America's Civil War

DRAGGED INTO THE VORTEX

Nearly a quarter-century after he was severely wounded at the May 1864 Battle of the Wilderness, James Longstreet had another brush with death in the heart of Virginia. Early on the morning of July 12, 1888, the former Confederate lieutenant general survived a deadly train accident at a rickety railroad trestle known as “Fat Nancy”—20 miles southwest of the famous Wilderness battleground in Spotsylvania County.

Die in a mere train wreck? Fat chance for Robert E. Lee’s “Old War Horse.”

En route from the Grand Reunion to his home in Gainesville, Ga., the 67-year-old Longstreet was aboard the southbound Virginia Midland Railroad’s No. 52 train, “The Piedmont Airline.” At least two other Confederate veterans were heading home as well, including New Orleans-bound Louis G. Cortes—a

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