Thursday, July 5, 2012

General's Wives Block of the Month

This is our June block-of-the-month, dedicated to the memory of Maria Louisa  (Garland) Longstreet. You can't tell her story without telling about her husband, Gen. James Longstreet. Raised on a farm in South Carolina, he dreamed of being a soldier. His parents sent him to Augusta, Georgia to live with his uncle, a lawyer, to prepare him for West Point. Upon entering West Point, James Longstreet befriended Ulysses S. Grant. They remained good friends throughout their lives. After graduating from West Point, Longstreet and Grant were stationed at Jefferson Barracks, near St. Louis, Missouri. Longstreet introduced Grant to his cousin, Julia Dent and Grant and Julia soon married. Longstreet fell in love with Maria Louisa Garland, the daughter of the regiment's colonel, and they were married in Lynchburg, Virginia in 1848. Babies soon began arriving!

The ambitious Longstreet was stationed in Louisiana, Florida, Texas, Mexico and Pennsylvania. When the Civil War broke out, Longstreet felt the pull to Georgia, resigned his commision with the US Army and joined the Confederate States of America. He was appointed a brigadeer general and was assigned to Manassas, Virginia. His wive and children lived with friends in Richmond, Virginia. It was here in Richmond early in 1862, during a scarlet fever epidemic that three of the four Longstreet children (Mary Anne, James, and Augustus Baldwin) died within eight days. The blow was almost too much for Longstreet; he hurriedly went to Richmond. It was some days before he could leave his wife and 13-year-old son Garland, who were devastated by the tragedy.

The loss affected the general greatly. An aide noted that his "grief was very deep," while others commented on his change in personality. Because the Longstreets were too grief-stricken, General George Pickett and his fiancée LaSalle Corbett made the burial arrangements.

Longstreet became a trusted advisor and friend to Robert E. Lee, and was involved in the battles at Gettysburg.  Decisions he made there haunted him the rest of his life. Longstreet was also in attendance at Appomattax Courthouse for the surrender, where it is said Gen. Grant greeted him warmly.

Longstreet eventually moved to Gainesville, Georgia and became their postmaster. Maria Louisa gave birth to ten children in all, five of whom lived to adulthood. In January 1890, Maria Louise Longstreet died at the age of sixty-two at Gainesville, Georgia.

When I read such life stories as the Longstreets, I cannot help but wonder what her life was like. Who attended her as she gave birth to her babies? How did she cope with a husband who was gone for long stretches of time? Did she constantly worry about his safety? What was it like to move half way across the USA in the 1800's? I think about these things, and say a pray of thanks for all the blessings God has showered on my life.

Till next time, keep stitchin'.

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