Author: William Garrett Piston

professor of history at Missouri State University. He is the author of Lee's Tarnished Lieutenant; James Longstreet and His Place in Southern History (1987)

James Longstreet (1821–1904)

James Longstreet was a Confederate General who served as Robert E. Lee’s second-in-command for most of Lee’s tenure as commander of the Army of Northern Virginia during the American Civil War (1861–1865). Longstreet fought in many of the most important battles of the conflict and ended the war as a respected figure. Lee affectionately called him “my old war horse,” while his soldiers nicknamed him “the old bulldog” and “the bull of the woods.” In the postwar period, however, Longstreet drew criticism for his support of Republican policies during Reconstruction (1865–1877), and controversy erupted over his conduct years earlier at the Battle of Gettysburg (1863). As southerners in general and Virginians in particular enshrined Lee’s memory, Longstreet became a scapegoat for Lee’s failures and the central figure in the emergent Lost Cause mythology white southerners developed to explain the loss of the war.


Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson (1824–1863)

Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson was a West Point graduate, veteran of the Mexican War (1846–1848), instructor at the Virginia Military Institute in Lexington, and Confederate general under Robert E. Lee during the American Civil War (1861–1865). One of Lee’s ablest commanders, Jackson earned his famous nickname during the First Battle of Manassas in 1861 when a fellow general is said to have cried out, “There is Jackson standing like a stone wall! Rally behind the Virginians!” A few contemporary accounts suggest that the stone-wall comparison was not intended to be complimentary, but it hardly matters. The real Jackson—peculiarly earnest and single-minded but in many ways not so different from other soldiers of his day—was being transformed into the mythological one, an Old Testament God of wrath contrasting with Lee’s Christ-like figure. When Jackson was accidentally wounded by his own men during the Battle of Chancellorsville (1863), Lee relayed to him a message: “Give General Jackson my affectionate regards, and say to him: he has lost his left arm but I my right.” Jackson died eight days later due to complications from the injury. A martyr to his cause during the war, Jackson has become an iconic figure in Southern culture, second only to Lee in the pantheon of Confederate heroes.