America's Civil War


For sheer star power, no gathering of Union and Confederate veterans rivaled the Grand Reunion at Gettysburg in 1888. “There are so many Generals and other chieftains here,” a newspaper marveled, “that a catalogue of them would be as long as Homer’s list of ships.”

Former Army of the Potomac commanders Daniel Sickles, Fitz John Porter, Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, Henry Slocum, Abner Doubleday, and Francis C. Barlow, among other Union luminaries, were joined in Pennsylvania by ex-Army of Northern Virginia generals Wade Hampton, Fitzhugh Lee, and John B. Gordon. But the biggest celebrity at the event clearly was the man sporting massive, white whiskers and a cleanly shaven chin: James Longstreet, who commanded the Confederates’ First Corps at Gettysburg on July 1-3, 1863.

Nearly everywhere Robert E. Lee’s “Old War Horse” went he drew appreciative, and often awestruck, crowds.

“No man now in Gettysburg,” a New York newspaper reported, “is more honored nor more sought than he.”

For Longstreet, the visit to Gettysburg—his first since he commanded troops there—stirred a wide range of emotions. And led to the shedding of many tears.

By 1888, James Longstreet was more popular with Northerners than with White Southerners. After the war, he aligned himself with the Republicans, the party of Abraham Lincoln, and supported his friend and former military rival, Ulysses S. Grant, as president. “Old Pete” also served in the Republican administration of President Rutherford B. Hayes, another Union veteran. And, of course, his postwar criticism of Lee’s soldiering at Gettysburg was an unforgivable sin for many Confederate devotees.

Longstreet, who lived in semi-retirement on his farm in Gainesville, Ga., arrived in Pennsylvania on June 30. On the train ride to Gettysburg,

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