” We consider why although Longstreet was one of the highest-ranking Confederate generals, he has never been commemorated with statues or other memorials in the South because of his involvement in the Republican Party and rejecting the Lost Cause mythology. We also look at his second life as a statesman, serving in such positions as ambassador to the Ottoman Empire.