Character Analysis James Longstreet


Though he is not a Virginian, Longstreet is held in high regard by Lee. A moody man with strong opinions and deep emotions, Longstreet's three children died the previous winter, all in one week, and he is tormented by enormous grief. He is pained for his wife, who also suffers much grief and to whom he has been unable to offer any emotional support. He keeps a tight emotional hold on himself, avoiding any thoughts about his family except in "alone" moments. He struggles to keep his drinking in line.

Longstreet is consumed with anger and frustration over this battle. He is certain it is a mistake and disagrees totally with Lee's offensive approach. Longstreet, instead, favors finding a strong defensive position and making the enemy come to him. He is not a coward, but bases his opinions on years of army experience, some of it out West dealing with the Indians. He is a total soldier, professional, and devoted to no cause except victory. His flaws may be inflexibility toward other approaches and a lack of vision for a gamble. His grief over the deaths of his children also may be heavily impacting his ability to function as a commander.

Longstreet has strongly conflicting feelings for Lee. Longstreet respects Lee, is friends with him, and even needs him as a father figure. At the same time, he strongly disagrees with Lee's strategy, resents Lee's decisions, and feels much rage toward Lee as his men die in battle. Yet as angry as Longstreet is with Lee, he cannot pull away from him. Longstreet still worries about Lee's health, is always respectful in his comments, and dutifully helps Lee retreat from the battle after the loss.

Longstreet is a man of deep emotions, although he shows little on the surface. He loves his men and strives hard not to waste their lives. They are family to him. He protects Pickett and has a soft spot for the man, probably out of gratitude for Pickett's help when his children died. Longstreet enjoys Armistead, but is jealous of Armistead's friendship with the Union general Hancock. And Longstreet despises the flamboyant Stuart and the ambitious Early.